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River: The John Day
Species: Smallmouth bass
Time of year: June through August
Guide Service: Marty Sheppard
Running over 500 miles, the John Day is the second longest free-flowing stream in the United States.
It is protected as a “Wild and Scenic” river under Oregon Scenic Waterways Act. The country is characterized by steep basalt canyon walls, juniper, and sagebrush dotted hills, abandoned homesteads, and petroglyphs. This is one of the most culturally rich river corridors in the state.
Human presence in this system spans more than 10,000 years. For thousands of years the Northern Paiute lived on this river they called the Mah-Hah. In 1805 these canyon dwellers met their first Europeans, the Lewis and Clark expedition. In 1812, the river was renamed the John Day after one of the members of the Astor-Hunt overland party. It was the discovery of gold in 1860 that advanced pioneer settlement. The John Day River is truly the Grand Canyon of Oregon. The river’s serpentine course through vertical basalt cliffs has, at times, an almost haunting feel.
This river was also home to huge runs of Steelhead and the famous Columbia River Chinook Salmon. At present, the system has one of the last all-wild runs of adronomous fish east of the Cascade Mountains. The John Day River offers some of the best Smallmouth Bass fishing in the country. In 1971, approximately 75 Smallmouth Bass were introduced to the river and since then they have flourished!
Bass season is at its peak from mid-June to the end of August. It is not uncommon to hook in excess of 75 fish per rod per day. These fish average from 8-12", with larger fish in the 18-20" range. The big fish for 2004 was a 211? 4" monster that weighed 6.4 lbs!! This is the perfect river to introduce new flycasters to the sport, as the fish are typically aggressive and plentiful. The majority of the fishing is done from the boat and from the banks looking for feeding fish. When the shade is on the water we fish with poppers and surface bugs, sun on the water flys are typically muddlers and woolly buggers.
If you fly in, schedule your flight for Portland, Oregon on the day before the launch date. Once in Portland you will need to rent a vehicle and meet us in Condon Oregon. We have two options for accommadations; Motel Condon: 541-384-2181, or the Hotel Condon: 800-201-6706.
**On October 22, 1994, we were the featured flyfishing show on ESPN for the John Day Smallmouth Bass. July of 1997 we had a feature article in Fly Fisherman magazine, "Huge NW Smallmouth," and we have also had a feature article in Rod & Reel magazine.