Beautiful Weekend Ahead!
Temperatures this weekend are forecast to be in the mid to high-fifties with nothing but sunshine and happiness! We have had a lot of calls this week about water conditions on the Deschutes, which is not surprising given how much rain hit the coast and the west side this past week. I suppose most of the rivers on the other side of the Cascades are in full flood stage or dropping out of flood stage right now, and there are very few places over there to fish this weekend. Fear not, my angling friends, the Deschutes is here for you!!
We did have a little rain this week - nothing like you've had if you live on the other side of Mt. Hood, but just enough to dampen the desert. Let me tell you a little bit about what happens to the Deschutes when we have a little rain on the east side of the mountain and lots and lots of rain on Mt. Hood and on the west side.
Heavy rains falling on the mountain will most significantly impact the White River - especially these winter/spring rains when the warmer temperatures are simultaneously causing snow to melt quickly. On Monday the mountain warmed up so quickly and so much rain fell up there that they actually shut down all the skiing due to the conditions. We knew the White River was going to be a roiling mud ball and we kept an eye on it Monday - but the mud wall didn't show up until Tuesday.
We are pretty used to having to drive down to the White River to look at it and to judge how its flow is going to impact the Deschutes below the confluence. In years past there was no water gauge on the White River - the flow reading that we had for the White was an extrapolation, a math equation if you will, which subtracted the flow at the Madras gauge and the flows of all the tributaries off the Reservation from the flow at the Moody gauge near the mouth. The remaining water flow was assumed to be the White River flow. The problem with that equation is that we had to wait 24 hours for the flow coming out of the White River to reach the Moody gauge before we could see that the White River was huge, and by that time the actual flow in the White River would have crested and begun to fall. It was not the best read on the White. Now that there is a USGS gauge on the White River, we can see what is happening in real time.
The White went from 300 CFS to 1500 CFS overnight. It has dropped a bit down to 1200 CFS, but more importantly, it has cleared enough so the color it is putting into the Deschutes isn't horrible. In fact, a little color in the Deschutes has made the fishing better this week than last. When the river gets cold and clear in the wintertime, it can certainly get difficult to fool the fish. Anglers, be thankful for this color because it gives the trout a little more cover and security, which makes them more confident when feeding.
Tuesday of this week, we woke to a river with a lot of brown water and it was quite high. The water was horrible below the White River but it was semi-fishable upstream of the White, so Ben chose to take his guided clients upstream of Maupin to see what they could do. High and off-color water didn't bode well for the day, but the clients had come from far away and this was the hand that the river gods dealt them. Evan and I were working in the shop that day and we had Ben on our minds, knowing from our years of experience that this could be the kind of soul-crushing day where you work your tail off to eke out just a fish or two. Around 3:00 we sent Ben a text message, fully prepared to give him a pep-talk.
We were pleasantly surprised when Ben texted us back that afternoon. He said the morning had been quite challenging due to the high off-color water. The usual spots were not producing and he was picking his way down river trying everything to figure out what water type the trout preferred at this flow. The trout had moved out of the normal holding water and into the softer stuff on the edges where they wouldn't have to work so hard. It was just after lunch that Ben found the motherload of trout and they didn't have to resort to deep nymphing techniques to find them - they were literally surfacing everywhere in the slow soft water. The overcast rainy conditions on Tuesday spurred a massive blue winged olive mayfly hatch. Despite, or probably thanks to, the color in the river, the trout began confidently feeding on the rafts of BWOs that appeared after lunch and continued feeding on the blankets of BWOs until 3:00 when the hatch finally slowed and dissipated.
The guide trip was a smashing success! Though the morning was challenging, the post-lunch hours of casting to rising trout with dry flies and lots of eats turned out to be a huge highlight for the visiting anglers. Only because the water was high and dirty were these trout in this particular part of the river confidently feeding on dry flies. Once one of Ben's clients hooked a fish, the other trout in the run dropped down and stopped feeding. However, thanks to the color in the water and the density of trout and bugs in this area, they got back up on the surface feeding action within minutes after one trout had been landed. Overall, the day with the very worst water conditions proved to be one of the very best days of fishing.
Over the course of this week, the small tributaries that flow off Mt Hood have dropped and cleared, which means that the river upstream of the confluence with the White has cleared up significantly since Tuesday. The flows are higher than they have been all winter, but not high enough to keep anyone from finding lots of bank access to fish. The river will be much bigger below the White River and will have significantly more color than above, but that is not always a bad thing (as Ben's success has shown us this week).
We hope to see you on your next visit to the Deschutes!! Tight lines and screaming reels to you all!
Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop