Greenling and coho on the fly, off the rocks

If it seems like Nate has been in every post this week, it’s because he’s been on a 6-day fishing bender.

Photos and words by Rob Russell:

Some guys are just fishy. “There’s one!” Nate says, and my trained eyes go to the rod tip. Sure enough, he’s got a fish. The worst part? That was my fish! I just got two solid bites in a row, came up with a chunk of fish-lip, and Nate gets him! But no worries. I’ve met guys like Nate, and I’ve learned how to have fun watching them catch fish.

Fly Fishing Oregon Coast: Cormorants

Earlier that morning as we drove to the coast, I quizzed Nate on his saltwater fishing experiences. I knew he’d spent a couple of years in New York, and I had just seen “Gotham Fish Tales,” a quirky documentary on the die-hards who ride the subway with their fishing poles and spank stripers all over town. Sure enough…”That was me!” he said, reveling in the memories of popping flies for tuna within sight of Manhattan. “Dude! You wouldn’t believe the fish we caught in New York.”

Nate moved to Eugene to be closer to his brother, and to live in a town that’s surrounded by world-class fishing. In just a few months he’s caught summer and winter steelhead, fall chinook and tons of trout on the fly. But what really turns Nate’s crank is saltwater. As soon as he saw a map of the Oregon coast, he had to explore. Bays, jetties, sloughs and backwaters are all on his radar, and all species of fish are fair game. I was lucky enough to tag along on a cold February day when offshore wind caused the Coast Guard to issue a small craft advisory. As we pulled out into the bay, we could see the red flag flying over the observation tower. The flag told us we couldn’t go where the fish were. We had to explore new waters.

Fly Fishing Oregon Coast: Greenling

We cast flies to rocks all over the lower bay, focussing on an area with particularly cool structure. Hundreds of casts into it, we still hadn’t caught a fish. Then something caught Nate’s eye. “This is the spot, Rob. This is the spot.” Total confidence. Then I felt a grab, then another. I strip-set, thought I felt a head shake, but came up with a gooey strip of white that looked suspisciously like a piece of lip. Then Nate hooked up and brought in a beautiful greenling. We both lost a couple more, then decided to take a break for some lunch. I whipped up some tuna salad and served up sandwiches. I related my experiences using canned tuna as an attractor for chinook salmon on the north coast. “It can make salmon crazy,” I said. “Here, give me that fly.” I mashed Nate’s Clouser in the tuna. “Try that!”

On his second cast Nate hooked a fish. This one went crazy. Then the unexpected–it jumped! “What the hell?” we said in unison. It was something chrome! A minute later, Nate held up a mint-bright little coho salmon, his first ever in the bay. He released it and we sat back to have a sandwich, basking in the glow of the winter sun and the great feeling that comes from exploring and discovering.

Fly Fishing Oregon Coast: Winter Coho


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3 Responses to Greenling and coho on the fly, off the rocks

  1. Ron says:

    6 day fishing bender? Rough life.

    What fly/flies do you recommend?

  2. Matt Siegmund says:

    Is that a Buff you’re wearing?

  3. Nate says:

    I would say that the best flies for rockfish or even saltwater in rocky enviroments would be a synthetic Clouser Minnow… I like chartreuse over white with a lot of head cement.

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