A single highway defines–and unites–Oregon’s astonishing diversity of landscapes and wildlife. It’s Route 126, which starts in the lava flats of Oregon’s eastern deserts, winds down the Cascade Range, and ends at the coastal town of Florence. It’s a multi-season, multi-species journey that can take anywhere from a weekend to a lifetime to complete.
Start with a day on the Deschutes River outside Bend. The river’s unique redside rainbows respond well to both dry and sub-surface fly presentations. Load up on Clark’s Stoneflies for the late May salmonfly hatch.
The summer steelhead run starts soon after and is rightly famous for its dry-fly action as well. Throw a riffle hitch around a Spey Skater during low-water conditions to trigger surface bites.
Once you’ve had your fill of the Deschutes, move north toward Sisters and drop in for a pint of Hoodoo Voodoo at Three Creeks Brewing. Outside town, scout for elk in the Willamette National Forest (the Upper Deschutes, Metolius, and McKenzie WMAs) or hunt for mountain grouse just off the portion of Route 126 called the McKenzie Highway.
In the Willamette Valley, hunt resident Canada geese at the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area west of Eugene.
Continuing west, hit the Siuslaw River for salmon and steelhead. The river turns on after the first fall rains suck fish into the system. Hiring a drift boat for the winter steelhead run is the best bet, though you can drift salmon eggs and spinners through holding water if you want to take on the river from shore.
The Siuslaw empties into the Pacific at Florence. Fish in the bay for salmon and steelhead or kick back on the downtown dock or at the South Jetty and drop a trap for Dungeness crabs. Rent a crab trap for $5 a day at the True Value hardware store. If you want to float sand shrimp for surfperch or striped bass, place your hooks about 18 inches up from the weight. Fish right off the beach or from one of the jetties.
If you strike out on crabs and perch, grab a table at Waterfront Depot Restaurant and order the crab-encrusted halibut. You won’t be disappointed.
From the May 2012 issue of Outdoor Life magazine.