Three Days

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.

First Winter Steelhead of the Season

Cast, mend, mend, drift. Cast, mend, mend, drift. Fish on! Oh damn. It’s a snag. Pull. Pull! PULL! Than the sound of 12 lb line snapping. Reel in the line and take an assessment of whats left. Not much. Start the rigging process. Nah. Time for some sunflower seeds on the side of the river taking in the beauty of this little coastal gem. I look over my shoulder and spot some bait casters that had been watching me in the run. They walk by “Damn, sucks getting broke off”. “Not if you caught one of these in that run” I reply and lift a 28 inch super chrome steelhead up. “Damn!” was all they could muster.

It was a fun moment on two counts:
1.) Usually the bait guys have the steelhead

2.) It is super early in the winter steelhead season and I already found one.

Alex and I had been out a week before this while the water was dropping from the heavy rains we had, but the river wasn’t in good enough shape yet. I thought there was no chance on this weekend as it has remained totally dry since that heavy rain and the rivers were low and super clear. Ok, fish the deep pools I thought. Nothing. Ok, I’ll try deep run. Nope. While, lets swing some flies through those sexy looking riffles. Score. The fish took the fly with a vengeance and leapt in the air. My scream of excitement rang out down the river as I fought to keep the fish from running down the large rapids just below. The new Beulah Platinum Switch 10’8″ 7 wt was a dream to fight the fish with (and to cast on the smaller river). A little later the two fly fisherman that had been down river from me came by and said “We could hear you all the way down there”. Yeah, sorry guys I was just that excited to land this chrome beauty.

The hatchery fish came home with me and I poached them with a delicious sauce of garlic, brown sugar, toasted sesame oil,  lemon, pepper, and other yummy things that my wife made. She whips up the most delicious sauces!

One more week

March 31st is quickly approaching and the awesome coastal rivers will be closing so its time to get out there (the mainstream of the Trask and the Wilson up to the South Fork are open the entire year). Even with the higher flows the rivers are super fun.

We got a late start on the morning as I took the round about way of driving all the way to the coast and than driving East back up the river (what, no I wasn’t lost. It was the scenic route). Many, many sunflower seeds of driving later we found a gorgeous run with some great slow water behind a nice riffle. Around ten minutes later I got into the gorgeous fish above and he put did lots of fun jumps:

A few casts later and Alex was able to hook into another fish in the same seam. The fish decided to test the strength of the loop knot on the top of Alex’s leader and with a violent leap and shake found his freedom. Of course we worked that seam for another 30 minuets, but nothing. We explored up and down the river and made lots of marks in the GPS for next time. I am going to be so screwed if I ever lose that GPS as it has dozens and dozens of good fishing and mushroom spots in it that I have found over the years.

Also I am tying Chubby Chernobyl’s for the impending stonefly hatch on the Deschutes. Last year we nailed it (see here) and I hope to do the same this year. The Chubby Chernobyl really performed for me and I would definitely recommend you have a few in your box if you are going to head out for the hatch.

Weekend One – Upper McKenzie and Deschutes

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.

A Lesson Learned

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.

The release.

This is what happens when you are reeling at warp speed.

Maupin off-season

Alex and I headed up to the mighty Deschutes for a little spey practice. I say practice since neither of us found a Steelhead. This post would have definitely had a different title if we did. We stopped in at Deschutes Angler and picked up some intruder style flies and proceeded to two step our way down many a run. I got into one really gorgeous Deschutes Redside Trout in the 20 to 22 inch range. Once I coaxed the fish out of his hole and away from the fast current I got him right up to me and the second before I went to take a photo of the beauty it slipped my grasp. Guess it was camera shy. Oh well, Alex wasn’t camera shy—or if he was he was to intent on finding a Steelhead to notice me.

Decisions, decisions, decisions:

Three days

I had a great three day weekend this past weekend. Since the wife and kid are out of town I headed out on Friday afternoon with my fishing buddy Alex to see if we could find some fresh salmon moving up with the rain. We headed over to the North Fork of the Nehalem near the hatchery and fished about about a mile or so down river but found nothing. When we got back near the hatchery we saw some dark salmon moving up over the riffles and a few bait fisherman who were not having any luck so we decided to move on. We headed an hour north to Big Creek where we found lots of way to far salmon running around. My friend got a rock of all things stuck in his tire and he had a huge leak so we put on a spare and headed back to my house to regroup.

The next morning we headed down to the McKenzie and what a day. After explaining the in and outs of my favorite section of river to a fellow fly fisherman I headed on down and threw on my go to parachute adams and nothing happened. No fish. Ok, ok I can figure this one out. I looked around and saw no mayflies yet. Alright, how about a stimulator?

Alright! After an hour or so of fish eating the same stimulator it lost all ability to float. As I was switching flies I noticed it had gotten a bit later in the day then I thought it had and I looked up river and saw the larger fish rising in the riffles. I headed up to them and put on my parachute adams and was rewarded with this beauty:

I know, three photos of the same fish is a bit excessive but it was a really pretty fish.

After that beauty we caught a few more but the day was slowing. I like the light glistening of the fish in this photo.

We headed south to the Willamette that afternoon and the next morning we went below Dexter dam and did some spey casting for Steelhead. While, Alex did spey casting for Steelhead and I did an interesting blend of single and souble hand casting as I had forgotten my spey reel. Alex snapped this great photo of me:

We found no steelhead so we opted to head up river and find some fun trout. We stopped up above the Black Canyon campground at a place that looked promising. We walked down to the river and I started working my way up river trying out my Ice Dub Prince / Mercury Pheasant Tail combo that had worked so well on the McKenzie. I was fishing a beautiful deep side pool and as I let my nymph swing it stopped. It seemed like such an abrupt stop that I figured it was a rock so I gave a little yank. Then the rock started to move out of the pool towards the whitewater which was moving super fast. I fought the fish for five minuets and getting him out of the twenty foot or so seep pool was really fun. My first large fish on the Willamette. I will definitely have to go back soon and see if he has friends in the pool:

On the way back through Eugene we stopped at the Caddis Fly Shop and I picked up a new #2 Microbarb Saddle in brown to replace the one that I have stripped of every usable feather. Now to get down to business and tie some lovely dry flies. Hmmm, which to do first?

And all I found…

I went to the Deschutes the other day with Alex in hope of finding some Steelhead. We had the spey rods all ready to go at the mouth of the river at 6 a.m. We thought we would be bad ass and hike in several miles, so we packed our waders in our backpacks and set off. Once we had gotten as far as we thought necessary we started casting. After working the first run Alex took off for the next one up while I finished working the one I was on. A few cast later SLAM! My rod went down hard and was shooting all around this huge river. I was super excited and then I saw a large brown fin and top of a body roll and I thought “ahhh Shit”. You see Steelhead aren’t really brown. No, no, I had found a monster sucker fish. Sigh…

I spent the rest of the day casting but nothing. Alex found a accidental 14″ trout. The real killer of the day is that Alex and I were way up the river thinking we were all bad ass with our bags we packed in and I see a guy who must of been 70 or so walk by with his rod. Oh yeah, real bad ass. We can hike as far as him. Geez. At least we had fun and the scenery can’t be beat.