You know a place is windy when it’s known as the windsurfing capital of America. That is exactly what Hood River, Oregon, is known as. Driving through the gorge you can see windsurfers dotted along the Columbia River whitecaps. The Columbia forms the border between Oregon and Washington and also happens to be in the middle of a giant wind tunnel causing the great windsurfing conditions.
Subsequently, the fishing in the area is also known to be extremely windy. The Deschutes River dumps into the Columbia causing for ripping winds to come up the river. Over Labor Day weekend I wanted to take my chances and fish in the lower section of the river where I had heard stories of several hook ups per day. I was obviously not the only one who had heard this news because I ended up sleeping in my car on the side of the road when I found the campground at full capacity.
I set my alarm for 4:45 a.m. and after a few beers I moved to the backseat to try and get a few hours of sleep. When I awoke, the dark night provided the perfect backdrop as I ambushed the campground and was the first one on the river. I hiked in the dark for two or three miles before stringing up my 12-foot 6-inch 6-weight Spey rod. The plan was to fish my floating line in the morning and then go to my sinking line when the sun hit the water. The wind was already whipping when I hit the trail in the dark, so I expected a steady breeze all day. What I got instead was what felt like gale force winds churning the water into sea worthy conditions.
I gave it my best shot for the better part of six hours fighting the wind to make a decent cast. My 6-weight was definitely outmatched by the wind and I was fighting an unwinnable battle. Occasionally the wind would calm for a few seconds and I would get off a great cast. The only problem with this is when you are swinging for steelhead you need to consistently cover the water with the same distance on each cast, and I couldn’t control much of anything in the wind. I was ducking my head half the time trying not to hook myself with the fly.
Once the gear fishermen made their way to the water it was game over for me. One guy stepped in 10 yards below my friend in the middle of a run. The guy looked at my buddy and said,“Just because you fly fish doesn’t mean you own the water”! Well I absolutely agree, but when you’re flyfishing in a run you should at least own the remainder of the run below you. Feel free to step in above me and fish. Some of those guys will just never understand how we work a run.
So after my sixth hour of fighting the wind and the gear guys I decided to call it quits. There would be no end in sight for either of the two issues. My friend and I decided to cut out early from our original plans and hop over to the Washington side of the Columbia and make it a two-river day.
Wet Boots Are a Way of Life.