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It has been a wild week!

It has been a wild week!

The month of May is never without surprises on the Deschutes and this May has been no exception. This is the month that water temperatures hit the sweet spot, triggering nymphs from many species to get on with the process of transforming into winged adults. For some, like the stoneflies (which include salmonflies, golden stones, and little yellow sallies), the process is a long and drawn out affair spanning several weeks from emergence to egg-laying. For others, such as mayflies (which include April's ironically named March Browns, Pale Morning Duns aka PMDs, Pale Evening Duns aka PEDs, Pink Alberts, Green Drakes, and Blue Winged Olives), the process from start to finish passes by in a mere 24-hour window. Of course, we always have our Steady Eddie on the Deschutes, the good ol' caddisfly, who seems to be present most days of the year in one form or another from the tiniest black micro-caddis to autumn's big bruiser, the October Caddis with every size and color on the spectrum dancing in clouds above the sagebrush in the evening's dusk. 

BUGS - if you want to be a better angler, it starts with paying attention to the bugs. If you want to get the most enjoyment out of fly fishing, it will pay dividends to understand the hatches in order to take advantage of the amazing dry fly fishing that this river can dish out.  May and June are, arguably, the best two months to fish dry flies on the Deschutes, due to the sheer variety and abundance of species hatching - but dry fly fishing is more technical and more challenging than just watching an indicator or nymph fishing with a tight line because you have to be proficient at many aspects of the sport, casting being the most important. You also need better skills when it comes to reading the water, observing the changing environmental influences of the day, and a more intimate knowledge of the river. Coming to the Deschutes in all seasons to fish will help you create a mental map of the river and will make it easy for you to arrive during prime time months with a game plan for how to best get your dry flies in front of the biggest trout in the river. 

As anyone who comes into the shop is aware, I am in here nearly every single day. My guiding days are mostly in the rearview mirror, but I stay in touch with the happenings on the river by chatting daily with fellow guides in the daily grind. I am thankful that fellow guide friends stop into the shop with river reports, and we trade a few flies here and there for the deep river intel that is critical to my delivery of info in these reports. Brian Silvey has been a good friend to the shop for years and his information is vital thanks to his extensive experience on the water, his daily grind on the river, and his deep knowledge of the insects and habitats. Thanks Brian, for giving me a window into the river when I am "stuck" in the fly shop. 

Speaking of being "stuck" in the shop, I was going nuts on Tuesday when all of the elements came together for some of the best mayfly fishing conditions in the past 10-12 years. Green Drakes had been spotted over the weekend and on Monday, but in ones and twos on the river - not a huge number reported by any guide with whom I chatted. I knew that water temperatures dictated that the Green Drakes were set to pop any day... and Tuesday came along with windy conditions in the early morning leading into an almost eerie calm. I walked out onto Deschutes Avenue in front of the shop at the mayfly witching hour and felt the light sprinkle of rain on my face, a warm air embrace, and noticed that the flag on Richmond's Service station was hanging limply from the 55-degree angle pole. Neither stars nor stripes were moving an inch and this is highly unusual for a spring day on the Deschutes. My skin started to crawl because every fiber of my being knew that the mid-day mayfly activity on the Deschutes - just down the hill and out of my reach - was going to come UNGLUED. I could picture the river in certain places just boiling with trout heads slurping PMDs, PEDs, possibly Pink Alberts, and, with any luck, many explosions on big Green Drakes.

I stared out the window from noon to 3:00 PM with a tear in my eye, skin crawling with the desire to drop everything, lock the door, and run to the river. But I have an obligation to serve my fellow fly anglers and to make sure they get the bugs and, most importantly, the info they need to go out and have a great afternoon and evening on the water. Day 30 in the shop without a day off, I am "paying" for my March and April travels to Christmas Island and India where I was lucky enough to catch a bunch of crazy species and to scratch my traveling itch that had gotten awfully damn itchy during the COVID lockdown. 

Gabor and Gwynn had the day off that day and both, wisely, were out on the river. Gabor stormed into the shop around 2:00 PM with eyes as big as saucers and stories of blankets of mayflies on the water. He had only seen a few Green Drakes, but he had seen trout exploding on drakes mid-river. He reported that the PEDs and PMDs were sailing down the glassy calm river in regattas, and the trout were boiling on them. Gwynn reported being surrounded by Pale Evening and Pale Morning Duns further down river. 

Not everyone saw Green Drakes, as the huge hatch didn't seem to materialize on Tuesday, but EVERYONE who fished that day came away from the river understanding the true potential of the Deschutes. The PMDs started early in the day and stayed consistent throughout the day, and the PEDs came on around 1:00 PM and built for the next few hours. The guides all knew how to position their clients in certain spots on the river to take full advantage of a mayfly hatch, and some reported standing in one spot for hours catching 30-40 trout all on dries. 

As people filtered into the shop between noon and 2:00 PM, they must have thought I was some sort of crazy person - a frenzied maniac loading their bowls with yellow mayflies and huge green patterns and practically shoving them out the door to get to the river as soon as possible. "Get out there, NOW, don't delay, you will be right IN IT - this looks to be one of the best days I have seen in 10 or 12 years, weather-wise. No, forget the salmonfly hatch, forget the golden stones, don't even look at those bins of nymphs, you will have a blast on the river if you can get yourself below a riffle or rapid, in a foam line, with a 9 foot 5X leader and a mayfly pattern, IN THE NEXT TWO HOURS - GO, GO, GO!!!"

On Tuesday night the wind began to howl and we woke to very different weather than the day before. I saw Brian outside the shop on Wednesday morning with his drift boat in tow ready for another day. The forecast called for 20-30 mile per hour winds with gusts to 40. The morning cloud cover was heavy, the blanket of clouds the only hail-Mary hope for the Green Drakes to pop. As the door of the fly shop was battered by the wind all day yesterday, swinging back and forth wildly and blowing the packets of fur and feathers off the wall, I wasn't sure what the day would bring for the brave anglers out there - but I knew it would be a challenge. Many people decided to leave after a sleepless night in a tents that only stayed on the ground thanks to the non-sleeping bodies inside. Getting wacked in the face repeatedly by the nylon walls of your tent does not make for a sound sleep. 

People filtered in with fantastic tales of amazing fishing the day before. No matter how they went about targeting trout, whether on nymphs or dries, everyone had a heroic day on the Deschutes. Those that left due to the windy weather probably should stop reading this report right now because what I am about to write may be painful to read......

The Green Drakes showed up on Wednesday. Despite the wind, the time was right and the clouds helped immensely, and there was sheer gluttony taking place on the river. It was a "Shoulda been here yesterday" kind if day. The hatch was not observed by everyone on the river, as it tends to be localized. However, guides above town and way down by Mack's Canyon were lucky enough to have their clients see this hatch and fish the huge green bugs to trout that were ready to crush them! No telling if it was a ONE and DONE event, but we rarely have more than one or two days a year when Green Drakes pop. Have them ready in your fly box over the coming weeks, because there is always a chance of another amazing day. 

Let's look forward to the weekend and the weeks to come when the salmonfly hatch will get back on track after several days of cool and rainy weather that have caused them to hunker down and sulk in the riverside bushes. Today and tomorrow look relatively calm in terms of wind, but today will be a better fishing day due to sunshine and warmer low-70s temperatures. The temp is dropping back into the 60s on Friday and into the 50s on Saturday but warming back up on Sunday and Monday to finish the holiday weekend in the low-80s! 

Memorial day weekend is upon us now, and that will bring some campers to the river. Not all the campers will be anglers - many anglers will avoid the river on a holiday weekend fearing the worst. Typically, however, this is not one of our busier weekends due to lots of anglers having family obligations, barbeques, high-school and college graduations, and such. It is a popular weekend for floaters coming down from Trout Creek to Maupin as well as wildly popular in the Warm Springs to Trout Creek stretch where the hatch is really just beginning. Reports from Warm Springs to Maupin are that the river is absolutely PACKED with anglers and you might need to bring your own rock to the river to have a place to stand. 

We need hot weather again to get the new stoneflies on the wing and to bring the others who have been in the grasses and bushes for weeks back out into the sun. Fear not if you don't see any stoneflies, the trout are keyed into them river-wide at this point and you will have success if you fish dries in the heavy foam lines and deep water with trees overhanging. 

Other than during our big (and rare since PGE installed the SWW tower 12 years ago) mayfly hatches and the evening hatches of caddis, it is fairly RARE for people to see fish rising on the Deschutes. So many people come into the shop and report to me that they "didn't see anything rising" which makes them think that they won't be getting trout on dries. On the Deschutes you will not see consistently rising trout during the salmonfly hatch because this is not a "hatch" with bugs rising from the bottom of the river, emerging in the surface film, sitting on the water waiting for wings to dry, and getting devoured by trout during each of these stages of emergence. This "hatch" is wildly inconsistent when it comes to fish rising to the surface. They are taking random opportunities to grab stoneflies when available.

Stoneflies...let's just call it a stonefly hatch - because the golden stones and yellow sallies are way more likely than the salmonfly to be the insect that the trout end up eating in the middle to latter part of this month and into early June. Stoneflies are available to the trout in the following stages: as nymphs when they tumble down river and crawl to the banks, as adults that fall from the grass and trees into the river while mating early on in the hatch, and finally as adults landing on the water and laying eggs. The salmonflies do not participate in the on-water egg-laying - they prefer to drop eggs from the sky. The golden stones and the yellow sallies do land on the water and have egg pouches to deliver, the golden stone eggs are black and the yellow sally eggs are red. If you look closely, the largest of the stones are females and will take to the wing on Monday when temps get up into the 80s again. 

We already had temps in the 90s a few weeks ago and a large population of goldens laid eggs, so trout are ready to see that again and are likely to grab a golden stone when one becomes available. The same goes for the little yellow sallies, so have confidence fishing dries....however.....if you see swallows swooping over the water you might want to switch to a 5x leader and a mayfly pattern.

Lots of dry flies will work right now, and there is nothing better than hooking a trout on a dry! Have fun out there and keep moving on the river. 

 

4 comments

  • Haven’t been able to get to the river in way too long. These reports make me wish I were there, make me feel like I was and always teach me something. So grateful for all you do, Amy. Thank you!

    Matt
  • Amazing, informative, and fascinating post as always! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of this incredible fishery…it’s really appreciated and I learn something new every time I read it.

    Jeff Dunn
  • 100% our experience 1/2 way between macks and heritage. Best mayfly fishing you could hope for!!!
    On "Windy Wednesday " we saw crows, that’s right those big black birds , picking off green drakes from the surface of the wind-blown riffles . I had never witnessed that before.
    As always , thanks for sharing your reports Amy.
    See ya soon

    Matt D
  • 100% our experience 1/2 way between macks and heritage. Best mayfly fishing you could hope for!!!
    On "Windy Wednesday " we saw crows, that’s right those big black birds , picking off green drakes from the surface of the wind-blown riffles . I had never witnessed that before.
    As always , thanks for sharing your reports Amy.
    See ya soon

    Matt D

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