When you fish with a legend, you know you’re in good hands!
Retired fishing guide Ed Fast has run the rapids, slipped past the boulders and left all his troubles behind for nearly four decades on the Upper Sandy River — a place that not many people can navigate. He says, “There is not an easy put in up here! In fact, it’s a real pain to put the raft in at Revenue Bridge. Plus, there’s no shuttle service and the rapids are dangerous! So, most people only do it once!”
Fast makes the difficult look easy — decades of experience running rapids under varied conditions will do that. Even though Ed has put his “guide” shingle away for good, he’s still thrilled to be between the oars on this Wild and Scenic section of the Sandy River.
“Yes, I never tire of it, that’s true,” admits the longtime angler. “You have to be on your toes all the time, read the river well and follow the lines that are safest.”
His friends George Stump and Aaron Shook travel this way as well. Shook has been guiding anglers down the Sandy River for decades too. He loves the solitude that he finds here because the river is so difficult to run — plus, it’s only an hour from downtown Portland.
Even though they come from varied backgrounds, one thing’s on each angler’s mind: “How to explain the passion of a steelhead fisherman? Boy, that’s tough,” says Shook. “It’s just something that’s inside your heart and you can’t get away from it.”
Within minutes of casting into a promising and productive run, Stump shows that there was one steelhead that didn’t get away. His rod doubled over as a 10-pound steelhead hit his lure like a ton of bricks.
“Oh, I love this!” exclaimed Stump with a beaming smile. “What’s not to love? These fish are feisty and hard fighting!”
Stump hooks the fish on his favorite spinner, one that he made himself, and says, “Black and silver — that’s my lure! It’s the contrast of the real bright silver and the dark body that drives fish to bite it. And they bite it with a vengeance.”
Steelhead are nicknamed “metalheads” and Stump really knows how to catch them. He matches the colorful metallic metal spinners and spoons that the fish like to bite. “That’s the whole reason I am a spinner nut! The bite!” says Stump. “The lure just stops like you hit a rock and then zoom — it’s off to the races.”
Stump knows the blade business well. He and his friend Rob Brown create and sell metal blades in hundreds of gorgeous colors. The blades carry ageless angling names like Colorado, Indiana or Cascades. Their partnership, First Strike Lures, was born of a shared passion for fishing and hooking more people into it.
“I think that the heart of a fisherman is really asking, ‘What’s new?’ Everyone wants to try something new and we have literally hundreds and hundreds of blade patterns that we custom paint day in and day out,” says Stump.
The two have grown their business to become one of Oregon’s finest lure-making companies relying on the best products available. Brown uses real silver on his blades. He says it makes a big difference in durability underwater as the spinners or spoons bounce among the rocks.
They even make spinner kits with all the parts so you can create your own. Apparently, customers are eager for more. “We rely on social media to advertise our blades and boy, the pictures say a thousand words,” says Stump. “We show examples of our products in action and it is amazing how many people post pictures of themselves catching fish.”
Back on the Sandy River, Fast, Stump and Shook enjoy a fine day of casting, field-testing the spinners and spoons for a fun day they like to call “research!”
It doesn’t take long until Ed Fast hooks a chrome-bright wild winter steelhead. The fish flashes, jumps and cartwheels above the water. Soon, Fast has it to hand, deftly removes his spinner and releases the fish in a flash.
“Winter steelhead are such feisty fish,” says Stump. “With good friends and a beautiful day of fish biting… it’s a wonderful thing to just be here.”