The notion of bass fishing strikes a certain patriotic chord in my soul, so when some Portland buddies suggested we head east to ply the waters of the John Day for smallies, I was quick to acquiesce. Following a quick night in Portland, enjoying the pleasantries of the big city, we crammed a 4Runner full of bass poppers and Bud Light and headed east.
Not a cloud in the sky and the mercury topping 100 degrees in Hood River, we got to camp late in the morning on Saturday, half an hour outside of Arlington on the banks of the JD. Once tents were pitched and rods rigged up, the obligatory round of Evan Williams got the day’s fishing started off right.
We were the only group on the river fishing, with a few families camping upstream and splashing around to beat the heat. Between five anglers, we covered roughly two miles of wading and landed well over 100 fish in four hours. While not huge, the smallmouth were super-aggressive and feisty as hell, with fish in the 10-14″ range engulfing foam and feathers with impressive strikes. Sunday’s fishing was even better, as it seemed like the fish just got more active the higher the thermometer rose. The sheer number of fish in the river was surprising, as it seemed every step spooked a group of shadows downstream. The John Day is an enjoyable bass fishery and offers a great change of pace when those summer steelhead skunkings get you down.