On Sunday mornings, I get 2 emails. One is from UPS and the other is from ODFW. The UPS email is our weekly invoice which indicates one of 2 things. How many mail orders we got last week, or how many broken rods we sent back to get repaired.
The ODFW is of more interest, as last weeks invoice for license sales was one of the biggest of the year. That was surprising to me that so many people were out buying licenses in the middle of summer. Fishing is a great way to escape to the heat in a lot of places, and it is obviously a wonderful family or solitary activity.
Any way you approach it, we are glad you choose to do it around this place we love.
I am going to start this week talking about Steelhead. Why? Because in a week, on 8/15/22 ODFW will be lifting their emergency closures on the Lower Deschutes because enough steelhead have passed by the fish counter at Bonneville Dam to open the season for one month at least….
If another 21,000 wild steelhead pass Bonneville by September, then the season will last all year.
So, what does this mean? Is there an ethical view point to consider?
We think there is, and I want to talk about that now.
We understand the desire to go fish the Deschutes for steelhead after it was closed all of 2021 due to a very poor run.
We missed the early dawn swings through some of those runs and tailouts too. Executing the perfect spey cast, the rhythm of the swing, and of course the strong tug when a steelhead comes tight to the fly.
All of that said, we want to encourage our friends and customers to really look at the big picture and watch weather and water temperatures over the weeks the season is going to commence. It looks like there is a cold water release at Pelton/Round Butte and that is great. But by time it gets to the Columbia water temps are at times over 70 when we get really hot days, and there is no way any angler should be putting themselves in a position they might release a wild steelhead in that water. Make 66-67 the cut-off temperature.
So that is first.
Then, if you do decide to go, and you’ve checked water temperatures to make sure its in the safe zone, think about your tackle and gear and how you can ethically play a steelhead (wild or hatchery) in the least amount of time so when the release of that fish is over, you can walk away being pretty sure that fish has a darn good opportunity for survival to make it to the spawning grounds.
Fish a 7 or 8 weight single hand rod, or 6 or 7 weight spey rod. Use a smaller barbless hook. Bump tippet to 10 or 12# Maxima and fight the fish smart and fast. Use a net to cradle the fish at landing and keep them in the water without the need for a hero photo.
Finally, go with a goal. Is 1 fish enough for the day? Personally I think I could walk off the river with a single steelhead and be really happy for the rest of the week for that matter.
I posed this question to our very thoughtful FFP guides Steve Erickson and Troy Leedy earlier this week. We decided that it would be a smart thing to wait and see if those additional 21,000 fish do end up passing Bonneville, and to wait to do any specific steelhead guide trips until we see a greater number of fish, plus cooler days and cooler water and more of an assurance we will be fishing with as much respect as possible for such special fish.
So, stay tuned. Perhaps September, October and November will be a return to some good guide trips going after steelhead on the Deschutes again.
We know people will have different views on this, and that is ok. This is our view for now and if this resonates with you, great. If you want to go down and really get after them next week, all we ask is you watch temps and up your tippet size and use a net.
Trout action on the Lower Deschutes though the Warm Springs to Trout Creek section remained good to very good last week, mostly because of nymphing, but at times because of some decent caddis hatches.
Our team was again finding fish using big bead jigs and perdigons.
There were moments of swinging soft hackles that found some nice trout too.
Trout Spey with sculpins and leeches and soft hackles will definitely pick up some fish and gets you the big tug..
The Metolius is seeing a really good run of Bull Trout coming up from the lake. These fish will be around well into the Fall, so get your streamer game on soon.
PMD and BWO’s are the primary hatches of mayflies at this time. In the next week or 10 days we ought to see a mayfly called an Ameletus begin hatching for a couple of weeks in mid to late August. They often are mistaken for the lesser green drake (Flav sp.) and are similar in size and color and also have 3 tails. They are about a #14 hook and look meaty when we’ve been used to seeing smaller PMD and BWO ‘s all summer.
Plenty of Caddis out too. Looking ahead, I’d guess this week or next the clouds of little tan Micro Caddis will appear around the Hatchery stretch. Do you have #18 and 20 tannish yellow caddis to match this important hatch?
Golden Stones remain important, especially around Camp Sherman. Clarks Stones and Norm Woods Specials are the 2 flies we prefer to match the hatch on those big fella’s.
The Middle Deschutes is a good bet around the Steelhead Falls area, and times right all over the Bend, Tumalo and Terrebonne areas too. Look for BWO and PMD and Pale Evening Dun hatches, mixed with Caddis in some areas. Euro nymphing the riffles and runs will be your best method overall, but those hatch times can be really special for dry fly fishing.
Tumalo Creek from Skyliners to the Falls is a fun little small stream for summer. Renegades, Adams, Ants and Caddis are some of my favorites, and I often bring my Tenkara rod up there to play with those small wild trout. You may also want to try it out through the Shevlin Park area, especially going up to the end of the park in the group picnic spot and hiking up from there. Fish can be skittish in the pools so approach softly.
Whychus Creek from Alder Springs to the Deschutes is another good summer and fall small stream. Its a trek in there, so bring water and be prepared for being in a remote area of Central Oregon. Really.
Stimulators, Parachute Adams, Hoppers, Caddis and small nymphs are all good. I would also have a few small streamers because this area holds some good browns and a few bull trout too.
The Upper Deschutes Headwaters Stretch is flowing hard and cold and is fishing pretty good for whitefish and some trout. Euro Nymphing is really good. I’ll say again that packing a float tube to the Blue Hole is a fun way to approach a small part of this upper river area. The rest of it is wade fishing but be prepared for tough walking around the banks due to all the down lodgepole pines laying on the ground up there.
The Upper North Santiam is a winner from a few miles upstream of Marion Forks down to at least Pamelia Creek, if not all the way to Detroit Lake. Once that river takes on Pamelia and Whitewater Creeks it gets a lot bigger, but the fishing is still good and worth while. We held a Euro Nymphing clinic here a few days ago and the guys from the Central Coast Fly Club had a blast with Joey and Tonn.
The Fall River is good, go early and late to avoid some of the rush. Euro techniques with nymphs and streamers is working best for us. Look for PMD, BWO, Rusty Spinners, Olive Caddis, Midges, Hoppers, Ants, Beetles and Yellow Sally’s on any given day to get fish looking up.
The Crooked River is also (still) good. Water level is 179 today. No word on when it is going to 10, but I hear the end of the month. I know people are still fighting for something better than 10 until the Habitat Conservation Plan minimum of 50 takes effect in October. I’d sure like to see more of our local fly clubs, Trout Unlimited and our Conservation Groups be more vocal on the matter. Where are you?????!!!!!
PMD and Mahogany Duns are the primary hatches. Hoppers can be fun here in August.
Nymphing perdigons and zebra midges is producing a lot of rainbows and whitefish.
The McKenzie continues to be most of our float trip guides favorite place to guide on any given day. Caddis, Stones, bigger yellow mayflies are bringing fish up to the surface, and nymph fishing is pretty darn good any other time.
I am very excited to be going to the Mac on a guide trip with my friend Mike and our guide Ben next week.
The Lakes are mostly just fair at the moment. A bit of the summer doldrums is what I saw and heard about this last week. All the lakes are in the middle of callibaetis where all stages will be important. Damsels too, and do not forget to add nymphs and adults to your box. Many of the lakes get a black caddis #16-18 that emerge in the evenings. X Caddis and Soft Hackles (orange or purple) match that.
Leeches, Dragonfly Nymphs, Chub imitations, 2 Bit Hookers, Chironomids and Scuds are all potentially important this time of year.
Standout lakes in my mind for this week are East and Paulina.
East is seeing the best callibaetis of most lakes in the region.
Paulina water temperatures were good last week at about 66 for day time highs. It was my slowest week there this year, never really finding any one thins that set a trend. Friends Michael and Andy found similar experiences in discussions on the lake. Some chironomids, some beetles, some callibaetis as long as it is calm and flat.
Hosmer is ok, especially on the Upper Lake. Callibaetis, Damsels, Chironomids and a better than average chance of big Traveling Caddis in the evening if you can go late.
Crane Prairie is ok, look for cold water in the channels and get your balanced leeches on the bottom. Chironomids, Zebra Midges & Blobs are also recommends.
3 Creeks Lake is still one of the best in the region. Thanks to elevation, a good snow pack and cold creeks running in to it. Callibaetis, Black Caddis, Leeches and Red Ice Cream Cones are tops.
I am curious if any of you have been to Sparks Lake this year. In the early summer there was SO MUCH water running in to it, it has a lot of water it seems. I’d like to go. It’s been a long time…. Nice Brook Trout and Cutty’s there too.
I’ll be in the fly shop Monday 8/8 after my morning dentist appointment. If you’re around Sisters stop in and say hello. The rest of the week I’ll be in the boat.
See you on the water!