100 Best: Umpqua River, North Fork
Location: Southwest Oregon
Type of stream: Freestone
Angling methods: Fly, Spin
Species: Steelhead, Chinook, Rainbows, Sea-run Cutthroat
Season: Year - round
Supporting Services: Roseburg
Short take: Join the maddening crowd
Handicapped Access: Yes
Closest TU Chapter: Middle Rogue Steelhead
The much-storied water of the North Umpqua River runs from a marker just above where Rock Creek comes in at Idleyld Park for 31 miles up to the Soda Springs Dam. In the 18 miles up to the Mott Parking Lot, you’ll find 46 named fishing holes. Come summer, each emerald green pool tailing out in rapids that thunder and plunge into the next run, will hold as many anglers as can stand each other. The allure: the summer run of steelhead beginning in May and continuing into October. There’s a way to beat the crowds. Figure out where you want to fish the night before, hustle your fanny out of the sack while it’s still dark, and stake out you water as dawn begins to break.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is quite specific about tackle used in the 31 mile stretch. As I write this, during the height of the summer steelhead run from July 1st through September 30th, only unweighted artificial flies on unweighted lines are allowed. Strike indicators are not permitted. Anglers who use spinning tackle with monofilament line may attach a casting bubble to their monofilament lines. Long casts are not needed. The North Umpqua’s heavy flows are contained in a channel seldom wider than 50 to 75 feet.
The river also hosts runs of winter steelhead from January into April when Chinook enter the system. Salmon and steelhead overlap. You’ll also find good fishing for rainbows and sea-run cutthroat which must be released. Above the fly fishing only mileage are nearly 70 miles of excellent trout water. Much of it can be reached by car, and much of it is seldom seriously fished. Charming campgrounds surrounded by high timber are numerous as are streamside trails. Anglers willing to walk will find summer solitude unimaginable downstream.