Okanogan River Report
August 9, 2017
Sunday morning found me on the road, headed to meet up with Luke Mckee. As I crossed the Okanogan River I could see an armada of boats on the Columbia River, plying the water for chinook salmon. The Brewster Salmon Derby was coming to an end, but that was not going be our target for the day.
Instead, our sights were set on the smallmouth bass that live in the Okanogan. Ten minutes later I was pulling into Luke's place. He was just finishing changing the irrigation water and was still sporting rubber knee-high boots and shorts. I loaded my rods and gear bags into his boat as he made himself look more like a real fly angler, whatever that might look like. Once the boat was loaded we were off, and 20 minutes later the boat was in the water.
We have been dealing with a lot of smoky days due to the large number of wildfires to the north of us. This morning was no different. Fortunately, the day was a bit cooler than what it had been. We headed upriver a few miles to reach a location that the average shore angler can’t get to. Our first stop was an irrigation pump station. I rigged up my Sage Approach 8 weight with the Redington Behemoth reel, and spooled up with a Type 3 sink-tip. Luke broke out his Beulah Platinum 6 weight with floating line. I should note I did not know he put a floating line on at this time. He suggested I use one of my gold and copper/brown Kreelex streamers. After a couple of cast with no takes I told Luke to go for it. His first cast tipped me off he was working a topwater bug. I recognized the fly as a Todd's Wiggle Minnow in fire tiger coloration. Two strips and Luke was hooked up with a nice one or two-pound smallmouth. Once he got it in and sent it back on its way I continued to work my fly in spots that looked like they should hold fish. After Luke landed a couple more bass including a two-pound largemouth, I was thinking my partner may have pulled a fast one on me. I switched to a crayfish-orange sculpin pattern that has worked well in the past. Again, many cast later and still no takers. The smirky little smile on Luke's face told me I “done been” had. I should point out that we were fishing places that Luke as fished many times. After some very colorful comments about what I thought of his guiding skills, we had a good laugh and took off upriver to explore more water.
I broke out my 8weight Q rod by Loop and strung it up with Airflo's Bass Muskie floating line. I worked a few bass poppers here and there with a few halfhearted takes. We switched back and forth from sinking flies to poppers with mixed results. We finished out the day using a couple of different minnow and smolt patterns that I tie.
Overall the day was not bad. We found a number of the same size smallmouths that mostly ran in that one-to two-pound class. Throw in just as many northern pike minnows to give us something to cuss at. I should note as usual, Luke caught the largest of these smolt-eating creatures. You see, Luke has what could be called a hate/hate relationship with these fish. If there are any within a hundred miles he'll catch them. This gives me plenty of comical relief at Luke's expense.
The fishing was great. The catching was good. The fun and comradery was endless.