In 1941 Port Orford mayor, Gilbert Gable announced the intention of Oregon counties Curry, Josephine, Jackson, and Klamath would join California counties of Del Norte, Siskiyou, and Modoc to form a new proposed state called Jefferson. Jefferson would have been the the 51st state in the United States and been ranked 41st in relative land mass. Not a big state, but Jefferson could have been considered the steelhead capital of the Pacific Northwest had it developed. Rivers such as the Klamath, Smith, Chetco, and Rogue to name a few would have been right in the heart of the land of Jefferson.
With Fall steelhead season winding down, I headed North with Jeremy Quinlan of Weight Forward Films to due a little fishing and filming in the state of Jefferson. Late November can be a magical time in the State of Jefferson with good numbers of wild summer/fall run steelhead working their way towards their home rivers and tributaries. The temperatures are cold, leaving the river void of anglers and boats. In 3 days on the river, we only briefly had an encounter with two other female spey anglers.
Each morning, we awoke to frozen windshields, waders, and boots. The only things getting us moving are a hot cup of coffee and thought of wild steelhead taking swung flies near the surface. Water temps in the low 40’s and air temps in the 20’s make the morning grab difficult. The fish are slow to move to a swung fly but that was only part of the problem. Iced up guides keep the casting entertaining, having to dip the rod in the water to clear the ice in preparation for the next cast.
Each day as the water and air temps begin to rise, the fish seemed to become a little grabier, even moving for wet flies swung on floating lines in 42 degree water. While the grabs were not exactly heart stopping, its hard to beat any grab fishing floating lines in late November.
This particular crick in the State of Jefferson might not hold a lot of big steelhead, but they are all wild fish and even a 16″ haflpounder will give you a run for your money. Every fish of the trip ripped out line on the initial run and a few of the bigger “adults” we hooked made some pretty incredible jumps as witnessed here by Jeremy…