Small jaws. Big fun.
Dog days of summer. Trout fishing, love it, will do it forever. Time for a change though. I'm a trout geek overall, but I will certainly say that smallmouth bass fishing on the Grande Ronde is always one of my most favorite trips of the year. Jennifer and I usually try to make it a two day trip, splitting the float and camping along the river bank, however with hectic schedules and non-fishing obligations it just turned into a one-day trip this summer. Better than nothing though.
The Grande Ronde of course is famous for it's steelhead fishing. Myself and the crew have spent countless days here fishing and guiding steelhead. Arguably it's one of the top rivers in the west for that exact reason. During the dog days of summer, before the "chrome" arrives, it's chalked full of smallmouth bass. By the time Jen and I get to fishing it in August usually it's not "peak" season necessarily, but it's pretty productive and a worthy adventure. We float the river in the raft and if you are familiar with the lay of land, the Grande Ronde offers lots of foot access as well for those not wanting to fuss with a boat.
Most smallies in the Grande Ronde are going to range from 10-14", but occasionally you will come across a 16" plus sized one. The big smallmouth are often caught in the spring during higher flows and with gear. Speaking of gear... we love fly fishing for smallies, but for those that like to mix it up or want to take someone new or young that doesn't want to fly fish a spin or baitcast rod is a great tactic. Small spinners and crankbaits will do the trick, but the best by far is a jig with a grub tail. Crayfish colors, smoke, pearl, etc will all usually find some fish. For flies this time of the year we find streamers are above and beyond the topwater options. This trip's winner was the Zirdle Bug (zonker meats pat's rubber leg) and in past trips sparkle minnows, lead eye leeches, and conehead rubberleg buggers are always slam dunks. Early and late in the day when the sun is low a mouse or popper can bring fish to the surface.
Bring a 5 or 6wt rod, leave the 7 or 8wt at home. These fish, while plentiful, are not huge on average and are good fun on the trout sized rods. Typically a 1x leader or tippet is plenty of strength for any of flies you will be throwing.
If you are looking for something different to do this time of the year the Grande Ronde smallmouth fishing is always a guaranteed good time. I know it is for us.