Last week I had the chance to fish with Frank Moore and Pat McRae on the North Umpqua for summer steelhead. I drove down to meet them at lunchtime and fished the second half of one of the first rainy fall days of the year.
As the three of us piled into Frank’s little VW (which has over 400,000 miles on it), I was nervous about the rain spiking the water level, but Frank assured me it would take more than a little rain to affect the North Umpqua after a dry summer.
We wadered up at the camp water, and headed to the first hole of the day where Frank showed me how to skate a fly across the current, and how to cast 100 feet with a single handed rod. Not that I replicated either of those things with much success.
It was a learning experience, obviously fishing with Frank and Pat would be, but the takeaways were life-changing. That is, if you consider changing some of your long-worn ideas about fishing as shaking the philosophical, moral core of your being.
It changed my perspective. This river that seemed so intimidating, treacherous, and devoid of interested fish, suddenly became manageable. Eventually I was pushing out 80-foot sloppy loops, landing the fly near where I was aiming — and the North Umpqua started to seem like a small stream.
A small stream full of huge summer steelhead. I got my first grab on the North Umpqua on that trip, and watched another steelhead come up and take a swipe at my green butt skunk. I’m pretty sure Frank has some of these fish trained.
Pat, Frank and I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the North Umpqua’s giant spawning chinook, trying to roll-cast 100 feet, and hopping in and out of Frank’s rig, till dark.
Other writers, like Scott Richmond at Westfly, have written about Frank’s life and accomplishments, so instead of reinventing the wheel, here is one of Scott’s Q&A with Frank Moore and a write up on what we owe Frank for his advocacy for this river.
I will say that Frank is one of the most entertaining guys I’ve ever fished with. Somehow he makes you feel like a better fisherman (while simultaneously making you look like a chump by comparison). And more confident. And he’s damn funny.
The summer steelhead season is still hot on the North Umpqua, and with the start of the October Caddis hatch, things should get really interesting for folks chasing steelhead on the surface. After my masters lesson with Frank and Pat, I’ll definitely make the trip again this fall, with a lot more confidence.