When it comes to building bridges along many of Oregon’s rivers, fishing guide David Johnson is one of the best.
But he doesn’t use steel, iron or concrete to build his bridges.
Instead, Johnson relies on rods, reels and bait.
David Johnson uses a lifetime of angling skill and knowledge to connect Oregon fishermen with the fish.
You could call Johnson a "fishing ambassador" of sorts – Travel Oregon certainly does!
David Johnson is the new “Ask Oregon” fishing expert who can tell you where, when 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 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.”
On a gray-shaded drizzly morning, two guests joined me aboard Johnson’s comfortable fishing boat on the Willamette River – John Canzano and Ryan Wolfe.
We cast baits and lures for spring salmon and steelhead on the river that runs through the heart of Oregon.
Local sports columnist, John Canzano is well known to thousands for his writing and his weekly appearances on KGW’s weekly program, “Sports Sunday.” Canzano is also the host of the daily “Bald Faced Truth” where he “stirs the sport’s pot” each afternoon on 750-AM The Game.
John offers stories, reports and observations that make you think and make you care – not just about sports – but about our community too.
You see, John and his wife, Anna Song-Canzano, created and now manage the non-profit “Bald Faced Truth Foundation”.
They raise money to support arts, education and athletics in our schools.
“It is near and dear to both of us," noted the longtime sport's writer. "Many aults look back on their school days and say, ‘extra-curricular activities were important, teachers were important, mentors were important.’ It's true! We all had people and activities that influenced our lives and so our Foundation creates opportunities that foster that sort of thing. It’s especially important at a time when schools are struggling and we consider our BFT Foundation a big win!”
Canzano’s fishing partner was Portland business entrepreneur, Ryan Wolfe, and he agreed. In fact, Wolfe won the fishing trip after he submitted the highest bid at a fund-raising auction. His generous donation helped the BFT Foundation.
He insisted that "JC" join him on the adventure and John could not resist the chance to catch an Oregon salmon.
It turned out that Wolfe's no stranger to fishing either. He’s been casting baits since he was a youngster and he has fished from Canada to Mexico. He started salmon fishing with his Dad and he remembers those times well:
“Oh yes, Dad and my Grand-dad both took me whenever they traveled to fish for coho. I have fond memories of good lessons and excellent adventures with them. I keep those memories alive every time I cast into the water.”
David motored to a number of locations in the Oregon City area of the Willamette River and we “back-trolled” lures and baits. 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 the run 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 I-205 bridge – something really big 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 at an air show – flying out of the water, cart wheeling end over end in mid air and then diving back into the river, zig zagging across the strong current.
“Now John, easy, easy – keep the tip up and hold on to the butt of the rod," coached a confidant Johnson. “There you go! When the fish makes a run, you let him go. Good job!”
After a ten-minute battle, Johnson smoothly and deftly slid the net under the silvery prize.
As the fish was lifted aboard there were two firsts for Canzano!
He’d never caught such a big fish and he was speechless.
“Wow,” noted the astonished broadcaster. “So, that’s how you do it! I listened to my trusty guide and if he had said ‘jump in the river,’ I would have jumped in the river. I tried to be a good student and not mess it up and it sure paid off! That is the best fighting fish I’ve ever had on in my life.”
That was music to Johnson’s ears and exactly what Oregon’s Fish Ambassador hopes to hear from anglers who follow his advice.
“There are so many runs of salmon and steelhead in Oregon,” noted the accomplished guide. “You could fish every single day and fish someplace different each time. We are so rich in opportunities and there’s no other place quite like it.”