The North Umpqua River (Oregon)

Zane Grey with three steelhead taken on the Umpqua River (Credit: BYU, L. Tom Perry Collections, MSS 8316, Series 6, SubSeries 3, Item 100)

After several years fishing the Rogue River, Zane Grey became frustrated.  He had written so many stories about the great fishing, that the area was flooded with fishermen.  So he moved to a new location on the North Umpqua River.  It was then the early 1930s and Grey had become much more sophisticated in fly fishing over the past decade.  The following quote is specifically shared for today's fly fishing fanatic:

I have had many requests to tell what kind of tackles we use and how we fish.  Romer (Grey's oldest son) is partial to light tackle.  This summer he started with five-and-a-half ounce Leonards and Grangers, Halford lines, and .357 Hardy leaders. These English leaders are tapered, nine feet in length, and they cost penty.   Romer broke two tips, and many leaders.  He graduated to six-ounce rods and.345 leaders.  As is well-known, the Parmachene Belle and the Hair Coachman are the best flies on the Umpqua during June and July. But toward the middle of the latter month the fish stopped rising to these patterns.  The old Turkey-and-Red failed to raise them and the Turkey-and-Gold Joe Wharton made for me soon lost its effectiveness. I had Wharton make a pattern after the New Zealand Gold Demon adding hair and jungle cock.  It was good for awhile.

This antique Leonard fly rod is of the model available when Grey fished the Umpqua River in the 1930s. (Source:, accessed June 15, 2023)

The author only wrote one article about the Umpqua, perhaps hoping to tell the world much about his new, favorite steelhead river.  That story is "North Umpqua Steelhead." (September 1935, Sports Afield) The following excerpt from that article needs to be "set up" a little.  It was toward the end of the year and Grey's youngest son, Loren, had caught the biggest fish of the trip so far.  It was a twelve pound steelhead of which the lad was very proud.  Now enjoy the following excerpt from Grey's article that tells of Zane's oldest son, Romer, catching a whopper. I edited the story to shorten it, but it's still a bit long. I apologize, but it's a great tale:

Romer climbed a high rock at the head off Takahashi Pool (Named after Grey's cook) and cast from there.  This is at the foot of a heavy rapid. The waves were white-crested and big, the current fast. But we had raised steelhead from such water.  When our fly dances over these waves, steelhead will rise straight from the bottom in a rush, and come clear out. 

I was watching the fly when a vicious splash flew up and Romer’s yell pealed out. This steelhead ran upstream against that current so that the line seethed cuttingly, audible to the ears. I ran on up beside him, and got there in time to see the steelhead leap fully six feet out of that white water. Turning, my son made down river with extraordinaty speed.  I could not keep pace with Romer. 

With sunset the canyon had begun to fill with shadow and soon the line was hard to see. But we could hear the reel clear enough.  Jerk by jerk it warned us that the line was nearing the spool. Presently it ceased.

“He’s stopped. But I can’t get any line,” panted Romer. “Hook’ll tear out… Oh, he’s heavy.”

The moment was one of severe strain for more than the tackle and steelhead.  But nothing broke. Romer got him headed upstream.  Little by little, he recovered line. What an endless task it seemed!  I believed  he was half an hour on that fish before he got to the enamel end.  Forty-two yards from the steelhead!  I begged Romer not to be afraid to pull him.  In a long fight, the hook wears out of a fish’s jaw.

Another quarter of an hour passed before we saw the first white flash of the big trout. We were standing in a foot of water with the fish close, weaving and turning right in front of us. Every time he moved his tail, he took line.

Presently, he lodged on a shallow place to turn on his side shining like silver.  The fish galvanized me to action.  With a plunge, I scooped him out on the bank.  He flopped once, then lay still, a grand specimen if I ever saw one.

“How--- much? Whispered Romer, relaxing limp as a rag.

“Fourteen---thirteen pounds! I pealed out.

“Whew!—is he that big?... Gosh, what’ll Loren say?”

“It ‘ll be tough on the kid.  He’s so proud of his record. Tha twelve-pounder! But Loren can take it”

“Dad, don’t weigh this one.  We’ll say eleven and three-quarters!”

(Note: At the time of this exhibit, the record for fly-caught steelhead is 33 pounds. This record spoken of in this story is obviously a "family record.")

Zane Grey fishing on Umpqua River or Steamboat Creek (Credit: Umpqua River Museums)