As I drove my white F-150 down highway 26 into Mt. Hood National Forest, a recurring feeling crept up on me, because any time I go fishing it feels like my first time. Although I have fished my whole life, I still have trouble falling asleep the night before I head to a river. I toss and turn in anticipation, wondering if this trip will be the trip that all others are measured against. If perhaps I’ll land the most trout I ever have, or the largest, or the smartest trout. It’s this mystery that keeps my love of fishing pure. It pounds through my body like a trout on the end of my line. So maybe, with some luck, my day on the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River will prove to be my measuring stick for future outings.
The Oak Grove Fork is very different than the Clackamas River along the highway, resembling a smaller mountain stream encompassed by overgrown vegetation. Fallen trees cross the length of the river, providing habitat for trout and a bridge for insects. The river flowed into Timothy Lake, which was small enough to throw rocks across and clear enough to see every weed bed. I was the only person at the river or lake, and the peaceful silence was only broken by the running river behind me. I set up my 3-weight rod and hopped in the river.
I heard there were brook trout in this waterway, so I decided to tie on just a small stimulator that had always produced Brook Trout. For whatever reason different species of trout are smarter than others. Brook trout have always been on the dumber side of the scale, so I knew matching the hatch wasn’t necessary. Almost instantly a small fish exploded on my fly, and I quickly lassoed it in to discover that it was in fact a small native cutthroat trout, not a brook trout. I continued to land very small cutthroat, between 6-10 inches, all morning. And although I enjoy catching and releasing native fish, I wanted to try and catch something a little bigger so I switched to an ant pattern. All the fallen trees would be perfect to cast behind for a trout waiting for a terrestrial lunch.
I walked about a mile upstream when I started punching my ant pattern into the bank, before letting it drop into the water. It did move some larger trout, and I managed to land a couple 14 inch cutthroats, which for the size of the stream, seemed very large. I continued to fish all afternoon, and lost track of the time. Although the day didn’t quite materialize into one of my best ever, it was still fun to land fish on light tackle while wet wading the length of the river.
Perhaps the days I still dream of weren't what I remember. Maybe I remember catching two more fish then I actually did. The 20 inch fish I remember might have been 18 inches. The fish I outsmarted may have just had a bad day. Maybe the fisherman in me tends to over exaggerate. But the chance of having the best day of fishing ever still remains, and the excitement I feel every time I slip wet boots on couldn't possibly be made up.
Are you kidding 14 inch cutthroat in a small stream are good size fish, and 10 to 12 inch are great fun to catch, not all streams have 18 inch fish and if they do, you are lucky to land one or two in a whole day. I have learned over time that if there are 14 inch fish in a stream you are catching, that there are 16 to 18 inch you are not catching. Keep up the outdoor articles they are fun to read.