Bad weather reports didn’t keep me from hiking into and fishing Joseph Creek again May 29 and 30. Thursday there was a flood advisory here locally for small creeks and poor drainage areas. And it rained a lot. Joseph Creek raised 55 CFS in about a day and a half. Friday it was supposed to rain, Saturday it was only a 40% chance of rain, and Sunday was supposed to be a pretty nice day. Friday afternoon I headed into the mountains above Joseph Creek. Since it was raining pretty good on Friday, I decided that I would sleep in my Jeep at the top of the ridge that night and then hike down Saturday morning, staying until Sunday afternoon.
The weekend before, I hiked down the Warm Springs trail and found more warm water fish than trout. This weekend I decided to try about 14 river miles upstream at the northern limit of the Forest Service ground. I was hoping that this would be far enough upstream to get out of the sucker fish and smallmouth bass water. Here there is no trail. All of my maps show a trail going down and on my forest service map it is labeled #1725. This trail is supposed to start north a ridge or two from Pole Patch Canyon. Let me assure you, there is no trail there.
When I arrived Friday evening I got out my DeLorme Earthmate PN-40 and found where the old trail was supposed to start. I wandered around that area looking very closely for any old paths. I found none. I worked my way down the ridge a little bit to see what I had in store for me the next morning before heading back to the jeep for some dinner and bed.
The next morning the weather was not particularly bad but not particularly good. It was overcast and looked as though it might rain at anytime. I used my DeLorme Earthmate PN-40 GPS again to follow the alleged trail down into the creek bottom. A very short distance down I came to a drop off of about a 100 feet or so. The ridge to the south of me looked much better and it was fairly easy to side hill over to it. So I abandoned the trail my maps show and simply made my way down what looked like the easiest path. There is a fence near the top of the canyon so if someone wanted to ride a horse in they would have to start down the ridge I ended up on. At the top of it there is a gate.
When I got to the bottom of the ridge I found an interesting tree. It was hollowed out in the middle and I could stand quite comfortably inside of it. The inside was charred along with many other trees on the creek bottom. I decided to leave my pack at the hollow tree and walked down by the creek to find the best spot to pitch a tent for the weekend. I explored upstream and downstream and only found one fire ring right beside the river. It did not appear to be in a spot where someone would have been camping. Again I found old farm implements lying about here and there.
Upstream a little ways I saw an old stove sitting in the middle of a flat area beside the river. I thought it was a really strange place for a stove just to be sitting there beside the river. I walked up and began to inspect it and realized that the couple of rotten logs on two sides of the stove were the remains of a cabin. Either that was a very old cabin for the rest of it to have completely rotted away or the logs were salvaged or perhaps burned in the fire that had charred a great many of the trees.
I finally decided to pitch the tent just below the ridge I hiked down. After setting up camp I took a few steps toward Joseph Creek and heard that all too familiar rattling sound that makes my heart jump. Not ten feet from where I pitched my tent a good sized rattlesnake was sunning itself. To say the least, I did not let the rattlesnake share the campsite.
I fished downstream from camp working my way down to the northern end of the forest service boundary. This section was another disappointment. The rainbow’s that allegedly grew to at least 18” were sparse once again. Or perhaps I should say that rainbows much over 10” were impossible to find. I fished a woolly bugger followed by two nymphs on my way downstream and caught a pretty good batch of squawfish. I did manage to land a few more suckers as well, but the squawfish seemed to outnumber the suckers in this section. I caught some other fish as well that closely resembled a squawfish in body but the mouth was not the same. This mouth was almost square and oriented more towards the bottom like a sucker, although it did not have a sucker type of mouth. The fish baffled me. I am not up to snuff on my non-game warm water fish. Whatever it was, it grew to decent size.
On my way back to camp I fished two dries followed by a dropper. The dries rose lots of four to six inch trout and the dropper (Barr’s emerger) caught the bigger fish in the eight to ten inch range. When I got back to camp I was a bit disappointed again. I had done a lot of walking to prepare for fishing Joseph creek and I was getting paid back in squawfish and suckerfish.
The next day was beautiful. The sun was shining and it didn’t seem to matter too much that the fishing was turning out to be less than expected. After all the rain and overcast days, the sun felt like heaven. I fished a mile or so upstream with similar results to the day prior. There was a nice spring with good flow coming down from the draw below the viewpoint. This spot did hold a few more rainbows. When I was done fishing for the day I walked up the hillside a ways and followed game trails back downstream towards camp. I did manage to startle two groups of turkeys on my way back as well. I got back to camp in early afternoon and packed up for the hike out. There is nothing like a nice 2500 foot climb out of a canyon at the end of a day filled with catching big suckers and squawfish and rainbows up to 10”.
From the water I covered so far, the rainbows have been almost all in the riffles while the slower pools and runs seem to hold good size pods of squawfish or suckers. I am not ready to give up on the creek yet. I am hoping that upstream may hold some better water still. There is a section farther upstream, but still on Forest Service ground, that has several small spring fed creeks feeding Joseph Creek. I am hoping this section may stay colder in the hot months of summer and therefore harbor the elusive 18”+ trout. Both times I have fished Joseph Creek, the water has been pretty murky as well. I have no problem fishing off-color water as long as there is enough visibility for a fish to see my fly if it gets in their strike zone. Perhaps clearer water might help though. I have no particular reason to believe it will other than I want Joseph Creek to be a decent trout fishery and it has been disappointing so far.
-Access by Highway 3 going north from Enterprise, FS RD 46, FS RD 4650, FS RD 150, on FS Rd 150 park anywhere you want to start down a ridge
-Distance from road on top to Creek: about 1.5 miles
-elevation change on hike: +/- 2,250 ft
-Flow from DOE site at mouth: 140 cfs
-Water clarity is definitely not good at 140 cfs, but it was fishable.
-After reading Fishes of the Columbia Basin I learned that the square mouthed fish I was unfamiliar with is called a Chiselmouth.