Oct 6th, 2016
From January through April the rivers surrounding the greater Tillamook Bay region on the Northern Oregon coast transform into some of the most productive and seductive winter steelhead rivers in North America. Structurally they are a “swing” fisherman’s paradise and the quarry is almost always sea bright, wild and willing to chase a well swung fly.
To compliment these rivers and the hearty handsome steelhead they sustain, we have tracked down two of the finest winter steelhead guides in the West: Scott O’Donnell and Chris O’Donnell (no relation). Not only do they know the intricacies and moods of their local systems but they are among the most sought after Spey casting instructors in the nation. Scott’s credentials include a lifetime dedicated to chasing anadromous fish, designing the Rio Skagit lines, and recognition as a preferred demonstration caster for Sage Rods. For anyone interested in learning the art of spey casting stream side or simply fly fishing some of the finest winter steelhead water we have seen, this is a spectacular venue.
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Northern Oregon Coast
The Tillamook Bay region has many rivers tailor made for swinging flies.
Oregon’s wild winter steelhead arrive in good numbers with each rain between January and April.
Guides use rafts to access some of the more remote stretches of river on the North Oregon Coast.
The guides have decades of experience teaching the art of spey casting and presenting flies to winter steelhead.
The unique beauty of winter on the Oregon coast creates a captivating experience like no other.
Expert Interview with David Kalinowski
1. The region offers a wide variety of rivers perfect for swinging flies.
2. The possibility of catching large bright wild fish.
3. Incredibly knowledgeable guides that have fished these rivers for decades.
4. Exceptional spey casting instruction and fishing advice.
5. Easy to get to and a great value.
How do I get there?
Guests fly into Portland, OR, rent a car and drive the 1.5 – 2 hours to the coast. Accommodations are not included, but there are lots of options depending on your preferences.
When should I go?
January through early April
Where do they fish?
There are many rivers throughout the northern Oregon region. The river you fish will be dependent on the conditions at the time of your trip. These systems can be small to fairly large, but all set up well for swinging flies.
What fish will I catch?
Winter steelhead. Most are wild and they can be large.
How do they fish?
All angling is done while wading. Spey and switch rods are employed to swing flies in the traditional down and across fashion. Large profile flies and sink tips dominate the tactics at this time. Dedicated single handed anglers are welcome as well.
Will we see other anglers?
Yes, but dependent on the venue. Some systems are more remote and hard to access, thus limiting the number of anglers encountered.
How many fish will I catch?
A fish a day is considered very good.
How far is it to the fishing grounds?
Most systems are within a hour’s drive of the suggested accommodations. Your assistance may be required in the shuttle process, so it’s best to show up with some gas in the tank.
What are the accommodations and meals like?
Meals on the river are typically hearty sandwiches with soup and some snacks. Non-alcoholic beverages are included. Anglers are responsible for relaying any dietary or medical concerns prior to the trip.
Where do we stay?
Guests book their own accommodations in the Tillamook region. We recommend Manzanita, OR as it’s close to many venues, north or south, and it has a good variety of accommodations from simple motels to large beach houses for rent.
Is there internet and cell service?
While on the coast there is typically good cell coverage. Once upstream on the river you may not get service. Internet will depend on your accommodations.
Will the guide provide equipment?
Anglers need to bring their own waders and boots. Rods/reels and terminal tackle can be provided. Always be prepared with the best rain jacket you can afford and dress in warm layers, preferably wool or synthetic materials. Stay away from cotton as it can get wet and quickly lose its insulating properties. Expect cold and rainy conditions on any day.
What is your favorite rod(s) for the trip?
A great all around rod is my 13ft. 7wt. Anderson Custom Rod. I throw a 550 skagit with T-14 and T-17 tips. Having a smaller rod is beneficial for shorter casts and lighter tips, I like my Sage 7119-4 TCX which I throw a 475 skagit short with T-8 and T-11 tips.
Are there other activities?
Yes but only to a degree. The winter on the coast is very scenic and solitary. The summer crowds are gone, but beach combing combined with some clam digging or crabbing can add to the adventure. There are many restaurants and small communities to visit along the north coast.
Who is best suited for this destination?
This destination is best suited for beginning to experienced spey casters interested in working hard for quality fish and improving their skills.
What are the physical demands?
The wading can be easy to difficult. Getting in and out of the raft is required. While you will not be walking great distances, sturdy legs and good balance help.
What are the guides like?
The guides are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. They will share their knowledge in a way that will directly improve your skills. These are professional guides that have decades of experience and choose to be here because of their love of winter steelhead and the tactics it takes to catch them.
Are there special skills required?
No, but having reasonable expectations, an open mind and a willingness to learn is important to success. If so, you will come out of this trip as a better angler.
Dangers and annoyances?
The winter weather is variable. The rivers change quickly, so lost days can occur due to high and off color water. The guides do all they can to put anglers in the highest probability water. We ask that guests call their guide prior to departing from home to determine if conditions are fishable and safe to float. We strongly recommend trip insurance for all winter steelhead dates.