While staying at the Wilson Ranches B&B near Fossil, we spent a few days visiting the very interesting and wide-spread units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. On a day with some early morning sunshine, I decided to be adventurous and go smallmouth bass fishing on the John Day River.
It seems a little odd having a great bass fishery on a world-famous wild steelhead river (the longest undammed river in the lower 48), but the water gets so warm in the summer that bass thrive.
For a minimal fee, I picked up a key at the Rattray River Ranch, opened a gate by a corral and began the seven-mile descent into the Thirty-mile Creek Canyon. The road was rocky and steep in places, but in reasonably good shape. At the bottom, I had to ford three creek crossings in my SUV, one about 20 feet across. Thankfully, Denny the owner was close by and assured me the creek was only six inches deep, or so.
After passing through one more gate, I was on the bank of the John Day River at a BLM raft launching site. I broke out a light spinning pole with Panther-Martin spinners with single, barbless hooks. In the first 45 minutes I landed and released 10 smallmouth bass. Some jumped completely out of the water several times.
Even though the biggest was only about a foot long, they all put up a good fight. For the next couple of hours I took photos of the area as the sun broke in and out of the clouds, fished and did some hiking.
A big thumbs up to Denny and Rita at the Rattray River Ranch!