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This past July my wife, a few fishing friends and I took a three day float fishing trip for smallmouth bass on the John Day River in north central Oregon, the last major undammed tributary of the Columbia River. The river runs through some beautiful and interesting scenery and has a very good steelhead run in the fall, as well as abundant smallmouth bass in the summer, which is what we were after on our trip.

We were lucky with the weather not too hot or too windy and with the fishing. Most of the bass we caught measured from eight to 12 inches, but my wife got one that measured 18 1/2 inches in length, 12 inches girth and weighed about 4 1/2 pounds the biggest fish of the trip. We used five to seven weight rods and fished mostly surface flies such as poppers and deerhair bomber patterns. We also fished deep with woolly buggers, sculpins and the like.

Our group fished with three guides from Ashland Fly Shop Guide Service (*) in Ashland, Oregon. Each had a unique personality, but all were knowledgeable and helpful. We travelled in drift boats two people and one guide per boat while our gear, tents, stoves, etc. went ahead in a raft. We provided our own camping gear, including tents, ground cloths and sleeping bags. The outfitter provided all food, stoves, water, etc. The guides selected camp sites that were ideal for camping, scenery and after dinner or before breakfast wet wading.

During three full days on the river, we saw only one other boat and a group of non fishing campers who were rafting the river. We really enjoyed the trip and will do it again. It cost us about $500 per person.

Incidentally, Arthur Campbell’s recently revised book on the John Day, titled The John Day Drift and Historical Guide, provides helpful and interesting background information on the river, although it does not talk about fly fishing. It is available for $19.95 from Amato Publishers (*). J.A. Waitz.

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