Treat yourself to a Big Bowl of Vegetable Soup!!
The past week has been a wild one, and the fishing has been all over the map for people. Some anglers are out there just killing it while others come into the shop disappointed and confused as to why they are surrounded by big bugs and unable to catch a single trout. The key is to be flexible with the patterns you are fishing and change your fly pattern often.
Since my last report, the weather lined up perfectly over the weekend to really get the stoneflies moving. We had temperatures in the 80s and up into the 90s over the weekend and that was exactly what the doctor ordered to get the stoneflies on the wing. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the evening skies along the river were filled with clumsy 3-inch long golden stones and salmonflies looking for a nice piece of river where they could land to lay their eggs (golden stones) or drop the eggs from the sky (salmonflies). The big bugs were everywhere.
On Monday morning a serious cold front rolled over the river and sent a lot of the stones scurrying to the deep grasses to ride out the cold weather. There were still a few bugs out and about in the morning, but the majority of stoneflies were nowhere to be found. Tuesday, Wednesday, and yesterday were windy and cold with off and on cloud cover. The sky is currently grey and heavy with clouds and, from where I sit as I write the report, I can see rain falling about 25 miles away to the east. According to the current weather forecast, the entire weekend is supposed to be cloudy with a slight chance of rain.
Anglers new to the sport might be reading this and asking themselves, what does all this weather have to do with the trout fishing? It has everything to do with the fishing. Every bug hatch on the river is based on water temperature, air temperature, and whether the sun is shining brightly or the clouds are dominating the desert sky. Here in the high desert, the clouds are somewhat rare and anglers should know that the very best fishing we ever see on the Deschutes coincides with cloudy days. Due to the forecast, I predict that the fishing this weekend is going to be epic.
Bring your boxes of big bushy stoneflies and salmonflies, because the trout in the Maupin area are 100% keyed into the big bugs. We had our hot days last weekend that really got the big bugs flying, we had the cold snap roll in on Monday that put the brakes on the number of stoneflies landing on the water, and we had some big winds all week that knocked a bunch of protein into the water to the waiting mouths of trout. With so few big bugs now crawling about, the trout around Maupin are in the unique stage where they have had their days of gorging on stoneflies and they are now almost in a panic about getting the last few stoneflies before the hatch is a wrap.
We have always said that the two best times for the salmonfly hatch are in the very beginning and in the end of the hatch. In the beginning the bugs are few and far between, so the trout are eager to annihilate them the second they hit the water. Near the end of the hatch, or when the hatch is stalled by cold weather as it is now, the trout have become fat and happy gobbling mouthfuls of easy to see and easy to grab protein. They are searching for any chance to grab another stonefly and the naturals are few and far between – which makes your chubby Chernobyl much more appealing to them than it was during the hot weather. So, by all means, bring your big bugs out to the river this weekend, but don’t overlook the many other hatches that take place all at once during this time of year.
Though the salmonflies get all the attention in May because they are the biggest and baddest bug on the river – they are not the tastiest or most desired morsel on the trout menu. A stonefly is like a baked potato – it is big and filling but far from exciting to eat. If you sat down to the table and ate baked potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a few weeks, you would certainly pack on the pounds. The trout have done just that over the beginning and middle of the hatch, but they are ready to devour any morsel of food with more pizazz than that bland old baked tater/salmonfly. Fortunately for the palette of our trout buddies, the waiter is headed their way with a tray full of steaks. The mayfly parade has begun.
Any longtime fly angler knows that the most memorable days of dry fly fishing are these cloudy overcast days that bring strong mayfly hatches. We are fortunate on the Deschutes to have a wonderful variety of mayflies. In the past few days my guides report to me that they have even been lucky enough to experience the mythical green drake hatch. Drunella grandis is the scientific name of the green drake that dominates the Deschutes. Once you positively identify this flying green sausage with wings, you will never mistake any other bug for the green drake. They are simply huge. Every meat-eater living in, on, or near the river wants a piece of this action. Gulls, flycatchers, geese, swallows, and many other birds will be feasting on green drakes whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is the filet mignon of the river.
The hatch typically occurs between 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM on an overcast cloudy or even a rainy day. It might last for mere minutes, barely giving you time to find the right pattern in your fly box, tie it on, and make a cast. On the perfect days, however, the green drakes will come off the water for hours and you will never forget being the lucky angler to experience the magic of this hatch. Trout absolutely lose their minds to eat green drakes. Fish that never leave the safety of the middle river depths will throw all caution to the wind to inhale as many drakes as they possibly can during the window of the hatch. The river can literally BOIL with trout if all the stars align and the drakes start popping. In my 21 years of guiding the Deschutes, without a doubt this hatch has created the most palpable memories.
One time, very early on in my guiding career, I was guiding three older gents. We had just finished lunch and had spread out in a spot that was littered with boulders and grass tufts and which happened to be a hundred yards below a rapid. Around 1:00 PM I saw a few trout explode on the surface. By 1:10 the trout were exploding all around us and we started to see hummingbird-sized green mayflies lifting off the water to the safety of the sky. This was the first mega green drake hatch I had ever seen and been a part of. I thought I was prepared because I had about 14 green drake dry fly patterns in my fly box, oh how wrong I was! With the biggest fish in the river blowing up on naturals all around us, the adrenaline rush was on and the clients were JACKED. It was difficult for them to be chill because I was so excited about what was happening all around us. My hands were shaking as I tied green drake dries onto each of their leaders. On every cast their dries got crushed by the biggest trout I had ever seen on the Deschutes – where were these fish coming from??? Wherever they came from they ran back to that place when hooked, taking the clients’ fly line and backing with them. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. Breaking off three flies at a time, it only took the clients about 15 minutes to burn through all 14 drakes in my fly box. After that, we tried every other mayfly pattern in the box and every other pattern that could remotely look like a green drake…..and the trout wouldn’t touch any of our offerings. For two hours we watched huge trout eat dry flies all around us – and we couldn’t buy one. It was unbelievably frustrating!!!! Since that day, I never go on the water in May or June without a box full of green drakes – I have at least 50 of them in my possession. Our drake bins are taking a hit, but we have plenty of backstock......
The number of insects on the Deschutes at this time of year is astounding. Not only do we have all the stonefly variations (salmonfly, golden stone, yellow sally), but we also have a ton of different caddis and a diverse variety of mayflies. On a cloudy morning you are likely to see Pale Morning Duns, Pink Alberts, and Mahogany Duns followed in the afternoon by Green Drakes in the early afternoon and finishing in the late afternoon with Pale Evening Duns. As John says over the counter to the customers, “It’s a great big bowl of vegetable soup out there right now!”
The salmonfly hatch isn’t over, but they will be taking a break during this cooler rainy weather. Be prepared with flies other than just your stoneflies and you will have a lot more success on the water this weekend.
Quick note - the Friday morning fishing report became a Friday afternoon fishing report as we have been super busy in the store today and I have barely had time to post the report that was 90% written between 5:30 AM and 7:30 AM this morning.. The intel so far from the customers fresh off the river is that the green drakes were popping all afternoon. They were out last night along with the Pale Evening Duns. Stop on in for the latest and freshest info!
WE HAVE TONS OF FLIES!!! I just snapped this photo of our stonefly dries - we are not running low. Make us your first stop and we will get you the right ammo!!
WE HAVE TONS OF LEADER, TIPPET, FLOATANT, ETC.