So it comes to pass that I am back in the homewaters during the best time of year for catching big Redside Trout in Central Oregon. Casting huge bugs to a lot of great fish on the Lower Deschutes is just about as much fun as it gets. Yes, it’s Salmonfly time here in Central Oregon. This hatch is world renown for the size of the bugs and fish that love to destroy them, but like anything else we do in this crazy world of fly fishing, it has to be timed correct for you to take full advantage of it.
This past weekend I spent about 4 days cruising the banks checking out the hatch and trying to see if my timing was on or off this year. With the record heat we had all winter, I knew it was not going to be a normal hatch – but nonetheless I decided it was time to park the bus at Mecca Flat and see what the situation was. I broadcasted around town about heading down there hoping to meet up with friends and meet a few new people.
This section of river is very popular for the day trips from guides and outfitters found throughout Oregon, and the campsites can fill up quickly as well which means you have to know where to go to get into water that doesn’t see a whole lot of action. With my trusty iPhone app I discovered that the flows were considerably lower than normal and the temps were just about right to trigger the big bugs to start hatching. So me and the dog packed up the bus for an opportunity or two.
When the water hits about 56 degrees in the Deschutes it becomes just about perfect for these bugs to become actively searching and crawling out from the stones in the river bottom. When the air temps reach the mid 70’s they start hatching and flying around – so with a little bit of a breeze they end up in the water and the fish start going bananas over them. However, when the water is this low – the banks are not deep enough to hold the bigger fish, so it creates the issue where you will have to cast further out into the middle of the river channel to find the big guys. Or find a deep eddy somewhere that they can cover in and stay cool.
That being said, I like to trek pretty far down from the campground to find spots where long casts can be accomplished and find some deep pools to swing top water flies and run some nymphs through when the action on top slows down. Once you figure out what’s really happening in the water and air temperatures, you can find yourself in a pretty good situation.
Camp is set up and I’m in the middle of arranging my boxes an prepping for the morning when a truck drives in and the guy driving is wearing one of H&H Outfitters very cool “STLHD” hats. You can pick on up at a 20% discount by clicking the ad in the blog and using that code when you buy – in case you didn’t already know… Back to the truck though!!! The guy asks if I was leaving since he didn’t see a tent set up anywhere, to which I said no – and that the rest of the camp was full. I then offered him some space at the camp since it was just me and the dog.
Jumping at the chance, John and Alice Sternal end up taking up residence for the evening and I learn that we have other mutual friends out there in the fishing community. Alice is in with the troutporn.com crew and also knows quite a few of the ladies out there who are changing the face of the male dominated fly fishing world. Stoked to meet them both and hear more about how Alice is becoming more and more involved with the larger issues facing our many waters here in Oregon.
Brett Davis shows up a couple hours later and gets his tent set up quick – and we all make conversation around the fire. The conversations revolved around kids, family issues, taking in new dogs from rescue groups and eventually back around to the fishing plans for the next morning.
Interesting conversations of what the flows on the Deschutes have been modified to over the past few years, along with temperature changes, and of course the consequences to the system and the hatches were also talking points throughout the evening until we figured out it was nearly 1am and time to hit the sack.
It’s great that I have taken all the time I have to learn more about the different stakeholders, the studies, and the science behind my favorite time of year down on the Lower Deschutes. It’s also very cool that I get to share all that information and even allow myself a little rope to come up with what I consider some interesting conclusions to the condition of the river and the fishery with so many people on a frequent basis.
Some times it hits a brick wall, and sometimes people walk away a little more educated and perhaps with a different perspective on those issues. The morning was coming soon, and into the bus for the evening for yours truly with my trusty space heater Dannyboy in tow. The clear night shining bright starry skies through my windows and the cool crisp air playing a melody of chirping crickets is how I fall asleep tonight.
Waking the next morning and observing the remnants of a decent amount of beer and whiskey was indeed drained the previous evening, I got put together for the days fishing, grabbed some granola bars for the day, pounded a five hour energy – and hit the trail down river. Leaving behind the sleepy heads who were barely getting started, needing their coffees, and some water to get them back into shape – we parted and talked about where to hook up down river.
Knowing it was going to be a busy day on the river, I always head to the furthest point I want to fish and then work my way back up. That being said, I also know well enough that you have to take advantage of the hatches as they present themselves. This morning there was a very good caddis hatch and I stopped every so often to take advantage of rising fish. But the caddis hatch wasn’t why I was here – I was here to sling big bugs for big fish.
Traveling around Central Oregon and becoming friends with many of the guides and shops found around these parts, many of them stopped by my favorite spot to say hi and take their clients onward to wonderful fishing. Sharing data on the water is the best way to make friends I think. Nothing brings fisherman/women together quicker than sharing good relevant data.
Thinking on this a while and after getting into more and more fish as the days moved on, I started considering some of the major items that are going on with this wonderful water and all the great people who are working hard to create a brighter future for these places.
Having access to as much data as anyone would ever need, speaking with as many experts as I have over the past 7 years, I can feel pretty confident in making some statements about the Deschutes Basin:
One: The mix of wild and hatchery fish in our systems becomes a huge mess when we are trying to come up with creative ways to stabilize our fisheries and also offer great fishing throughout the basin.
Two: The man-made obstacles that we created along the way when taming this wild area of the west are all coming under attack – not just for the sake of creating better fisheries, but also to help bring our economy into shape.
Three: Trout Unlimited has a very unique role in making all of this possible.
Four: More help is needed on all fronts to be part of the processes that are required to make this all a better place to live and fish.
So the question always comes back to “How can I help?” Whether I am asking this of myself, or others ask it of me – the simple answer is “Do what you can, when you can, and in the best way you can. Most of all – YOU HAVE TO COMMUNICATE THE NEED.”
I recently posted on Instagram a short video where I put it to those who were listening, “Contact me if you want to get involved.” That is all I asked. There was recently a survey performed by Trout Unlimited in Oregon, Washington, and California where members were asked a very simple question, “Would you be willing to take on a leadership role with the organization?” To which 50% of the respondents between the age of 18 and 55 responded “Yes”.
So again, I ask you – what are YOU ready to do? Can you bring coffee to a meeting? Greet people at the door? Set up a movie night at a local venue? Perhaps have a fly tying or casting instruction at a local watering hole? How about a simple river cleanup? Throw a BBQ fundraiser? Have a bunch of kids seine a stream and show them the bugs that live there? How about leveraging your social media skills to broadcast the message? Can you build a website and keep it updated?
There’s no limit to what you can do!! All you need to do is ask!! If you need help finding out who you need to contact – just email me through the website and I can certainly get you pointed in the right direction. The key here is to start small and work toward bigger issues – not the other way around. I hope some of you contact me, and even better than that – take some time to give back however you can to the places we go to be and feel free.