Upper Nehalem River: Timber–Birkenfeld


It’s finally trout season in Oregon! Beyond lake fishing, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot available to the trout angler west of the Cascades. Most of the trout streams are in Central Oregon, but some good fun can be had chasing cutthroat in the coastal streams. The Nehalem is over 100 miles long, but more than half of it is closed for much of the year, upstream of Hwy 26.

I took the turnout above Timber on Hwy 26, which follows the river to Vernonia. The other hindrance is that much of the river is private property. In the 30 plus miles I traveled, there were maybe a dozen spots fishable spots, and many of those under bridges or at fee parks.


Airport Park in Vernonia

The river is both low and warm, even in early June. Wet wading is definitely doable, and in many spots, it’s possible to sight fish. I was surprised by how the river changes. In some spots it has deep blue pools, then clear riffles and fast shallow water; then it becomes almost still and brown, before going back clear. I saw plenty of decent sized cutthroat in the 14″-16″ range, but they were much more wary than the smaller ones I picked up.  In one hole, I caught a 10 incher on the first cast, only to see that the action had spooked a dozen bigger fish holding behind a rock in the middle of the river. A dozen casts dragging a rooster tail in front of their noses didn’t bring any results. The water was perfectly clear, and I did see one of the fish lazily follow the lure back to shore, but it didn’t seem particularly interested in biting. Upon seeing me, he rejoined the group behind the rock.



I stuck to small spinners, with black and brass and brown and gold getting good results.

Compared to steelhead fishing, it seems like trout will bite just about anything as long as you get it in front of their noses.

The upside to this section of the river is that it holds some decent-sized trout, and is pretty close to home. The downside is that there isn’t a ton of bank access. I’ll be revisiting this with more updates as I fish the rest of the upper Nehalem.


‘Til next time…



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