It's been a While....Happy New Year
Hello fishing friends!
I promised a report a while back, but that never happened because the one week off that we take for the year - from Dec 23 to Jan 2 was completely engulfed by our nemesis -COVID 19.
We enjoyed a five day pre-Christmas get-together with my family with a stay at Black Butte Ranch. So much fun to finally be with the whole family after years of being apart thanks to the pandemic. We came back to Maupin to fill a few more orders before the holiday break - THANK YOU to all that supported us over the holidays? On our first long-awaited day off John started to feel a little under the weather. Sniffles and sneezes pointed to allergies, but the COVID test hit us in the face with two pink lines on the eve of Christmas. We spent the holiday apart - John sequestered in the fly tying/TV room and I downstairs surrounded by Christmas decorations and wrapped presents.
The holiday went by, my birthday went by, New Year's Eve went by, and John finally emerged from the cave and we were able to open a few gifts. The biggest gift of all was that John came through the COVID experience without a horrible experience and without too many long-term side-effects. Somehow, I was able to dodge it, once again, maybe thanks to a bunch of shots. John and I have had all the same shots, boosters, etc, so we can't quite figure out how he got the virus and I didn't.
So, a lot has happened at Deschutes Angler over the past year and we are feeling good about the next chapter in our journey. The biggest change is that we will no longer be operating our full-fledged guide service. Our guides decided that they are ready to run their own businesses, and they will be doing so under their own business names with their own Deschutes permits. We will have a listing guides on our website, but we will not act as a booking agent for any of the guides. The webpage will have a page with a menu of services and links to the guides and outfitters who provide those services.
As for our own guide service, John will continue to guide his old regulars but will not be taking new clients. I will squeeze in the odd school or casting lesson when possible, but my focus will be on the retail store and how we can build the product selection to best serve our customer base. We will be hiring a couple of retail employees to help out during the busiest months. of April, May, June, July, August, etc.
Now for the fishing - the river has stayed in remarkably good shape for the past two weeks despite melting snowpack and a couple fo days of significant winter rain. The color of the water is very good, quite clear, and the flows are below where they would be on any average year. Anglers who have braved the roads to get to Maupin this winter have been greeted by a relatively empty (of anglers) river and some decent trout fishing. Today, for example, we have temperatures in the mid 40s, a bit of overcast skies, and not a breath of wind. This is the perfect combination of elements for a good blue winged olive hatch - which normally comes off sometime between noon and 1:00 PM and can last for ten minutes to two hours depending on the day. The blue winged olives are small - sizes 18 and 20 - and these insects will be most likely to concentrate in slick runs below rapids or riffles.
If you are ever fishing out here in the dead of winter and you want to fish that BWO hatch, the best plan of attack is to have a dedicated rod set up with a 6x leader and the tiny BWO already tied on and ready to cast. The hatch can be quite short-lived, sometimes only ten minutes of fish feeding, other times it can last an hour. If you are ready to fish right away when you see sippers, your frustration level will be greatly diminished.
What if you are all rigged up with your Euro-nymph rod and you don't have a second dedicated dry fly rod? Try this: put a bead head nymph on the very bottom of your Euro leader. Find the depth of the water that you are fishing and tie in a tag at that depth - maybe six feet up your leader. Be sure that tag is tied with 6X nylon tippet (nylon floats) and tie on a tiny BWO. The bottom nymph will give you the mass needed to cast the leader and the BWO should go for the ride nicely. You will then be fishing a dry BWO on the surface and the nymph will be controlling the speed of the drift, as it will be moving slowly along the bottom of the river. It can be tricky with such a tiny dry - but this same technique can come into play during the salmonfly hatch with a larger bug. Give it a try, and watch your Euro game take you to new places.
Of course, all sorts of nymphing techniques will work out here all winter. Euro-nymphing happens to be the most effective due to the way the nymphs are fished on the special Euro leader. The entire leader is of a very fine diameter, which makes it easy to get the nymphs down quickly, it allows the water to flow around the fine diameter of the leader, and the nymphs bounce along at the speed of the bottom of the river rather than at the much faster speed on the surface of the water. This gives the angler a longer drag-free drift and the trout more time to see those nymphs moving naturally in the current.
Indicator nymphing will also work for you, though your overall choice of flies should be heavier when indicator nymphing, or, be prepared to add additional weight like spit shot or tungsten putty to help get the flies down to the bottom. It is the diameter of the leader that makes it necessary to have heavier flies or to use additional weight. You need the additional weight to get the thicker portion of the tapered leader to cut through the water column.
Please be aware and keep in mind that the Deschutes River native redband trout are already starting to spawn. These native fish have a broad range of spawning times - from December through July, with the heaviest spawning activity taking place in April and May. What does this mean to you as an angler? It means that you need to use extra caution and care when selecting your fishing spots. If you are wading knee-deep on crunchy gravel and you are hooking fairly red or colored trout one after the next, it is highly likely that you are standing on a spawning bed fishing to spawning fish. What is the problem with that? Well, each crunch of your feet kills future generations of native trout. Also, each trout you hook is already fairly exhausted after spawning - so you are adding to their exhaustion. Simply playing one of these fish too long or holding it out of the water for a picture could spell the end of their existence. We don't want to negatively impact the future of our fishery, so please avoid spawning redds (gravelly areas with clean gravel and fairly shallow water).
Have a great weekend! We hope to see you on your next visit to Maupin!