Getting Close to the BIG HATCH but not yet.........
We are starting to field a lot of phone calls asking if the big bugs are out and about yet - and we are close, maybe just a week or so away from seeing the first big wave - but we have not seen Salmonflies yet.
The river is in good shape, a little low, but they bumped it up in notches all throughout the week. We feel that the river should remain in good shape and very fishable through the hatch. Some years, we have high water events in early to mid-May and the river colors up a bit, which makes fishing challenging. That shouldn't happen this year, but we would welcome any and all precipitation.
I flew home last night from Arizona and the southern and central Oregon desert looked dry as a bone. Reservoirs that should be full are showing a lot more shoreline, and the fields are not nearly as green as they should be.
Anglers were celebrating the opening of the entire Deschutes River yesterday. Anglers who love to fish the Maupin area for the ease of access and lots of road miles (about 40 miles of access) are happy that some of the crowds of anglers coming from Bend/Redmond will fish a little closer to home - accessing the river at Warm Springs, Mecca, South Junction, et al. It is good for everyone when we are able to spread out and give each other a little bit more space.
Speaking of space, the river is never busier than it is during the salmonfly hatch. Last year, with a surge of new fly anglers and everyone with a lot of time on their hands looking to get outdoors to recreate, the river was extremely busy. Added to the crush of roadside traffic, the river was closed to boating for much of the month of May, so it was a little bit more difficult for anglers to spread out. This year should be better, but let's all try to treat each other with respect by not crowding in on an area where another angler is already fishing.
Let's talk a little bit about the locked gate, speaking of crowding. I hear dozens and dozens of anglers every day tell me that they are headed up to the locked gate to park and walk up. I think this is an easy place for a city fly shop to describe and send people. What the city fly shops don't see, because they are running fly shops and not in touch daily with the Deschutes like we are, is that there are now 15-20 cars regularly parked at the locked gate with 20-40 people walking around in a 3-4 mile stretch. That is far too crowded to sustain great fishing.
Many anglers do not realize how sensitive trout can be to pressure. If a spot was fished and fished pretty well in the past few hours, the trout in that spot will be hunkered down and extra wary - not apt to rise to a dry fly, but perhaps willing to take a perfectly presented drag-free nymph on 6X tippet. The trout spot needs to be rested to fish well, and that never happens in the spring or summer for the water accessible by anglers walking above the locked gate. It just gets pounded. Why make the fishing much much more difficult than it needs to be by crowding into an extremely pressured stretch? There are nearly 40 miles of access via road travelling north of the locked gate, and it is much easier to find happy fish that haven't been harassed by dozens of anglers. Spread out and explore the entire river, you will be surprised at how good the fishing gets when you abandon the locked gate program.
I was out of town all week, but heard some good reports from my guides as to what was going on this week. There are a lot of smolts in the river. These are steelhead and salmon babies that are headed to the Columbia and then out into the ocean to grow big and fat. They are suicidal! Almost any fly that crosses their path will be mauled.
I love those little guys, because they give the newbie anglers the thrill of catching many many fish in the course of one day. People are LIT UP when they return to the fly shop in the mid-day to buy more flies. They have never hooked this many fish in their lives! So, the little smolts deserve a pat on the back for brightening angler's days. They also deserve to be treated with care and respect because these little warriors have a big journey in front of them.Please don't lift them out of the water by the leader and hold them in the air - this is really hard on these delicate little guys. Keep them wet, handle them gently, and respect them as much as you would respect a full grown redband trout. One day they will return from the ocean to kick your ass.
There are still a lot of trout spawning right now, so watch your step out there. If you feel gravel crunching under your boots, you are likely crushing tiny eggs buried in that gravel. Stay off of all gravelly areas and do not fish to spawning fish. It is pathetic that some anglers take advantage of trout in their most vulnerable time - leave them alone and encourage other anglers to do the same for the health of our future fishery.
We will inform you when we see the first big bugs crawling up from the depths of the river. This is not a hatch that we are ever going to keep secret from our customers, we bring in about 4000 dozen salmonfly/stonefly patterns for this one 3-4 week window and we want people to get out and experience one of the craziest and most action-packed bug festivals to be found anywhere.
The next fishing report is going to be the annual "How to fish the Salmonfly Hatch" report. Stay tuned!!