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!
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.”