Fishing beyond the road – Central Oregon’s Crescent creek

Some places just ask to be explored.  Be it the small headwaters of a stream or a remote stretch of a creek far from any roads.  Todays adventure is the later of the two.  For years I have heard my father talk about the canyon area of crescent creek, and the fish that he would catch.  This was my day for a solo adventure of fishing and hiking.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

For every trip I take like this I always have a checklist of things to bring with me. For anyone hiking remote areas you should always have a backup plan for emergency. The main three to always focus on are shelter, water, and food. And always in that order. There is no need to buy the fancy expensive hiking ones. But even something as simple as a life straw can mean the difference of being stranded and waiting for help and waiting for help and having any type of intestinal issues from drinking unpurified water.

Crescent creek is a tributary of the little Deschutes river that flows through an assortment of meadows, canyons, and old growth pine trees.  The area I am hiking through is part of the national wild and scenic rivers system. There are three species of trout that call this section of creek home.  The native rainbow trout, and the two non-native brook and brown trout.  From what I have seen the section of river from Highway 58 down to bridge by Crescent creek campground is primarily just rainbow trout.

Such a beautiful spot. I broke out my fly pole for this section of stream. It has been a long time since I have used it and really I should do more of it.

For the first half of my hike and fishing trip all was peaceful and relaxing.  The first two mile of the stream is through a meandering stream bordered by willow and alders. After the first half mile or so all trace of people disappears and you either have to create your own trail or just walk through the water.  For walking in any stream in Central Oregon I recommend tennis shoes and not any type of water sandals.  Most of the streams have pumice and other lava rocks in them and if they get under a strap you will get blisters and cuts from them.  I know this from experience sadly.  About halfway through the meadow I was changing lures and a family of river otters came out of the grass about 10 feet from me.  Once they saw me it was constant hissing from them until they swam upstream.  Cute to see but I am glad they didn’t come out closer to me.

Near where the otters popped out of the grass. Wish I could have gotten a good picture of them before they swam off.

And now for the canyon part of the hike.  Looking in from the edge of the meadow area looked nice and peaceful with a few rapids in view.  Oh, this was so deceptive and so not peaceful.  For the first 100 yards I caught a dozen fish or more and thought it was great.  And then the rocks got bigger and were nearly impossible to go from one to another safely.  No big deal I can just walk the edge around to each fishing hole.  Nope that was not a good idea.  The sides of the canyon are nearly strait up and the entire hillside has soft sandy dirt.  On the positive side it is beautiful with old growth ponderosa pines growing.  With the steep sides and no cell service my first thought was that if I fell and broke something that it would take days to find me.  And then as I was going over a fallen tree, I saw what looked like dried blood on branches and across the log.  What kind of hell did I get myself into?  About 50 feet after seeing the blood I found a pile of fairly fresh black bear droppings.  At least that gave me an idea of where the blood was from.  Possibly a deer that was wounded by the bear.

I loved the beauty of this area, but with all the swift water, Rocks and heavy brush this area is extremely difficult to fish. The areas I could get to the water had plenty of small fish at least.

Finishing up the canyon and getting to an old road was such a great feeling.  I don’t think I have been that tired in a long time.  This was a beautiful hike but really it is a hike for the young.  I am glad I did it once in my life.  But this is the one and only time I will ever hike through the canyon. 

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Fishing beyond the road – Salt creek

Oregon has so many rivers, creeks, and lakes that are just off any road or path and just waiting to be explored. This is the first in a series of hiking off the road, and into wild to find fish and adventures. Maybe this series will even include a float or two using the kayak’s and fishing major rivers.

Video journey through the wilds

The first stop on my journey is to Salt creek. Salt creek is one of many tributaries to the Willamette river. Salt creek can really be divided into two different sections that can be fished. the first section is below Oregon’s third highest waterfall. This steep canyon area has little to no access until the creek comes out miles below and borders the highway. The lower section contains mainly native rainbow trout. For this fishing trip I focused on the area above the waterfall which is mainly meandering meadow areas. I say meadow area but really it is brushy, horribly brushy. The headwaters of Salt creek is Gold lake. The creek outflows the lake, and meanders several miles until it flows under the highway and enters a meadow area that is extremely brushy and difficult to get through. This is the target I picked for the day. yes I know it is a bit crazy, but all the small Brook trout are fun to catch

After several scratch’s I was able to push my way through the brush and mosquitos to a nice tranquil creek. Now the fishing can begin. Salt creek is currently open for the use of bait, with no restriction on size or quantity of brook trout kept. Brook trout preproduce in such high numbers here that they really overwhelm the available food. There are also native rainbows in the stream, but I have rarely caught any due to the large quantity of Brook trout that inhabit this stretch of creek.

Nearly the entire section of stream has heavy Alder and Willow brush. Be prepared to get scratched walking through it.
This section of stream has some deeper holes with lot of fallen logs creating hiding places for the fish.
All the fish I have ever caught in this section are small brook trout.

Over the years that I have fished in this area I have never caught a fish over 10 inches in length. There may be some in there, but they are few and far between to catch. The best way to catch them is to use small spinners or a fly pole. Whichever method you use though the brush along the stream can cause a lot of trouble placing the lure/fly where you want. You can use worms or other bait in this section, but with brook trout they tend to just swallow any food and the mortality rate on release is very high.

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Aluminum roofing raised bed

As I get older I realize that my ability to rototill my garden is going to be harder and harder to do. So in an effort to make my future self not hurt as bad I decided to start making some raised beds that will replace my need to have to till the ground and also just be way easier to work with. After doing a quick measure of my garden I decided to make each bed three foot wide and eight foot long. I could have used the panels at their normal width of 26 inches but that is taller really then is needed. Using a carbide bit saw I cut the panels down to 18″

Step one complete. All of the metal has been cut to size and the 4″x4″ fir post has been cut as inside corner supports. In an ideal world I would have used cedar since it is a lot more rot resistant, but with the high price of cedar in our area I used fir instead.
Step two is to screw in the roofing into the corner supports. I had some left over metal screws from my trailer build that worked well to hold it in place.
Once the corners are in place I built the four outside support frames. The cross pieces are spaced every two feet. Once the frame is in place and all sides are screwed together this frame is strong enough to hold my weight. This should help with planting and harvesting it.
All completed and moved out of the way until I harvest my current years garden.
very very sturdy

Over all this build took right at about two hours from start to finish. I am going to need to make 7 more total and then fill them with soil before I can use them. This will be a good ongoing project and I should be able to have it all ready by next spring. The boards on the bottom are treated wood so they should last a good 10+ years. I made sure nothing on the inside had any chemicals that would leach into the soils and into the veggies. I don’t feel like shortening my life by using treated anything on the inside. With some of these beds I plan on experimenting with a couple different methods of mulch and water retention. But those will be a seperate blog. Below is a short video of the finished bed. I am going to make a video series of making some small beds for a friend entirely out of recycled materials.

Fishing Beyond the road – Central Oregon’s Odell Creek

There are so many great places to fish in central Oregon that it is hard to choose where to go. Luckily most of the small streams in the area are managed so that the native fish will not be depleted and people can enjoy to fish in them for years to come. Odell Creek is currently catch and release for all trout and limited to using fly or lures.

For every trip I take like this I always have a checklist of things to bring with me. For anyone hiking remote areas you should always have a backup plan for emergency. The main three to always focus on are shelter, water, and food. And always in that order. There is no need to buy the fancy expensive hiking ones. But even something as simple as a life straw can mean the difference of being stranded and waiting for help and waiting for help and having any type of intestinal issues from drinking unpurified water.

Odell creek is a small stream flowing from Odell Lake down through mostly thick timber down to Davis lake. In low water years like this year is turning out to be the upper end by Odell lake is very shallow with few places for fish. The lower end closer to Davis lake picks up some water and has some decent rainbow trout fishing. The size varies year to year depending on the water levels in the area. In early 2005 a fire swept through the area and the removed all the heavy timber in the last few miles of the stream going into Davis lake. No shade for fishing or to keep the water cooler. Still chilly even without the shade.

90+ temps but still fun
Towards the area outside of the fire burn.

Since I was a teen I have always enjoyed fishing this gem of a stream. In the really hot years once Davis lake gets warm the larger trout can swim up into some of the deep holes in the creek. Sadly the large fish in Davis are not what they used to be. Bass were illegally introduced in the mid 1990’s and that has hurt the trout population. For avid bass fisherman this is a great thing, but for those of us that love the trout it is a sad change. You can still find these bigger trout but since the fire I have noticed less of them going very far up into the creek.

At the edge of the old burn line the smaller brushy river alders are making a comeback
Closer to the lake the banks are still bare of any sized trees. There are a lot of smaller ones coming up now.
A larger native rainbow.

In my last couple of trips to the creek the average size has been around 6″-8″ with the occasional larger fish. I normally spin fish with lures but this is a great creek to fly fish in. Just lots of brush and logs in the water to make it a bit challenging.

Since It was a nice day this last time I also made a short fishing video. Not a lot of fish caught but it is a great hike along the creek.

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Unexpected crappie catch from Hills Creek Reservoir

You have probably noticed I fish this lake often for a quick limit of trout. It is heavily stocked and most days the trout will bite nearly anything that is thrown in front of them. Which also makes it easy if you want to experiment with different trolling presentations and are not sure how they would work. As always when I go I bring a trolling pole and my normal trout gear. But this time just on a whim I tossed in some panfish gear I got in a mystery tackle box. I figured that hatchery fish eat anything and panfish gear was no exception. That and trout are fun on ultralight gear.

a bit of wind and a downpour greeted us. 5 minutes after launching it was nearly impossible to see down this section.

Normally When I am up here fishing I follow the old channel of the river since that is the coolest area and the trout tend to be a down about 20+ feet this time of year. Year ago when fishing with my grandfather I remember him talking about when he would troll and circle across the shallower side of the lake he would catch the occasional crappie on his trout gear. Since I brought the ultralight gear (Okuma Celio ultralight trout pole) I put on an underspin jig head and a small curly tail grub. I have not fished for crappie in a long time, and it has been over 20 years since I caught one over 8 inches.

I wasn’t sure about the pink but it proved to be effective

Within 5 minutes of cutting over to the other side I caught a smallish 8″ crappie on the jig. Since it was big enought to eat I kept it and continued trolling. within another 5 minutes I had another bite and had something way bigger on. Since I normally just catch trout I expected a holdover stocker trout. But it was a big 14″ crappie. This ended up being the largest of the trip and at just over a pound by far my personal best. The last largish one I caught was maybe 10 inches and that was when I was a teenager in the 90’s (yes I am old). The fish finder showed several schools in the area so I continued and just kept circling the area for them. Between the grub and a sixth sense crank bait I ended up with over 20 crappie total. Of those 6 of them were over 12″ and I lost several others that were the same size.

First three of the day.

Kept six of them for dinner. Total wight of the 6 fish was 6.76 pounds

Over all even with all the rain and wind it ended up being a very good day on the water. Didn’t catch a single trout but I did lose a bass that was about the same size as the crappie. catching these makes me want to try for more and to see how big of crappie I can find there. I have heard that Lookout point has had some caught up to 16 inches. With a state record of over 4 pounds for a white crappie that would be a fun fish to catch. Hard to imagine one that big though.

Practiced my fillet skills. I am very out of practice and need to catch more crappie, bluegill or bass to practice on.

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Gear used in today’s trip:

Birthday Kayak trip to Hills Creek in late fall

Late fall lake fishing in Oregon can be a lot of hit or miss. When the storms roll through it can make for some high waves and a very difficult time controlling a kayak. We started out the day thinking we might be able to catch some walleye or something else in Lookout point reservoir. Even with our early start there was already some chop on the water, and as comfortable as I am in the kayak I am leary of trying to fish that lake with even a chance of wind. Lookout point is 12 miles long down a valley. I have kayaked it in the summer and it went from flat calm to white capped waves in 30 minutes.

Video fishing. I wish I had these when I was younger fishing in Alaska

Instead of taking a chance on the lake birthday boy Jeremy and I decided to hit our standby of Hills Creek. We do fish it a lot, but it is close and nearly always provides some fish for us to catch. It seems in recent years that the average fish size has increased in the lake. Or we are just getting much better at catching the bigger fish ( I like the 2nd answer myself)

Started out with drizzle but became a beautiful day

Today’s water was around 55 degrees for this late November trip. Not as cold as it will get but still cold enough I decided to wear my dry suit. Early in fall I was not paying attention and leaned over the edge to grab a floating cap and flipped my kayak. I can go out in two foot waves and heavy wind with no issues. But a glass calm lake and not even moving and I flipped. At least it had been warm still then.

For this trip I branched out and decided to try something other then my normal gear. 90% of the time I use a dodger with a Brad’s cut plug or troll a rainbow colored rapala. Both of those are highly effective in nearly every body of water I have fished. Except Odell lake, for some reason nothing hits a cut plug there. Well a mackinaw might but I haven’t trolled for them with a cut plug. That is part of next years fishing goal. Anyway back to the gear. instead of the cut plug I used a pink and silver wedding ring with a smile blade on it. It didn’t have quite enough weight to get down more then a foot until I added a quarter ounce weight to it. This was a highly effective setup! 10+ fish and nothing smaller then 12 inches. The only thing I caught on my rapala on the 2nd pole ended up being just a single landlocked Chinook. It was easily over 12 inches and a great fighter.

I realized I need to take more pictures for all of you to enjoy. But if you want to watch the video of the day please check out below.

Fall fishing Lookout Point Reservoir

When I was a youngster, many years ago. Lookout point reservoir was known only as a place to fish for trash fish. It wasn’t stocked with anything and the northern pikeminnows had pretty much out competed every other fish. You would catch an occasional trout, but for the most part suckers and pikeminnows were all. And then came the illegal stocking of warm water species into this reservoir. It is now one of those lakes that if it lives anywhere in Oregon then you can probably catch it if you learn the lake and where to target them.

For our fall trip down to the lake, we are trying to catch for us the elusive Walleye. Several years ago ODFW did a study in the lake to the percentage of predator species, and how they are distributed in the lake. I was able to get ahold of one of the biologists that were a part of the study and when they did the trapping for them they found several Walleye over 24″ in length. This was nearly a decade ago study so she believed that some of them could be pushing up to 30″ now. Neither Jeremy or I have ever caught a walleye so this would be a great catch to add to our bucket list of fish. Walleye are limited in Oregon to the Columbia river, small stretches of the Willamette river and now Lookout point.

One thing I have noticed in the last five years is the reduction in pikeminnow in the lake. Years ago when we trolled we would catch 5 pikeminnow to 1 of any other species. Now I rarely catch any at all.

Finding a place to walk down to the water is always a challenge since the lake is so steep. But we were able to find a place we could walk down and fish along the edge. A storm was coming in so our fishing time was limited before the heavy rain and wind hit. Third cast once we made it to the water my shad rap was hammered by a very nice sized Small mouth bass. Before this fish I actually didn’t know there was small mouth in the lake and thought the bass were limited to the large mouth variety.

First nice smallmouth bass I have caught this year

As with most reservoirs in the area there is also tons of stumps everywhere. After a near loss of the crankbait I swapped over to a finesse jig to try nearer the stumps. I will say now that I am not a bass fisherman. Or really much of a fisherman for anything other then trout and salmon. But I am trying got change that. Last month I signed up to start getting a monthly bag of bass gear from 6th sense. Using the finesse jig this was my first attempt at using anything other then a worm and bobber for bass. Jigging is a skill I need to work on, but I was able to somehow catch another bass near a stump using the jig. If you watch my video you can tell I am a bit excited about catching my first bass on a finesse jig

My first bass ever caught on a finesse jig from 6th sense.

With the short amount of time we had before the weather turned and we had to pack it up we caught three nice smallmouth bass and lost a couple of others. And of course lost several lures to the stumps. No Walleye on this trip but that just means we will need to go back and try again at some point. As windy as this lake gets it is hard to fish from our preferred choice of a kayak. But we will someday catch one even if it is tiny.

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Hills creek fishing in the slippery mud

Fall fishing in Oregon tends to be either weeks of dry or so wet everything is a slippery mud mess. Today’s fishing trip was one of the later. And I’m sure the slowly lowering water in Hills Creek reservoir was not any help. In the Willamette valley most of the reservoirs are used for winter flood control. I have seen pictures from my grandparents of the yearly flooding in the valley every year before the dam’s were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. All the houses at the time were built up on higher ridges and that were just barely above the floods. Even with the dam’s in place there is still a chance of flooding year to year.

Lots of fish and mud shenanigans
Hills creek reservoir
Muddy and rocky everywhere this time of year. Luckily there are stumps available to stand on to keep from sliding in to the lake.

Today’s trip started out as mostly a mushroom hunting trip since the chanterelles are up. But since we stopped at the reservoir we decided that a few casts would be nice since the rain was holding off some. The forecast was for up to half an inch of rain so we both wore solid rain gear from head to toe. Before we even were able to cast out there were multiple fish jumping out of the water. Just from seeing that we had high hopes of catching something.

Our hopes were realized very quickly. In less then 30 minutes we had caught five fish between us. Blue fox and my generic jointed jerkbait were the ticket for catching them. One planted spring Chinook (only about 10″) and four nice hatchery rainbow trout. Most were a nice 12″ size but one was close to 16″. I am curious to see how well the holdover survival rate for them is going to be this year. Earlier I caught a very large 20″ hatchery rainbow in the same area. This is by far the largest trout I have ever caught in Hills creek. I keep hearing of larger landlocked Chinook or the rare Bull trout that are caught in the reservoir but I have not yet been able to catch one. Both tend to live down deep and the only way to get them is with a downrigger. I do have one that I adapted to use from my kayak but that is something that I really need to practice to be good at it.

Hills creek reservoir Hatchery rainbow trout
Nice hatchery rainbow on one of the first few casts

My last fish of the trip was the largest one of the day at close to 16″ and also one that nearly made me slide into the lake. Once I got the trout out of the water the line to the lure broke and I dropped the fish. The mud there is slippery enough I nearly slid into the water trying to get it. Luckily a stump stopped me before I hit the water. Otherwise I would have slid into water that was easily over my head in depth.

best lures of the day to catch fish:

  • Jerkbait close to what I was using sadly there is no marks on it on who it is made by
  • Jeremy’s favorite panther martin
  • and my normal Mepps aglia size zero. This works everywhere in Oregon for nearly everything. Both the silver and brass colors are equally effective.
  • For any other fishing areas near this please check out the fishing in Oregon book. I am slowly picking places and trying to fish them all.

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Kayak fishing Siltcoos lake

Siltcoos is one of those lakes where you either love it or hate it. My track record of catching fish in it before this year consisted of sculpin and yellow perch. According to the fishing in Oregon book this lake is packed with different species that I can’t catch. For the last several years when I think of heading to the coast to fish it is the last place I would pick out of our many coastal lakes. But a trip kayaking with family finally broke my streak of tiny tiny fish. Since I never usually fish for bass I only brought a lite trout rod to catch the normal tiny fish. On my second cast a (for me) monster bass hit and buried itself in the weeds and snapped my 4lb test line. After a changing up lures we continued our float and shortly after I caught a nice bass.

Bass fishing from a kayak in Siltcoos
Not the biggest largemouth bass, but by far the biggest I have caught in years

With the success of this trip I decided that once the fall salmon started coming in I would give the lake a chance for a salmon and possibly some bass. Siltcoos is a great lake to fish just for the large variety of fish that can be caught. Not that I am good at catching them. In addition to bass and salmon the lake contains Rainbow trout, Cutthroat trout, Crappie, Bluegill, Bullhead catfish, Yellow perch, and the some passing through steelhead.

Fall kayaking is a very different experience then summer kayaking on the lake. Since this is Oregon it involves being prepared for a lot more rain. With periods of sun that makes you feel like you are cooking if you have rain gear on. Luckily I have a dry suit that I wear just for these kinds of days. The great thing about a dry suit is you can layer underneath it depending on the temperature and it breaths unlike most rain gear. The only issue with mine is that I did not get one with a crotch zipper. If you have to go to the bathroom it is a full unzip and go.

Kayak fishing at Siltcoos lake
wet and gloomy, but with very little wind

On this adventure my Kayak buddy Jeremy joined me to see if we could catch a salmon or at least some trout. The morning started out slow as we trolled along the lake. Both of us were surface trolling with our normal trout gear (salmon will hit also). My normal set up for trout is normally a Luhr Jenson herring dodger followed by a brad’s cut plug or a Mack’s wedding ring behind it. Sadly for me neither were working. Jeremy lucked out and caught a nice 15″ rainbow on his setup. After many hours of a few small bites and nothing being caught for me I switched gear to a casting pole and a Rapala shad rap.

Jeremy’s catch. Almost looks like a small steelhead

Switching over to the shad rap was my ticket to fish. First cast to shore caught me a nice 13″ cutthroat. Moving from the inlet end where we were into main lake soon caught me a 15″ cutthroat trolling near the bottom and soon after that a small 10″ juvenile salmon. previous to that was nearly four hours of trolling with barely a bite and then three fishing 30 minutes changing up the gear. Another trip to Siltcoos will be part of the plans for later in the year if time allows or sometime in the next year. The Oregon state record for Coho was caught in this lake. It is very much a lake I need to learn. And there is a very good chance of me breaking my personal best records for multiple species of fish from this lake.

A tired and worn out Sasquatch Shane ending the day

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Are Salal berries edible? Why yes they are!

As summer hits it’s midpoint it is time to get ready for late summer berries. One of my favorites to forage for locally is salal berries.  This native plant to the Pacific Northwest is usually seen in flower arrangements as decorating leaves. The leaves are thick and waxy and make a great color addition to flower arrangements everywhere.  This plant is also a relative of the blueberry and produces a delicious berry.  I eat it fresh and have used it to make wine and jam. The high pectin content of the berries does require some extra help to make a wine.  Otherwise it will almost gel like a jam.

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Its dark blue “berries” (actually swollen sepals like a blueberry) and young leaves are both edible, and are an effective appetite suppressant. Salal berries were a significant food resource for native people, who both ate them fresh and dried them into cakes. They were also used as a sweetener, and the Haida used them to thicken salmon eggs. The leaves of the plant were also sometimes used to flavor fish soup. More recently, Salal berries are used locally in jams, preserves and pies.  They are often combined with Oregon-grape because the tartness of the latter is partially masked by the mild sweetness of Salal.  There is so much naturally occurring pectin in the berry that when you make jam you do not need to add any to make it jell up.  The jam is so dark that it is almost black in color.  

The berries grow in rows along a main stem.
The berries grow in rows along a main stem.

Salal occurs in such high numbers that the chance of seeing plants on a hike anywhere west of the Cascades in Oregon is almost guarantied. This year I intend to pick enough that I can try to make at least a gallon of wine out of them.  But even if I don’t they are a good addition to yogurt throughout the year if you freeze them.  Or a dark jam to add to yogurt.  Have I ever mentioned I love yogurt?  

The plants can be found from Northern California up into southeast Alaska.  If it is in the that area there is some around.  The flavor of the berry changes depending on the soil conditions.  If you find a spot where they taste great remember to go back year after year for them.  

Flowers and unripe berries
Flowers and a mix of ripe and unripe berries

The plant itself also has been used for medicinal purposes. Salal leaf has a long history as a medicine for wounds, coughs, colds and digestive problems.  The Klallam, Bella Coola and Quileute People have chewed salal leaves, and spit them on burns and sores.  The Samish and Swinomish People have used the leaves for coughs and tuberculosis, while the Quinault People have used them for diarrhea and flu-like symptoms.  Herbalist, Michael Moore mirrors Northwest Native People’s uses of salal in Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West when he says that, “The tea is astringent and anti-inflammatory, both locally to the throat and upper intestinal mucosa, and through the bloodstream, to the urinary tract, sinuses and lungs.” 

If you are ever in the mood to try a unique flavored berry I highly recommend salal as a delicious one.  As my normal word of warning if you are not 100% sure of what you are eating do not eat it!  

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