Hams Fork, Again

My previous post on Hams Fork is by far the most popular on this blog so far. I have no data on whether what I wrote was useful, but it made me think about how odd the valley was last time we went, and so we took another trip there last weekend.

As we rolled down Hams Fork Road there were multiple wilderness fire camps, large highway signs about fire activity and road closures. We passed fields of tents, fire trucks, helicopters, men with soot blackened faces brushing their teeth. Our road was a border of the fire area, not closed, and so we decided to stick with the plan.

Forest fire at Hams Fork
Forest fire! Close but not scary.

There was a posted 14-day camping limit (which seemed new to us, but I don’t know for sure), and maybe it was this or maybe it was the wild fire, but the valley was relatively empty. We found a perfect camping spot near the Elk Creek Ranger Station with a direct view of the burning canyon. We watched with binoculars while the helicopters dropped water, and when trees lit up like matches in the middle of the night.

There were so many hungry and eager rainbow trout near our camp! A half mile up the river it was all brook trout. Does anyone know why this might happen?

Usually I can get some sense of a river, there is a logic of sorts to the flies that fish want to eat, to the places where the fish are hanging out. We caught a lot of fish at Hams Fork, but we never really felt like we had discovered the pattern. Big fish were very hard to entice out, but they are there. RK caught an 18” rainbow trout just below our camp — rainbows pack a punch! They seem to have more mass per inch than cutthroats. I caught a hefty rainbow on a PMD and then proceeded to catch at least 6 small brook trout in the same pool on the same fly. After that no one up or down the river was interested in the PMD.

cows at Hams Fork
Also some cows came by…

I spent the morning with the dogs at my side, walking up the river. When we popped out of the willows to short-cut back to camp there was a flock of several hundred sheep, two cowboys, and a bunch of horses on the road. Back at camp there were two Akbash dogs (popular for guarding sheep) sniffing around our camp. More than once we have encountered extremely aggressive Akbash dogs (e.g.: biting the tires of the truck) so I dragged the dogs back to river and waited for an all-clear.

Hams Fork continues to be a place that will throw out an adventure. You may see sheep, cows, cowboys, fires, coyotes, or maybe none of those. Is it just us or have other people had out-of-the-ordinary weekends at Hams Fork? If you haven’t been, please check it out and report back. No matter what, the fishing is varied and entertaining, the camping is quiet, and it is dark, beautiful and absolutely relaxing.

Fork on a stick at Hams Fork
RK found a fork on a stick. Not sure if it is Hams’ fork.
Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA