FORT KLAMATH, Ore. Southern Oregon's Cascade Mountains are home to numerous remote and productive mountain streams. Hardy anglers with an eye toward good numbers of wild rainbows and brook trout will find great access and no competition to speak of, except from the mosquitoes.
"Bug spray is definitely one of the most important things," recommends Klamath mountain steam aficionado Ike Kaler. "Next most important thing to remember is where the truck is."
Fish will bite all day in these cold waters, even when air temperatures are soaring. In this case, spray needs to be carried to be reapplied as sweated off. A net or suit is great to have handy. The new stick-on repellents from Patch Care (www.patchcare.net) are also effective.
Here is a look at some of the best creeks on the east side of the Cascades:
This is crossed by Highway 66 about 35 miles southwest of Klamath Falls toward Ashland. From the Highway 66 crossing, fish downstream with 1Ú8- and 1Ú16-ounce silver-bladed Panther Martins with yellow and red spotted bodies. Artificial flies and lures only are allowed, with a two-fish limit.
Many small trout are present with some true lunkers occasionally being taken. "There is a very healthy redband trout population in there up to 16 or 18 inches," says Bill Tinniswood, an ODFW biologist in Klamath Falls. "It's pretty remote so it doesn't get fished."
According to Tinniswood, falls on the lower end of Jenny keeps the Klamath's lunkers from the upper end of the stream. However, excellent opportunities exist on Jenny Creek. Tenniswood recommends a BLM map to find public access.
Jenny Creek can also be reached from Copco Reservoir, just over the border. A California angling permit is required on the lower 10 mile of the stream. There are large fish from the Klamath in this section. Copco road used to offer access, but has been closed by landowners because of disrespect by river users.
Another of the Klamath-area streams flowing freely into the Klamath River, Spencer is one of the most active in terms of redband reproduction. Many smaller native redbands rear throughout Spencer's 30-plus miles.
Seasons are set to limit pressure on brooders, but some large fish are present. This is especially true in the lower reach as summer temps make lunkers seek cooler waters.
Larger spoons will target bigger fish. Parker's Rod and Gun Rack (541-883-3726) in Klamath Falls makes its own line of spoons and spinners that are just as, or more effective than any of the mainstream brands.
The lower end is crossed by the 100-line logging road. Turn right on Keno Access Road off Highway 66 just past the Topsy bridge. Turn right again after 2 miles from Keno Access onto the unmarked 100 line. Spencer is crossed after another couple miles.
A lot of good access can be found in this area. Artificial flies and lures are required on Spencer as well, but only one fish may be retained.
The upper end of the creek can be extremely productive in the late season for redbands and brook trout. Find mile marker 5 on Clover Creek Road and fish in that area with small spinners and spoons. There is no limit on size or number of brook trout.
This is probably an angler's best chance at a Klamath-strain lunker in a small-water environ. Crystal is almost entirely encompassed by the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.
Many of the lake's behemoth trout can be found in this and the other cold water flowing into the marsh from springs and drainages originating in the Sky Lakes Wilderness and Pelican Butte. The best public shore access can be found at Malone Springs along Westside Road, beginning at Highway 140 in Rocky Point.
Also on Westside Road is Crystalwood Lodge (866-381-2322; www.crystalwoodlodge.com), providing guests access to the 30-foot deep spring that runs at 39 degrees year round.
"Most people tend to fish more successfully from a boat than from the bank," says Liz Parrish of the lodge.
Parrish reports no big fish coming through the lodge. This fact speaks mostly to a hardy release ethic of the guests, but also targeting mature natives in clear-shallow water takes wherewithal and wit.
"We have people coming back year after year, partly because of the sport of these challenging fish, but also because there are 16-pound redbands here," Parrish says.
Tinniswood says he believes most of the fish in Crystal are redbands from the lake, but some fish have come down from Rock Creek.
"Historically, there would been a connection between Fourmile and Cherry creeks," Tinniswood says. These are two of only a few streams flowing into the extreme northern end of the Klamath's marshes.
Cherry holds good numbers of 6- to 14-inch trout, some of which are the offspring of Klamath Lake redbands that made their way through the maze of cattle field irrigation systems.
Both redbands and brookies are present. Small spinners, nymphs and buggers, and crappie jigs will produce all day when fish are active. Jigs can be fished vertically for trout in deeper holes. Sneak tactics are recommended as these tend to be spooked easier than most mountain trout.
Forest Service Road 3450 leads to the trailhead west from Westside road. Cherry Creek Trail 3708 follows the stream to its headwater lakes in the wilderness area.
Cherry holds fish all the way to these lakes, and they offer fine sport themselves. This is true wilderness trout fishing at its finest. Be alert to directions and landmarks as this is truly wild country, and it can be easy to get turned around.
A Lowrance GPS is a good item to carry. Mosquito deterrents are essential.
Seven Mile Creek
Seven Mile also flow into the Klamath via Agency Lake, but not freely. A small dam, right at the mouth, effectively isolates the entire stream from the fish in Agency Lake.
Serving to enhance this effect is the ranch land along the lower reach that is little more than a series of ditches.
"It is probably a waste of time for redbands, but there are lots of brook trout in the Forest Service section," Tinniswood says.
Brook trout were introduced, and now compete and hybridize with native species.
"Take them all home," Tinniswood says. Small brookies are excellent baked.
Best bet for anglers is the upper section where Seven Mile tumbles from the Cascades above Nicholson road. Artificial flies and lures are required throughout, but two rainbows may be retained above this crossing.
This mountain fishery offers fair chances to catch dozens of trout in a pristine mountain setting. FS Road 3234 follows the creek to the 3703 trailhead at Seven Mile Marsh in the Sky Lake Wilderness.
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