What a sad week for Oregon.
This will be such a different report from last Saturday, which was full of optimism and the joy of fall fishing to come.
While there is still optimism and days of joy ahead, let me take a second to say how sad I am to see the devastation all over Oregon with the fires that got out of control last Monday and burned through the North Santiam Canyon, the McKenzie River corridor, the North Umpqua, the Clackamas & Mollala River areas, the iconic Rogue River Valley and many, many more beautiful areas across Oregon. Places that in our lifetimes won’t ever be the same.
We are still anxious around here for what might happen on the Metolius, as to what the Lions Head Fire could do to Camp Sherman and the entire Metolius basin now that the wind has changed direction. The next two or three days are going to be very important to keep control of that and keep it from coming back towards Camp Sherman.
And now we have the smoke. Air quality in Oregon is terrible right now. We were lucky enough in Sisters that we had good air quality and a lot of blue skies until late Thursday afternoon when the smoke rolled back over the Cascades when the onshore winds came back to our more normal Pacific NW direction.
Speaking of smokey skies, I left Sisters in a thick smoke yesterday morning to go guide at Paulina Lake. I was pleased to see a lot less smoke up there than even down the hill on Hwy 97.
That was a tiny little blessing, but one we did not take for granted under the circumstances.
We have had a lot of cancelled trips this week and coming up for next week too. It is hard to blame folks for not wanting to fish in the smoke. We also understand with Hwy 22 and 126 closed (for who knows how long?) that it is harder to get to Sisters than it was a week ago.
But relating to driving over, this morning I drove my mom to Portland for her upcoming hip replacement later in the week. I picked her up in Bend about 7:30AM and took the Mt Hood route over and back to meet my sister for the “Ma” Drop Off. The road was good, traffic moved well and was generally light. It was safe and felt safe.
The reports are that the smoke should begin to clear in about two days, and that rain is in the forecast over much of the west side of the Cascades where the biggest fires devastated both forest and communities. We need that rain very badly right now, so if you are a praying type, pray, if you’re a put positive thoughts out to the universe type, please do! Maybe some of you do a rain dance? If so, do it.
Finally, many of us need fishing now as much as anything to sooth frayed nerves, anxiety and uncertainty. It’s therapy.
Water is known to be healing. It is for me and I know a lot of you feel the same. Being on the water is one part of it. Then, to use your skills to capture a nice trout, just to hold on to it for a moment and admire the beauty of it is the thing that usually makes me heal the best after tragedy affects my soul and heart. There is no doubt fishing heals me. How does it affect you?
I am going to do a quick summary of the fishing with a promise that I will offer more when the smoke clears, and more when it seems safer on the Metolius from that Lion’s Head fire, and more yet when the highways open again coming through the North Santiam and McKenzie drainages.
Those are all timelines no one controls today. But they will come in time and when it is safe.
I can tell you that yesterday 9/11/20 the smoke up at Paulina wasn’t too bad. The fishing was very good. There was a nice callibaetis hatch about 10 am to noon with a #18 Olive Haze working quite well for that. Also Black Beetles and Red 2 Bit Hookers were awesome. I like statistics and I am also fairly competitive. In short, I like to catch a lot of fish, and if I’m not the one with the rod in my hand I like my customers to catch a lot of fish. It clearly doesn’t always work so easily, but yesterday for the first three hours of the day I would guess our ratio of casts to fish were about 4:1. So every four casts my guy George was hooked up. Incredible.
I have no other info from any lake this week. It was so terribly windy that not me or any of my guide staff went to the lakes until yesterday. I imagine East lake to be similar to Paulina with smoke and fishing conditions and I know the last time I was there the Callibaetis had been outstanding and that fall hatch should be far from over.
I know our guides did well on the Deschutes this week despite the windy days. Here is a report given to me by a good friend from a trip yesterday near Mecca:
I was on the Deschutes at Mecca yesterday afternoon into the evening. It was so dark — I didn’t cast a shadow all day long. I had business in Madras, so I stopped by the river on my way home to Hood River. October caddis were everywhere, and the fish were on them from the start. The whole day was like the last hour of any other day.
The fish were in salmonfly spots — under trees, undercuts, along deeper Canary Grass banks, by rocks, etc….
The last half hour, the fish switched over to emerging caddis — size 16, size 20 and the October caddis. I hooked a very strong fish on a #16 soft hackle and ended up landing my biggest Deschutes fish of the summer — a measured 22-inch fish. I was trying out a new waterproof camera, and it made videos instead of photos. Sigh. Other fish were chasing October caddis soft hackles. I know pupa must have been in the drift because the boils got big and meaty. Two other anglers were on the river, and they were swinging for steelhead. —Chester Allen, Hood River, OR
I also know our guide team had some damn good action at the Crooked this week mostly on PMD dries and Nymphs.
So, until the smoke clears that is all I have. My heart is with Oregon and my dedication is to fishing and to our incredible FFP staff, friends, and customers.