The Row River and the Coast Fork of the Willamette 2
The next easy access and good trout fishing on the Row River is from the dam down to the bridge on Shoreview Drive. In the 70's and 80's Swartz Park below Dorena Dam was a free camping area. Now (as with every other campground) it is a pay campground. I park outside the campground and walk in but maybe they might let you go in and park in the campground if you tell them you are only fishing and not camping. You might also be able to access this area from the U.S. Forest Service office located above the campground and just below the dam. It has been about 5 years since I fished upriver from the bridge to the dam. Again June to the first week in September should have wadeable conditions. Wading upriver from the bridge the river splits into two main channels. Both channels hold fish. I prefer the left channel looking upriver. The trout are a little smaller than the section at Killion's but they can be more plentiful. Once in awhile you might catch a large rainbow that got flushed out of the reservoir. After you cover perhaps an eight of a mile you will come to the top of this island where the river splits. Now you see a huge shallow pool with the campground on your right. You need to walk on the campground side to the top of the pool before there is any decent fishing. At the top of the pool the river is split again and there are fish on both sides. The main channel is the right channel looking upriver. However if you fish the top of the long shallow pool the left side seems to hold better fish. When you start fishing the channel itself you will find the right channel better than the left channel (looking upriver). As you approach the dam there is a lip at the end of the dam pool. The pool itself is gnarly water because of the outlets and this messy looking water has the biggest trout. But it is impossible to fly fish. Perhaps if you're lucky you might pull a big trout out of this water by casting into the lip. The bait fishermen (I have done this) stand on the concrete sides and drop bait into the boily water. Fish up to 5 pounds can be taken. These fish get flushed out of the reservoir. The biggest of these fish have been in the reservoir for a few years before they get flushed out. They are just overgrown planters. Since they have been in the system for a few years you would never be able to tell that they were planted and they are usually fat and beautiful.
Let me pause here to warn anyone who might want to float from the dam downriver that there is some deadly water a short distance downriver from the bridge. A kayaker might want to try this deadly water but no canoes or pontoon boat should attempt to float from the dam to Killions. The bad part is downriver from the trailer park below the bridge.
In comparing the section below the dam and the section at Killion's I find that the water at the Killion's section to be cleaner. Perhaps it is because the river has had a few miles of rock and gravel to clean itself up.
Before we move on to the reservoirs I need to add some important information about the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers who operate the dams and the river flows. Dorena and Cottage Grove Reservoirs where built for flood control after W.W. II. There are no fish ladders on the dams. I have heard conflicting reports on whether there were any Spring Chinook or Summer Steelhead on the Coast Fork water system before the dams where built. My guess is that there might have been a few but not enough to sway the engineers to concentrate on migrating salmonids. In the 70's the Row and the Coast Fork were planted with Spring Chinook below the dams. There were several years of chinook fishing but the returns were poor and the stocking was discontinued. I still believe there might be a Spring Chinook or a Summer Steelhead that gets lost and finds itself in this drainage instead of the Middle Fork of the Willamette drainage. Several years ago I witnessed a bait angler at Killion's bridge land a good sized fish about 3 pounds which looked to be a small Summer Steelhead. It was silver bright without the normal rainbow colors of the river rainbows.
Being flood control dams an angler needs to be aware when the normal dam releases occur. The Corp start reduction after Labor Day the first week of September. Their goal is to have minimum pool by Thanksgiving. This is why it might not be wadeable after September. How much water is released depends on how much rain falls before Thanksgiving. The Corp start holding the water back after the first week in February. In this reverse process the goal is to have full pool by the last week in April. This is why the river might be wadeable in March because the water is being held back. Now lets get inside the reservoirs.