Wilson River


I discovered the Wilson when I first moved to Portland and had set my sights on winter steelhead. With a buddy and no experience, I stubbornly crisscrossed it all winter chasing “the fish of a thousand casts”, to no avail. Cold and frustrated we gave up, convinced that they were only a fantasy guides made up to get people to freeze their butts off in the slow season.

I really like this river. It’s close to Portland and in a beautiful setting, canyons and forest with enough pull-outs to find a spot without being elbow to elbow with other anglers. A few weeks ago I’d gone out to get away from being in front of the computer screen all day, and I was casting into a hole under a bridge upstream from the Forestry center when another guy with a spinning rod joined me at a run further upstream. He made half a dozen casts, and pulled a dark twenty-something-inch fish out of the water. “That (expletive deleted),” I said to myself. He released it and we chatted a little; he mentioned the fishing was better downstream, and that that was his sixth fish of the day.

New Tackle

New Gear!

Sorry to say fellow fly fishers, purists, but if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. So, I borrowed a spinning rod from my old man, geared up with a dozen shiny spinners and spoons at the sporting goods store, and planned my next trip back out.

The recreation report said fishing was slow; the winters had already moved in and the spring salmon run had yet to start. When I got back out the river was low and clear—all bad signs. But as much as I love a fish on the fly, my first day spin casting was more exciting than any other time on the Wilson. At the same hole where that lucky (expletive deleted) pulled out that steelie, I saw one follow my lure to within about six feet until it spotted me and swam away. In a hole by Cedar Creek I was shocked when my rod jerked


He’s still in there…

and a red Coho leapt twice out of the water and threw the hook (sorry, no pictures this time). Today’s lesson: Set the hook! And after lunch in the Narrows, a feisty cutthroat took a copper spoon that was probably half its size. I know it’s supposed to be about the fishing and not about the catching, but the catching part is pretty fun too.


Lunch in The Narrows

Dorman pond is on the way back to town, and an easy stop on the Wilson. It had recently been stocked, and I counted seven vehicles in the gravel parking lot. Sheehan described it  as “over-used and abused”. Sadly she’s correct. Candy wrappers, cigarette butts, cans and wads of line clog the bank. After a morning of solitude—and finally some action from the fish—the pond was a disappointment for both me and the palm-sized bluegill I pulled out and put back in.


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