Steelhead on the Grande Ronde

By Mike McCune


I’ll never forget that first drive down into the canyon of the Grande Ronde. With the odor of hot brakes warning me to shift to low range, I came around yet another switchback and finally saw a river. I specifically remember pulling over in the first turnout and staring in slack jawed amazement at what I was seeing. It has often been said that steelhead live in beautiful places, but I had never seen anything quite as outrageous as this.

Since that day the Ronde has drawn me back most every fall to fish and guide. While this is a river with seemingly endless amounts of fly water with strong returns of willing fish, the memories that I associate with the river aren’t limited to just the fishery. As a birdwatcher my first Townsend’s Solitaire and Clark’s Nutcracker were significant events. The opportunity to photograph Bighorn Sheep and see my first Mountain Lion are other highlights. It was on the Grande Ronde that Scott O’Donnell, Ed Ward, and I introduced Jim Vincent and Simon Gawesworth to the Skagit style of casting which culminated in RIO’s subsequent introduction of the first manufactured Skagit line. More recently we demonstrated the advantages of integrated sink tips now referred to as MOW tips.