Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Fishing Rogue River with Steve Crisler

Wednesday, July 2, 2017

I met Steve at Highway Products/Pavati Boats at 5:00. He was excited, saying they had been doing well the last few days, and he expected us to have a great day. I appreciated the enthusiasm. I hadn’t been doing well fishing, and I was getting tired of the heat. It was supposed to get up to 112 degrees today, but I had a fleece on as it was about 60 degrees at this time of morning. The water is about 47 deg, so it’s cooler when you are on the river. We were going to a different section of the river today. We were the first at the landing, but as Steve was preparing the boat, another guide came in. He was a friend of Steve’s. They grew up fishing together. He had a mother and maybe a six-year-old son with her. What a good Mom! They were only going to be on the river for three hours, so they were off quickly, and we never saw them again. In fact we didn’t see any other boats all day. There were a few people fishing from the banks and one fellow in the river.

Before we took off, Steve gave me a run-down of the gear and how to use it. New rods, different lures. He had 8 rods in the back, all Lamiglas. I had been impressed with these rods on our previous trip, especially the power of the Quik series rod that we caught the 32-pound salmon on. They bend and flex so well, it acts as a shock absorber as the fish jump and try to shake the lure. These were XM or something. I had looked online for Lamiglas rods. Like anything else today, there are so many choices, it is impossible to choose.

We caught two nice cutthroat trout right off the bat. With two rods in the front, Steve guided the boat along a channel beside a slick, or quiet side. it wasn’t long before a fish hit the front rod. It was a nice Steelhead, fighting hard, flashing its silver sides as it slashed through the water. What a hard-fighting, powerful fish! It did an acrobatic leap through the air while Steve told me to keep the rod tip down. Finally landing him with an athletic move by Steve with the big net. It’s fun to watch how a great pro handles the fish and releases them. Usually you hold the fish upstream to get them re-oxygenated before releasing them, but this water is so fast, it quickly turns them sideways. For a minute the fish floated upside down, but it soon flipped over and was off.

Get the lure out of the net and get it back in the game. This is a beautiful river. Every time I see a different stretch, the more I appreciate it. There are so many different personalities to it. Soon there was another steelhead on, a native just like the last one. A steelhead and a rainbow trout are the same species, but the steelhead goes to sea and returns to the rivers to spawn. They have just started the run, which Steve said will last until November/December when they spawn. Unlike salmon, they don’t die, but return to sea. This great fish had travelled 200 difficult miles to get here.

In some areas without big holes, we drifted a salmon egg along the sides. Steve pulled out a big box of imitation salmon eggs with all sorts of colors and sizes. He said some days they hit one color, the next day it will be something different. Today, they didn’t like any of them. There was a different rod for each technique. I asked how many rods he had as I was trying to sort this all out. I’d like to buy gear that I could salmon fish with, and figured I needed another rod for steelhead. I have a fly rod that will handle steelhead, but my spinning rods certainly won’t. Then Steve answered the question. 50 rods. 50?! Of course this is his business, how he makes a living, but he also loves it. He gets so excited when we catch a fish. One time he was working the boat hard as I worked another steelhead. I asked if he got tired when he had to do that, but he said the adrenaline kicks in with the excitement. Cool! He still gets excited after all the fishing he has done.

I lost track really, but I think we caught the two Dolly Varden, a number of small trout and 7 steelhead, all of which were native, wild fish. It was a blast. I was lucky to be the only one in the boat and lucky to have such a talented and nice guy guiding me. He has lived here all his life, catching his first steelhead when he was five on this section of the river. He knows every hole, and has great stories of epic battles. One time in Rattlesnake Rapids, they had a big fish on as they headed down the rapids and it jumped in the boat, flopping all around as he tried to guide the boat through the rapids.

There were several pretty good rapids on this stretch, a couple with big waves. It is just no problem with this boat. Steve said it is such a gas to be able to use the best boat on the river. Other fishermen are amazed at how the boat handles. A number of times he has sold a boat on the river.  I can tell you I want one! I love this boat, especially for this river. We went through several very shallow riffles and it didn’t touch a rock. Going sideways through some waves, no water came in. The doors are great. Great for getting in and out of the boat, but also for easing a fish out of the water in stead of hauling them in over the sides. As it got hotter, it was nice to step out the door and take a refreshing dip.

It was a great day. We got off the river about 1:00. Eight hours on the river with a great guy, catching steelhead and telling stories. The scenery is spectacular, and so are some of the houses on this stretch. We caught the biggest fish in the Patrick Duffey Hole. Then we came to Jim Belushi’s house, a very pretty and not ostentatious house. Steve said he built it from reclaimed lumber from a guy in Virginia. Could this be Willie Drake??

Steve said he was going to the coast for a month starting next week. Salmon are stacking up in the mouths of the rivers. Dolly Varden also come into the rivers, and you can catch some kind of big perch off the beach that are great to eat. I was ready to go to the coast to escape the heat, but now I was really convinced. Think I will go to Brookings tomorrow.

Bybee Creek and Crater Lake

July 30, 2017

Steve told me to fish Bybee Creek below Crater Lake, so that was the goal of the day. I got an early start, well-stocked with food and water. You would think with GPS in the truck and on my iPhone, it would be easy, but it wasn’t. I needed a good topo map, but didn’t have one of that area. Driving up Mt. Mazama on Rt. 62 toward the west entrance to Crater Lake Park, I stopped to see what stream was on the right. It was Annie Creek, and it was gorgeous. At one pull-over, I was convinced I could get down the steep banks of the gorge where some other fool had been. I didn’t know if I could get back up, but I was so entranced by the stream, I was willing to give it a go. I started to get geared up when I realized I didn’t have my wallet with the fishing license in it. No one is going to catch you down there in that canyon, but when you crawl back up, dressed in all that gear with a fishing rod in your hand, it isn’t difficult to tell what you were doing.

I drove back to camp, stopping at Omer’s. You may remember he is the campground host, and a great guy. I told him I am getting senile as I had forgotten my fishing license. He just laughed and said, “Maybe you don’t need it.” I got the wallet and computer with Garmin Basecamp on it so I could find Bybee Creek. I thought I might still have time to fish Bybee in the morning and maybe Annie Creek in the afternoon. Bybee Creek is up over the top of the mountain, down the other side and turn north a bit. It made sense to follow Bybee Creek Road, a fire road in the park. National Forests are timbered, and there are roads going all over the place, most going to places I am not interested in. Now if you are a hunter, you would be interested. All the way to the end of the gravel road that runs between the north and south branch of Bybee Creek. There was an old, broken down fence at the end of the road running perpendicular to the road. Good! That would give me something to follow to either stream. To the right was the south fork, which I guessed was bigger, because the map showed it being longer. I followed the fence using my GPS to see how far it was. Picking your way through a forest you are not familiar with is daunting, but I arrived at the rim of a steep canyon, looking down at what appeared to be a very nice stream.

Standing there for five minutes trying to decide if I could make it down and then back up, and if it was worth the effort, I decided to investigate the other stream. Back at the truck, I put my fishing boots and bug shirt on. Once again I found myself on the rim of a canyon. OK, I see how this works. These streams are coming off a huge volcanic mountain, covered with volcanic ash. Crater Lake is almost 2,000 feet deep and is huge. Mt. Mazama that holds Crater Lake, is 8,000 feet and very steep. It gets 42 feet of snow every year, and it hasn’t all melted yet. Some of the streams originate in springs, some with big rivers just coming out the side of the mountain. Quite a few rivers in Oregon come out of springs. I can imagine some of this water seeping out of the lake. Heavy water running down the side of this volcanic mountain digs deep gorges, so if you are going to fish these, yes, you have to climb down into those canyons. The problem with this north fork was there wasn’t enough stream to fish.

Chicken as I was, I drove back down the road looking for a trail or road going toward the south fork. Finding a pull-off and what seemed like a trail, I geared up with everything I had, water, food, GPS, Garmin InReach and headed to the canyon. It was steep going down, but I could at least see where someone else had gone down. It was steep with sandy, loose footing. Finally arriving at the stream, I geared up in front of a gorgeous pool that was probably 8’ deep. These are supposed to have Brook Trout in them, so I threw a Coachman in there 6-8 times. The water was running hard, and it would have to be a fast trout to get to my fly. Then I tried two nymphs, but they didn’t have time to get to the bottom. After my fly finally got caught up in a branch, I moved up a pool. Nada. It was a struggle going anywhere. Both sides of the stream had steep canyon walls, and there were trees across the stream, big trees! After an hour, I came to a long rapid. I imagined a huge, beautiful pool above it, but I couldn’t get to it. The rushing water was too deep and powerful to walk up, and the sides were too steep. It was 3:00 and I thought I had best see if I could climb back up that canyon wall. It was a lot easier coming down, but it looked like a vertical wall going up. Thank God I didn’t wear waders! Slowly I worked my way up, thinking like a mountain-climber. Make sure you have a good foothold before moving. The first part was the steepest and softest, but I found I could kick my foot in to get a good hold. After four or five rests, I got to the top. I was either left or right of where I came in, because this was all bushes. Following a game trail, I plowed my way through bush and leftover limbs and branches from timbering. I arrived at the truck dripping wet in the heat of the day, but thanked God for delivering me safely.

At the bottom of the gravel road there was a semblance of a road going toward the stream. I thought I would give it one more try. I geared up and walked toward the stream. I was getting more comfortable walking in the woods. I hadn’t seen any snakes yet. I stopped and listened for rushing water, but heard nothing. Walking on, I found another canyon rim. Only when I got to the edge of the rim could I hear the water. It is a beautiful stream, but it was another steep climb down, and I had spent my energy. Driving back out the the highway, I turned left. Quickly, I saw where Bybee Creek came into the Rogue River, which also originates on Mt. Mazama. There was a bridge crossing the Rogue and a picnic area, so I crossed over. Bybee Creek gushed into the Rogue, which was also running hard through a little canyon. The hole below a rock I stood on must have been 15’ deep with blue-green, pure water rushing through. For a moment I tried to think of a way to get a fly to the bottom of that pool, but soon decided it was impossible.

I had driven past Crater Lake three times now. I know Martha wants to come here, but who knows if we will make it back or not. I decided to go in for a brief look. A senior park pass is just the gift of America. Showing my card at the gate, they just waved me in! It’s so good, it seems like cheating, kind of like camping in National Forests for $5. I hate heights. I hate curvy roads where one inch past the white line there is nothing for a mile. Then there are signs for rock slides. These are not rocks! These are boulders the size of a tractor-trailer. I stopped at two overlooks along the rim drive. Crater Lake is spectacular! Another three hours and the pictures would be stunning, but I was tired. Heading back down, a truck pulling a good-sized camper trailer, pulled over to let me pass. He must have thought me crazy as I crept along the curvy road with nothing but an abyss on the right side. I wanted to look around at the scenery, but my sweaty palms gripped the steering wheel. I quickly glanced back to see the camper right behind me. Although I had pulled the camper across this mountain, I would not like to pull it on this stretch to the rim, and around the rim as others were doing. I looked for huge boulders coming down the mountain, but didn’t see any. This is a dormant volcano, not an extinct one. There is hydrothermal activity along the lake floor. I was happy to get back on the Rt. 62.

I stopped back at Omer’s, telling him I was going to bring him some fish, but didn’t catch anything. He said he had catfish for lunch, so that’s OK. He talked a little about growing up in southwest Kansas on a farm where they raised cattle and hogs, and about how his mother partly cooked the hogs, storing it in the root cellar in layers of fat. “People wouldn’t know how to do that today, but here I am still alive at 89!” I asked him about what I should use fishing the Williamson River tomorrow. He said, “What I know about that wouldn’t fill a gnat’s eye.” I have so enjoyed spending 5 days chatting with Omer. “It’s Homer without the H”, he told me when we first met, when I couldn’t figure the name. He works as a camp host in different places. “Aw, it gives me something to do.” Maybe I’ll do that if I make it that long. To pass the time he listens to classic rock and makes walking sticks, labeling the top with all the kinds of wood. He knows his woods, having worked in the logging industry most of his life. We have only had brief conversations, but it is amazing what you learn about people over a period of time like this. I will miss visiting with him. It’s better than fishing. I bought two walking sticks, one for Martha and one for Kelly for $18. He sells them to the store and they sell them for $18 each. “But that’s Ok”, he said. The next morning I took him my last Airstream Time coffee cup. Maybe I’ll have some more sent to Fred:}

Fish Spring Creek and Visit Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Friday, July 28, 2017

I walked down to the Williamson River below the campground and took some pictures. I found a huge Black Huckleberry bush that was loaded with berries. There were also bushes everywhere with Red Currants. I quickly filled a water bottle with them. The Ponderosa Pines are so pretty. I can only imagine what they looked like 150 years ago. Across the street at the Logging Museum, there is a section of a tree taken from 38′ above ground. By the rings on the tree, it was determined to be 702 years old, 50 years before Marco Polo left for his first trip to China.

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I fished Spring Creek pretty hard all morning, throwing everything I had, but never moved a fish. Others were doing the same with the same results. I never know if there aren’t any fish, whether they are well-educated or well-fed. A hatch came off of little teeny things I didn’t recognize, so I tried a couple that looked similar. Nothing.

After eating lunch I drove north to Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, which was established with Duck Stamp funds. It is a huge, high plains, wetland marsh. There are canoe trails through the marsh that would be great to take. No one was at the park office, and I could see there were no canoes to rent, so I went on…..the long way. I think of Oregon as being wet with rain all the time. I haven’t seen rain in two weeks, and forests are dry as a bone. Driving north in the center of Oregon, it looks much like northern Nevada with hot, dry plains of sage grass.

Once I got back to Rt. 97 heading south, I filled with gas. You can drive all day and not see a gas station. I had a half tank, but I filled it. I drove a gravel road for 6 miles to Crescent Lake, which is supposed to be pretty. I did cross a beautiful stream that had a special regulations sign next to it. Arriving a half mile from Crescent Lake, cars were parked along the dirt road, so I pulled over. I was in the middle of a huge summer camp, one bit boy scout camp and one that looked like a girls’ camp. Walking down to the lake, I passed through all sorts of scouting projects, railings, crosswalks, shelters and rope swings. I heard lots of shouting down the lake where there were probably 100 kids doing something next to the lake. Wasn’t quite what I had imagined.

Work Day

Wednesday, July 25, 2017

Oil changed at Airport Buick GMC. They were great, Bob being my connect person. Poor internet, so I couldn’t do all the things I wanted while I waited, but was able to post. Went to three post offices before I was lucky enough to find my package from Airstream Supply. Went to Dick’s to look for better Gaiters, but they are in business with Field and Stream, so no luck with that. Went to Walmart For DEF and Diesel Kleen and decided to just do groceries there.

Back at camp had lunch and a little nap. Then did laundry and replaced the 30 amp socket. Tough, unbendable wire made it difficult. Then the back of the plastic cap wouldn’t fit all the way in, so I cut it off. Fortunately it finally went. Probably worked the wire coverings right over. Should cover them with electrical tape. Dirty, dusty connections caused the problem, not allowing a clean electrical connection. I will do better at cleaning these and I placed some dielectric grease on them. At the end of the day, it all got done.

Train Mountain Railroad Museum

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I fished the Williamson River for two hours from a rest area along Rt. 97. No fish bothered to even look at anything I had. Back at the parking lot, a gentleman asked where I was from. Smoking a Lucky Strike, he told me he was from Bend, about a hundred miles north. He moved there to get away from all the commotion in Portland, but said it’s worse than Portland now. He has done a lot of fishing in this area and said there are some big fish in this river. Walk upstream and you get into private property, but also lots more fish. His wife passed away a couple of years ago. Now at 83, he just likes to roam, although that wasn’t the word he used. It was something from a song. He is heading over to the coast and will go north, or wherever the roads take him. He sold his big camper when his wife died and put a camper shell on the back of his truck, which suits him fine now. “Probably cost less than this fancy box you have on your truck.” He has to go for prostate biopsy next week. I told him not to worry. Just get it out.

After lunch I stopped at the Ranger station and got a top map, which helped a lot, then went to Chiloquin to get a few groceries. I went the back way because of road construction and drove past train cars sitting on both sides of the road. There was a dirt road going through the properties. Then a gate with a sign for Train Mountain Railroad Museum was just ahead, so I turned in. Larry Brannon and Ernie, you would love this! Three groups run it. There is a non-profit that administers it. Friends of Train Mountain help and make donations. Then there is a group of train enthusiasts who come and work on various projects. Many bring their own trains, operating them on 36 miles of 71/2” gauge, 1/8 scale tracks. There are rides you can take through the property, picnic areas. I hope to get back for a ride through the park. They even have a 6-acre campground. Trains are huge in this area, so there are many enthusiasts. You can check it out at http://trainmtn.org/tmrr/.

I made a nice split pea and lentil soup.

Lost Creek Lake

July 24, 2014

There are two Lost Creeks and they are appropriately named. Neither had any water in them, or I could not find an access to the one on the east side of the lake. Lucky I didn’t. Loggers were working above it. Way up on the top of a vertical mountain right above the stream. Let one of those trees go and you are done for! It was fun to explore the area in the morning. By the middle of the day, it gets too hot for much activity. Too hot, too much dust, I washed the truck and returned to the trailer. Think I’ll head back to Collier State Park.

Fishing Rogue River With Steve Crisler?

July 20, 2017

I met Steve at 5 am at Highway Products. I thought he was getting a license and he thought I was, so we had to wait two hours until Wallmart opened at 7:00. However we had a nice breakfast and I got to meet the nicest girl at Walmart  I bought a year’s fishing license and salmon/steelhead something or other for $144 and we were off.

Steve did a great job of explaining the six rods he had, how they worked and how we would fish before we left the landing. I could have been listening to Gordon Sutton. He is 32 years old and very nice guy. We set out and it was very slow, catching a few small trout, mostly on the two salmon egg spinning rigs. I was interested in how he was able to work this nice boat. Then we hooked the big one in between two rapids with some trees in the middle. Steve said you have to horse him. “Don’t let him get down stream from you”. With constant coaching and great oarsmanship on the Pavati drift boat, we managed to net a huge 32 pound King Salmon, took some pictures and then set him free.

We caught a few more little ones, but we were getting into the heat of the day now – all my fault for not getting the license earlier. We fished one hole particularly hard, but it didn’t happen. The salmon run is early, and really heats up in October. Last October Steve and two clients caught 66 in one day. I love the boat and would love a half day lesson on how to handle it.

Back at Highway Products I bought two cleats to go on the Headache rack and had them delivered, and I returned a tool they left in my truck. I had lunch back at the trailer, but it was oppressively hot! I took a half-hour nap and woke up groggy and sweating. I didn’t care how cold that river was, I was going in! Changing into my bathing suit, I walked across the field, down a path to the river. It’s cold, very cold! It comes out of the bottom of Lost Creek Reservoir and is 49 degrees. It is also running fast, maybe 8 miles an hour. This is not a river you mess around with. You could lose your life here. Steve has pulled two bodies out of the river. I registered all that, but it was hot, very hot, so I walked into the river and its slippery, round rocks. Up to my knees, I stopped and reconsidered. Still hot, I picked up some water and wet my hair and head. After walking around a bit, I finally took the plunge. It was very cold, but I was at last relieved. After a minute or two, I did the vertical plunge again. I got out and walked along the path beside the river. Huge blackberry bushes lined the path, and they were ripe with berries. I ate my way along to the north. A bike trail goes for 30 miles through the little towns along the river. I turned around and walked to the other end of the park.

After showering and shaving, I went to the Rogue City Library. This is a very nice library! With music and videos and a spacious book collection. While my computer updated, I perused the books looking for fishing this area. I tried the computer, but you had to have a card. Before I could think about it, a lady warned me they were closing in 10 minutes. Meanwhile my operating system was in the middle of an update that would take 15 minutes! Somehow it managed to finish at 7:00. Around the corner, I found a convenience store that had some Yellow Tail Shiraz. Since Jim Batten liked it, I bought some and headed home for dinner and a glass of wine. it was a good day.

Errands and Move

Saturday, July 15, 2017

With no available campsites in Valley of the Rogue State Park, or anywhere else around Medford or Crater Lake, I needed to move by 1:00, but first I had a bunch of errands to run. There was a farmer’s market in Medford. I needed groceries, a haircut and to do laundry. Looking for the laundry, I found a barber shop, but the laundry was closed. I went into the Big Y Berber shop and met Jim. Barbers know everything that is going on in town. He told me the farmer’s market was good and where I would find a laundromat. Then we talked trucks since he also had a GMC. 

I found the laundry and finally figured out the machines. I was surprised to find more men than women, but on Saturday morning it was busy. While waiting for the wash, I pulled the plug on the cooler in the bed of the truck to let the now warm water out. A guy walked by giving me a strange look as water appeared to be pouring out from under the truck. I told him what I had done. Another strange look. After checking the washing machines, I stood outside wondering if I should go across the street to a car wash, but it looked like a drive through, which wouldn’t work with bikes covered with a rubber tarp covering the truck bed. The guy with the strange look came out and we exchanged pleasantries. Kenny was from Medford, mid 40’s with a bit of a paunch. He worked at a gun shop and at a tool and die place that makes bolts for rifles. He knows guns and the history of gun making. We talked about self-defense pistols, then moved on to hunting and fishing the area. He said it’s so vast, there are still places unexplored. People get lost all the time. 

He had some very interesting views on politics and the state of the country, its infrastructure, drug use and Oregon’s governor and how she got there. After moving the wash to dryers, we returned to our talking spot. We went on to President Trump and congress. It was obvious that Kenny was well-read, a religious fellow and he needed a dentist. I enjoyed our conversation that continued as we folded laundry. We shook hands, and he said, “God bless you”. 

The farmer’s market was small, but I bought a few things, then went to a grocery store to fill out the list. Hurrying back to the State Park, there were still no vacancies, but it was wide open from Sunday on. The very nice girl, Amanda, with a great smile suggested Collier Memorial State Park to the east. She looks so much like Karen Carpenter! Sitting in the rest area next to the park, I had lunch and looked at the options. It was 92 degrees and hot. With the luxury of Lew’s solar installation, I ran the air conditioner for about an hour while I stewed over driving almost two hours for a one night stay. There were National Forest sites along the way, so I would check them out as well. 

45 minutes into the drive, the road wound its way up a big mountain. I stopped in National Forest campground, but it was filled, at least with the few places I might have gotten into. I was fortunate to be able to get around the loop. Kept going up and up the mountain, finally topping out with a huge lake to my right. Around the top of the lake, trees open to a giant, flat grassy plain with water abounding. Cattle grazed in lush surroundings. They have replaced the buffalo across the west, and there are gazillions of them, black angus mostly. I stopped to take pictures the best I could. The volcanic mountain that holds Crater Lake was off in the distance, with snow still covering the top. A beautiful spring creek wound its way through the plain. 

Ahead a camper was pulled over with a blown out tire, rubber littered the lonely road behind it. I stopped to see if I could help, but there wasn’t much I could do. They would have to unhook and drive a long way to a town and hope they could get a tire. They had used their spare a few days before. I know how they feel! 

Finally arriving at the campground, a nice ranger named Leigh greeted me with a smile. No sites were available. Although I had driven a very remote road to get here, the park is right off of 97, a major north/south highway in the center of the state. She said there was a National Forest campground a mile and a half down a dirt and gravel road, and it is beside a stream. She said they have nice sites and they are big. I crept down the corrugated, dusty gravel road. I was nervous turning into the campground. It was 5:00. Leigh had given me a list of campgrounds in the area and pointed out several she liked. I was relieved to only see four campers, and there were 20 sites – pretty sites! 

I chose a big shaded site that looked great. Two big boulders guarded the front. Tired now, I made myself slow down. I had to go back and forth a number of times to make the tight turn. It probably would have been easier earlier in the day. Finally making it, I unhooked, leveled the trailer, prepared dinner and walked back to the self-register station. A gentleman named Heiner was being pulled by two chihuahuas. They looked like a sled dog team with their harnesses on. Heiner introduced himself. They just bought a new “Skinny Winny”, a Winebago on a Mercedes Van chassis with a 3500 diesel engine – nice! Heiner is a researcher at Cal Davis in plant engineering. He said we won’t have to worry about it, but our great grandchildren will not have enough food unless major changes are made. I asked how our water supplies were doing. He grumbled, “Yea, that’s another issue”. 

I went back for dinner and a glass of wine. I was surprised to see people pulling in throughout the evening. Traveling 97 not doubt, you can’t beat the $10 price. With a senior pass it is only $5! 

Interstate 70 West

Write-ups in previous post. At the top is Boot Hill in Ogallala, Nebraska. Love the statue. Below are the Bonneville Salt Flats