John Day at low water?

Hydrocephalic

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I have a week off from PA school next week and I'm itching to get out and fish. I know conditions aren't ideal on the John Day right now with flows about 40 cfs at service Creek, but school breaks don't wait for fishing conditions.

Does anyone know a section to which I could bring a kayak? I don't need a drift, if there are any long sections that could be paddlle. Or, if there's a good stretch that I could wade, I would enjoy that. Being so new to the state and with grad school I just don't have the time to drive out to cottonwood canyon and find out there's nothing accessible and staying at the mouth would be more fruitful. Any help is much appreciated! I'm aiming for smallmouth.
 

OneFishTwoFish

New member
I have a week off from PA school next week and I'm itching to get out and fish. I know conditions aren't ideal on the John Day right now with flows about 40 cfs at service Creek, but school breaks don't wait for fishing conditions.

Does anyone know a section to which I could bring a kayak? I don't needdrift, if there are any long sections that could be paddlle. Or, if there's a good stretch that I could wade, I would enjoy that. Being so new to the state and with grad school I just don't have the time to drive out to cottonwood canyon and find out there's nothing accessible and staying at the mouth would be more fruitful. Any help is much appreciated! I'm aiming for smallmouth.
When are you going? A kayak is very possible for most stretches of river, just slower at 40cfs
 

Aervax

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The John Day has lots of public access where you can get in the river to wade and fish. Cottonwood has public trails on both sides on the downstream side of the river with the main trail being 4.5 miles one way. Bikes are allowed on the downstream trail. The public trail on the upstream side of Cottonwood goes about 2 miles, and bikes are not allowed there. Klarno is another option with a public access dirt road on the west side of the river with public camping spots. Right now I am more interested in steelhsteelhead fishing the JD. Bass fishing is tough right now with water temp so cold. Hit it for Bass in April.
 

Loggerhead

New member
Ca
I have a week off from PA school next week and I'm itching to get out and fish. I know conditions aren't ideal on the John Day right now with flows about 40 cfs at service Creek, but school breaks don't wait for fishing conditions.

Does anyone know a section to which I could bring a kayak? I don't need a drift, if there are any long sections that could be paddlle. Or, if there's a good stretch that I could wade, I would enjoy that. Being so new to the state and with grad school I just don't have the time to drive out to cottonwood canyon and find out there's nothing accessible and staying at the mouth would be more fruitful. Any help is much appreciated! I'm aiming for smallmouth.
we are staying in rufus in august for a few days and would love to flyfish at cottonwood canyon park. Should we bring our watermaster rowable raft? Any day shuttles in that area. Or just walk trails or river. Any advice appreciated
 

Aervax

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Great access out of Cottonwood on foot in August. Flows will be too low by then to float much of anything. You can safely wade back and forth across the river then. Flow right now is at 455 cfs and falling. In August it should be around 200 cfs. Don't bring waders. Shorts and tennis shoes for wading. The good news is the low water concetrates the fish in very obvious deeper holes in late summer. The fish will be super hungry and hit almost anything.
 

Aervax

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Riverside trails out of Cottonwood. Northwest side right out of the campground the trail is about 9 miles one way. We mountainbike it or walk it. Lots of goat heads. If you want to bike it slime in your tubes is mandatory. I've seen lines of people walking bikes out of there where every single tire is flat. Southwest side of Cottonwood is walk in only. No bikes aloud. That trail is about 2 miles long.
 

Irishrover

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Aervax have you fished the North Fork JD at Kimberly? I have driven by it a few times and it looks like a great piece of water and had a place to camp. Looking for next years adventure. Cottonwood is on the list.
 

Aervax

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Yes. I have fished up that direction a few times. Caught the largest smallmouth of my life up there. We were on a family road trip and my children were not keen on running around to have it weighed and documented, or preserved in our food cooler for mounting. They put up with a lot in their dad's fishing obsession, so I let them talk me into releasing it. I still believe it would have been a new Oregon state record and might have been a new IGFA 6 pound line class world record. At least that is how it lives in my subjective memory. I was throwing plastic that day, a 7" Senko. Left my 6 weight in the back of the truck to fish closer to my kids. The fish would have beaten the fly rod 6 pound line class IGFA world record by over 2 pounds. Keep that in mind while fly fishing the John Day.
 

Aervax

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My theory on fish size in the John Day comes free of charge, so it is probably not worth very much. Old fisheries studies show something like 95% of JDR smallies being under 12" long. There are thousands of those to be caught. My real life experience was that I might catch a 2-4 pound fish 1 out of every couple hundred. The river simply dries out in July, August, and Sept. There are times when the lower river at McDonald's Ferry has registered flows of 0 cfs. At low flows the water is crystal clear making bass super vulnerable to all predators, especially with the fish schooled up in deeper holes. Bigger fish are more visible and easier for predators to grasp, especially for osprey. For health reasons I am fishing less and am also more willing to share some of my personal secrets, but still none of my fishing partners secrets. Haha. I think big fish only survive the low water there by associating with the deepest holes on outside edge of bends of the river. That day above Kimberly I focused on deep outside river bends as well as some of the boulder strewn deep sections. I caught 4 fish in 3 hours ranging from 3.5 - 8.5 pounds in the middle of on an August day that was 107F. The other 50 or so fish landed were 6-10" long. Apply that knowledge to your fishing style and let me know how it goes.
 

Irishrover

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Ok that place is on the list for next year for sure. Even if the fish are not on the bite the place looks like a great swimming hole. I'll take the fly rod along and start the tip at Cottonwood then work south. Perhaps I'll find that big fish you released!
 

OLDNEWCLACKA

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@Hydrocephalic I just did a guided trip above Spray a week ago. We had to get out twice to push the boat but otherwise it was fine. In a glass boat with 3 others as well. We dragged over 60 smallies in so it wasn't a bad day. Over half on topwater. Pretty fun time.

@Aervax, we spoke with a biologist that was talking about the recent 30k+ levels the river had in Spring. Thinking that may have washed a lot of the little guys down river. Might have been right, for we didn't catch 10 fish under 10" long. Everything was 10-14" with a few pushing 16".

Also, Service Creek resort has these "glamping" tents. Canvas tents on platforms with two queen beds in em. Super nice and quite affordable. Worth doing for sure. They were sweet.
 

Aervax

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Ok that place is on the list for next year for sure. Even if the fish are not on the bite the place looks like a great swimming hole. I'll take the fly rod along and start the tip at Cottonwood then work south. Perhaps I'll find that big fish you released!
I am trying to fit in some day trips out that direction in August/September. There is a lot going on at the moment, so not sure what days it will be when I do get it planned. I will shoot you a PM when I do have a date planned to see if you can join the fun. Lots of good spots for walk-in fishing when the water is too low to float. Sometimes I will cheat a little bit then. In August the water is so warm I have been known to put on a life jacket, grab a rod, and jump in to free-float and fish along the way. Walk and fish where it shallows out, float and fish where it is deep, walk out and dry out when done. It is really simple and fun.
 

Aervax

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@Hydrocephalic I just did a guided trip above Spray a week ago. We had to get out twice to push the boat but otherwise it was fine. In a glass boat with 3 others as well. We dragged over 60 smallies in so it wasn't a bad day. Over half on topwater. Pretty fun time.

@Aervax, we spoke with a biologist that was talking about the recent 30k+ levels the river had in Spring. Thinking that may have washed a lot of the little guys down river. Might have been right, for we didn't catch 10 fish under 10" long. Everything was 10-14" with a few pushing 16".

Also, Service Creek resort has these "glamping" tents. Canvas tents on platforms with two queen beds in em. Super nice and quite affordable. Worth doing for sure. They were sweet.
Thank you very much for sharing that report and inside perspective. What you said about the effect of this spring's mega flows on shuffling fish down river makes sense. It has me thinking about how it effected the lower river, too. I spent lots of time there hiking and biking this spring. Flows were amazing and awesomely powerful. There is less structure down lower for fish to use as shelter against the current. The John Day arm of the Columbia must be overflowing with tens of thousands of those tiny bass, this summer. Medical issues and treatments put the kibosh to most of my best laid fishing plans for the John Day until this coming September. Part of life for us middle age guys, I guess. For the time being I live vicariously through your stories and my memory of fishing those spots. I am still getting out to fish, only 1/5 of what I normally do, and for shorter outings than normal. I will report back if/when I do get a day on the John Day. The few days I have planned for now are focused on the Deschutes, Columbia, and Nestucca. So much water, so many fish, so little time....
 

Irishrover

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I'll be able to head over there next year. Looking forward to it. This is my last year of ocean fishing so I am going to put in the maximum effort out of Newport. We have the boat moored in a slip at South Beach until late September. Fishing a river with the warm sun sure does sound nice, not much fog on the John Day in August.
 

Loggerhead

New member
My theory on fish size in the John Day comes free of charge, so it is probably not worth very much. Old fisheries studies show something like 95% of JDR smallies being under 12" long. There are thousands of those to be caught. My real life experience was that I might catch a 2-4 pound fish 1 out of every couple hundred. The river simply dries out in July, August, and Sept. There are times when the lower river at McDonald's Ferry has registered flows of 0 cfs. At low flows the water is crystal clear making bass super vulnerable to all predators, especially with the fish schooled up in deeper holes. Bigger fish are more visible and easier for predators to grasp, especially for osprey. For health reasons I am fishing less and am also more willing to share some of my personal secrets, but still none of my fishing partners secrets. Haha. I think big fish only survive the low water there by associating with the deepest holes on outside edge of bends of the river. That day above Kimberly I focused on deep outside river bends as well as some of the boulder strewn deep sections. I caught 4 fish in 3 hours ranging from 3.5 - 8.5 pounds in the middle of on an August day that was 107F. The other 50 or so fish landed were 6-10" long. Apply that knowledge to your fishing style and let me know how it goes.
Thankyou so very much. Will let you know. My wife and I will be fly fishing with slime line,sink tips and floating line. I winter in islamorada so will have some good sized flies ready
 
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