Grant's Getaways for August 17, 2013


by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on August 18, 2013 at 10:16 AM



When you tag along with Mark Anderson for some ‘Pocket Water Steelheading,’ be ready to put in your time scrambling and rambling down and then back up steep sloped river canyons. Anderson loves to explore places that make you feel more mountain goat than two footed angler.

“Now, this is the kind of day you like to be on the water:  sun is shining, no rain in sight – wow! Leave the rain gear at home,” noted the longtime angler.

And we kept moving –along a small Oregon coast range river – looking for the small pockets of whitewater where the “eager biters” like to hold.

It was a day marked by brilliant sunshine during an unusually extended dry period.

“Pocket water is the very head of a river’s run where it riffles before it levels off and smoothes out,” noted the longtime angler.

Anderson likes to cast into a river’s hidden places where water narrows and races so to reach deep holes that hold big fish.

“Fish will tuck in at the head of that hole because it provides cover for them and they feel safe.”

He entices fish to bite colorful hand-tied feather covered “jigs” that ride the river under a simple bobber.

It is easy to admire the simplicity of his rigging for it is back to basics fishing: a lure, some leader, a bobber and then a cast and you’re fishing. It’s so simple anyone can try. Even me!

I reach for one of Anderson’s offerings: a bright red feathered jig that is wrapped around a “twin barbell” weighted jig. Anderson called the jig one of his “Sure fire, can’t miss lures.”

I cast the entire affair and it splashed into milk white foam to ride the downriver current – this was pocket water steelhead fishing at its finest.

“Hey, hey, hey – there we go!” I shout as Anderson’s bobber disappears into the cloudy foam.

“A big buck native steelhead,” he cried. “It was resting right there in that current and grabbed the jig as it rushed past. Wow!”

The big, ten pound steelhead, marked by a red crimson bar the length of its lateral line, charged deep toward the river bottom and then twisted and shook the hook as it swam away to even deeper water.

“Oh no, it’s off! Oh well, it happens – and sometimes just like that,” noted Anderson.

The big fish was down and then gone in a heartbeat, but Anderson said true anglers are never ‘down n out’ when it comes to pocket water steelhead.

“I love it too,” he said with a grin. “Because all of this – the lures, the bobbers, the other gear – all made in Oregon and it’s important to support the local angling shops.”

Mark’s the owner of his favorite “local shop” called “First Bite Jigs.” It’s his Oregon-grown business and he has created thousands of feathered jigs based upon a lifetime of experience that often has him, “thinking like a fish.”

“The first thing a fish sees is the color. The color is critical in attracting them and then it’s the action and the presentation. So, shrimp-pink is just an all-time favorite color for salmon, steelhead and trout. It’s akin to something they have seen before.”

For the past 12 years, Anderson’s ‘First Bite Jigs’ has been out in front and successful in an increasingly competitive fishing lure business. He insisted that spreading the word about jig fishing for steelhead and salmon is his ultimate goal – no matter how many competitors he faces each year.

He loves to spread the word about how much fun it is to go jig fishing and he has even produced a program, “The Art of the Jig” that shows others how it’s done.

“That is probably the biggest project I’ve ever done. How to spot fish, casting to the fish and hooking a fish - it’s demonstrated and tied all together.”

These days, his customers range across the planet and they are tied together by common appreciation for the native Oregonian’s work.

Anderson owns scores of worldwide photos that his customers have sent from South America through Europe, Alaska to the Great Lakes. It seems that no matter the water and location, the fish that live there are crazy eager to try a First Bite Jig and. The photos are marked by grinning anglers and usually a colorful jig hanging in a trophy fish’s jaws.

“The old saying, ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words,’ is so true,” said Anderson.  “You can tell the story but if you have one picture it completes it.”  He added with a grin, “Plus, the bigger the fish, the bigger the story so it’s all pretty neat.”

Back on the river, local angler Steven Randolph told us that pocket water steelheading is “pretty neat” too. We watched as he landed and carefully released a gorgeous ten pound wild steelhead.

“Awesome and epic,” said the young angler with a mile-wide smile. “My second steelhead ever and that was my first native fish. This is just fantastic!”

Anderson likes to move – a lot - and you need to be in tip top shape to keep up with him. It’s the way he was taught for he was a young “tag along” with his Dad, a dedicated fisherman who fished for salmon and steelhead “every month of the year.”

Anderson has learned that it is important to be on the move. He rarely spends more than thirty minutes at each spot because more pocket water steelhead wait around each bend.

“I never really quit steelhead fishing. It’s my year round passion and I always seem to have a rod that has a jig on it for steelhead in April and May for the winter run – and then the summer runs take over. Oregon is blessed with opportunities and I so love that about my home state.”

At a favorite location, high in the river-shed, Anderson cast across a small pocket of whitewater where he thought a fish might hold.  In a matter of seconds, his bobber disappeared.

“There he is!” noted the confidant angler who had experienced this routine many times before.

It was a wild steelhead – about 8 pounds – somewhat dark and sporting the tell-tale crimson bar across the length of its jaw - he quickly landed and released the fish.

He quickly began casting his jig into the foamy water again and said, “That was great – maybe we’ll get another one!”

It was a promise that made the day long hiking adventure that included hours of bouncing from spot to spot, so worthwhile. Anglers should spend a day and get to know a river well by exploring for Oregon’s pocket water steelhead.

In addition, check out the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s new guide to Summer Steelhead fishing. It will help you take advantage of a forecast run size of more than 400,000 summer fish returning to the Willamette and Columbia Rivers beginning in May.


Oregon by air is a marvel!

Our getaways have taken you to wonderful places that take the breath away: from a helicopter crossing the Cascades Mountains to a hot air balloon ride over wine country, or even a special delivery “trout drop” above a mountain pond.

Rather than imagine the many faces of Oregon from 4,000 feet up, why not try a unique airplane ride that offers peace, quiet and a thrilling experience.

It’s an aircraft minus a motor called a “sailplane” and they take off each week from the Willamette Valley Soaring Club to soar over Washington County.

Pilots agree that Oregon’s landscape provides spectacular and stunning points of view. “It’s really peaceful and quiet up there,” said flight instructor Bruce Pearson.

Pearson is also the Flight Manager for the WVSC and added that the motor-less, highflying recreation is an addiction. “It is a passion! Once you try it, you can’t live without it and it’s something anyone can do.”

The Willamette Valley Soaring Club has operated for more than fifty years near North Plains. It is the largest club in the country with over 200 members and a dozen planes in the club’s fleet.

WVSC offers anyone a chance to ride aboard a “perfectly good airplane that doesn’t have a motor:”

“Well, that just makes it safer,” chuckled Pearson. “Our planes don’t have engines so we’re always prepared to land at any given time. It’s the safest flying there is.”

Sailplanes were once made exclusively of wood, but aluminum and fiberglass and carbon fiber technology have made modern sailplanes incredibly light. When matched with the latest electronics, the planes can stay aloft for hours and cover hundreds of miles.

“It is all about flying efficiently and cutting through the air without disturbing it anymore than you have to,” said Pearson. “These days we fly higher, farther and stay up longer than ever before.”

15-year-old Holly Dotson got hooked on soaring after just one ride last July. Ever since then she has logged 36 flights and plans to become a licensed pilot this June.

“It’s a thrilling, once in a lifetime experience that I just had to do lots more,” said the young flier. “Some of my friends think I’m crazy, but others think it’s cool and ask, ‘When will you take me up?”

“Birds have been doing it for millions of years,” added Pearson with a laugh. “We do the same thing but with one handicap: we don’t flap our wings.”

Dotson is the student and Pearson is her instructor and the two meet two or three times each week to review her bookwork and prep for the next flight.

“Anyone can start learning to fly a sailplane,” said Pearson. “You can qualify to solo when 14 and it is rare that someone cannot learn how to do this.”

Holly’s parents, Sean and Shannon Dotson, agreed that once their daughter’s path was set after she took her first flight: It’s a minimum of two hours a day of studying the books,” noted her Mom. ”So she’s given up a lot and really sacrificed time with her friends, soccer and things like that because she’s constantly studying – but she loves it.”

“She’s grown in confidence too,” added her Dad. “She needs to take command of a plane and needs that confidence and ability to be in control at all times.”

As the tow plane rises to 4,000 feet, Holly said that the best flying time is after the towline’s released and she’s on her own, soaring with nature’s wind and updrafts called “thermals.”

She added that the experience is “quiet and breath-taking,” but she remains alert at all times: “You have to watch everything  - other planes and birds – and you have to find the thermals just like a bird does.

That’s where the hot air rises from the ground to give the plane more lift. Thermals allow you to stay up longer and travel further; sometimes hundreds of miles in a day. It’s so much fun and anyone can go – come on out and try!”

WVSC participates in the Soaring Society of America's Fly A Sailplane Today program. Additional Oregon glider ride opportunities include Cascade Soaring and Northwest Sky Sports.


Oregon’s springtime super low tides are the best because that’s a time when the dinner table is set.

Mitch Vance, Shellfish Biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that any of the really good low tides during daylight hours provide ample opportunities to harvest Oregon’s varied bay clam species.

“Some folks like to get out as early as possible and have more digging opportunity; they follow that tide as it goes out, looking for new exposed areas and then work back as the tide turns to flood.”

Norm and Bonnie Clow recently traveled to Tillamook Bay from their home in Dayton, Oregon.

They were among the first early risers to explore the exposed sand and gravel bars on a sunrise clamming adventure.

The Clow’s have been digging their dinner on the bay for more than sixty years and said the 4a.m. wake up call was “no big deal!”

Best advice for the novice clam digger?

“Keep digging,” Clow said with a chuckle. “Usually, the clams are thick enough that if you dig one hole and excavate out, you will have little problem harvesting a limit.”

April, May and June each provide many super low minus tides that occur early in the morning.

This is the favored time for digging bay clams with names like horsenecks, quahogs, steamers and cockles.

Jeff Folkema, alocal guide and the owner of Garibaldi Marina, showed off a half dozen of the prized horseneck clams that he harvested from the bay.

He said they are called “gaper” clams because of the “gape” in the shell where the neck pokes through.

“This is a nice size,” he said while handling a hefty 2-3 pound grapefruit-sized bivalve. “This is pretty average size with a lot of meat. A good sized clam but I have seen much bigger too.”

Jeff added that clam diggers 14 years and older are required to purchase an Oregon Shellfish License.

“And remember that each person who is harvesting clams must have their own container – a bucket or a clam net on their belt – even a plastic bread bag will do – because you cannot lump other people’s clams into your container – you’ll get a ticket for that.”

Keep your eyes open for ODFW placard that show pictures of the different clams species along with the harvest limits and other regulations.

Vance offered: “If you’re digging it really helps to know what you’re after so you can understand the regulations around that species.”

He added that abundant food, reliable cold, clean water contribute to perfect habitat for bay clams populations in most of Oregon’s coastal estuaries.

There is also a delicious reward for the clam digger’s efforts – bay clams can be delicious according to local resident Don Best who showed off his limit of quahog clams.

One of his all time favorite recipes is an old-fashioned clam fritter:“All it takes is a little cracker crumb, flour and egg – perhaps some chopped onion. Chop up the clams, mix them with the batter and fry them in a skillet with oil. They are awesome that way!”

Vance added that in addition to supper from the sea, digging bay clams can provide hours of family fun for each member of the family: “Oh, it is really good for families because it’s so easy and there’s not a lot of gear – just a shovel or a rake – so get the kids in some boots and get them out here and have some fun in the sand.”

Don Best’s Clam Frittter Recipe

Makes 15 to 18 fritters
Vegetable oil, 1 cup unsifted flour and a half cup of bread crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups chopped clams
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
In deep fat fryer or large heavy skillet, heat oil to 375 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In medium mixing bowl, beat egg, milk, 1/4 cup reserved clam liquid and 1 tablespoon oil.
Stir in dry ingredients and clams. Drop mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls into hot oil.
Fry until golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels.
Refrigerate leftovers.


“Getting away from it all” is easier than you’d think when you cross the Coast Fork of the Willamette River and wander through the woods at a Lane County natural area that is prized for peacefulness, serenity and spectacular wildflower shows.

Grant takes us to the southern end of the Willamette Valley to see how they hold on to history and preserve Oregon’s botanical past at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum.

In the southern Willamette Valley, less than ten minutes from Eugene, it’s easy to find Oregon’s “wild places” – it’s where the quality of life at Mount Pisgah Arboretum is especially fine according to Tom LoCascio – my guide and the Arboretum’s manager – who led me across miles of trails on the 200-plus acre island of protection.

“I am going to take you somewhere that shows what the southern Willamette Valley is all about, Grant. We offer a place that is a bit closer to the nature of Oregon through varied types of forests, plants and other vegetation – especially wildflowers. The people of Oregon really value that quality – a certain quality of life - and we have that here for your enjoyment.”

Tom was right! The Mount Pisgah Arboretum provides a view to Oregon that’s not much different than the scene the pioneers might have seen 150 years ago.

That is especially true right now when wildflowers wait for your admiring glances at each bend in the trails! From diminutive swarms of Baby Blue Eyes to solitary Candy Flower or stunning Wild Blue Iris or the small groupings of Shooting Stars – all of the flowers are quite beautiful at this time of year.

Tom noted that more than 300 different native wildflowers species can be seen across the Arboretum’s grounds beginning as early as February and continuing through July.

It is astounding to see so much color in so many different types of habitats that include doug fir or cedar groves, plus rare Willamette Valley oak woodlands and the fast disappearing white oak savannah.

Many of the Arboretum’s  meadows explode to life beginning in mid-April when brilliant blue camas fields come to life.

“We have places where you can view a blue sea of color beginning in late April and continuing through May,” noted LoCascio with a smile. “So bring a camera when you come for you cannot take enough pictures.”

Meg Trendler, a longtime Eugene resident, added with a beaming smile, “This is a place that simply lifts your heart for what Oregon looked like a hundred, 400, 500 years ago. What the folks have done here is akin to preserving old architecture by preserving the natural flora and fauna that’s in the area.”

And there is more - especially if you like to roll on wheels!

Less than 20 miles away – near Cottage Grove - be sure to explore the new Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway. It provides an outstanding reason to pack a lunch and spend a day enjoying more of the Southern Willamette Valley point of view.

You’ll love rolling through six bridges on a 36-mile stretch of flat, paved bikeway as you glide past scenery that takes your breath away.

Longtime resident, Greg Lee, said,  “It adds to everything that’s already here: nearby mountains with rivers and Dorena Lake for boating, fishing, camping and hiking. The new state scenic bikeway adds to the flavor of the place.”

Covered bridges were torn down by the thousands across the country in the past century and only a handful of communities really recognized how great and important they were – Cottage Grove is one of those places.

Blair Winter showed up a couple years ago and added a key ingredient to the Cottage Grove pot when he bought the Rainy Peak Bicycles, the town’s only bike shop.

Winter is an ambassador of sorts for the fast growing two-wheeled recreation and said the new Covered Bridges Bikeway is perfect fit for the southern end of the Willamette Valley.

“It’s family friendly and a really easy to ride with little traffic really easy to ride route good percentage is dedicated bike path so there’s no traffic and you’re very safe and you just kind of get right out into nature,” said Winter.

If you don’t normally travel with your bike – not to worry – Rainy Peak also rents bikes, so you can cruise in, rent a bike and get on the new bikeway in a matter of minutes.

“A lot of people that I know haven’t considered getting a bike until now,” added Greg Lee. “But they see the trail and say, ‘Oh I can do that. That’s flat, safe and I can bring the kids. So, the trail is like a stepping-stone for getting out to other places too.”

It’s really is true - especially back at Mount Pisgah Arboretum where your curiosity can lead you where imagination travels.

“People come here because they would like a glimpse of what the vast Willamette Valley once looked like, noted LoCascio. “This place is a good representation of what it is that makes Oregon such a beautiful place to live or work or play.”