Hot and Smoky
Air temperatures are set to hit 108 today and stay around 107 through the weekend. Things will cool off on Monday and Tuesday but the rest of next week shows temperatures in the mid to high 90s. This is not good for the water temperatures in the Deschutes and, unfortunately for the fish, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has removed the Hoot Owl restrictions on the lower Deschutes. When water temperatures are in the 70s and you hook a trout or steelhead and play the fish in those temperatures, you are basically killing every fish that you hook. If you want to fish the Deschutes, you are best off to go upriver closer to the dam where water temperatures are the coolest. Even fishing around Maupin and down lower is okay in the morning and early afternoon, but have a thermometer handy and do what is right for the fish by quitting when the temperatures get into the high 60s.
Trout fishing has been excellent lately. We did a Trout Creek to Maupin camp trip last week (yes, they unchained me from my desk and let me guide for a few days) and we had great success on both dry flies and nymphs. The dry-dropper rig was best for searching the waters when we didn't see fish rising, but that rig was chopped off and replaced by a simple dry fly as soon as we saw trout working in the foam lines. At one stop, I tied on my favorite cranefly pattern and we hooked trout after trout on that one tiny dry. Tan caddis were also quite effective at fooling the sippers along the banks.
In the middle of our dry fly action, another huge hatch came off - this one was of the aluminum variety. Apparently, a raft flipped in four chutes rapid, just upstream from where we were fishing and the contents of a very large beer cooler got dumped into the river. For about twenty minutes we were scooping cold beers from the river with our fishing nets. Good Times!
Yesterday, the smoke from the fires up near the tri-cities in Washington state rolled into Central Oregon and settled. We have hot hot weather and no wind to speak of, so the smoke will be sticking around for a while. I took a photo of the sun rising this morning - which shows just how smoky it is out here. The only good thing about the smoke is that it keeps things a tiny bit cooler and the trout are less spooky thanks to the smoke cover.
It is that time of year when attentions turn to summer steelhead making their way up the rivers. Though the numbers are still quite low, we have caught a few steelhead in the mornings. These fish are moving upstream quickly because they feel the river getting cooler with every mile they swim. Three weeks ago we hooked our first steelhead upstream of Maupin - it was a brief and short-lived battle and a real eye-opener for the angler whose target species was trout. After a screaming run across the river the steelhead jumped, gave the guy the fin, and broke him off. We have not really started fishing in ernest for steelhead, but we have a few trips on the horizon.
It is also that time of year when our phone starts ringing with calls about the condition of the White River. I drove down to the White today to check it out and to take a few photos. The White River is very very muddy but it is low and it currently doesn't have enough flow to negatively impact the Deschutes. It blew out for a day last week but quickly came back into shape. Here is a photo of the White River at 10:00 this morning. Unless we get rain, it should be tame for a little while because the flows are so low.
On Tuesday, when the Hoot Owl was dropped, I called the ODFW office in The Dalles to ask what they are thinking by removing the Hoot Owl just as we head into a massive heat wave. On the same day that they removed the Hoot Owl on the Deschutes, ODFW closed the North Umpqua to all fishing through November citing low numbers of steelhead returning, low flows, and warm water. The North Umpqua closure is sure to push more steelhead anglers to the Deschutes - which is also experiencing low flows, warm water, and poor steelhead returns.
The person I talked with at ODFW was extremely rude to me and had no real answers for why they would remove a measure that was put in place to protect wild steelhead. He claimed that water temperatures at the mouth have always been this warm - which I find odd because the river didn't used to have the huge numbers of bass and walleye in the lower ten miles before PGE put their SWW tower in place. Those warm water fish came out of the Columbia and into the Deschutes when the waters in the Deschutes were warmed up by PGE's Selective Water Withdrawl tower. The river warmed up so much that the bass and walleye found the Deschutes more pleasant than the colder waters of the Columbia.
I have a report in front of me published by Oregon State Game Commission in 1967 - known as the Aney study (named after one of the authors, Warren W. Aney). In that report, they have a table showing water temperatures in the lower Deschutes River Mainstem. During the period of record, 1955-1962 they show the Mean temperature, the Maximum temperature, and the Minimum temperature taken on the Deschutes River at Moody (river mile 1.4). The mean temperature in the month of August was 64 degrees, the minimum was 56 degrees, and the maximum recorded temperature was 69 degrees. The dam complex was completed in 1964 - so these temperatures are pre-dam temperatures.
PGE claims to be warming the river to return the river to pre-project temperatures or "without project temperatures" - or so they claim in their literature. Unfortunately, they are not even close to hitting pre-project temperatures. Not once in the month of August, 2021 has the river gotten down to 62 degrees. The mean temperature this month is around 67-68 degrees, and the maximum temperature has been over 70 degrees and nearing 71 on 6 out of the 13 days so far this month. It is inconceivable that the government agencies in charge of monitoring the health of our river (DEQ, ODFW) can stand by with their hands in their pockets for the last ten years watching a private for-profit entity (PGE) harm the Deschutes.
If you care about the Deschutes and you are angry with PGE for heating the river up, give Megan Hill a call at Portland General Electric 541-325-5344. She needs to know how pissed off the angling community is.