What were fishing conditions in early Oregon?
Transportation problems limited our early fishing excursions
to the home front. Pringle Creek, just east of Commercial
Street, was the handiest place that yielded a good return
for the effort expended.
There was a covered bridge over the creek at Commercial Street;
underneath it was haven for crayfish, an excellent bait for
trout. We would catch our bait and then move up the creek
just to the rear of the Water Company buildings at Trade and
Commercial Streets. A flume ran along the top of the bank,
as it does today. Part of the water spilled into the creek
over an apron at this point, and cutthroat trout, steelhead,
and salmon congregated there on the spring migration.
Thirty fish was the daily limit of trout then, in 1915-1916.
It was often possible for two of us to take two limits of
trout there in one day's fishing. When I became affluent enough,
I acquired a split bamboo fly rod and a small reel - - one
dollar for the rod, fifty cents for the reel, and 75 feet
of enamel line completed the outfit. One day, after the trout
quit biting, a steelhead hit my crayfish-tail bait and proceeded
to take all my new line, breaking it off at the reel. That
was my first experience with steelhead.
The first salmon of my career was caught where the Boise Cascade
paper mill stood, a 15-pound spring Chinook. Hundreds of them
ran up the creek each spring.
Mill Creek was an excellent trout stream; Battle Creek was
also a fine stream for cutthroat. In the spring, most every
stream - - even ditches - - had cutthroat in good numbers.
Croisan Creek yielded many a limit of cutthroat. The fish
in these creeks would run from about ten to 17 or 18 inches
Farther from home, the Rickreal provided excellent fishing
from its mouth near Eola to its source. In the fall, the Dolly
Varden ran up this stream to spawn. During hop-picking time,
the hop pickers at the Horst Brothers' hop ranch added to
the larder with Dollies that ran five to ten pounds or more.
Some of us locals did likewise.
On one occasion, a fishing partner and I were headed for Buell
Mill Creek. Getting over Butler Hill in a Model T was a major
operation, so we decided to try Salt Creek at the foot of
the hill. We got our limits there and went no further.
The Willamette River was a fine trout stream; it held cutthroat,
redside (rainbow) trout, and Dolly Varden - - before pollution.
The last trout I caught in the Willamette were two 22-inch
rainbow about where Gerth Street would hit the river, sometime
The Santiam River had the same species of fish as the Willamette,
from the mouth to the source. In July, 1923, three of us caught
two redsides in less that a half-mile of river just below
Pamelia Creek, the first day we were there. These fish ran
from about 12 to 24 inches long. One Dolly made 33 inches.
That catch curtailed our fishing for the rest of our 10-day
stay. After that, we caught only what we could eat. None was
wasted. We built a small smoker and smoked most of that first
day's catch. We had only fished for a few hours that first
day, and each of us went a different way and didn't know what
the total catch was until we returned to camp, or it would
have been much smaller. That was before there was any road
There was a so-called summer road as far as Niagara, and then
a pack-trail from there. We rode the log train to Detroit
and walked the 12 miles to our camp site. As always happens,
once the road was built up to the Santiam, the fishing began
From a 1972 supplement to the Capital Journal newspaper, written
by Paul Nicholson