Signs of seasonal change are easy to see along Oregon’s rivers and streams where anglers cast lures for fall salmon.
Mark Anderson said that the time is right to catch a salmon and he loves to cast lures from shore – especially the lures that he’s designed.
His Dad taught him much of what he practices today: a technique called “jig fishing” that relies upon a weighted feathered jig that is fished below a floating bobber… and it works!
“When you can put it all together and your bobber slips under,” noted Anderson. “Then you come back and feel the weight of a heavy fish on there – that’s alright. It’s a great feeling.”
I recently caught up with Anderson along the Wilson River in the Tillamook State Forest where he told me that twenty years ago, he bought his first jig off a store rack.
Now, he makes the jigs and they are some of the finest around and in huge demand.
What do they look like to the fish?
Anderson exclaimed: "Try squid!"
“When you see a squid moving in the water, it pulses,” noted Anderson. “That’s really how this looks. It pulses like a squid. Fish react to it like it’s something really tasty and they eat it.”
Anderson added that crafting the colorful jigs is an “addictive passion” and his love for the craft evolved by simply making them for friends.
“I’d give buddies 3 or 4 jigs and say, ‘Here, try these out.’ They’d come back and say, ‘Boy that one worked out, but this one here with this color, this tail or flange color, that really seems to out produce the others.’ That feedback has really made the difference.”
Now, after ten years at the helm of “First Bite Jigs,” Anderson said that he has more “friends” than ever --- across England, Switzerland, New Zealand and Chile – anglers who keep coming back for more.
He boasts that the jig making parts – from hooks to feathers and beads --- all come from Oregon. He even made a “how to” video on an Oregon stream:
“It’s called “The Art of the Jig,” he noted. “Probably the biggest project I’ve ever done: spotting a fish, casting to it and hooking it and showing people how it’s all tied together.”
“First Bite” has hooked thousands of anglers to a new technique for catching salmon and steelhead, but Anderson said a successful business is not enough for him.
He believes that he and the angling community can do more by giving back.
“Mainly it’s just the everyday trash that people leave behind. Tires, diapers, household plastics…everyday garbage that litters our rivers.”
Anderson leads by example and teaches an ethic of responsibility caring for Oregon’s outdoors. In fact, he has spearheaded an Oregon Adopt-a-River campaign the past 16 years and encourages anglers to clean the rivers they like to fish.
That often means getting his hands dirty too.
”Trash isn’t going away,” he acknowledged. “There’s a certain number of people that just don’t care… but my approach is a win-win because the trash is picked up, the landowner is happy and fishermen can walk down and fish the property. So, I pick up the trash so others can recreate because I love the outdoors.”
Mark Anderson believes most anglers love the outdoors too or they wouldn’t be out there. He also thinks anglers could do more to bring their sport full circle and he’s pleased that he can help point the way.
“Especially at this time of year,” he added. “We get those cool nights, the first rains that bring in those fresh fish. The cycle continues and it is my favorite time of year.”