John Day Birthday Float

The John Day River in a fresh coat of white

The John Day River in a fresh coat of white

Well my birthday falls two days after Christmas and my “giving” employer allows all staff to get a paid day off on their birthday.  This year I strung together the holidays, my birthday, and my remaining “use or loose” time to have a week long winter break.  Actually, I had no choice seeing as the daycare was closed, and locking my kids in the closet with our new cat would not be inline with the holiday spirit whether they needed it our not.  I did however pre-schedule a shuttle on the John Day River from my mom on my birthday.  I was going regardless of the conditions because everyone needs a little adventure on their birthday!!

As you will see in the photos and story below we did have a white Christmas here in Central Oregon with the snow and cold sticking around longer than usual.  Conditions were cold, with temps barely above 32F during the “heat” of the day.  Ice fog persisted all day shrouding the badland peaks along my wild river float.  The shuttle was questionable at best and required my mom to put her new Volvo XC 90 all wheel drive to the test.  It performed.

Awd Volvo XC90 headed back to pavement

Volvo XC90 headed back to pavement

The real issue was not the conditions, but whether or not there was any wild steelhead in the river this year.  Passage at John Day Dam was well below the 10-year average this year with only 61,631 wild steelhead able to navigate the gauntlet of “fish unfriendly” obstacles in the main-stem Columbia River.  The total number of steelhead through the obstacle course and above the John Day Dam by the end of 2012 was 162,083.  It sounds like a lot, but it isn’t for a watershed with millions of fish accessible stream miles and an area over 300,000 square miles.  The 10-year average for steelhead passage at the John Day Dam is 88,062 wilds and 297,088 total.  The graph below puts the 2012 run in perspective.

I would guess that the historical numbers were well in to the millions.  Ouch! The endangered species act restored the bald eagle.  Can it save the iconic summer steelhead?  Please comment.  Are our federal and state agencies upholding their public trust to provide you and me with the resources (steelhead) that we pay taxes to protect, conserve, and restore?  Please comment.  In short the simple premise of the public trust doctrine is that – government must conserve natural resources for the public good.

Read more about the principles of the public trust doctrine at: 

Rather than worry about whether these agencies can provide us with the “tug drug” I suggest buying some solar panels, becoming more self sufficient, and writing a few letters.

JD SteelheadOK enough dismal steelhead politics; back to the float.  Fish were hard to come buy.  I got one good grab and head shake on a swung reverse marabou fly at the end of the trip, but no fish to the bank.  The usual runs held no takers.  Maybe the fish were holding in the deep slow “frog water” runs with the water being so cold.  The only way to fish these runs is with a spinner.  I should have switched up.

Anyway I got a few cool pics and threw in one from a day when the steelies were more receptive to my offerings.

Getting "pumped up"

Getting “pumped up!”

Swinging the first run of the day

Swinging the first run of the day.

Geese were flying.  Should have brought the sky cannon.

Geese were flying. Should have brought the sky cannon.

Searching for the next run

Searching for the next run.

Pure wild pleasure

Pure wild pleasure!

Thanks for reading.

Remember to ask our elected leaders to put some steelhead back in our rivers.

1 thought on “John Day Birthday Float

  1. I appreciate the background on the JD watershed- those numbers are both sad and alarming. You are not alone in your frustrations about the slow reaction time on this issue. Nice pictures, and this is a entertaining blog to read.

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