Opening Weekend Fishing Report 4/23/23

It’s kind of a weird “opening weekend” of fishing season this year because the only thing that really opened was the Lower Deschutes in the Warm Springs to Trout Creek run. The lakes and reservoirs that we are normally so excited for are still snowed in, and in many cases still iced over. I’ve lived here for 53 years and 49 weeks of my life, and I just can’t ever remember a year when Crane and Wickiup were not fishable on opening day. How about some of you other old timers out there that read this report? Can you recall a year when Crane Prairie was still iced over on opening day and had 3 feet of snow on the ground at the ramps? I truly look forward to hearing your answers..
To me it’s almost like Santa didn’t come this year.
Opening Day is such a ritual. It is such a special event and marked on the calendar of all passionate anglers each year. It is the type of day that can lead to restless sleep the night before. The kind of thing that creates days or weeks of preparation of the boat and gear. I used to know a guy that celebrated opening day each year by buying himself a new fly rod. Seriously. Every year.
I miss opening day this year.

To have at least a small celebration of Opening Day, I am going to start this weeks report on the Lower Deschutes and head to Warm Springs/Mecca/Dry Creek/ Trout Creek. It’s all OPEN baby! Hooray.
Don’t forget your boaters pass if you float the river, and don’t forget the Warm Springs Tribal Fishing License if you plan on fishing the reservation side of the river, and know where their boundaries are for allowing you to fish their lands. As a reminder they are from the fence line at Dry Creek to Trout Creek. Every year we see people anchored up on the reservation side way up river from Dry Creek and they are always clueless when they say “but I bought the permit”.
There is no doubt you’ll want to put both black and golden stonefly nymphs on your nymphing rig this week on the lower D! No matter what section you’re on, the reality is the hatch is coming and it’s coming soon. The nymphs are moving towards shore and the fish know it.
March Browns and Caddis (both in the #14 range) are the main 2 dries to look for. The cool kids know that swinging a Hares Ear Soft Hackle in a #12-14 is a good way to double up for matching the emergers of both!
Look for PMD and Pale Evening Duns to happen really soon.
A plethora of nymphs are on the suggested pattern sheet for the D, but caddis pupa, soft hackles, perdigons, jigs, hares ears, soft hackle PT, rainbow warrior, zebra midge and squirmy worms.
Trout Spey friends, it is your time to shine with soft hackles, leeches and sculpins. Perfect your D loop and smile. It’s a swing and tug!

The Metolius is fishing pretty well, hatches are okay, but not stellar every day. Nymph action remains very good. There were a lot of caddis hatching this week, including yesterday when I was on the water from about noon to 3.
BWO’s remain the top mayfly hatch in the cycle, with some smaller cinygmula’s mixed in, so you’ll want olive #18 and yellow #16 emergers, cripples and duns.
The caddis that I saw this week most predominate were gray #12. The October Caddis are about kaput until September when we see the earliest big orange caddis hatch again for the Fall and Winter season. But right now, we are ready to put any thoughts of winter behind us and it is time to only think about warm spring days and good hatches that are coming on stronger by the week. To round out your caddis selection this week add some pupa and adults in tan, grey and olive #12-18. This time of year we recommend Corn Fed Caddis, Missing Link Caddis and Iris Caddis for the dries, and a Prairie Dog Pupa is one of our new favorites on the nymph side because it is a lot like the famous Sparkle Pupa our her Gary Lafontaine invented in the 80’s but the Prairie Dog adds a Tungsten Bead and some other cool features.
A variety of Euro Jigs and Perdigons are working well, but in general a 3.5 mm bead or bigger to get the drift you need is the best bet. #14 to #16 Perdigons in Olive or Brown, and a Walts Worm in dark or light, and eggs will serve you well.

The Crooked River is back in shape after last weeks planned flow bump increase to encourage steelhead smolt to migrate to the fish trap at Lake Billy Chinook. I have opinions on this subject but will save that for another blog and focus on the trout and whitefish fishing on the Crooked now. The river levels today are down at 112 cfs. The reservoir has filled to nearly 60% (!) and a good flow keeps coming to continue filling Prineville Reservoir. Someone said there is a still a lot of snow to melt in the Ochoccos and that is awfully good news for redband trout and whitefish in the Crooked River.
Because the reservoir is filling up on to banks that have not seen water in quite a few years, it is muddy as heck. Some of that is washing downstream at the dam making the Crooked turbid. This is not bad for fishing so on days it seems worse, go up a fly size, use a bright beaded fly or fluorescent bead, a flashy rainbow warrior or lightning bug, and definitely swing either a black wooly bugger or an olive wooly bugger in the deeper runs (it doesn’t have to get real deep, you’re just looking for runs that don’t have weed beds so shallow for this technique)

The Fall River is fishing well and access to the Tubes/Falls is totally fine now, so that will help spread the angling pressure around a little bit. Keep in mind ODFW changed the season below the falls to the later trout opener so everything below the falls opens May 22nd now.
Hatch activity has been good on the river, with BWO #18 and Midges #22-24 and Caddis #14-18 all important. There have been some March Browns hatching too, so be ready for that with a MB or #14 Olive or Purple Haze is a good match the hatch fly there too. A Purple Hippie Stomper is a good early season dry on the Fall, and we recommend giving it a skitter for the best results.
My guide team have been doing their best work on little jigged streamers. Eggs, Zebra Midges, 2 Bit Hookers and Perdigons are good nymphs to back up the streamers.

The Middle Deschutes from Bend to Lake Billy is in good shape and seeing a good hatch of March Browns #14. Oddly, when I was there a week ago today the hatch was magnificent but no fish were rising. We did well on perdigons though! My friend Damon sent me a photo a gorgeous Brown on friday he caught on the dry fly and said the fish were coming up to the hatch quite well.
The MB’s are coming off about 1 to 3.
With warms days ahead look for PMD’s and PED’s to start up, and increasing caddis hatches too.
River levels came up a little this week, but remain in good shape. I suspect we may see some fluctuations in the water levels going up and down 20 or 30 cfs with irrigation demand increasing with warmer weather this week. We may also see some decent runoff coming down tumalo creek in the days to come, so let’s watch that and see if it has any affect on the Deschutes.

The McKenzie is in good shape now, the river levels are a little high and cold but very fishable. I am worried what the next week of warm weather is going to do to the McKenzie and Santiam and other rivers in that Willamette drainage. There is a lot of low elevation snow, and even more high elevation snow and when the warm sun hits by mid-week, the rivers are going to surge.
I can tell you that my guide Steve and his gal Judy had a good day of streamer fishing there last week on a float near Blue River. Some March Browns were up, but they stuck to the streamers with good success. I’ve heard March Brown action is better down near Springfield and Eugene.

As of 3 days ago the resort at South Twin Lake shows the lake as still frozen over and a lot of snow on the banks.
Crane Prairie was also still iced over and has a lot of snow in the parking and launch area near the resort.
My guess is another 10-12 days and we will have some access to these lakes.
Lava and Hosmer are a long ways out I am sure.
Paulina and East Lake are frozen and snowed in too. I can’t imagine how much snow there is to melt before we get up there. Writing that makes me a little sad, but I certainly see the bright side to it as well. I wonder how much the water level will increase at East Lake this season (if any)? I would love to get my big boat launched there again this year.

So…. you got the jones for a lake? need to see the bobber down? Justesen Ranch is our place. 8 lakes, most $140 per day (Big Lake is $150) p/p. Chironomids and Leeches so far, but warm days ahead will certainly bring damsels and callibaetis to the available options menu.
Call me, we can find you a day for sure. Lot’s of folks going out as a single angler lately. Fish are in great shape and the water is gorgeous.

Lake Billy Chinook saw some improving action on flies this week. It was nice to hear from a few people at the shop who didn’t get skunked (like I did). Seems like leeches and smaller baitfish streamers are the juice, and definitely some good indicator fishing to be had in the right places. I am looking forward to going back soon.

Any interest in joining us in Belize after Thanksgiving? Or Chile in February? Contact Jeff for some details and prices.

It’s a fishy world out there, let’t get after it.

See you on the water,


2 thoughts on “Opening Weekend Fishing Report 4/23/23

  1. Fantastic report!! I was born in oregon and lived there for 62 years. I now live in Battle Ground and still buy a non resident oregon fishing license. This is the latest spring I’ve seen. My go to rivers for opening day were North Santiam river and Deschutes and later the Crooked river. I’m very excited to see the Crooked river coming back. I wouldn’t be surprised if it hits 65% full, I hope this late spring and more water will translate to cooler water for the Deschutes. Would love to hear about your thoughts on Steelhead in the Crooked River.
    Randy Dickson

  2. Thanks as always Jeff for the thorough writeups and fly patterns to consider. Will be back in Sunriver late May, anticipating a little time for the Fall and the Metolius. Will stop by for supplies!

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