Middle Santiam Wilderness - trout shadows & virgin territory

S

SmallStreams

Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2009
Messages
265
Location
Oregon City
Visited the Middle Santiam Wilderness on Saturday. We'd driven up on Friday night, after work, camped under the shooting stars and satellites without a tent. Campsite was a wide spot in the road just before the bridge on Sheep Creek Rd.

Briefly fished the upper section of the Middle Santiam at dawn since it was right at our feet. I hooked a small trout that slipped off before I could identify which species (supposed to be native cutthroat in upper section). My fishing body was skunked there.

On to the main event: the Middle Santiam in the Wilderness area. Backtracked five miles to the junction and took the other road that winds around Holcomb and Bachelor Creeks, then 640 spur road over the ridge and switchbacked on down to the Pyramid Creek trailhead area and the end of road at the wilderness boundary. All this to bypass the landslide on the direct route (bty, the ranger station will tell you that the 640 spur road is not suitable for passenger cars, but it could be if you're careful). Realize that it's 20 miles to the nearest paved highway and well out of cellphone range, so you can't rely on rescue if the car breaks down. Not only were we the only ones out hiking this weekend, but we didn't even see another vehicle.

So we arrived at the river about 9am and worked downstream. My friend fished with a fly on the way down and didn't get much action, while I used a 1/4 oz grey Roostertail with silver blade and had plenty of action. On the way back, he initially tried a brown Roostertail with gold blade that was recieved with lukewarm attention, a gold kastmaster that was a dud, and his hot ticket was a green #0 Blue Fox. I switched to a 1/6 oz white Roostertail with gold blade and got plenty of action.

I only got about 1.5 miles downstream by 1:30pm or so. The heat of the day was starting to wear us down, so we didn't make it to the mouth of Jude Creek before turning around at about 2:30pm. We made it back to the car by 5:30pm by not fishing as much on the return trip. 1 liter of drinking water per person was barely adequate for a day like this... carrying 1.5 liters is probably a good idea, especially if the weather is warmer.

This is such virgin territory that the only signs of another human were one set of bootprints that had preceded us at some point this summer... and they stopped after about a mile downstream.

The river is a large shallow crystal clear creek with lots of riffles and occasional pools. One bank or the other always consists of a sand & rock bar, so access is excellent, provided you wade across when necessary. There is not much structure in the stream apart from the rocks, so snagging your lure seldom happens. In the rain/snow season, the river swells so much that the wood debris is swept well clear of the summer channel. Every few years, there are floods big enough to alter the shape of the channel, so, except for a few key features, you can't rely on the river being in the exact same spot from year-to-year.

These wild fish are fast, hungry, and cautious. We'd often see dark trout shadow-shapes appear by the lure and then disappear. So quickly that if you blink, you wonder if your mind is playing tricks on you! Rarely will they flash a side at you, just that dark shadow-shape. Illusions, dreams, or real?

The fish we caught are all redside/rainbow. No signs of cutthroat here below the plungepools of the upper section. Most of the them are under 7", with enough at 8" or greater to catch your limit. My largest was 11", so if you want to catch your limit of 5, you pretty much will want to keep anything that meets the letter of the law. They're not particularly fat since minnows and bugs are their entire diet (no crawdads to be seen).

I bagged 3 (stay tuned for film at eleven... or in the next few days) and released another 3. My fishing buddy caught 2 or 3 that were legal and released them all. We landed about 20 fish and lost another 10. I'm fairly certain that at least 3 of the ones which escaped were over 8" and one was likely in the 12" range. Then there's that large dark shadow which rose to my lure in the boulder-field that still has me wondering...
 
Last edited:
H

hendrixfan

Member
Joined
May 26, 2009
Messages
55
Location
Canby
That's my kind of fishing. Thanks for the info, I have often wondered what a trip up there would be like.
 
S

SmallStreams

Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2009
Messages
265
Location
Oregon City
Return to Middle Santiam Wilderness

Return to Middle Santiam Wilderness

I had so much fun last time that I returned this weekend to expand my knowledge of the area. Busted through the brush to visit the section from Lake Creek upstream nearly to the bridge, where we picked a precarious climb out of the canyon (not going to do that again!).

Video is uploading now...

In the meantime, I've attached a few pictures. The keepers from the previous trip, the keepers from yesterday's fishing, and a lovely early morning view of the upper valley.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
J

jlayman0270

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2009
Messages
36
Location
Salem
My son wants to do this... He hikes but not a remote fishing trip yet. How do I get to this (or any other) location in this section of the river?
 
H

hendrixfan

Member
Joined
May 26, 2009
Messages
55
Location
Canby
Awesome pics and video, thanks for sharing! I am going to have to get down there before things get too wet. Hellacious hikes and ankle breaking walks in the river usually lead to the peace and quiet that makes this stuff so fun!
 
B

bigfootfish

Middle Santiam

Middle Santiam

That's a great vid and those pics are awesome. I was talking with some ODFW people last summer whose jobs it is to walk/swim/snorkel lakes and streams to count the fish. To survey. They told me that the Middle Santiam used to get the bulk of the native chinook and winter steelhead runs back before Foster and Green Peter Dams were built. More so than the South Santiam above Foster. Those runs are gone because of there being no fish ladder at Green Peter Dam.
Anyway, they did say that the lower Middle Santiam downstream from the Middle Santaim Wilderness has a really good population of wild trout. Bigger fish, too. However, the timber company that owns the land there keeps the gate closed(east side)and it's posted at Green Peter Dam and if you go through it when it's open you might get sited and/or locked in. Used to be different years ago. I dream of being able to spend some time fishing the lower Middle Santaim. It's a much larger stream below the Middle Santiam Wilderness.

BFF
 
Top Bottom