Friday Morning Fishing Report – April 2, 2021
Shop hours: 9-5 Monday through Saturday, Closed on Sunday
April on the Deschutes can be challenging in terms of our water conditions – but this year seems to be an exception to the norm. Due to our ongoing drought, it doesn’t look like the river is going to have a spring “runoff” or any other kind of high water event. This is great news for anglers, as the river will be in fishable shape throughout the month of April, unless the April showers come on fast and strong.
Yesterday was beautiful and sunny with high temps nearing 70 degrees. The weekend looks to be equally as beautiful with some clouds in the mix (which is ideal for the mayfly hatches).
There were a few of you who stuck it out last Sunday and kept fishing in what had to go down in my journal as one of the windiest, nastiest days we have seen in a decade. The storm blew roofs off of houses, knocked out power to some houses, crushed and destroyed tents up and down the river, and most certainly spread feral mylar balloons all over the countryside. It was an exceptionally horrible day.
This weekend is going to have a little breeze here and there but the forecast does not call for the high winds that we experienced last weekend. It looks like it is going to be quite nice.
The March Brown mayflies have begun to make a showing on the Deschutes – just at the end of their namesake month. Read my March 26th report for more info on this mayfly.
March Browns are known for a mayfly behavior that is rarely seen west of the Rocky Mountains – they shed their nymphal schuck at the bottom of the river before rising up to emerge. What this means is that the wings that have been developing inside the nymph schuck are now out and flowing over the back of the March Brown as it comes to the surface. This is an absolute trigger for trout in April – fishing a specific March Brown soft hackle pattern tied with feathers that represent those wings. This fly absolutely crushes trout in the hours leading up to the mid-day hatch. Come on in and we will get you a few of these killer flies.
The adult March Browns are unmistakable – these are sizeable mayflies with wings that look far too large to be supported by the relatively skinny tan mayfly body to which they are attached. Trout LOVE these mayflies, not just because they represent one of the first significant protein deliveries of the year, but because they are sweet, juicy, delectable members of the mayfly family. Show a trout a mayfly (during a time period when mayflies are hatching) and that trout will forsake all other food to get that mayfly in his belly.
During our big and famous salmonfly hatch, which is only ONE MONTH AWAY, if the weather gets cloudy and overcast you better have PMDs, PEDs, Pink Albert, and Green Drake patterns handy. If the mayflies are out and about, the trout will turn up their noses (not in a good way) at the salmonflies , at least until the mayfly hatch is over.
So, be ready with some good march brown soft hackles when you hit the river this weekend. What other bugs should you have at the ready? Caddis dry flies in size 14 with brown bodies, skwala dry flies with olive bodies, and lots and lots of tungsten-headed nymph patterns.
Being willing to change your flies and change them often is often the difference between a three fish day and a twenty fish day. Important, too, is your willingness to challenge yourself in wading and in moving frequently. Don’t stay in the same spot all day, don’t even stay in the same spot for an hour – that is too long. Unless you are continuously hooking fish, you need to keep moving in order to find fish.
Try to get away from where other people are fishing and from wherever someone else may have just been fishing. If you drive up to the locked gate (because it seems that it is the only place that metro area fly shops send people) and there are 15 cars parked there with anglers all around, turn your car around and head back downstream -there are 40 miles of river road below the locked gate.
Why is it important to find your own piece of water? Trout are sensitive to pressure. If a spot was fished an hour before you get to it, or a day, or sometimes two days before you get to it, the trout that live there are going to be far more wary and spooky than unpressured trout. They are going to second guess your flies, they will require perfect presentations on 6X fluorocarbon tippet, and once you hook one, the others will be even harder to hook because they will go into self-preservation mode.
So, branch out in your fishing exploration. If you normally fish upstream from town, drive downstream to check out new water. Learning and then knowing a bunch of good spots is going to serve you well as a Deschutes angler. If you return to the river on a particularly busy day, you will have plan A, plan B, plan C, plan D, plan E, etc. If you find a bunch of anglers in your first three favorite spots, you will be thrilled to have three more favorite spots to go to on a busy day. Since there are getting to be more and more anglers on the water, the successful anglers will be those with a game plan.
It is busy out here on the really nice spring days, and the crowds are due to more people moving to the Northwest, and due to more people choosing outdoor activities in order to socially distance. One of the surprising things about 2020 (not our favorite year) is how many people decided to start fly fishing. It is astounding and something we haven’t seen since “the movie” came out in the early 1990s. This movie is, obviously, A River Runs Through It, and if you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to sit down and enjoy a beautiful film. Seeing Brad Pitt in the glory of his youth isn’t too hard on the eyes either….just saying.
With so many new people coming to our sport, some veteran anglers are becoming frustrated by greater numbers of people on “their” favorite waters. We were all new to the sport at one time, and fly fishing etiquette is not innate. So, let’s talk for a hot minute about rules and etiquette. All sports have rules, but some sports have rules (in the case of fly fishing these are state laws that regulate what you can and cannot do in your pursuit of fish, as well as delineating what areas are open or closed in certain times of the year), and those sports also have etiquette.
For example, in golf, when you take a huge divot out of the grass in the center of the fairway, you have not broken a rule if you don’t find the grass clump and place it back in the crater that you created – but it is bad etiquette not to do so. In fly fishing, it is not against the law to step into the water that another angler is fishing but it is very poor etiquette to do so. Nobody “owns” the river, but an angler should expect that he/she has a right to fish a piece of water undisturbed if he/she made the effort to get to that piece of water before anyone else.
Here’s the problem: New anglers on the river are desperate to crack the code, to learn where the good spots are, and to catch fish. If they see you catching fish in a spot, they want in on that spot too, even though there is only room for one angler. Another problem: A newbie angler came to the Deschutes last weekend and found a great spot where he/she caught several nice trout. The following weekend, that angler returns to the river and makes a beeline for their new favorite spot only to find that someone else is there and fishing it. With only a plan A and no plan B they tromp down to the spot that they discovered the weekend before and the angler who is in that spot, trying to enjoy the solitude of the river, comes unglued.
New anglers, this is my advice to you, each time you have success in a spot make note of what that spot looked like, what elements it had that were different from the other five spots you fished without success. Maybe the spot was deeper right off the bank, maybe it had shade on the water from overhanging trees, maybe the water was faster than any other spots you fished, or maybe the bank was steeper and harder to get down. Whatever the unique traits your lucky spot has are traits that can be found in many many other spots up and down the river. Try new places each time you visit the Deschutes, move around a lot, and doing this will help you learn the water types that hold fish. That is how you crack the code.
Here is my second message to new anglers – go to a license sales place (Bi-Mart, Coastal Farm and Ranch, Fred Meyer maybe) and pick up an ODFW fishing regulation book for 2021. If you are going to join the rest of us out on the river, you should know the rules. Unlike not following etiquette, which could get you yelled at, not following the rules set forth by fish and wildlife could get your license revoked for the season, or even for years. If your fishing license gets revoked in Oregon, you will not be able to get one for a minimum of 36 months and you will be prohibited from getting a license in a multitude of other states thanks to the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Think you could just take a road trip to Montana or Idaho and get a license there? Think again. You are banned from fishing in nearly every state in the US if you lose your license in Oregon.
Speaking of April Fools....Lately, I have talked to several anglers who have been fishing in March at Mecca Flats, Warm Springs, Trout Creek, and South Junction. All of these places are currently CLOSED to angling until April 22. Even catch and release angling? YES, ALL ANGLING. Ignorance of the regulations is not an excuse to be fishing in closed areas. Next time a cop pulls you over for going 70 in a 55 mph zone, just tell the officer that you thought the speed limit was 70 and that you didn’t see any signs, and that other parts of the highway allow you to go 70 mph, so why should you be at fault here? See how that goes over. It is your responsibility as a licensed angler to know the rules for the waters that you plan to fish.
There are overall rules in the regulation booklet that apply to all waters in Oregon and there are definitions of words used in the regulations so that there is no confusion. Beyond the general statewide regulations, there are regional regulations for each of the zones as determined by ODFW. Regional regulations trump statewide regulations. In the third tier of the regulation book, there are specific rules for designated portions of lakes and rivers. It is your responsibility to read and understand all of the rules and regulations that pertain to the water you plan to fish.
Despite my warnings in the last report about the gravel lower access road, people continue to drive down it as if their house was on fire at the end of the road. I have seen people going 50-60 mph on the gravel, and they come into the shop talking about how smooth the road is – not for long thanks to you driving like you are in a rally race! What you really should know about that road is that it is one of the worst and sharpest gravel roads in the country and you will get flat tires if you drive fast. Unlike in past years, when the tow trucks in Maupin were making regular runs down there to tow people out with multiple flat tires, the Maupin tow truck operators are no longer taking their rigs down that road. You better be self-sufficient and carry multiple spares if the road between Buckhollow and Mack’s Canyon is your favorite stretch to fish – OR – you could simply slow down while driving on that road.
Well, the rant is nearly through. If you have made it this far, congratulations! I hope this information is helpful to you. I will begin posting sorter and more frequent fishing reports as the hatches begin to come on fast and strong.
Consider an investment in your fishing future by hiring a guide for a day. You would be amazed at how far your fishing can progress with a little guidance from a professional. Unless, of course, you are handily catching 60 trout a day on your own - in which case you don't need a guide.
On a last note – the White River is fine. It is always fine at this time of year. It will not be an issue in terms of blowing out the Deschutes until at least August.
May your nets be full of rainbows all weekend!
We will see you when you get to Maupin!