Mysteries of the River Ghost

Mysteries of the River Ghost

Happy Halloween!

The ghosts of the river are now quite spread out in all sections of the Deschutes. No matter where you decide to swing your flies, you are swinging those flies over steelhead. Now, whether or not that steelhead eats your fly is another story. 

Why do steelhead eat flies at all? This is a question oft asked of us at the store. I don't claim to know the answer to that particular question, but I think (after watching so many steelhead eat flies during my years of guiding) that they grab flies out of curiosity or out of instinct. Some people think that the fly "pisses them off" when it swings in front of their face, but most of the steelhead I have seen eat the fly actually made an effort to get to the fly. Some steelhead charge the fly while others swim slowly up to the fly and follow it for quite a ways as it swings. I think that the "cat with a ball of yarn" analogy is the best description of steelhead behavior when it comes to chasing flies. The cat doesn't care about the color of the ball of yarn - nor does the steelhead care about the color of the fly. Sure, there seem to certain colors that steelhead can see better in certain conditions, and we all have certain colors that we have faith in, but the color of the fly is not of as much importance as the movement of the fly. A fly that moves through a good piece of holding water at a nice seductive speed is the most likely fly to get the grab. Just as a cat is much more likely to pounce on the ball of yarn when it is moving at the perfect seductive speed than if it is moving quite quickly or even quite slowly - steelhead seem to feel the same way about the fly. 

I have watched steelhead swim up to eat the fly only to have the angler make a big mend in the line, causing the fly to jerk and causing the steelhead to drop away from the whole situation. I have seen steelhead rush to a fly only to miss it (intentionally? not sure) and cause a huge boil on the surface of the water. These fish sometimes will eat the fly on the next presentation, but they often will sulk and not eat anything you offer.

I don't think anyone knows exactly why steelhead eat flies, but we sure are glad that they do!

We are still fishing floating lines for steelhead - water temps are still in the mid 50s and that is ideal for floating lines and skaters. The fish are distributed fairly widely throughout the entire river system, with slightly higher concentrations of steelhead below Sherar's Falls since more of the spawning tributaries are located in that section of river. Fishing sink tips is fine right now if that is all you have, I just find it is more fun to fish Scandi lines. They are so fun to cast. 

Trout anglers are having a blast out there. The trout are happily feeding on nymphs of all varieties, bright hot colors seem to be working as well as the more natural representations of mayfly and stonefly nymphs. A pink bead on the fly is a good addition to what might otherwise be a natural pattern. We have a lot of pink bead flies to choose from in a variety of bead and hook sizes. We also have all the fly tying materials to create your own flies - we beef up the selection of fly tying materials at the beginning of the cold season. 

Traffic on the river usually thins out as the colder days of November roll in. Things get quiet around Maupin, the hotels have winter rates, the restaurants are down to a skeleton crew, and we get time to get certain projects done. Since most of our staff (Ben, Evan, and Nick) left to seek greener pastures elsewhere, we are enjoying the good old days once again. We do not have any shop employees to pay all winter long - something that we always did in order to help the guys have year-round employment and a steady income. It is nice not to have all of the expenses of a full crew - no more huge payroll checks to write or workman's comp to pay for. Funny thing is, we are not really working any harder without the employees here. So, things are really working out on that front. 

We will be looking at hiring a new shop employee in the spring - sometime in March or early April. If any of you anglers out there have ever considered making fly fishing your career, there may be no better place to do so than Deschutes Angler. The beauty of working in the shop is that you have days off to fish and you can fish before and after work for much of the year. The river has a fabulous trout fishery year-round and steelhead add the spice for about 6 months out of the year. Maupin is an amazing place to live and an excellent place to build up a nest egg - since there isn't a lot of stuff to spend your money on around here. Feel free to drop off a resume if you are interested.

The weather looks great for the foreseeable future - a few clouds will keep the steelhead looking up all day long. Today it is sunny and warm with a little bit of haze in the air in the form of smoke. 

Have a fun and Happy Halloween! We hope you encounter a ghost or two. 



  • Great post Amy. Out of curiosity, I know its weather dependent but are you usually still fishing (steelhead or trout) the first half of December? I know the timing is not great but I’ve had to take most of the year off and I am finally back to a place where I can get back on the water.

  • If you like cats of any kind and you love the iron hunt, you gotta appreciate Amy’s Mysteries of the River Ghost. Inspirational photo!

  • great info! been a busy month but I’ll be back on the big river today!

  • Thanks, Amy. Your observations are about what I have found in the past. Hope to get over soon before the snow flies.

  • Thank you for the report, Amy. Happy Halloween and tight lines


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