When I got home from fishing on Saturday my wife asked how the day was. I told her I had fished hard all day and within the last 45 minuets before the sun went down I finally hooked a steelhead. She looked at me and said “I can’t believe…” and trailed off. What she was going to say is that she can’t believe that I am willing to be out all day casting and not catch anything. Sometimes when I am on the river and not hooking fish I wonder about what I am doing too. Is this the right fly? Right depth? Right run? All I can do is put on flies I trust in and work the runs I know always hold fish. It’s funny to think that just years back I would be totally ecstatic if I even caught one twelve inch fish in a day. Know I get bummed if I go out and don’t catch at least one steelhead.
Alex hooked five that day and landed two. He also caught the mother of all sucker fish. We saw Haddis Catch up on the river and met up with him in the pitch black back at the parking lot. We all headed to Double Mountain in Hood River for some killer pizza and beer and sat around discussing our obsession. One thing that I really thought was interesting is when Haddis Catch mentioned that more and more the Deschutes River steelhead are not cutting it excitement wise. “Maybe head to the Clearwater or the Dean for some monster steelhead?” was mentioned. It is funny that I can still remember just years ago the pure adrenaline rush when I hooked my first steelhead and now I am in the same boat wondering about where to go to test my skills on some larger fish.
ps: Yes I have fished the Clearwater (here is the post) and yes I landed several of the monster B run steelhead, but that was with a guide and not using my own flies, water reading, and knowledge to get the fish.
I went to the Hood River office for the company I work for on Thursday and I thought that since I had only ever fished the mouth of the river I would explore up a little farther. Totally unnecessary as the mouth under the trestles is a great spot, but I love to find new runs anywhere I can. A few miles south of town there was a pull out with a good hike down a steep hill that dropped you into a great hole. A little hike up and you came upon this great bridge over the water pipe (I think it;s a water pipe. Correct me in comments if you know different). Just above the pipe there was a great run where I got a take, but no set. My phone alarm went off at 8:45 and it was time to pack up, hike up the hill, and head to the office. I made it by 9. I could get used to living in a town with a river running like this one running through it.
My younger brother and I finally decided on a date in the fall for him and his wife to come visit. They wanted to experience some of the awesome benefits of living in the Pacific North West. We decided two things we had to do were mushroom hunting and getting him into his first steelhead. The mushroom part I was fine with. I can find them all over the place and never go home skunked. The steelhead part, well…
I decided the only way to go about this was to take him on a march from the mouth of the Deschutes to parts of the river I am familiar with. When we got there I would put him right on the prime spots and say “fish from here to here”. I felt a little sill not having him cover large amounts of water, but in a few sections up there I know where the fish are stacked and I figures they offered the best possibility of fish. After an hour or so at the first spot I was starting to get nervous. He place a bunch of great casts right through the heart of the spot and nothing. All I could do was stand and watch his line. It was hard to head up river, but we did. He was right in the prime spot in the new run and still we were not finding any takers. I decided to walk a little down river and fish as I always fish better without people right around me so I thought the same might go for him. After 30 minuets or so in that upper run I started worrying about where we would go next as these were my two best spots, then I hear the hum of the reel. FISH ON!! I ran up river to him and tries to patently remind him to breathe. It was such a fun experience to get someone into there first steelhead. About ten minuets later he got into the fish above. Two steelhead on your first day trying, pretty awesome bro!
After an amazing report from Alex who made it out to the Deschutes on a Friday (must be nice to be your own boss) I was super excited to head out early Saturday morning. Yes it had been raining for several days and I knew the worst of the winter storm was going to hit while I was away, but I couldn’t resist. Everything was ready the night before. Car all packed, coffee maker set for 4:30am, water in the microwave ready to be nuked for some oatmeal. Unfortunately I got out of bed a few times to pop out a few flies that I had on my mind to test out, but such is the affliction of us who tie our own flies.
Rain was already in the tire ruts making driving ridiculously bad along I-84—the worst maintained road I have ever driven on. As the sun was cracking in the sky I had the spey and switch rod rigged and was heading to the water. Of course the bait guys were already down near the river gauge wire, but I jumped in below someone (after asking, come on people be nice, it’s just fishing) throwing a spinner. There were salmon jumping everywhere around me, but Alex said he had done well in this section with steelhead the day before so I swung on through the run. Just as I was near the end of the run my whole rod tried to leap out of my hands. I knew in an instant that it was not a steelhead. After a 30 minute fight on my 7 weight Beulah switch rod I managed to land this 30-odd pound king salmon. What a wild ride!
After I snagged a passerby to snap a photo for me I decided to get out of the salmon area and headed upriver above rattlesnake. You could see that the water was starting to turn off color from the rain and the White River. I settled into one of my favorite spots. I sat down to have lunch and watch the river. I got all rigged up and decided to start in the best part of the run and on second cast I had a large steelhead on.
I have been to the river many times and hooked a steelhead in the first few casts and not hooked another fish all day. Please, please don’t let this be one of those days I thought. I worked back up to the favorite spot and put a few more casts through. Nothing. I pulled the line in and inspected my choice of fly. Nah, leave it on. If one liked it maybe he has friends. More casts, nothing. Then after several minutes I got another fish on, YES! Alright let this one go, work back to the top of the run. Cast. Fish on! WHAT! Yep, that happened for five fish in a row. It was just silly. I sat down for awhile to give the run a rest and bask in the beauty of what just happened. While by the end of the day there were twelve (yep, twelve) steelhead hooked. I really wanted to stay Sunday, but could see the river getting muddy and the wind had become so bad you could hardly stand in the gusts. I did one of the scariest drives I have ever done through the sideways wind and rain to get home, ran into the house and cracked a celebratory Ninkasi (best beer). That trip will probably never happen to me again, but hey a guy can hope, right?
I can now check fish the Bighorn off my list thanks to my dad. Three days of guided fishing? yes, please! It is really a crazy river. The nutrient rich water from the dam makes the fish grow quick and there are a ton of them. As we floated along you could look down in the water and watch dozens of fish run off. And they were every where in the river. One particularly fun thing was to be able to fish for trout from a boat. I have only fished from a boat in Idaho for steelhead before. Sure I have floated around on my own in a personal boat, but with someone else rowing I got to practice up on streamer fishing and it was a blast.
Awesome food was enjoyed very night and some really awesome stories from my dads fishing buddies. Thanks for the great time dad!
I fished dry flies to the above fish for a good 30 minuets before I was able to hook him in that riffle behind me. The first fish on my moms new 3 weight!
Some beautiful horses decided the grass was greener on the other side of the river. What an awesome thing to watch while you eat lunch.