Nehalem River

IMG_0711Part of the fun of fishing is exploring new places, and the drive out to the Nehalem from Portland is gorgeous. After Hwy 26, 53 is a twisty-turny 25 mph road that would be fun on a motorcycle. I decided to make a loop, and drove almost all the way out to the coast and swung up the river to fish my way back towards civilization. I say back towards civilization because I only saw one other person on the river the whole day, and I think he was swimming.

The Nehalem road turns to gravel above the falls, and an abandoned railroad follows the river, giving it a bit of a ghost-town feel. All along the road there are little paths to drive across the tracks into primitive camp sites.


Perhaps my favorite part of summer fishing is being able to wade in tennis shoes and not having to worry about freezing my butt off. The water was surprisingly warm, but then again it is August. There are also tons of salamanders and crawdads in the river, so you have to watch your step. I even managed to “catch” one crawdad that grabbed my lure in its claw, but let go before I could snap a picture.

One thing I missed in researching the Nehalem (I did see that salmon, steelhead and cutthroat are available, with sea-run cuts starting to work their way upstream) is that for all the spots marked in the book, 99 percent of them said “this is a good plunking hole.” I realized this when I saw how slow and deep the river runs, especially in the lower river. This made me realize it is time to expand my “well rounded fisherman” repertoire with either jigs or a bobber and worms. I hate the idea of sitting on a bank and waiting for the fish to come to me, but I do really like the idea of catching something too.

It wasn’t a total bust; the resident cuts have a penchant for copper spinners. I had plenty of bites, and was having fun trying to place my lure in behind rocks in the rapids like pocket fly fishing. In one riffle I even managed this feisty little resident native:


I’ll have to say, of all the colors and sizes and combinations I’ve tried, copper has been my go-to and I’ve now hooked a salmon, steelhead and trout in different rivers on the same color—granted I only landed the trout.

I’d like to come back and explore the north fork of the Nehalem where the hatchery provides more fin-clipped fish and an opportunity to harvest. In the mean time, it’s time to start reading up about how to set up a steelhead jig…


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