It was a good week around Sisters and Central Oregon. I practiced what I preached in previous reports and tried 2 new places this week, which has inspired me to plan to try 3 more new things in the coming weeks.
I hadn’t fished Paulina Lake since I was a little kid. In fact, I put it down as the inferior big sister of the 2 lakes in the Newbury Crater. I was wrong.
On wednesday after guiding 2 days at East, I headed to Paulina with a friend and had the luxury of riding in his boat and just fishing for myself for the day. It was magical in so many ways. More details below on the fishing and the flies and techniques, but I was so off base putting it down, and driving by the lake at least 300 times in the last 10 years that I’ve had a permit to guide those lakes. That old saying, if I knew then what I know now…
It kind of feels like cheating on your longtime partner, leaving East for Paulina and saying things like “it has a prettier shoreline” and “the fish are way less pressured, so they bite better!”. The great thing is CHOICE. Or timing. Or avoiding a crowd. Or exploring. Or looking at new scenery.
In any event it’s fun to try new things.
So, on Friday after the high of being at Paulina on Wednesday, a few of us from the shop headed to Cultus Lake to give it a go. I’ll start by saying it has the best boat ramp of any lake in C.O.
The fish were not big, but they were plentiful and we worked the edges of the lake and caught a bunch on Red Chubby’s and Nymphs. (details below)
The weather has been lovely, with no real hot weather yet, but it looks like the coming week is going to be a lot hotter. Wind has been a lot less than earlier in the summer but still blowing in the afternoons and evenings across the lakes and even here in Sisters most days. I am hopeful with the hotter days ahead the wind machine will calm down.
I never got to the Met this week, but talking the guys in the shop I heard the Metolius was good (but challenging) for matching the hatch. It was better nymphing (especially Euro style) and overall was the typical pattern we see mid summer in July. I would venture to say (as a general statement) that July is the toughest summer month with the least going on compared to June, August and especially September on the Metolius. Still plenty of fish to be had. Upstream on the headwater section to about Gorge CG there are good hatches of Golden Stones, yellow sally, PMD and Caddis. We’ve been doing well fishing the banks with Clark’s Stones and Norm Woods Specials, also running those around the upper river log jams. Euro Nymphing has been very productive up there.
From the Canyon down to about Candle Creek beyond the Fly Only Water at Bridge 99, there are good hatches of PMD’s, Caddis and Sally’s. There are also some BWO’s, mahogany duns, midges and a few larger stones that may become important on any given day. Nymphing with an indicator and a golden stone nymph with a dropper of a zebra midge or 2 bit hooker is highly recommended through here at this time. With the indicator rig you can cover some of the deeper runs and out farther from shore where you cant wade to get to the fish (at least I can’t).
There has been good bull trout fishing in this stretch too. The fish are aggressive to a swung streamer, but plenty are being caught on nymphs too. If you target BT on nymphs a Red Lightning Bug or Red Ice Cream Cone is great as well as a Soft Hackle Bead Head Pheasant Tail.
McKenzie River is probably our best/hottest guide trip option now. All of our guides are enjoying excellent days on the river and catching fish on Golden Chubby’s with a nymph dropper. Euro Nymphing is also very good over there now. Access for bank angling is tough, so a drift boat is going to offer the best angling opportunity by a long shot.
The Caddis Hatch on the Lower Deschutes is great. It doesn’t always mean the fish are eating them on top, so prepare with the Pupa deep and just under the surface and have a selection of emergers and caddis adults for the dry fly times. My friend Chester went Wednesday evening and Thursday evening after he left Crane Prairie with me and said the evening bank risers were active both nights.
Pale Evening Dun and Pale Morning Dun hatches have also been good, with Purple Haze, Yellow Sparkle Dun, Yellow Parachutes and Soft Hackles matching those hatches.
Euro and Indicator nymphing techniques have both been good.
The Middle Deschutes is fishing well from just above Bend down to Steelhead Falls and below to Lake Billy Chinook. It’s been good in the morning and evening with PMD, PED, Caddis, Rusty Spinners, Purple Haze, Euro Jigs and Perdigons.
Fall River is slower, I think the pressure is putting a lot of stress on the fish. Our guides and my friends are working hard for the fish, and catching some nice ones, but it is tougher than normal.
Ants, Beetles, PMD, Yellow Sally, (a few) Caddis, some midges and Blue Wing Olive hatches will be the menu. Euro Nymping with Jigs and Perdigons on 7x is an advantage.
Some days the fish are sulkier than others, and I guess it is mostly due to pressure.
Our guide team is reporting good fishing at the Crooked River mostly on nymphs, but as the afternoon shadows hit the water (keep in mind it can include a shadow from a tree that is only a small shadow) the fish will move into the shadows and eat the hatch that appears to be just hatching in the shadows. It’s a cool phenomenon that we see every summer on the Crooked.
It’s mostly PMD, BWO and some midges now, but keep an eye on Caddis and Rusty Spinners in the evening to dusk.
Copper John Nymphs were one of the best nymphs throughout the week for our guide trips. Zebra Midges, Micro Mayfly, 2 Bit Hooker, Perdigons and Skinny Nelson are great nymphs. Purple Comparadun, Sparkle Dun, Upright Rusty Spinner, Renegade, (small Royal Wulff) and X Caddis are great dry flies.
Crane Prairie was tough for me on Thursday. I heard they lowered the lake about 2 feet from the day before. It was certainly off and weird. Finally, later in the afternoon we found some fish on all black balanced leeches and saved the day.
Another friend was there this week and reported good fishing on Black Zebra Midges.
Damsels are hatching well and the nymphs are good. I’d also try floating an adult damsel on a slightly choppy day for those risers that come up and smack the surface intermittently.
East Lake was good this week. I was finding Callibaetis hatches on both Monday and Tuesday. Funny thing was monday was an afternoon hatch and tuesday was a morning hatch. Beetles are taking some nice fish along the shorelines. Damsels are hatching well, so nymphing the shoreline (wading is better than the boat as you can retrieve the fly in the direction the natural nymphs are moving which is towards shore to hatch). Chironomid fishing in 15 to 18 feet is good. Another good nymping tactic for us this week was a callibaetis nymph hung under an indicator at about 4 or 5 feet but fishing in 10 to 15 feet of water. Really caught some great fish with that, especially later in the afternoon.
Paulina Lake was wonderful this week. Started the morning with a Black and Red Zebra, then switched to a Red 2 Bit Hooker, Callibaetis Nymph and Olive Balanced Leeches. My friend Ron was on beetles and adult damsels most of the day and rose some nice fish on the dries.
Cultus Lake was pretty cool. Look, its not Crane Prairie or East but it is gorgeous and clear and the water was 65 degrees with active fish all over. But we were the only anglers on the lake with miles and miles and miles of shore line to fish. We caught a bunch of small rainbows to about 14 inches. Red Chubby’s with a Nymph Dropper (2 bit hooker was best) was incredible. Fishing Chironomids under an indicator was good along the drop off’s and around the log jams. I killed ’em on a Type 7 full sinking line with a balanced leech on the tag, with a chironomid dropper on the bottom tag and a Callibaetis nymph on the upper tag, casting along the drop off’s with about 25 feet of line out in 30 feet of water, (more line if it was deeper) and letting it stay tight on the drop, then going to a hang down, letting it sit for a bit waiting for a strike and then slowly hand twisting it back up towards the boat. The active nature of this type of nymphing is fun and you’ll get fish on the drop, the hang and the retrieve. Try it! I’m glad we did and we will be back.
Hosmer is crowded. Go early in the morning or the last 2 hours before dark. Damsels, Callibaetis, Ants, Traveling Sedge and Caenis are all hatching. I love Hosmer, but goddamn these crowds.
Three Creeks Lake is also incredibly crowded. What in the heck? When did it become the Paddle Board capitol of the 3 Sisters? Finding a parking spot is even hard. Fishing is good. I’d go mid-week and focus on evening, or go early morning and beat the crowds for the day. Leeches, Midges, Callibaetis, Black Caddis, a few Traveling Sedge and Ants have been good.