I have talked for so many years to my dad about coming out to Oregon to do a trip up the Deschutes that I was starting to think it would never happen. Low and behold though, from the 20 to 22 of August I got to go on a really fun camp trip up the Deschutes with my dad, his fishing buddy and my brother from Austin. I think all of them were a little blown away by the size of the river and the flow. We met up with our guide Tom Larimer at Heritage Landing and did the ever fun ride up the river. I will never get tired of shooting up rattlesnake rapids like that!
We got all our gear tossed in the tents and we went down to the river where my companions (who had never spey casted before) had a wonderful 45 minuet spey lesson.Tom had them out and casting line in no time. In fact my dads buddy was into a fish within hours of the lesson.
We had an awesome steak dinner and I had (at least) a few Ninkasi’s before stumbling off towards the tent. I got most of the way there and then looked up. I love being in remote places where I can see the arm of the milky way in the sky so the 30 second walk to the tent ended up taking 30 minuets or so. EARLY the next morning Tom made the rounds and as quickly as possible got food in out bellys and shuffled us into the boat.
I worked a great section near sunset bar and found an interested fish. After the first hit I went through three flies before the fish settled on one it liked and I got it to hand. It was a fun little 6 or 7 pond fish, but had my early morning juices going.
Now I just decided to set back and enjoy the blackberries and watch my dad fish across the river.
A little later in the day I was fishing near water tower hole and went through the run with three flies with no luck. Tom came to pick me up and asked how I did. In disbelief that I found nothing he pulled out an amazing fly and said “let’s try this” a few casts later I landed this gorgeous fish below.
It was a completely awesome experience to be up on the river for so many hours in a row and to be up so high on the river. I cant wait for everyone to come out and do it again.
While Friday was my birthday and I was able to wrestle Alex away from his work long enough to get out to the Deschutes. I usually hit up the coast for some winter steelheading for my birthday, but with this crazy dry weather we are having that wasn’t an option. We decided to work up the west side of the river which I haven’t done for along time either. Usually I stick on the east side so I can hike up miles and get past the crowds. While we got down to the river and at the first spot we stopped at I worked the upper slow water while Alex worked just below the riffles. Shortly I had my first nice steelhead of the day on. Happy Birthday to me!! The male put up a fun fight and and just as I got ready to grab him I heard that dreaded snap. Oh well. The fight was great and you don’t really need to see another photo of a steelhead here anyway. I was in high spirits as the morning had just started and Alex and I went back to our respective spots on the river. Not 15 minuets later I got into another fish, but this one was a little different. I know there should not be any B runs in the river right now, but after this steelhead made one epic boil on the surface it turned and bolted for the Columbia. My 7wt switch rod instantly felt underpowered and the line was peeling off. Three quarters of the way through my backing and many a sore arm from fighting later the fish broke off. Damn! It was the hardest fighting steelhead I have ever encountered and that includes those wild brutes I caught up on the Clearwater. Alex took a funny video of me and the whole time I was using rather colorful language to describe how I was feeling. Ha!
While I got two more takes in that area, but no more solid hook ups so Alex and I hiked way up to another good spot. When we finally got up there I headed up a little higher and Alex stayed just above the rapids. Not 5 minuets after I walked up the river I hear the “fish on” whistle and came running back down the river. I netted the really nice wild male for Alex (while the fish was sticking out of wither end of his net) and handed it over to him. He went to pull the fish out of the net and let the net go, but unfortunately it was no longer attached via his bungie cord as I had taken it off to net the fish for him. “Your net” I said and Alex whipped around with the fish dangling in one hand and made a wrong step and went straight down on hi butt. I grabbed the note and glanced over at a really nice steelhead that took that dip to make a run for it.
So no photos of fish, but it was totally one of the most memorable days I have ever had on the river. We were laughing all the way back home. What an awesome birthday.
And a big shout out to my beautiful wife for watching my children who I hear were a handful that day.
Just got the plastic off the cork of my new Beulah Platinum Switch 10’8″ 7wt. Going to head off to the mouth of the Deschutes in the early AM and see if it handles as great as it did in my test casts . Hopefully I will report back with some chrome news.
Last week the grandma-in-law had to head back to Virginia, but the day before she left I managed to sneak in one more day of fishing. I headed on over to what is quickly becoming my favorite trout river, the Deschutes. I can’t even count the amount of days I spent on that river getting completely skunked or being completely excited that I caught a few six inch fish. So much so that I gave up on it out of frustration. Than a few years back Alex and I hit the Stonefly hatch and since than things have just been improving. Now I have found really nice hefty trout every time I have gone.
This time I was fishing all the deeper spots I could find as it was a pure blue sky out with no wind (seriously, no wind). I was having a good time and found a few 12 inchers here and there. Than as I was fishing my way up a nice little run I saw a fluorescent green bait casters hook setup in a bush six feet or so out in the river. I went out to get it out of the bush and noticed there was a nice little beat up BH birds nest. It looked nice and tasty so on the line it went (and I removed the bait thingy). That little beat up fly produce six more fish in the 16-18 inch range. Just goes to show you can never tie your birds nest to beat up or too messy.
I should have headed up to Trout Creek I thought as I looked around and only saw a handful of stoneflies in the grass. My fishing buddies leg is busted up from a game of soccer and I just didn’t feel like driving any farther than Maupin. So I jumped out of the car with a belly full of sunflower seeds I had cracked on the way to pass the drive time and walked down the tracks. The first few spots I hit had no action on the surface so I gave a whirl on my Czech nymphing skills. Along the rocky edges I found lots of fish that all strangely took the largest fly that I would put on my rig. A dozen fish later I got back to what I really came out to do and put the dry flies back on. I cycled through all the new “standbys” and none of them produced. I went to one spot that I know a nice 18 incher lives and decided to go old school and put on a Norm Woods Special. There is just something about the way that fly lies in the water, the calf tail just barley floating above the surface. Right as I got Norm up to the rock that the fish hangs at I saw the slowest take and than an explosion of jumps as the fish tried to run into the rapids. Unlike last year, when I got a fish at the same spot, I didn’t let him get into those rapids saving myself from getting soaked from slipping as I tried to keep the fish on (for the record I did land the fish, yahooo!!).
After that I worked my way through the blackberry’s and poison oak on the side of the river up to another spot and found another fish that ripped into the backing after a crazy take.
That is going to have to be it for this season. Usually I would head back up for one or two more weeks following the bugs up the river, but I have a baby due soon and I can’t head off that far. This blog may have to be about fly thing for awhile and I have some new fun patterns I have been hankering to tie up.
PS: As I was writing this post my wife mailed me a photo of this little guy that came along in the car. Freaked her out when it climbed her leg, but I love the fact that she just caught it in a container so she could show me and we could set it free.
Alright. As you may have noticed I have not been writing all that much lately. Big changes going on. First off my little 850 square foot house in Portland is now around 1400 square feet. Weekends have been spent putting in tile, electric, trim, and the million other things that go with an addition. Not to mention just managing the whole project and making sure what you want done is done.
Than there is the fact that we are expecting our second child in the middle of June. So finishing the house is taking on a very serious tone. Little babies and miter saws really don’t mix.
After just over a month of not fly fishing my beautiful wife was kind enough to let me run off to the Deschutes to get a some VERY needed river time. The wind was howling, the fish weren’t all that active, and the largest I found was in the picture above, but I had a AWESOME day. It’s so great that just being on the river and feeling the beauty and magic of the place coursing in your soul is what fills you up.
As for the Deschutes—I saw some of these around which might mean something to some of you:
The late afternoon the fish were keyed in on dead drifted stonefly nymphs (they loved the 20 incher fly) and a few even came up to slap the Chubby Chernobyls. Last year the prime time was right around May 15th, but this year may be a little harder as we have not had many warm days (last year we started out May with several days over 70). The river was still running fairly high when I was there and all the fish I found were in the slow water. Get out there if you can!!
The wife and daughter were away last weekend so I went out Saturday and Sunday for some roaming and fishing. On Saturday I went to the McKenzie and had a beautiful fall day with rain and moody fog (man I love fall in the NW).
I caught a dozen or so nice rainbows on dries with the Parachute PMD being the go to fly on the upper river for some reason. The flies in the air were all darker but the fish were not keying in on my dark flies. Sometime you just have to un-match the hatch a little. In the middle of the day I saw a Morell fly box float by and I managed to reach out and snag it with my net. I took it up river to see if there was anyone around the corner that might have dropped it. Ends up it was a group of guys who just earlier that day were making a racket in the pull off on the road and one of them tossed a rock in the water to make his friend look and almost beaned me in the head. I thought about keeping the box as pay back but that just wouldn’t be good karma. Shortly after returning the box I got four nice 14-16 inch fish in four casts. Nice.
I loaded up a shopping bags worth of yellow chantrelles in an hour on the way back down to Eugene. I set a course back home and tried to decide what to do the next day.
If you have been around my site you know I love release videos. My wife has told me I need to keep the camera in the water longer but the McKenzie is freezing so this is all I could manage:
I headed out to the Deschutes Sunday even though all I have heard is lackluster reports about the steelheading. When I drove past the White River it was puking mud into the Deschutes. It literally looked like a river of mud. I worked my way through Hole in the Wall with not a tug. Did a run near Pine Tree and nothing. I shelved the spey rod and decided to work some of the back eddies for trout but only found a few pipsqueaks in the 16 inch range. I was fishing a spot that usually holds lots of large trout and a large steelhead jumped four feet in front of me. They love to jump right next to me in that river. I have not had that happen to me anywhere else. Hmmmm…
The fishing was slow so I spent an hour cleaning up beer cans and flip-flops when I came across this in the rocks:
I brought it home and might sand it down and see if I can do anything with it. Whatever I do with it I thought it was cool and wondered where the fisherman that used to belong to the net is. I also found some cans of unopened beverages with the labels worn off and I am a little scared to open them so I can recycle the can. Does five year old beer that has been baking in a desert stink? I am only guessing it’s beer in the can as it’s the Deschutes.
On the way home I stopped at a favorite spot and found two and a half shopping bags of white chantrelles in an hour and a half. It was weird because almost all the mushrooms were just under the soft soil so they just looked like mounds of dirt and pine needles. The two dehydrators have been running nonstop since Sunday but I just about have them all done.
5 a.m. and the alarm goes off. I have been lying awake in my tent for the last hour waiting for it. I throw my gear into a bag and out of the tent and go check to see if Alex is up. Of course he is. He’s been lying awake also. We throw everything in the car and head over to the boat dock at the mouth of the Deschutes to meet up with our guide, Jeff Hickman, from Larimer Outfitters. I had been reading a lot about him and his mad skills and was hoping to glean some of his experience. Alex and I only get a chance to go on a guided trip once a year, or maybe twice if we are lucky, so we always look forward to them.
The boat ride up the river was insane. I have come down rivers on drift boats a few times, but to shoot up the mighty Deschutes with her millions of hidden boulders and huge rapids was something else.
We finally stopped at a beautiful spot and got the spey primer from Jeff. Little did I know how much I actually sucked at spey casting. Almost everything I thought I was doing right ended up being wrong. Jeff showed me why I was only really fishing for maybe 20% of my float. And the worst part is that old habits are the hardest to break.
He did manage to get our drifts into good enough shape with the floating line that I got a strong bump from a steelhead. Just a few seconds later Alex got one on the line just above me. Jeff really wanted us to have a double, but my fish just would not come back for another take. Alex’s fish came off after a roll, so Jeff took him down river and put a skater on. On one of his first casts a fish came up and slammed at the fly. It slammed that fly five times before it committed and Alex had a really nice hatchery fish on.
I had a few more bumps and Alex did also, but the day started to slow. We tried a few more spots up the river, but nothing. The clouds broke up and the sun came out, so we stopped to have grilled brats, ceasar salad and potato salad. Delicious! I even downed a Total Domination IPA to try and smooth out my cast, which by this point had gone to hell. The skagit head with the sink tip is not my friend.
We kept on fishing through the afternoon and all of us were getting tired of not finding any fish. The wind picked up and the sink tip seemed to be getting harder to throw with every cast. I was getting really annoyed with myself. Then Jeff took the rod from my hand and told me “Calm down. Look around you. Look where you are. Look at those birds gliding around the cliffs. Look at the light on the water.” When I regained some calmness he handed me back the rod. I tried to just relax (which can be really hard for me) and put all the spey casting pieces together. After another ten minuets of casting I got a nice 7 or 8 pounder on the line. The fish however came in with absolutley no fight until it was right next to me. Then it decided to go between my legs and roll like crazy. Needless to say it came off. Damn.
I cast back into the same bucket for another ten or fifteen minutes trying to remain calm. And Wohhoooo!!! I found a fighter! Jeff let out a mighty howl that echoed off the canyon walls. The line was screaming off the reel. I was trying to spot the fish way down the river where my line was and then saw a jump in the middle of the river up from me. “Reel!!! Reel!!” I heard Jeff yell at me. “Faster!”After what seemed like an eternity I got the fish close enough for Jeff to grab it. And there it was, my first steelhead to hand.
This is what happens when you are reeling at warp speed.