For anglers far and wide, the rivers of the Pacific Northwest are like a little slice of heaven.
Fishermen from all over the world visit Oregon, Idaho and Washington to fish rivers that are teeming with a variety of salmonids making their way upstream and to the ocean, depending on the species and the time of year.
The region is also paradise for local sportsmen, who don't have to travel too far to find a river they can wade in, cast their line and catch a beautiful trout or salmon. That's particularly true for members of Clackamas Fly Fishers (CFF), a group of about 80 individuals — most in Clackamas County — who share a love for fly fishing and the outdoors.
"Our goal is to advance the mission of our group, which is simply to get people to go fishing," says Tom Flannery, a CFF member who joined the group 18 years ago. His family often joins him on group fishing trips and other outings.
Each month, the CFF hosts a meeting at the High Rocks Restaurant & Lounge in Gladstone, where they socialize, talk about recent fishing excursions and learn about new techniques or best practices from guest speakers on a number of topics.
Established 25 years ago in Estacada, the group aims to educate and inspire fishermen, young and old, to get out on the rivers locally and beyond.
"For me, it's been very much a father-son type of thing," Flannery says. "Sometimes when you walk into our meetings, it's a legacy of fishermen that have been fishing the same rivers for 50-60 years. It's a fount of information."
Monthly fish-alongs provide members with opportunities to fish in a group setting at lakes and rivers within a few hours of the Portland metro area. After each outing, a detailed report of the event is circulated to members, including weather conditions, fish species and concentration, what type of insects were in hatch and which flies allowed greater success. The summary posted to the CFF website serves as a sort of scouting report for members who weren't able to attend but might be interested in visiting the location on their own.
CFF Vice President David Kilhefner writes many of the reports. He says he likes that the group is so active because it gives him an opportunity to visit new waters and try new fishing methods.
"The people (in CFF) are very nice, and I've made several new friends and fishing partners," Kilhefner says. "Several of the members have traveled to places I'd like to go and have given me some great trip-planning information."
The group also hosts fly-tying events each month at the Royal Treatment Fly Fishing shop in West Linn, where members can learn to tie different flies and hear about the kinds of conditions in which they might be most successful. The intricacies of fly-tying and matching a fly to hook a particular fish makes the sport more of an artform, anglers say.
To help educate members and improve their skills as fly fishermen, CFF also maintains a library with nearly 200 books available for checkout, ranging from titles like "Fly Fishing Central Oregon" to "A River Runs Through It."
For Ron Bouchard, one of the most rewarding parts of being involved with CFF is the opportunity to give back. Each fall, members of the group join the Clackamas River Basin Council for its annual river cleanup. CFF members also take part in salmon habitat rehabilitation throughout the year to help support the return of wild Chinook and endangered Coho back to local rivers and streams.
"What we try to do is present our members with opportunities to give back to the waterways they use, and if they want to go for it, we make that connection for them," Bouchard says.
One of the newer aspects of the group is the Fly Fishing Challenge — a set of requirements that, when completed, earns a slick badge that members can put on their fishing vest. The program was started in 2017 by Flannery, Bouchard and Brad Jonasson as a way to test their skills with a rod.
This year, members are required to catch and release three different types of salmonid and log their catches on an official card distributed to CFF members. Last year's challenge required members to catch three salmonid in each of three waterways — a river, a lake and a stream.
Once a member completes the challenge, they're awarded their badge at a ceremony held during the group's monthly meeting. It's a fun way to recognize individuals for their accomplishments, Flannery says, and it's also a signal to other fishermen out on the river that they're members of CFF.
"I thought we should have a sort of merit badge that shows solidarity of everybody displaying our colors on the river," Flannery explains. "Maybe you know the person, maybe you don't, but it shows you're both part of the brotherhood."
Membership in CFF costs only $35 a year, and there's no extra cost to add family members to the group. Meetings are held from 6-9 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month at High Rocks Restaurant & Lounge, 915 E. Arlington St., Gladstone.
For more information about all of the group's activities, visit http://clackamasflyfishers.org.