We’ve been enjoying a relatively mild midsummer weather pattern of late. Only in the last week or so has the temperature finally gotten downright hot. On the valley streams, the steelhead bite has been good.
At the same time, trouting has been reliably excellent in the cool of the mornings, with plenty of action on both dries and nymphs.
Summertime in Western Oregon: Paradise!!
June fishing has been very good at times, with mild temperatures and cool water conditions. Over on the McKenzie, the “breadside” trout fishing has been excellent, with action galore throughout the day.
In addition to the trout, the summer steelhead and spring chinook salmon are back in good numbers. As is typical this time of year, success has been hit and miss, with bright and brassy weather and lots of angler effort out there this early in the run. But every fish landed is a true trophy!
Summertime, and the living is easy!
After last year’s low warm water debacle, the 2016 summer steelhead return is looking great in the upper Willamette Basin. As of mid-June the summer count has already topped 10,000 fish, and we are seeing about 300/day ascending Willamette Falls fish ladders. All signs point to a solid season of swinging on the local waters.
We still have many prime dates available including some select openings in the Prime Time Season of September and October. Don’t delay. Now is the time to save a spot on the calendar for a date with a chromer.
The most anticipated fishing event of the early season is winding down as we segue into Memorial Day Weekend. This year’s Deschutes River salmonfly hatch lived up to its oversized reputation, and the fishing was outstanding from the first day out. After our first week of “pre-season” success with no one else around, the next week of the season found the inevitable “Pale Morning Dude hatch” in full force at the Trout Creek Put-in.
But the Deschutes is a big river, and while at times it can seem like there is an angler under every poison oak bush and alder tree, eventually the crowd thins out, and once again you find yourself alone with the canyon and its incredible trout.
Whether fishing the “hopper/dropper” in the heavy water, or crawling your big bugs into the darkest spider nests you can find, the fishing at this time of year is truly spectacular. Now as we look ahead to the summer delights of McKenzie Trout Fishing and what is shaping up to be a Great Return of Summer Steelhead (!), here is a sampler of images from the High Season in the High Desert. Enjoy!
The 2016 Deschutes River Salmonfly Hatch is underway. An early May three-day float with a crew of seasoned fly anglers found the big bugs out in generous numbers from put-in to take-out. We had expected to be fishing primarily nymphs this early in the season, hoping for some dry action towards the end of the float. But finding a profusion of bugs out with no one else around, we had our pick of the fishing spots, and nice fat redsides were ready to blast the surface in nearly every likely lie.
While the weather was a bit volatile (one day featured downpours, lightning, and some 50 mph wind gusts that upended the kitchen box and flattened Father Blackwell’s carefully engineered shelter), the fishing was steady throughout. It was great to be back camping with old friends in the canyon with a string of multi-day adventures laid out in the weeks to come.
Moving now into the latter half of April, fishing on the McKenzie has been just fine. With temperatures varying from unseasonably warm 85 degrees and sunny to some days in the mid-50s with rain showers, this is a dynamic time of year. Scott even had some guests tap out before the trip even started last week when they spotted a tornado en route to the river!
Nymphing has been the best throughout the late-mornings followed by decent if not spectacular mayfly activity in the afternoons. Each day, we see more diversity in hatches, and the fish are into a pretty wide range of offerings. And what a relief it is to have a reasonably normal flow after last year’s austere conditions.
Now home for the season from international gallivanting, it feels so nice to be back on the home waters! Looking forward to seeing you on the river!
Another amazing adventure in the Brazilian Amazon, this year over the holidays. It turns out, Santa Claus can find you even at the Equator! The best present this year was a cameo by my family for the last two weeks in the jungle. Obrigado, Papai Noel!
Here, in no particular order are some images for your consideration. Enjoy!
The 2015 Fall Salmon Season has been a study in extremes. In the mild weather of late August and September, fly fairies like us spent days off getting our hands stinky down in the bays, trolling plug-cut herring for ocean-fresh chinook and coho.
As the days got shorter and the weather changed to autumnal rains, effort shifted from the bays to the rivers. In between spates and blow-out conditions (see exhibit A, below), when the rivers turned that perfect shade of jade, kings were biting flies.
Timing is everything when trying to line up the fly-grab for tide-running Kings. When the elements align, however, the fish of a lifetime can appear at any moment. A case in point: last weekend, Fred and I made a three-day trip during waves of storm activity that blew out many coastal rivers. Forecasts varied enough that success would be no sure bet. We hoped for the rain to hold off long enough for the brown waters to transition to green. Lots of time watching movies and eating bad diner food ensued. But on our last morning, we found the rain had held off overnight, the river had dropped and started clearing.
We had the river to ourselves (more or less), the rain was light and intermittent, and for a few hours, the salmon gods were smiling. After hooking and landing 5 sea-liced chromers, we were both tired and sated enough for a leisurely float to the take-out. The glow of the day and a cooler full of fresh filets carried us happily through the white-knuckle drive home in torrential rain and powerful gusting winds. As the rivers blew out yet again, we were warmed by the thought of all those magnificent Kings, ascending the river and making it unmolested to their spawning grounds.
And that fish of a lifetime? Fred let him go. Although he and Fred were a bit more tired than they had expected to be, the great fish too got to continue his journey upriver to close the circle for the next generation.
We’re comfortably settled into our favorite time of year for summer steelhead action. The 2015 season has been distinguished by an unusually low return of steehead to the upper Willamette basin. But angler effort has remained commensurately low, meaning those who put in their swings have had the river to themselves.
All that being said, steelhead fishing has been steady. I can’t think of any full days out where we didn’t have at least one encounter with one of these incredible pelagic voyagers. Some days the planets aligned, and we ran into several, reminding us that hope and diligence are always rewarded. . . eventually. Striving for these moments is what steelheading is all about.
Floating through a broad tail out one afternoon, I happened to spot a bright fish laid up in particularly shallow glassy water. We landed the boat downstream. My guest, Will, and I grabbed his two spey rods: a dry line with a skater and a sink tip with a leech, and waded carefully back upstream to get into position to get the swing to the fish’s lie.
Beginning with the skater, Will worked out progressively longer casts until the fly was swinging through water that from our vantage appeared to be too fast to hold a fish.
“Here he comes!” I said, as a series of wakes rose up behind Will’s pulsing skater. The fish boiled the fly three times, finally opened its mouth, and sucked it in. Will tightened up, but the fish wasn’t hooked. The fly skated free.
“Holy S***!” Will exclaimed, giggling. “Did that just happen?”
“Let’s give him a wet fly,” I offered. My hands were shaking as I tied on a sparse White-Winged Blue.
The next swing through, the fish again pushed a wake behind the fly, again boiled the water, but didn’t connect.
The process continued. A larger Purple Spey got another chase this time with a solid grab, buzzing line from the reel, but again no hookup.
At this point Will and I were laughing uncontrollably. Could this fish still be in play?
A big black leech on the floating line received a less enthusiastic boil well behind the swing.
“Time for the leech on the tip,” I advised. After measuring the line length to match that of the floater, I swapped rods with Will. His first swing: nothing. A foot longer: nothing.
Three fruitless swings, and Will wondered aloud if the show was over.
“Give it one more,” I offered. “This one should be right in his face.”
About half way through the next swing, the line tightened up and came solid with a startled eruption of water that could only mean one thing: Fish On!!
After a spirited battle, Will landed and released the fish, adding an incredible memory to his (and my) steelheading archive. We’ll never forget the fish that rose to 5 different flies before finally closing the deal!