Flipping back through my journal, I find I fished seven days in September. On the 10th, right after a gully washer of a rain, the trout were energized. My grandkids landed seven in an hour when the trout hit small crankbaits, spinners, spoons and soft plastic eggs.
Early in the year when it became apparent we were going to have high temps and low water conditions, the plan was to fish as much as possible to make up for the poor fishing we expected in July. Summer fishing was tough, but the silver lining is now that water temperatures have dropped, the action is going to be great in October.
October might be the best fishing of any year, but this year more so, with a strong salmon run and trout streams and lakes returning to optimum conditions.
At the tail end of an elk hunt in Colorado, I fished a farm pond where the inlet stream had dried up. The trout wanted the flies to move. The more I twitched them, the more savage the strikes. Best fish of the day was an 18-inch rainbow I didn’t land or maybe it was a big crappie that took the fly.
We took the grandkids fishing on Sept. 10 to 11, notching easy wins on spinning tackle.
Next stop was Peach Beach on the Columbia River. Walleye fishing was slow and the wind was up, so Ted Beach, our captain for the day, launched us at Irrigon where the water was mirror-smooth. Walleye fishing was still slow, but we managed to land five eaters and a few smallmouth on bottom walker rigs and Mack’s Lure Cha Chas tipped with live crawlers.
The next day the wind cranked up to 20 miles per hour on the big water, so Trevor Barclay and I, after breakfast at Momma Jane’s Pancake House in The Dalles, fished an Oregon-side highway pond with predictable results. In the Gorge, wind from the west is never the best.
For the last 10 or so years, the action at the mouth of the Deschutes River has been hover-fishing. This year, hover-fishing was scrapped in favor of trolling plugs and spinners outside the “exclusion zone” where we had a hot bite on Thursday that week. Our boat accounted for a 9-pound chinook before the sun was on the water. I fought and lost three chinook that went for the Superbait. Our captain, Marc Bush, landed a 22-inch chinook jack and then we fished until afternoon without any more satisfaction.
Back at camp, we sharpened fillet knives on the WorkSharp, filleted slabs of chinook and packed them with the VacuPack, then feasted — because walleye is too good to make it wait — on fish tacos.
Afterward, guide Jaime Rodriguez, better known as J Rod, of J Rod Angling, fried up “walleye wings” for dessert.
Try this, people. You might have heard of the cheek meat some people cut off the walleye, but think about another place where you can find meat on a walleye, right in front of the pelvic fins. Yes, cut out the cheeks — those freshwater scallops — then fillet the fish and skin it in the usual manner. Now go back to the carcass and start right behind the pectoral fin, cutting off a V-shaped chunk to include the pelvic fins. Now trim off the little bit of skin that is left.
After washing and drying meat and fins, sprinkle with lemon pepper or cayenne pepper then salt and pepper each side. Dip in a batter then roll in Panko. Grill or fry until the meat starts to flake. Serve hot with lemon and a dipping sauce. Grab a fin in each hand between thumb and forefinger and strip the meat off with one bite. It’s like eating artichokes, except better.
We finished out September with one more trip to Lake Simtustus. Dad, Trevor Barclay and grandson Johnny and I piled in on a Saturday evening and drove up to the Narrows where we trolled for trout until sunset. We marked a lot of fish down to 10 feet and managed to get five 13-inchers in the boat, taking most of them on flies.
October might be the best fishing month of the year. Plan a salmon trip, go for smallmouth bass and get back on your favorite trout lake. With cooler weather and fall rains, the trout are energized. This is what we’ve been waiting for.