After wrapping up our time in the Deschutes area, the Odyssey crew made one last stop in Oregon on the McKenzie River – a tributary of the Willamette River. While there, we were fortunate enough to meet and shadow Kate Meyer, the U.S. Forest Service Fisheries Biologist for the South Fork of the McKenzie River Stage 0 Restoration project. Stage 0 Restoration is a new approach to restoring depositional river valleys and, in this case, a deeply incised and straightened river.
While most restoration are biased toward single-threaded channel patterns, Stage 0 acknowledges and encourages the multi-threaded channel approach by reconnecting the river with old channels and its floodplain. Through aggressive efforts to add woody debris, river substrate and sediment, Stage 0 seeks to speed up processes that would normally be left for years to develop.
Our tour of the site and hike into the restoration area saw us wrapping up our time in Oregon and making the long trek up to the Methow River Valley in northern Washington. Once there, we met up with TU Washington Habitat Director, Crystal Elliot, to do work on creating beaver dam analogs (BDAs). Crystal explained the deep importance of beavers in a water basin ecosystem and how BDAs were one answer to decimated beaver populations. By installing BDAs, the hope is to store more water higher in the watershed in order to improve late season flows throughout the water basin. Coupled with the construction of BDAs, efforts of beaver re-introduction are being used to restore the water storage capabilities throughout the upper reaches of tributaries in the Columbia River basin.
Once the crew finished up with our conservation projects, we got the scoop on some great local fishing in the Methow River, Chewuch River, and Tiffany Lake in mountains of the Methow River Valley. For the next few days, we caught hard-fighting wild rainbows and magnificently colored Westslope cutthroat. Fishing the smaller creeks and rivers in the mountains was exciting, however, we were after some big fish.
Following a tip from a local biologist, we fished a spot on the Methow River that produced some heart-pounding moments, immediately followed by some heart-breaking moments. Both Dyer Benjovsky and I lost cutthroat potentially bigger than any we’d ever hooked into – eight-minute fights running down a rock scramble bank, several runs into the backing, and two lines snapped clean.
Humbled by that experience, we are setting our sights towards the Northern Cascades National Park area where we’ll have an opportunity to explore and maybe even take a few day trips to the coast. Stay tuned for the next update and follow along with us on our journey through our Instagram page @tucosta5rivers.
Article and pictures by FlyLords Media Intern, Matteo Moretti.