Journal Entry: South Umpqua River. July 13th.
The South Umpqua River is one of the most beautiful and scenic rivers in Oregon. It flows from the Cascade Mountains to the Siuslaw National Forest and is a popular spot for fishing, rafting, and kayaking. The river banks are lined with lush fir trees and old snags making the perfect home for the nearby Osprey.
It is peaceful on this river. There isn’t any cell service that allows you to truly let go and immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility around you.
My family has been floating this river for years, and have taken hundreds of people to this special place. I have wonderful recollections of sitting on the river bank, as the fog was lifting, talking about our lives.
My son has grown up on this river, and has taught so many young people how to guide a paddle raft or run a gear boat here over the years. I will always have fond memories of the campfires that were shared at my typical overnight spots.
100 Smallmouth Bass a day
I tell everyone that I have taken down this river that the Smallmouth Bass fishing is fantastic. It is quite easy to catch 100 Smallmouth Bass a day. I’m not sure if this is a bragging right, but it demonstrates the excellent fishery of this river.
There are a lot of Smallmouth Bass, and they can be quite aggressive. They will hit most artificial lures, especially crankbaits, they love worms, and can even entice them on a fly. Most are 12-14 inches, but you will occasionally catch one that is much larger.
Small woolly bugger patterns are ideal if you are a flyfisher. Cast them out and peel them back slowly. When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll troll the waters behind me with them as well.
If you use worms, all you have to do is drop the bait off the side of the boat, bob it up and down a couple of times, and you will catch as many smallmouth Bass as you want.
I love to keep a few and make fish tacos for dinner on the river. All you need is a little lemon, Johnny’s season salt, and butter. All of this while sitting next to a serene river.
My favorite trip down the South Umpqua
Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to go down the river with my dad, son, and nephews. It was a significant occasion for me since it allowed me to share the river with those who were close to me. I also had the opportunity to introduce my father and nephews to the river for the first time.
Thursday evening they all arrived at my house. I grabbed my nephews and had them help me pack the coolers and raft for our trip. It was so much fun showing them all that went into making sure your gear was in order.
My son helped prepare the food and helped my dad load the coolers onto the raft. Each one loaded their dry bags and double-checked that they had their fishing gear.
We all slept outside in my backyard that night. We were ecstatic to go trekking along the river the next day, and we went to bed-sharing our enthusiasm. I have had opportunities to share river experiences with fellow guides and clients, but this was a sweet time to share it with my family.
James Wood boat Ramp
We took off towards Elkton, Oregon early Friday morning. The boys were excited and I was anxious to be back on the river again. We arrived at James Wood boat just after 9 am and started to load up the raft. The majority of people do this float in one day, and we typically take our time and complete it in three days. Needless to say, we turn a few heads at the boat ramp when they see us load up a raft for a multi-day trip.
There is great fishing right at James Wood boat ramp, and I see plenty of people make a day of it catching smallmouth bass just upriver from the launch. There are some great ledges where the fish tend to hold in the heat of the summer day.
Day 1: South Umpqua River
With the raft loaded down and the inflatable kayaks already we headed down the river. It wasn’t long before we had a couple of fly rods out and casting to the unsuspecting fish. Soon thereafter, my dad caught his first smallmouth bass. It wasn’t the biggest, but it was fun nonetheless.
My nephews had never been on a river trip before, and it was their first time in an inflatable kayak. They were both excited and a little scared at the same time. Thankfully the river is pretty calm in this section, so it was a great introduction to whitewater rafting. I was thankful to share this experience with them.
We stopped several times to take pictures and just enjoy the beauty of the river. We even saw a few deer. A river is definitely a place where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
We made it to our campsite by early evening. My nephews were excited to set up their tents and start cooking dinner. We all pitched in and had dinner ready in no time.
I love creating a kitchen on the river. You first start with bringing the tables off the raft, surround your area with coolers, and spread out the floor mat. Next comes the propane tank and camp stove, and your kitchen is nearly set. I pull out my cast iron griddle, pot, and pan and I am ready to go!
All my meals are cooked with either a Dutch Oven or a cast iron pan. In my opinion, there isn’t a better way to create a meal. That night I made Brussell Sprouts wrapped in bacon for an appetizer and Salmon Fillets cooked on Cedar planks for the main dish. We ate like kings that night!
After eating, we sat around the campfire and enjoyed the company of family and friends. The day ended with my son leading games around the campfire. It was a great way to end the day.
Day 2: South Umpqua River
Day two started early for me. I like to get up early enough to watch the fog roll off the water. The sound of the rivers mixed with the birds waking up makes the morning perfect.
I like to be up early so I can get the fire and coffee going before the rest of the group gets up. Those early mornings are my time to prepare for the day ahead of me. It is so peaceful to be up as the sun rises–especially on the river.
After our breakfast, we broke camp, loaded up the raft, and got back on the river. My nephews were excited to get back on the river and try their luck at fishing again.
Guide in training
My son, who was 14 at the time, wanted to learn how to row the gear boat. I was eager to show him because I dream of the day that he becomes a river guide. He’s been on several adventures with me, and he’s run a lot of rapids in his IK, but this is the next evolution for him.
Rowing a heavy gear boat is not easy, especially on whitewater. The raft can be hard to stop when gaining momentum and is hard to turn. The key is being able to see your move ahead of time and make it earlier than you think. You have to be on alert at all times, especially since you are carrying all the gear for the trip!
My son struggled a bit getting the hang of how to move the oars, but as the day went on he started to get the hang of it. He wasn’t ready for any major whitewater yet, but he was on his way!
Relaxing on the South Umpqua
That afternoon we stopped to take some pictures of the rapids we were about to run. My nephews were excited and a little nervous at the same time. It wasn’t a major rapid, and most times, I have my clients float it in their PFDs. However, this was their first time floating whitewater.
After running the rapid we decided to pull over, hike back up and float it in our PFDs. This is the perfect spot to do this. The rapid is about a 1/4 mile long and there is a nice eddy on the bottom that will bring you almost back to where you started. We spent a few hours enjoying this spot before we shoved off again.
The weather was perfect and the scenery spectacular. My dad and I fished most of the way down and caught plenty of smallmouth bass. The boys were content just floating down the river.
Night two: South Umpqua River
We had a beautiful camp spot right on the water’s edge. I mostly camp a mile from the take-out on a nice beach. It is near to a riffle, so the sound is fantastic. On clear nights, you can stargaze for hours.
We made our traditional fish tacos, from our catch that day, for dinner that night. I like to fillet the bass, wrap them in tinfoil, spread butter and Johnny’s seasoning on top, and throw them in the fire with Johnny’s seasoning. Also, it is nice to oil and fry the tortillas to soften them up. Lastly, add your condiments and coleslaw and you are all set.
After dinner, we settled around our last campfire for this trip. One more time to laugh and look back on the fond memories made the past couple of days.
Day 3: South Umpqua River
The next day we fished some more from shore and even went swimming in the cool crisp water. We all reluctantly packed up and started the journey to the Osprey Boat Ramp.
The final mile of the trip is one giant rock garden with a final small rapid just before the takeout. You will want to remember to work your way to the left of the river if you are running a boat. The right side shallows out, making it virtually impossible to run, especially in the late Summer months.
Osprey Boat Ramp is our typical take-out and offers great access, and even has a toilet!
South Umpqua River: A memorable trip
It was a great trip, one that I will never forget. Experiences like this are what make life so special. Getting to share it with those you love is an added bonus. My nephews are already planning another trip down the South Umpqua River. I’m sure it will be just as memorable as this one was!