Rogue River (Oregon)

Zane Grey Fly Fishing on the Rogue River (Credit: BYU MSS 8710, Box 92, File 1, Item 956)

Zane Grey was in his 60's when he first fished Oregon's Rogue River.  After being gone for so long researching his prior novels, he saw these new waters as a way to enjoy some great fishing closer to home. Grey even built a fishing cabin at Winkle Bar that still stands today.  

Zane's fly fishing skills were not up to the demands of the river. He didn't catch a single steelhead salmon for his first ten days while his friend, Laurie Mitchell, and brother, R.C. Grey were enjoying great luck.  Finally, after coaching from local fly fishing expert, Fred Burnham, the author got the technique down and never looked back.  Here is an excerpt from article "Where Roams the Rogue" as told in his book, Tales of Freshwater Fishing, that describes him catching his first steelhead:

I had pinned my faith on an eight-ounce Kosmic fly-rod, one of the marvelous old rods not made any more. It was heavy, and tired me when I practiced, but I imagined I could use it.  “You’ll wear your arm out,” Burnham protested. And indeed I did. From my collection of rods he selected a five-ounce Leonard. This I equipped with the only reel I had left, and a medium-weight line. To me that tackle appeared far too light, yet I certainly appreciated the less amount of effort required in casting. And after two weeks of constant endeavor—practice—practice—I had learned to cast very well up to sixty feet.

If I made a poor cast, with a bag in my line, then a steelhead would rush the fly. Another would suck the fly in when it floated deep, and spit it out before I was aware I had a strike. Whenever I cast from an awkward or precarious position I was sure to feel a nip at my fly. And once—crowning piece of incredible bad luck of that whole trip!—when I was wading far out in the river, I had a strike on my back cast. My fly hit the water behind me and a rascally steelhead took it.

R.C. had now eighteen steelhead to his credit, taken on a fly. The boys had added several to their string. And I still cherished unquenchable hopes. Next day I actually caught a steelhead on a fly, so quickly and surprisingly that I scarcely realized it.

 I went down the river later than usual. When I rigged up my tackle I put on an English salmon fly. It was unlike any fly the steelhead had been rising to, and I meant to try it just for contrariness. Wading in fifty feet above Ken, I made a preliminary cast and let the fly float down. Tug! Splash! A steelhead hooked himself and leaped, and ran right into the water Ken was fishing. I waded out, ran below, and fought the fish in an eddy, and soon landed it, a fine plump steelhead weighing about four pounds.

“Bingo! Out goes a fly—in comes a fish!” exclaimed Ed. “Say, you’re a fast worker!”

Ken cupped his hand and yelled up to R. C., “Hey, Rome, he’s busted his streak of bad luck!”

R. C. waved and called back: “Good night! Lock the gate!”

Zane Grey and a Rogue River steelhead. (Credit: BYU, L. Tom Perry Collections, MSS 8710, Box 96, Folder 41, Item 1902)