Great fall fishing beckons anglers this month in northeast Oregon. October caddis begin flying in September and trout are actively feeding on blue-winged olive hatches. All of this aside, fishing seemed to take second place to many other activities going on in Wallowa County, leaving Wallowa Lake and local streams nearly deserted.
Wallowa Lake, and perhaps other fishing opportunities, may have suffered from slightly cooler morning temperatures during Labor Day weekend and turned folk's interest to other activities.
Gina Barstad at Wallowa Lake Marina said fishing was good throughout the weekend, but the cool mornings seemed to keep anglers away until late morning or early afternoon.
The nice thing about cooler weather, however, is that fish continue to feed actively throughout the day and fishing remains good through the middle of the day.
Barstad said that all of the rental boats brought in trout during the weekend and that the most successful anglers caught trout up to 20 inches. There were two 20-inch and one 19-inch rainbow brought into the marina during the weekend. Two of these fish were caught with bait and the third fish grabbed a Roostertail spinner.
Barstad said that the boat ramps still have plenty of water for launching boats. The state park still has their courtesy ramp in at the south end of the lake and the water is dropping very slowly.
The Wallowa Lake Marina will remain open through Sept. 18.
The Wallowa River seemed to have a bit less fishing pressure last weekend, although there were reports of good fishing. Dry flies are very effective in September and October, and one report from the weekend confirms that nymphs have not lost their appeal. He reported catching three or four dozen trout in two or three hours fishing on the Wallowa.
The Grande Ronde River usually has only light fishing pressure during the summer and the three-day weekend did little to change that. A few anglers were on the river, but Farrell Vail at Boggan's Oasis said that while there were a few folks camping along the river, they sold very few angling licenses, although milk shake sales confirm that there was a lot of traffic through the area.
She speculated that weather had the opposite effect on the Grande Ronde as it had at Wallowa Lake, and hot weather may have changed some anglers' minds about fishing. Temperatures on the river reached nearly 100 degrees. Unfortunately, there was not a water temperature reading available for the Grande Ronde. Steelhead counts at Lower Granite Dam made a substantial increase during recent days and early this week the total count across the dam exceeds the total to date for 2003. This year's counts have consistently lagged behind 2003 numbers until this week, when daily numbers climbed to more than 900 fish per day on Sunday and Monday.
Trout fishing in the Grande Ronde remains good through the fall, smallmouth bass fishing is slowing as cooler water pushes these fish downstream, and steelhead fishing remains nearly nonexistent, but not quite at zero. Vail said that several steelhead were caught last weekend in Oregon and she had her first report of a steelhead being caught near Boggan's in Washington. Steelhead are moving up the system and are just about on schedule. They should arrive in reliably fishable numbers in October.
Archers are putting in mild efforts for deer and elk, scouting both favorite areas and new country as well as monitoring herd movements, but this week's efforts still lack the focused attention that these hunters will apply in a few more weeks.
Bird hunters were out for grouse last weekend with expected success. Birds aren't overrunning hunters, but, with effort, hunting opportunities are there.
Observations over the weekend suggest that chukar numbers may be slightly better than initially suggested. Changes in the weather may be moving birds to locations, particularly lower on ridges, where they are more readily seen by hunters and anglers, and giving the corresponding impression of more birds.