Spring break on the Imnaha River offers a perfect opportunity to talk to steelhead fishermen about why they like to fish and also to swap a few fishing stories.

It’s a 45-mile drive from Enterprise on one of the most spectacular roads in Wallowa County to Cow Creek to get to the heart of the matter.

Jim Hart of Joseph has been fishing on the Imnaha for 10 years and was camping with a bunch of his high school friends last weekend.

“I like to fish for the sport of it, I like being in the outdoors and it’s also a good way to fill the freezer,” Hart said. “One of my favorite fishing stories was when I was fishing on the Columbia River with a friend on a boat. Early in the morning I grabbed my friend’s pole and threw it out before he was ready to fish. I went to put it in the outrigger and the pole went flying out of my hand. I felt really bad, thinking I hung his pole up on a rock. We grabbed my rod and tried to fish his pole out of the river. On the first cast we snagged it, pulled it up and it had a salmon on it we landed.”

Brad Leith originally was raised in Wallowa County but now lives in Redmond. He’s been fishing on the Imnaha since he was 12 (he’s now in his 20s) and said he just likes to be next to the river and he likes to eat the fish he catches.

His favorite fishing story comes from when he was fishing on the White River, a tributary of the Deschutes. “I wasn’t even really fishing I was trying out a spinner when I hooked this enormous 20 to 25 pound trout,” he said. “I was pretty surprised. Like I said, I wasn’t even trying. It was a nice fish.”

Justin Sullivan of Enterprise started fishing two years ago on the Imnaha. “I love the serenity of the river, it’s real soulful,” he said. “It’s a Zen meditation thing and I love hooking up with a big fish it’s an adrenaline rush.”

“One of my favorite fishing stories was when me and a friend of mine went down to Troy bass fishing. He had this fancy jacked up four wheel drive truck. We went down into this hole and he was messing around and got the truck stuck,” Sullivan recalled. “ I left him there getting the truck out and I went down to the river and caught a bunch of fish.”

Geoff Robinson of La Grande has been fishing on the Imnaha for about 20 years. He was fishing with his son and two of his son’s buddies Sunday.

“For me it’s the tranquility, It’s a moment to clear my mind and relax with nature and enjoy all of God’s gifts,” Robinson said.

He said one of his favorite fishing stories was introducing a friend to stealhead fishing on the Imnaha.

“He was wanting to fish with a steely or a spoon. I was telling him most people don’t use this gear to fish in the Imnaha so I threw out the spoon just to show him and I hooked a 32 inch fish first cast,” Robinson said. “It was the only fish we touched that day with the spoon.”

Parker Robinson started fishing with his dad on the Imnaha about 5:30 in the morning. He said, “I like to fish because I can hang out with my dad and my friends. My favorite fishing story was when I was fishing with my Grandpa and I almost fell out of the boat. It was great. My grandpa grabbed me by the hand and saved me.”

Evan Gunderson of Burns, one of Parker’s friends, said he likes to fish “Because I like to catch big fish and it’s relaxing. One of my favorite stories was when I was fishing with my grandpa and my dad on Big Lake outside of Burns. We got in the boat and I caught the first and biggest fish of the day.”

Steelhead season closes next month, April 15th so there isn’t much time to gather fishing tales from the northwest.


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