2016 Deschutes Salmonfly Report


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.


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

Spring Fishing in Full Swing!


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!

IMG_5009IMG_4271IMG_4674Cocodile Tegu 2015IMG_4680IMG_4127IMG_2006IMG_4877IMG_2661 - Version 2IMG_4933DSCN8502IMG_4035IMG_4261IMG_4834IMG_4601IMG_2689IMG_2615IMG_0212IMG_4859DSC00247IMG_4807IMG_0153IMG_4505IMG_4480IMG_4691IMG_4770IMG_4083 - Version 2DSCN0181image1IMG_4913IMG_4546 - Version 2IMG_2718 - Version 2

2015: Season of the TYEE


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.



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.


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.


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!

June is the new August

Now one month into the summer season here in the Valley, the drought is official.  Rivers are already running at late-summer levels.  No one around here can remember a drier first half of the year.  Fire restrictions are in place throughout Oregon in both urban and rural environs.

Luckily, the upper McKenzie has provided a welcome respite from the heat.IMG_2241 Charged by the upper Cascades aquifer, the river flows cold and clear despite the lack of snowmelt.  So even now at minimum annual flow, there is plenty of water, and the fishing has been good.  If the weather is hot, a quick dip into one of the McKenzie’s  crystal cold green pools is guaranteed to refresh!

This summer in addition to standard hopper/dropper-style fishing, we’ve also been enjoying the novelty and fun of trouting with our Tenkara rods.

IMG_2212 Perfect for beginners and experts alike, Tenkara is quickly becoming a go-to technique when chasing midsummer McKenzie trout.

IMG_2215IMG_2204Towards the end of the month, I slipped away for a couple of 5-day trips through the Canyon over on the Deschutes.  Caddisfly fishing for subtle sipping risers with #16-#20 dries was fair-to-good, with some excellent fish testing anglers’ backing knots and 5X tippets.  Here are some highlights:

IMG_2250 - Version 2IMG_2349IMG_2360IMG_2256IMG_2343IMG_2282IMG_2247Now back home for the summer, McKenzie trouting is the focus.  Although summer steelhead numbers over Willamette Falls are relatively woeful thus far, angler effort has been correspondingly low. Those who have been diligently putting in their swings have been rewarded as often as not.Salerno2015

We will be out there in the weeks to come.  Stay tuned for fresh updates from the field.  And pray for rain!


Deschutes Salmonfly: 2015 Highlights

IMG_1875The annual rite of spring that is the Deschutes River salmonfly hatch is in full flower.  We’ve been putting in some steady time on the oars in the last few weeks.  Up out of the canyon for a brief moment, back tomorrow for 7 more days. It’s a feast of great fishing!

Here are some fresh images from the high desert.  See you in June!