Free fishing Weekend!
No need to worry about a fishing license this weekend!!! It is FREE FISHING WEEKEND – no fishing licenses required. This applies to Saturday and Sunday only. This does not mean that you have a free license to do whatever you want, you still have to observe the rules of the fisheries.
After a scorcher of a week, things are on the cooling trend now. From temps in the 90’s yesterday, the thermostat will drop today and tomorrow with highs only in the mid to high-60s on the weekend and through to Tuesday. The golden stones were still flying around and laying their eggs on the hottest days this past week. Even as they disappear from the river over the next ten days or so, the fish will still be looking up and searching for that last juicy morsel. The key to continuing to catch trout on stonefly dries is to have a variety of sizes and colors of stones. Your fly selection should be broad with 2-3 samples of a wide array of patterns.
Salmonflies and Golden stones hog the spotlight during the month of May into early June, leaving their smaller cousin on the sidelines. Hardly anybody notices the humble Little Yellow Sally (Isoperla stone) although its abundance rivals that of the larger stoneflies. Sallies will be a significant portion of the trout diet through the month of June alongside the swarms of caddis that you will find in flying clusters around the sagebrush in the evening.
We are in a red flag warning this weekend with very low humidity levels and high winds forecast – this means that fires are absolutely banned at this time on the Deschutes. If you see other campers building a bonfire in the site next to yours, please let them know that fires are not allowed on the Deschutes in June, July, August, or September. Things are so dry out here that we already had our first lightning-caused fire on May 19 just on the south edge of Maupin on the curvy highway 197 as it drops into town.
We have seen a lot of caddis popping off in the last week or so, which could be an indication that the water quality in the Deschutes is a little better than we have seen in past years. This is not due to anything that the managers of the dam have done (although they will, no doubt, take credit for it and will sprain their own arms in an effort to pat themselves on the back). The improved water quality is due to the fact that the Crooked River is very very low and the majority of the water filling the Crooked River arm of Lake Billy Chinook (from which we get water into the Deschutes) is coming directly out of Opal Springs rather than from the main stem of the Crooked. The water draining all of the agricultural lands along the Crooked River through Prineville is low enough this spring that it cannot carry as much effluent and nutrient load as it has historically at this time in the spring.
So, we are now in the month of June and the salmonfly hatch is pretty much over. What does that mean for you? Are you one of the many fly anglers who only fishes the Deschutes during “the hatch”? If so, I feel sorry for the fact that you only know the Deschutes River as a circus. This river is so much more than one somewhat overrated and entirely overhyped hatch in May – the best dry fly fishing is now upon us.
The hatches that occur in June and July are consistent hatches. Seeing fish slurping and gulping caddis, craneflies, aquatic moths with the random outburst to swallow an errant yellow sally, THAT is what I love about trout fishing on the Deschutes. You can sneak up on these bank feeders and observe them as they feed on bug after bug in the surface film. The rise tells you their general location, and you can take your time standing in the current below these trout changing your tippet diameter, changing your fly, applying floatant, and getting ready to make your first cast.
Once you have located a trout that is feeding on caddis, it is best to take the time to watch the feeding pattern. If you don’t actually see the shadow of the trout hovering just below the surface, look for the rise form. When you see the ring of the rise, your first instinct will be to immediately put the fly directly on the target – right in the center of the ring of the rise. You might do this over and over again without any results. Why? It is simple. The spot where you saw the trout break through the surface to eat a natural insect is typically as many as 5 or 6 feet from the holding lie of the trout. A trout will select a very protected holding lie, the bigger the trout the better the spot (it’s called seniority). This spot might be under the overhanging branches of a tree or just upstream of a large boulder. As a caddis fly or cranefly or any other insect comes tumbling down the river on the water’s surface they will typically follow the main current of the river which is indicated by foam speckles which come together to form foam lines.
The trout constantly look to these foam lines to convey their insect munchies right to their holding lie. Because they are wild and wary trout, some inspection of each insect snack will take place before consumption. As the bug floats towards the trout, let’s call him Howard, he sees it coming and starts to get excited, twitching his pectoral fins in anticipation. As the insect nears, Howard tilts up to meet it but leaves his nose just inches from the insect. Howard is now perpendicular to the bug and drifting backwards downriver, inspecting every inch of that insect with his big redside froggy eyes. If the size is right and the color is right, and Howard does not see the fine tippet attached to this fly AND you have managed to make a perfect cast allowing for a drag-free drift, Howard will rise up and eat it with confidence. FISH ON!
If, however, any of the important fooling-factors of your insect presentation are off, you will get complete and total REJECTION from Howard the trout. If he sees something suspicious about that offering, he will drop a few inches deeper into the water column and will not eat again for several minutes. His self-preservation instincts kick in immediately, and he becomes extra sharp and on-point. If you cast that same fly out to him again, on the same diameter tippet, you will put him down even further. Be willing to change your strategy and be willing to change your fly and tippet. This is where your knot tying skills are critically important. Practice your knots at home where you have good light and the wind is not blowing, and your river knots will seem a lot less daunting. If your tippet diameter is 5X or 6X, no need to change that. If you have 4X tippet or, (God-forbid) 3X tippet, it won’t matter how perfect the pattern you tie on – Howard won’t touch it.
Keep your tippet diameters small and have a broad fly selection that will allow you to change the body color or size of your offering before you pitch another snack out in front of Howard. A bad cast that slaps the fly down too hard, or a cast that crosses multiple currents and drags past the trout is a surefire way to spook Howard for good. In that case you may as well reel up and move on to your next target because Howard will be down for a few hours.
Trout fishing is a hunting game. You want to choose your ammunition carefully because it is critically important to fooling the biggest and smartest trout. Your weapon of choice might be a dry fly rod, a dry-dropper combo, an indicator nymph rig, or a pair of nymphs delivered via a Euro-nymphing set up. Whatever the weapon delivery system that you choose, be sure that you fish it to the best of your ability.
Trout are not going to hang around when you charge up the river like a water buffalo, splashing and tromping your way through a run. You need to approach the river like the ultimate river predator, the GBH. Anyone else here a bird nerd like me? The birds that live along the Deschutes are not only beautiful to watch, an angler can learn a lot by observing their behavior.
GBH is a Great Blue Heron, one of the chief predators of fish on the Deschutes. The GBH moves along the edge of the river like a ninja, every move is slow and deliberate, calculated to cause the least disturbance to the water. While wading, the GBH lifts each foot carefully from the river, closing the toes together like a collapsed umbrella to disturb the water minimally upon exit and reentry. The focus of the GBH is so intense that it is not that uncommon for an angler working up the bank in heron-like fashion to suddenly be face to face with one of these winged dinosaurs. The deep froglike squawk of disgust emitted by the GBH as he takes flight to another fishing hole has startled many a stealthy Deschutes angler!
What can we learn from other avian residents of the river? Well, the bright white belly of the Osprey is the terrifying last thing that many a trout will see before getting impaled by razor sharp talons. Trout are terrified of bright white and will dive to the depths upon getting a glimpse of your white tee-shirt or white fishing shirt. So, choose your fishing wardrobe carefully.
Other birds like the swallows and nighthawks help signal to anglers that the mayfly hatch is on. They swoop down onto the river when the hatches come off and circle high in the sky in the evening when the mayfly spinners rise up sometimes as high as 1000 feet in the air. We can learn a lot from our avian friends if we just pay attention on the water.
Last weekend was the quietest weekend we have seen in months. Yes, it was a holiday weekend, but it was dead compared to every other weekend in the past two months. Now is the time to come out to the river to fish a great variety of dry flies.
The W is forecast to be a bit of a bear this weekend. However, it is never too breezy to fish. The Deschutes is almost always breezy, so we learn to live with it and make due. If you move around a bit you will discover that some bends in the river funnel the air and cause the area to be way more windy (yes, I typed the word) than it might be around the next bend. When I row downriver, I know exactly which spots will be nuking and which will be relatively calm because the spots that tend to be windiest tend to be so all of the time. Just keep moving and trying new spots.
We are open all weekend, so stop on by and enjoy a little cool air conditioning and peruse our fly selection. We are stocked to the gills (no pun intended).
I leave you with a few cute pictures of Lupine the shop dog that everybody loves to see when they stop by. My web guy hates it when I post these dog photos!
Thanks for the report Amy, very educational as always. I’ve been fishing the Deshutes as often as possible for the last year or so after the continuing collapse of the coastal fisheries became too depressing to witness anymore. The wonderful change of what one is fishing for and how that went along with the change of the seasons on the coast is, from my perspective and experience, nearly gone for lack of fish. So I started going to the Big D and love it. Obviously a world class fishery and an incredible setting. But the Elephant in the room suddenly became clear to me last summer as the river turned into stinky warm pond water and too many fish were carrying too much of a parasite load, as tough and lively as they are. That started me in on some research that blew me away and saddens me. So,Yeah, I noticed the better water color this year and the associated increased in hatches and even a little bit of ‘good’ aquatic plant growth pushing through the slime- .. but no. Thanks for bursting my little balloon of ‘Oh my god!!!- better water management, they care!!’ as being the cause. Of course I was just dreaming.
I also missed Lupine last year and am looking forward to her greeting me this summer. See you soon!
Lupine, we are really looking forward to seeing you and your shop crew this next week. Missed you last year.