Windy Weekend Report - Last Weekend And This One.
We had a very windy weekend March 20-21 in Maupin and it made the fishing tough for most folks. I drove the river road last Saturday and watched the real struggle with 15-20 mph sustained winds that gusted to 30 and sometimes 40 mph throughout the day.
At our house, the wind blew hard all night on Saturday night and into Sunday morning. John and I had plans to go out on the river for a fishing expedition on Sunday - one of our last days off of the year - but the cold March wind had us doubting if that was a good idea. However, I had made fishing plans with my friend, Jenny, and she was on her way to our place.
We packed the hot Thai curry (that I cooked that morning) into soup thermoses, put the rods on the rod racks, hooked up the boat, jumped into our waders, and drove through the blasts of cold wind down to Maupin. We had to stop off at the fly shop to grab a few things, helped out a couple of customers who didn't know that we were closed on Sunday, and we drove on down to the river.
We crossed the Maupin bridge and we could see the trees on the river were dancing. We turned left and drove 13 miles downstream to the Pine Tree boat launch, bracing ourselves for a cold windy day on the river. When we launched the boat it was dead calm. We knew the wind was going to reach us downstream eventually, but this was one of those days when the river just upstream from Maupin towards the locked gate had very different weather conditions than the river in the stretch between Pine Tree and Mack's Canyon.
With the boat in the water, we made our way downstream and stopped at a few choice spots. The fish were happy, and we were too because the wind didn't get nasty until after 4:00 PM and we had five great fishing hours before it reached us. We were ready to call it a day after putting so many trout in the net that day.
There were quite a few anglers out and about on Sunday, and more than a few people bombing up and down the dirt access road. The speed limit on the road is 20 mph, and the sheriff has a field day down there anytime he decides that the county coffers need filling. Most of the speedsters I saw flying down that road would have qualified for the $265 fine for going in excess of 20 mph over the limit.
Why would it bother me to see people driving so fast down that river road? Well, the main reason has nothing to do with the noise, or the dust, or even with the fact that I have seen several trucks go off the road and into the river (found a dead body inside a blue Toyota pickup on my first year of guiding the river - a story for another time). No, the real reason it bothers me to see so many people breaking the speed limit is that the access road is getting rough and washboarded early this year and the county will not be able to grade that road to smooth it out until sometime in November when we are past the fire season and we have a little moisture in the air. Because a few people cannot slow down and enjoy the drive, those of us that use that road daily will have to endure another year of broken axels, broken trailers, winches falling off, bunks falling to the roadside, wheels coming off, etc.
So, please, slow down and enjoy the drive. The more slowly you drive along the edge of the river, the more new fishing spots you will be able to observe.
So, let's talk fishing! Over the past week the fishing was pretty darn good on the days that weren't blowing 30-40 mph. Evan guided a few guys on Tuesday, and they put tons of trout in the net using both the Euro-nymphing technique and fishing with a dry-dropper set up. On our Sunday outing, we fished Euro-nymph style only and caught a ton of trout on small bead head Euro-nymphs. A lot of different patterns worked, but some were a lot more productive than others. Come on into the shop and I will show you the hot patterns.
The March Brown hatch is just getting started - Rhithrogena morrisoni - a fly that should have been named the April Brown on the Deschutes. This used to be a much bigger and more robust hatch than it is these days, but the managers of the dam complex have degraded water quality in the Deschutes so severely that this hatch has been devastated. Less than a dozen years ago, clouds of mayflies filled the air over the river in April and drove the trout nuts! Today, we are lucky to see a handful of March Browns in the mid-day, hatching in the broken whitewater and sailing downstream on the water waiting for their oversized speckled wings to dry. Evan saw a few dozen March Browns on Tuesday, so the hatch is finally getting started.
This is one of the few mayflies in the west that swims to the surface of the river with its wings already unfolded and trailing behind it. Soft hackle March Brown imitations are deadly in the weeks leading up to their emergence and continue to be deadly throughout the hatch. We have a couple of favorite March Brown soft hackle flies to show you. Come on in and check them out.
Cloudy days are always better for fishing mayfly hatches such as the March Brown or the ever-present Blue Winged Olive because they hatch out in greater numbers on cloudy days. Why? It is hard to know for certain, but one theory is that the Mayfly only lives for one day. They have no mouth to eat or drink with, but death from dehydration is a serious threat, so emerging on a moist cloudy day gives them a greater chance of living long enough to mate, molt, lay eggs, and complete the cycle of life. Another theory is that the lower atmospheric pressure of a calm and cloudy day makes it easier to break through the surface of the water. Whatever the reason they like the cloudy days, just know that the weather does have a huge impact on the quality of the hatch and the behavior of the trout.
Calm sunny days and calm cloudy days are both usually great for fishing, and we are supposed to have calm sunny days today and on Saturday. The weather on Saturday looks to be some of the nicest we have seen so far this spring, and with Washington and Oregon spring breaks overlapping, it is bound to be quite busy on the river. Everyone will really love the weather coming our way today and tomorrow. Sunday, on the other hand, is looking like it is going to be nasty. The wind advisories are already popping up on the weather app in my phone - so it may be a challenging day for fishing.
We have seen a handful of Skwala stones out and about as well as the slashing takes of the trout seizing the opportunity for a protein feast. We have been fishing the skwala dry flies with one or two Euro-nymphs trailing below the dry and that technique has proven to be nearly as effective as straight Euro-nymphing. The skwala stone simply takes the place of an indicator, it looks completely natural, and it is one more food item that might intice a vicious take from a redside.
One last story before I close it up and head to the fly shop for the day. I have a HUGE pet peeve, and that pet peeve soars into my life in the form of random mylar balloons that I seem to find too often in places that are sacred to me. Last fall, we were floating down the John Day River and I yelled out, "Stop the boat!" A startled and puzzled Alex pulled the boat over and I leapt out and started scurrying up the bank with my Gerber knife in hand and my eyes locked on a silver mylar balloon stuck in a hackberry tree. I cut it out, curly ribbons and all, and hauled it back to the boat to be carried off the river in our trash bag. On my next visit to the John Day, my mylar balloon karma resulted in steelhead hooked and landed.
A few Sundays ago, we bushwacked to one of our favorite spots and, lo and behold, there it was, a yellow mylar balloon in the tree next to the river. I crawled under the tree and carried that dirty (but shiny) dead balloon back to the garbage bag in the boat. A week later, I announced my mylar balloon karma as we returned to the spot where the balloon had been extracted. A few casts later, I landed an absolute beast of a fish standing mere feet from where the balloon had been.
The icing on the cake of my week was that I saw a gold mylar balloon stuck in the sagebrush on highway 216. This was the mother of all mylar balloons - it was massive. John had noticed it a few days before, as I had too, but we drove past it a few times in a hurry to be on time to open the shop. Yesterday morning, I stopped and unwound this huge balloon from the sagebrush and carried it to my truck. Lupine, my copilot, was not impressed. The shop got a little busy in the morning, so when I heard my cell phone ringing in the back room I had to let it go to voicemail.
After the customers had gone off to the river to fish, I listened to the voicemail and it was the call that I have been hoping for and waiting on - it was the Maupin Health Clinic. I had called them a few weeks ago to say that I could be at the clinic on any day in less than ten minutes - just in case they had a no show or an extra COVID vaccine. Well, my huge gold mylar balloon karma landed me something far better than a steelhead or a big trout - I got my first dose of vaccine yesterday!!! Such a wave of relief swept over me as I got the jab. I finally see a little light at the end of this long dark tunnel.
So, I am on the lookout for my next mylar balloon and actually looking forward to finding another one. Go out this weekend and find your own karma trash - maybe it's a mylar balloon, or a part of a flip flop, or an empty beer can on the side of the river. If you leave the river cleaner and nicer than the people that came before you, there is bound to be a karma fish waiting to reward you for your clean up efforts.