Gold Ray Drift

I finally got on the new stretch of river that was created as a result of the gold ray dam removal on the Rogue river. It was a quick trip in my drift boat to check out the new area and try to catch some wily Rogue river steelhead. 

Of course the top part of the stretch is the same as it’s always been with one exception. There were tons of spawning Chinook Salmon. This is the time of year that spawning occurs but I’ve never seen so many salmon in this stretch of river. It was weird, I literally couldn’t keep from hitting them with my oars. they were darting around like great logs just beneath the surface. 

Rogue River
Rogue River with Table Rock in the Background

 

I was perplexed as to why this area was so full of them, but finally got my answer when I got to the area below where gold ray dam was taken out. But first let me tell you about my float. 

I’ve done this stretch before but always in my tiny pontoon boat. Now that the dam is removed I can row my drift boat and use the never before accessible boat ramp. For a further explanation see my previous post

Besides tons of spawning salmon, I didn’t see a change in the river until I was about 2 miles above where the dam used to be. At this point I started seeing some of the silt and mud on the side of the river. 

First signs of silt
Silty banks

 

This silt is an accumulation of 104 years of a stopped up river. It was thick, loamy, and black. For many years to come this is the stuff that will run off and muddy up the Rogue with every rise in the river. Hopefully, we’ll have some big rainy winters and get the Rogue to really flush all this shit out of there in one or two seasons. 

Further along I started heading into riffles that hadn’t existed for generations. There were some great looking fishing spots all over the place. I casted my fly to a few of these but got no takers. 

new riffle on the rogue river
New riffle on the Rogue

 

The silty banks got higher and higher the further downstream I went. There was tons of big logs jumbled together in crazy jigsaw shapes. It made you wonder how long these behemoths had sat under the quiet back water of gold ray dam. 

Log Pile
Log Pile from the Removal of Gold Ray dam

 

At one point I drifted by a huge chunk of solid mud and rock. The river wrapped around it trying to erode it down, but whatever was in it made it impenetrable to the flow. On top of the hillock sat two local boys and their dog plunking lures searching for fish. It actually had a deep hole directly below it, which made me think it’ll probably become a popular Salmon fishing spot. 

Soon I was at the point where the dam used to be. I looked for my old kayaking spot, but couldn’t see any sign of this once great play wave. I thought about the countless hours I’d spent surfing and playing on that wave, now it’s just a memory. 

All that's left of Gold Ray dam
All that's left of Gold Ray dam

 

Directly below where the dam used to be there’s a rapid which has always been there, but with all the crap released by the dam, is now kind of sketchy. I held the drift boat back trying to decide the best way to get through the jumble of rocks and wood debris. I finally decided I’d try the right slot. 

I pulled into the slot and immediately realized I needed to avoid a couple of hidden knob rocks in the center of my route. I pulled around them, narrowly missing. Once I was below the rapid I looked up and thought how that little rapid will probably claim a lot of boats before it’s settled down into a consistent rapid. 

The rapid will change many times as rocks and wood moves around in it. I hope it settles into something interesting. It sure would be great if a rock moved just enough to create another play wave…wishful thinking. 

Below the rapid the water looked the same as it ever did with one huge exception. The bottom of the river was only 2 feet deep and sandy. Sections of river that used to be 15 to 20 feet deep and hold salmon were now two feet deep and filled with sand. Every oar stroke I hit a sandy bottom. 

After so many years of fishing for salmon in this area, to be seeing it filled in with sand was bizarre. Hopefully all that sand will get deposited more evenly around the river and may even form some new beaches in the wild and scenic stretch of the Rogue River. 

Oh yeah, my theory on why there were so many salmon on the upper stretch of this run? I think all that sand filled in the normal spots salmon used to spawn and forced them further upstream into the new section. This is both good and bad. Bad, because it means the sand has covered up and destroyed many prime salmon reds, good, because the salmon have adjusted and moved further upstream. 

I didn’t catch any Steelhead on this trip, but I’m stoked to get back out there and explore this new stretch of river more thoroughly. 

UPDATE  

Just found out that my drift down this section of river was Illegal! Apparently the river was closed and opened this weekend for the first time…ooooops.

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