When it comes to building bridges along many of Oregon’s rivers, fishing guide David Johnson is one of the best. He doesn’t use steel, iron or concrete to build bridges. Instead, Johnson relies on rods, reels and bait.

You see, David Johnson uses a lifetime of angling skill and knowledge to connect Oregon fishermen with the fish. You could call him a fishing ambassador of sorts – Travel Oregon certainly does!

David is the new “Ask Oregon” fishing expert who can tell you where and what is red-hot-happening on Oregon rivers, streams and lakes.

Whether it’s Klamath River rainbows on a fly, Deschutes River summer steelhead on a lure or perhaps, a stringer of fat trout from a nearby lake or feisty coho salmon hooked on herring in the ocean, Johnson helps folks learn more about Oregon’s varied fishing opportunities.

He recently admitted that he learned some of his lessons the hard way:

“When I started fishing, we chased fishing reports everywhere. ‘Oh, they caught ‘em at Sellwood, so off we chase the bite at Sellwood only to learn it was really at Oregon City. After a couple seasons of that, I learned that it’s far better to stick to one place, learn it well and let the knowledge pay off handsomely for you.”

On a recent gray-shaded drizzly day, two guests joined me aboard Johnson’s comfortable fishing boat on the Willamette River – John Canzano and Ryan Wolfe – and we cast baits and lures for spring salmon and steelhead on the river that runs through the heart of Oregon.

David motored to a number of locations in the Oregon City stretch of the Willamette River where we “back-trolled” lures and baits of sand shrimp and salmon egg clusters.

Johnson said that heavy winter snow and spring rainstorms have delayed this
season’s salmon run.

“The spring chinook swim through the Portland area beginning in March and peaks in early May, but the fish won’t spawn until September. So, they’re in no hurry get upstream. That means if the water is colder than normal, as it is this year, they trickle through while the main run really takes its time. If the water warms a few degrees, watch out! The salmon move faster.”

At a popular location – immediately under the Oregon City bridge – something moved really fast – after – it grabbed Canzano’s bait.

“There’s one,” shouted Johnson.

It was a ten-pound summer steelhead – and it’s silver sides glistened as it shot out of the river. It was fresh from the ocean and it looked more like a jet fighter – flying out of the water, cart wheeling end over end in mid air and then zig zagging across the strong river current.

“There are so many runs of salmon and steelhead in Oregon,” noted the longtime angler. “You could fish every single day and fish someplace different each time. We are rich in opportunities and there’s no other place quite like it.”

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

Flag as Incorrect

Is any of the information on this page incorrect?

Share your thoughts Comments

Have something to say? Your Comment

  1. Les says…

    I enjoyed your article. The wife and I will be in Oregon in mid July for two weeks and are looking forward to fly fishing in the state. Do you have any spots that we should have on our list? We fish both rivers ans stillwaters.

    Written on April 25th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
  2. David Johnson, Ask Oregon Fishing Ambassador says…

    For trout I would consider the Deschutes near Maupin-Trout Creek. Hair’s Ear and elk hair cadis should work but check with a fly shop for up-dated info.


    Written on April 25th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
  3. Grant McOmie says…

    Les – Shoot me an email and give me an idea of which parts of the state you’ll be visiting in July. I’ll give you some reliable suggestions.

    Written on April 25th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
  4. Tammy says…

    Hi Grant,

    Loved your story! I found it while searching for great places to fish in Oregon as I’ll be headed that way in mid-July. Just curious, do you have any suggestions on where to fish for a super beginner? I would really like to get into it, but want to start off slow. I’d even be interested in taking a fishing lesson while out there, so any advice would be very much appreciated.

    Thank you!

    Written on June 14th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
  5. Grant McOmie says…

    Hi Tammy –

    Shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to help you with the information that you requested.


    Written on July 16th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
  6. William R. Jones says…

    I believe it was late 90’s that I went on my first guided fishing trip and it was with Dave. We were out 12 hours all over the Columbia, Clackamas, Multnomah Channel and all limited out! My best time ever!

    Written on June 28th, 2017 / Flag this Comment
Win a Pendleton Blanket


Subscribe to the Travel Oregon email newsletter and be entered to win a commemorative Crater Lake Pendleton Blanket.

Click here for terms and conditions.

You're almost there!
Click the link in the email we just sent you to confirm your subscription.

Hmm, something went wrong, please try later.