Float tube doubles as bear shield on Esmond Lake hike

Last weekend the high water and even higher gas prices drove the blog crew to think outside of the box. Record snowpack and soaring temperatures blew up the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers. The Central Oregon lakes were supposedly fishing well, but it’s a hell of a drive, so we opted to try something closer to home.

We decided to head out to Esmond Lake which is a small three acre cutthroat lake, a rarity in the heart of the Oregon Coast Range. It was formed by a landslide on Esmond Creek, a tributary on the Upper Siuslaw. It’s not stocked, hard to find via a maze of logging roads, and physically challenging to hike into. It was our first time making the trip.

When we pulled up to the unmarked trailhead to the lake, we put on our waders and threw our float tubes on our backs. We were about a half-mile down the trail when I stumbled onto the first bear pie. It was big, brown and mostly grassy.

Esmond Lake Bear shit

In the second half-mile of the hike, we counted over 15 piles of bear shit and each pile seemed to get wetter and fresher as we followed the bears down the trail. I’m assuming it was a mother and cubs, because we found some big turds, but also some little paw prints. Not a good sign. I was on point, so I stuck my giant float tube out in front of me like a sheild and pushed on, trying to keep the chatter up on the trail.

We eventually got to the lake, where giant logs were spilled over the creek outlet, and it was nearly impossible to get open access to the water without balance beam walking and log rolling over several hundred yards of downed old growth stacked and floating between the end of the trail and open water. This was even more fun when you’re wearing waders and carrying a digital camera.

Esmond Lake

The impounded stream drowned the forest and the remnant trunks of that forest still stand ghostly above the water level. The lake itself was deep, cold and fishy looking. And we made the assumption that uneducated trout would go for a weighted wooly bugger stripped slowly. We didn’t count on picky fish. But picky they were. We got a few tugs on our buggers, a rise on a small caddis. Todd of TU Chapter 678 caught a couple fish on a March Brown wet fly, fished in the film, but the biggest topped out at nine inches.

Despite the slow fishing, we stuck it out till near dark, then pushed our way back through the overgrown trail , float tubes first, avoiding the bear turds.

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