Fish caught on the Nestucca

Fish caught on the Nestucca

On a cold, dark morning, we arose at 4:30 a.m. to head out on a grand outdoors adventure! The huge yellow moon was shining down on us, and for a change the sky was so clear you could see the stars…and your breath (that sounds so romantic: just remember, I’m not an outdoorswoman…yet).

We dressed warm, and stowed our rubber boots (mine were brand-spanking new!) in the trunk, and set off with hot coffee in hand. Through Salem, and out Hwy 22, over to Hwy 18, and we turned off to go to Hebo. Our guide would be meeting us at the Nestucca Valley Sporting Goods Store, and that was all I knew to expect.

I can’t really remember the last time I went fishing, and I know it wasn’t in a drift boat! Our guide, Jesse Zalonis, met us there at the store and helped me get the appropriate license and tag, and some snacks and orange juice for our trip. The proprietor there was very friendly and helpful and I think that store has just about anything you could want or need, including a last-chance bathroom! Now, off to catch steelhead.

It was just getting light out, and we loaded up in the truck, after a little teasing about my “local” boots (so-called because everyone local wears them to work in the surrounding dairies, or for fishing). All I know is I should have worn an extra pair of socks (at least).

Now here is where it gets interesting; and by the way, I was sworn to secrecy, promising that I wouldn’t reveal any of the sacred spots. I was looking around for the landing to put the boat in, when Jesse slid the boat down a steep and muddy drop off and into the water. That’s about the time I realized I had to go down the hill too. So I asked the next silly question: how are you going to get that boat back up that hill? Oh yeah, we are going down the river, so I guess we’ll get out somewhere else. The guys thought that was pretty funny. They had no idea…yet.

We had gorgeous weather- it was the first beautiful sunny day of spring, the sun was shining, and there was just enough of a breeze to make it perfect. Because of all the recent rain, the water was fairly high, which can sometimes affect the fishing outcome. All I know is it affected me when it came over the side of the boat and drenched my right side. You’ve got to laugh, though, especially since I’m the only one who got soaked.

With a little assistance from Jesse, I caught the first fish. What that means is, he hooked it, and then shoved the pole into my hands! I immediately knew I needed to start some upper arm exercises. After several minutes of letting the line run and reeling it in, punctuated with the guys yelling at me to keep the line taut, I finally got the steelhead close enough to the boat for them to net it. Close to eight pounds of beautiful silver and red fish, I had caught a buck.. I may be the only one that noticed it matched my nail polish.

(Note: I was not invited to bait, clean, or club, which was perfectly fine with me.)

I learned how to cast adequately, and since I didn’t have to be the one fixing the snagged lines over and over again, my part was fairly easy.

I also learned how to tell the hatchery fish from the wild fish, by checking the fins to see if they were clipped. The three of us each caught a hatchery fish, and Mark and I each caught a wild fish that we released. Mark’s wild fish was close to 20 lbs and just beautiful, and it’s a terrible thing to see grown men cry. Not really cry, but I think even knowing the reasons behind catch and release, it hurt to let that baby go. We did take good pictures, though! And the guys got to play in the water in their waders, so that kind of made up for it.

Not having been exposed to the world of fishing, this was all new territory for me, and I am sure I mentioned to them several times that it would be really nice to relax in the boat and read my book while they fished. Maybe next time!

We were on the Nestucca River, but I can’t tell you where. It’s a secret club thing, I guess. If you call Jesse, he might show you. I will say that by mid-afternoon, I was wet, dirty, tired, and having a blast. Yes, one of the best days I can remember, seriously! It’s a good thing to get out and try new things, experience something different and shake up your life a little. And yes, I’d love to go again. I’m not sure I’m ready to buy a boat yet, but a fishing rod, sure.

We finished off the day by heading down to Pacific City, where we ate lunch at the Pelican Pub & Brewery, watching the waves and then walking on the beach in the sunshine.

Our guide made the trip really fun, as well as a learning experience, and I was very impressed — not only with his experience, but with the feeling he has for the river and preserving the habitat. He’s been involved with SOLV for years, and appreciates taking care of our gorgeous outdoors. He has made it his responsibility, not just his livelihood.

So, here’s my advice: if you need to jumpstart your life, or just have a rousing day of fun, plan a day of fishing. Head out on your own, or get a guide to teach you how and where. Even if you only go once, it’s another Oregon experience you won’t forget, I promise.

For more information on fishing guides, please visit , 503.392.5808, in Hebo, Oregon. Jesse and Sara Zalonis are excellent representatives of born and raised Oregon dreamers, living their dream, and sharing it too.

P.S. That fish tasted better because I caught it myself. I swear!


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