While at the Central Oregon Sportsmen's Show, I stopped by several booths and chatted with fishing guides and outfitters. Of course I wanted to go fishing with every one of them and realized that it would take years to accomplish that if I started tomorrow and time and money was no object.
Then it occurred to me, why not come up with my own Fantasy Fishing Trip list? I chose six guides near and far that could fulfill any angler's wish list -- or dream list. So start planning, either now or in your dreams.
Central Oregon's High Lakes
If you're looking for some fun fishing, great scenery and a chance at catching a trophy bull trout, Garrison's Guide Service in Sunriver is the answer. Owner John Garrison can be found fishing the deep waters of Lake Billy Chinook in March and April.
He can accommodate one to six anglers in his comfortable 24-foot pontoon boat. If the bull trout bite is slow in the Metolius Arm, he heads for the Deschutes Arm of the reservoir where it's almost a guarantee to get into some nice brown and rainbow trout.
When the fishing season opens on the high lakes April 25, Garrison offers daytrips to Wickiup Reservoir, Crane Prairie Reservoir, Cultus Lake, Lava Lake, East Lake and Paulina Lake for more trophy trout.
Wickiup offers lunker brown and rainbow trout as well as bag limits of 25 kokanee. Crane Prairie is home to trophy rainbow trout that lurk among the submerged trees.
If you've never caught a lake trout (mackinaw), Garrison averages at least a handful of these fish on outings to Cultus Lake, with some getting over 20 inches. If you want to catch lots of rainbows, Lava Lake is a guaranteed producer and a great place to take kids. Up at Newberry Caldera, East and Paulina Lakes provide not only outstanding scenery but also a chance at a state record brown trout as well as rainbows, kokanee and Atlantic salmon.
Flyfishing trips are also available for Fall River, the upper Deschutes River, Crane Prairie and Wickiup reservoirs as well as East, Davis and Hosmer lakes. With more than 25 years experience on these waters, Garrison knows where and when the fish are biting. Call 541-593-8394 or go to www.garrisonguide.com.
Deschutes River from Warm Springs to the mouth
I've been on daytrips and overnighters on the lower Deschutes River for both redsides (redband rainbow trout) and steelhead and have great memories of both the fishing and the scenery.
There's nothing like a fighting Deschutes rainbow or steelhead on the end of a fly rod. The Riffle Fly Shop, with locations in Bend and Warm Springs, offers one- to seven-day float trips on the river from Warm Springs to the mouth.
Guided eight- to 10-hour daytrips include all your gear, gourmet streamside barbecued lunch, drinks and snacks. Overnight trips include gourmet meals, spacious wall tents, deluxe sleeping cots and all the camp amenities to ensure a comfortable experience.?
Call 541-388-3330 or 800-411-3330 or go to www.theriffleflyshop.com.
I'd be willing to bet that most anglers have never caught a shad. For fishing guide Gary Lewis, owner of Gary's Guide Service in Roseburg, shad are his favorite fish to target on the Umpqua River and he fishes for Chinook and coho salmon, steelhead and smallmouth bass!
He jokes that he takes anglers salmon fishing, steelhead fishing and shad catching. After fishing with him, I agree; the action is incredible.
Winter steelhead fishing is still looking good through April, he said. Fall Chinook looks good as well, due to all the jack salmon caught last year.
Shad fishing is May and June, smallmouth bass is July and August, Chinook and Coho salmon are in the river September through December. Mixed in are summer steelhead and spring Chinook.
He provides all the gear plus a lunch. I've been out with Gary and caught just about all the species he targets. Another unique offering is fly-fishing for fall Chinook on the Elk and Sixes rivers. Call 877-672-2460 or go to www.garylewisguideservice.com.
Ever catch a dinosaur? I have -- in the Columbia River.
You know you've had a good day of fishing when you can say you've caught the smallest fish and it measured 46 inches.
But these weren't your average everyday fish that most anglers seek. They were the prehistoric-looking sturgeon that stalk the bottom of the mighty Columbia River - the largest freshwater fish in North America.
Fishing guide Duane Huber, owner of River Run Guide Service specializes in the ten-mile stretch of river below Bonneville Dam and targets sturgeon, salmon, steelhead, walleye and shad.
His favorite fish is the sturgeon and he's had 13-foot long fish brought to the boat. A ten-foot fish weighs 500 pounds.
"When that rod tip starts moving, everything else in the world goes away," he said. "For a lot of people, it's a once-in-a-lifetime trip."
On one trip with Huber, I was the third guy up. The first guy got a 9.5-footer to the boat, the second guy managed an 8.5-footer. After they landed their fish, they sat down tired and winded like boxers after a 15-round fight. My "small" 46-inch fish even took 20 minutes to land.
Call 509-427-5706, cell 503-481-6505 or go to www.riverrungs.com.
Vancouver Island, Canada
For hardcore ocean anglers who aren't afraid to be out on the open water 10 to 12 hours for a prize of salmon and halibut, Qualicum Rivers Winter Harbour Fishing Lodge and Resort can fulfill that dream.
Daytrips head out into the Pacific off the north end of the island from the end of June until Labor Day Weekend for Chinook, Coho, halibut and lingcod.
They go where the fish go; sometimes 40 to 50 miles up or down the island coast. Halibut average about 45 pounds with several getting to more than 200 pounds. Salmon run 25 to 30 pounds with some hitting 50 pounds.
Guide Rob Knutson's favorite is halibut. He's says they've never been skunked on a trip. Most people drive from Seattle then take the ferry to the island. Everything is included in a package deal. Call 800-960-2646 or go to www.qualicumrivers.com.
One of the ultimate fishing trips I can imagine would be an Alaskan adventure involving incredible fishing and scenery. I believe I've found it with L & M Charters and Lodge in Sitka, Alaska.
The husband and wife team of Mike and Linda Slifer each captain their own boats (running six people per boat) and fish for halibut, king salmon, lingcod and red snapper from May through August.
For the more queasy anglers, don't fret; they are never out of sight of land and catch a lot of fish within a rock's toss of shore or one of the many islands. Salmon average 22 to 27 pounds with some up to 50 pounds, while halibut can reach 200 to 300 pounds.
As an added bonus, each day anglers can expect to see between 10 and 30 humpback whales, some within 10 to 15 feet of the boat. It's not uncommon for everyone on board to experience the spray of a whale settling down on them.
Trees are often filled with so many bald eagles that they look like decorations on a Christmas tree.
The average take-home per person is between 75 and 100 pounds of finished fish fillets. Everything is included in a package deal except for your airline flight.
In 17 years, they've never had anybody get skunked. If it happens, they said they'd buy your package back plus the plane ticket. You take Alaska Airlines out of Redmond to Seattle and on to Sitka. Roundtrip tickets were running about $637 last week. Call 907-966-2446 or go to www.alaskafisher.com.