The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Court Hall Remembers . . .

Court vs. the Steelhead

Court Hall Remembers---
(Recollections of Jackson County Sporting Events by Veteran Sportsman.)

    It is very evident that steelhead and small trout fishing has deteriorated greatly during the past 20 years. What a great country this must have been when the white race first settled here! Rogue River must have been almost clogged at times with steelhead and salmon, making one wonder what method best was used by the Indians in capturing these game fish in a valley that is now known as the Pear Center of the World. In what quantities Indians caught fish in the early days is problematical; enough evidence has been found that the Indians speared fish and dried them in the sun in large quantities. Forty or more years ago the spearing of fish after night was indulged in by the white race.
    I can remember when we young fellows would go to Rogue River Saturday afternoons and return on Monday morning with a wagonload of fish. In those days we never thought of future fishing conditions in Rogue River, though certain laws were soon afterwards passed by the state which gave greater protection to the fish. Then the boys took to the old cane pole, using either a spoon or fly. John Ross of Central Point was one of our best fly fishermen in the early days. John was a good swimmer and a fearless wader and always got out to where the big fish were lying. His favorite fly was the gray hackle. One time I saw John hook a sixteen and one-half pound steelhead. In the struggle the fish broke John's cane pole, then dashed a little down and across the river. Ross, nothing daunted, took after the fish by swimming the river. After a couple hundred yards he got hold of the broken pole and landed the steelhead nearly one-half mile farther down the river and afterwards sent the fish to Joe Million of Ashland, who had just previously had both eyes destroyed while out hunting.
    One summer on my way to Spring Creek I stopped at the rock cut this side of the mouth of Big Butte Creek. Gazing up the river I saw many steelhead jumping. I knew no fisherman ever had fished this place for large steelhead before and then and there made up my mind that this spot would be my next summer's outing, and next summer I camped there as planned. The first evening I caught four nice steelhead, and every evening after that I would catch a few fish and send them to my friends in Medford. Word also leaked out that all comers were welcome to my quarters, and many fine fishing repasts were held.
    One evening a banker by the name of Hatch, from Long Beach, Cal., dropped by just as I was in the act of landing an 11-pound steelhead. This old boy with his big red stripes did certainly look beautiful. Mr. Hatch was all excited about my catch. I could see he wanted the fish badly, so I gave it to him and heard afterwards that he and his party had a great feed when they reached Medford. Several months after this I was surprised to get fishing tackle containing a reel and some line. I had a great laugh over this tackle. The reel was so small that it would not hold more than fifty feet of our line. The line looked like heavy linen thread. I returned the articles to Mr. Hatch together with the samples of the line we used. Soon I got a check from Mr. Hatch for twenty dollars, telling me that he thought I was more competent to buy my own fishing equipment.
    For many years Frank Isaacs and I were comrades on fishing excursions and made many fine catches together. Frank is a good wader and throws a beautiful line. He nearly always made the larger catch, though one time in particular I remember getting the best of him by a large score. Frank had come up to the mouth of Big Butte for a fishing trip with me. One day a tourist said he saw some steelhead jumping at the rock cut below our camp.
    Frank went down alone that evening to give the place a look over. He hooked several large steelhead, but the water was so rough and the landing place so poor that he was only able to land one. The next morning we made up our minds to try the same spot again. Frank kept on the west bank of the river where he had been the previous evening. I crossed the river and took down the east side. We were just opposite each other, but on my side there was a fine landing place. I noticed a smooth, glassy piece of water about twenty feet square. My second cast at this spot hooked a big steelhead. Working fast, I landed him in ten minutes, then no more than had got back again when I hooked another. Old Pug gave a yell, but could not cross the river on account of the water being so deep and swift at that point. I landed the second steelhead safely and repeated until I had caught seven more. Meanwhile Frank had not caught a fish. I thought now for once that I could boast over him, for I had caught nine steelhead, none weighing less than seven pounds, in one hour and forty-five minutes, and had landed every fish that I hooked. These fish were lying in the small spot. I never hooked one there before nor did I ever hook one there afterwards. I camped there forty-five days, caught one hundred fifty-two large-sized steelhead, besides large numbers of salmon. This sure is a great country!
Medford Mail Tribune, April 6, 1930, page 6

Last revised September 2, 2009