June Chrome!

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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.

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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.

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2016 Deschutes Salmonfly Report: Part Deux

IMG_6458The 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.

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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.

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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!

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2016 Deschutes Salmonfly Report

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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.

IMG_6174IMG_6161IMG_6088IMG_6192While 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.

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IMG_6116It’s time to dust off those spiked wading boots.  The hatch is on!

Spring Fishing in Full Swing!

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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!IMG_0652

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.IMG_5985

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!

 

Holiday Visions from Brazil

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!

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2015: Season of the TYEE

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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.

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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.

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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.

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October Steelhead Swings

IMG_3544We’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.

IMG_3656All 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.

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IMG_3570IMG_3674IMG_3583IMG_3551IMG_3673One memorable encounter illustrates:

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!

IMG_3565As we float into the latter half of October, steelhead opportunities continue.

IMG_3655IMG_3640Meanwhile, trout fishing has been excellent at times (of course) lately.

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IMG_3677But that’s another story. . .

 

September in Oregon

Taking a sabbatical from Mongolia this season has been a mixed blessing.  Hearing the reports trickling out of camp over there (Ganzorig got a 54-incher…, etc) it is hard not to miss it.  But at the same time, it has also been simply wonderful to be home.

The McKenzie continues to fish very well, with daily hatches bringing plenty of wild trout to the surface.

This past week, I got to reconnect with some old friends on a 4-day drift through the Deschutes Canyon in search of spey-rod steelhead.  My dad joined the trip to round out the party, and the swing was on.

Although the catch rates were, shall we say, “less than spectacular,” the trip was a complete success.  We were reminded daily how special these times on the river are for everyone involved.  Chuckboat2015Cougar2015Lynn2015FredMiltFish2015Jim2015MiltPano2015When you have the river to yourself, it’s almost easy to forget that you’re actually trying to catch a fish!

McKenzie Trout Action Heats Up as Weather Cools

IMG_3064With cooler nights and longer shadows on the river, fall is in the air.  The wild Redside trout on the McKenzie have noticed.  Fall drakes have been hatching daily, leading to some excellent dry fly fishing for actively rising trout.

JSRedside2015IMG_3103 - Version 2Meanwhile steelhead numbers continue to underwhelm.  That being said, we’ve managed to run into one or two now and then.  And the fish that have returned seem to be running larger than usual this year.  Here are a couple of whoppers caught by 16 year-old Jacob on his annual outing with his Grandpa.

IMG_2926IMG_2950Looking forward to the first Oregon September since 1994!  See you on the water.

 

Fly Fishing Through the Mid-Summer Drought

IMG_2597Despite historic drought conditions here in western Oregon, fishing has been good.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has imposed unprecedented restrictions on recreational fishing, closing most waters statewide from 2 p.m. to 1 hour before daylight, with the goal of protecting fish from additional stress during the warmest hours of the day. Fortunately, the cold spring-fed McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette rivers are exempted and remain open to fishing throughout the daylight hours.  Whew!

During heat waves, there are not many better places to play than on the upper McKenzie.  Clean, clear, and cold, the McKenzie’s waters are a welcome respite from the hot, dry, and dusty Willamette Valley.  Early starts have been the key to getting into some great fishing action followed by some bracingly refreshing swimming after lunch.IMG_2686IMG_2721IMG_2708 - Version 2

In addition to the steady fishing on our local rivers, a highlight this summer has been the fishing on the high lakes of the Cascades.  Many reservoirs dependent on snowmelt are at unprecedentedly low levels. For example, check out this shot from the resort at southern Oregon’s Howard Prairie Reservoir:IMG_2767

However, low water concentrates fish over cold springs and around deeper water structure, making for an easier task of finding feeding trout.  Here are some shots from a recent camping and fishing adventure in the high Cascades.IMG_2503IMG_2492IMG_2544IMG_2426IMG_2625

As we roll on into the traditional “dog-days” of summer, opportunities for good fishing continue.  See you on the water!