Brandy Bar – Pre-Condos

Although the two acre slough between Highway 38 and the condominius located nine miles up the Umpqua River from Reedsport, Oregon still offers good bass and panfishing, years ago it was really special.

I first started fishing it more than 40 years ago and there was a definite learning curve. In fact, I had mediocre success, at best, on North Slough until one March day when Wayne Overstake and I were trying for striped bass. We launched our small boat at the Umpqua Wayside boat ramp and began casting Rapala-type plugs for striped bass. After an hour, we hadn’t had a strike or seen a fish, when Wayne quickly hooked a pair of one pound largemouth bass. Thinking that it was going to be bass, or nothing, we went downstream and entered North Slough. Wayne was using a rather large sinking Rebel and I was using a smaller sinking Rapala.

In about an hour, I landed two largemouths weighing about two pounds each, while Wayne landed seven bass weighing between two and three and a half pounds each. After that, we motored out into the Umpqua near the island and immediately were surrounded by a large school of stripers of various sizes that had a severe case of lockjaw. With hindsight, I wished we had hung around until dark and kept trying for them.

Of course, I fished the slough on a regular basis after that outing and had some very interesting days on it. I found that I could catch the bass in the slough by casting spinnerbaits or diving crankbaits from shore as early as early January. Those early season bass ran from 14-17-inches in length and fought well – even in the winter.

After talking to an angler from Roseburg that fished the slough on a regular basis, I learned that there were white crappie present and he stated that he had caught one the previous week that weighed one pound 12 ounces. So the next time I fished the slough I was definitely going to try for crappie as well as bass.

On that next trip, I resolved to catch some largemouth bass on my flyrod while fishing from a float tube. I wore a cheap set of stocking foot waders that allowed some water over their back every time I backcast. I could only take it so long, but quickly caught a couple of bass to a pound and a half on a black leech. Giving up on the flyrod, I switched to my ultralight spinning rod and a crappie jig and quickly caught my first “North Slough Crappie”, a 12 1/2-incher at the upper end of the slough. In the next half hour, I caught 19 more crappie all measuring between 12 and 13 1/2-inches, but I had five strong fish pull free and if they were crappie were almost certainly larger than any I landed.

After getting out of the water and trying to dry off, I wandered down to the middle of the slough and observed a school of largemouth bass attempting to warm themselves in that October’s mid-day sun. The fish seemed to run from a pound and a half to two and a half pounds except that in the middle of the schook, there was a tremendous female bass that had to weigh all of nine pounds and she seemed very interested in my floating Rapala.

Unfortunately, every time she made a move for the lure, one of the smaller bass would beat her to it. I would land the fish, and since I did not want to keep them, I would release the bass about 50 yards towards the upper end of the slough. I kept doing this until I had caught about 20 bass (almost the entire school), but there was just about as many fish around the sow as when I had started. She still seemed interested in my lure when I finally gave up and quit fishing.

In future trips, I discovered that the bass and crappie in the slough would feed intensely for short periods separated by almost complete shutdowns. I once caught 12 largemouths in 20 casts with a spinnerbait on the slough with one weighing a pound and a half and the other 11 weighing between two and four pounds.

As for the crappies, they could be tough at times. Once when fishing from a canoe, I fished crappie jigs tight to some brush near the upper end of the slough on the Highway 38 side. I caught 90 crappies in barely an hour that averaged ten inches as well as an eight inch bluegills and a one pound bass. However, an angler attemping to cast across the slough to fish the same water could only come within five or six feet of where I was fishing did not get a bite. As I quit fishing, I released half my crappies and gave the unlucky angler the other half.

The “feast or famine” fishing on this slough still exists. About ten years ago, after two fishless hours near the uppermost dock on the slough, I caught 40 crappies in 30 minutes that averaged about nine inches. The presense of the condos pretty much ensures that there is more fishing pressure on the slough that there was years ago and size of the fish certainly indicates that.

However, there are several more panfish species in the slough now than when I used to fish it and smallmouths now inhabit the slough. The slough was dredged several years ago and should definitely be more “fish-friendly” than when it was silted in and quite weedy. The best time to fish the slough for bass and crappie is almost cetainly early in the season when it has received fresh fish from the Umpqua and before most people start fishing it.

I will always feel fortunate that I was one of the lucky anglers that was able to fish North Slough before the condos were built. The occasionally sensational, if erratic, fishing is definitely worth remembering.

The rather poor photo below is of me, 40 years ago, with a flyrod-fooled largemouth bass that struck a black leech pattern.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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