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This blog is all about fly fishing for native trout. On it I cover trip reports, fishing tactics, conservation, the latest news about native trout species and much more. This site provides a companion to my web page nativetroutflyfishing.com.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Central Oregon Redbands

A few weeks ago I was invited by my sister on a trip to Sunriver Oregon and of course I jumped on the opportunity. Sunriver lies near the headwaters of the Deschutes River in central Oregon, placing it smack dab in the heart of Columbia Basin redband territory. As such I was looking forward to getting back into a little stream fishing for native trout, especially since beyond steelheading I haven't had the opportunity since streams closed in Washington last fall.

Thursday May 28th 2009: I got off work at the fly shop at 6:00PM and my sister and I were on the road by 7:00PM. We decided to drive as far as The Dalles the first night as it would break the driving up a bit and put me within striking distance of the lower Deschutes River.

Friday May 29th 2009: We got off to a bit of a later start than what I would have liked, but by mid morning we were in Maupin where I got my fishing license and swung by The DeschutesAngler where I picked up a couple of flies and some very useful information on the current conditions. From what it sounded like if I was lucky I would get a couple of hours of try fly action before the fish would go down and it would become a nymphing game. That worked for me, so from Maupin it was a straight shot to the Deschutes River to test out some new water and try my luck for some Columbia Basin redbands.

The end of May is salmonfly season on the Deschutes River, but from everything that I had heard made it sound like the hatch was starting to dwindle down. As such I decided to rig up my 4wt with a double nymph rig to start things out. After a few minutes on the river though, it was evident that there were still plenty of salmonflies around and that the trout were on to them. Slashy rises could be heard echoing up and down the river as the trout attacked the clumsysalmonflies.

The banks were lined with salmonflies...

After a couple minutes of not so successful nymphing I heard a slashy rise not far downstream of my position and stopped to see if I could locate the source. It didn't take long to figure out where it came from, as the ~20" redband came up again and smashed another salmonflies from under an over hanging tree directly below me. I decided that I was going to go after this fish so I changed to a BC Hopper in salmonfly colors. I tried to drift a cast underneath the tree from above, but the trout was lying in a bit of a back eddy making an upstream approach impossible so I would have to get below him.

The Deschutes River

Once I got downstream of the tree where the fish was hanging out I found a nice rock outcropping to stand on, which shortened my casting distance to about twenty or twenty-five feet. Even so this was not going to be an easy cast as the tree branches came down to within 6" of the surface of the river in places with only a couple of gaps to get my fly through. To make matters worse the back eddy ended before it got to my position so I wouldn't be able to just drift my fly into position. I made my first cast tight to the water, but my fly was still riding a little bit high and hit a leaf as the loop of the line was unraveling. Miraculously the fly simply bounced off the leaf and landed smack dab in front of the trout, which was now tucked about four feet under the tree. The fly only had a couple of seconds to rest on the water before the trout exploded on it. Seeing this explosive take though I immediately set the hook and pulled the fly right out of the fishes mouth. I was pretty ticked off at myself at this point thinking that I had blown my chance at this hog of a trout.

My next cast fell short of the big trout's position but a second slightly smaller fish came up and rose to my fly. This time I was a little more patient and feel the fish for a second before the fly came shooting back at me. I had a couple of dead casts before I got one more underneath the tree in the big redband's feeding lane. Apparently my first attempt at this fish hadn't spooked it as he came right back up the surface and smash my fly again. It gave a slight pause before setting the hook this time and felt my line go tight, then there was a head shake and then nothing...

This time it was definitely over for the big guy, as he had definitely felt my hook and tucked his tail and ran for it. With in a couple of minutes I saw another much smaller fish rise on the seem of the back eddy and put my fly in front of him. I saw this redband on the side of the fish as he rose, but missed him. On my next cast I put my fly right back in the same spot and this a fish rose to it and I got a solid hook up. I tried to move the fish out of the feeding lane quickly but even the same his thrashing likely spooked the rest of the fish in the area. After a quick battle I brought the fish to my net and was shocked to see that it was not a trout but a NorthernPikeminnow also known as a Squawfish.

The Salmonfly eating Squawfish

After a few more fruitless casts I moved downstream to try another stretch of the river. I found a few rising fish but within a few minutes it was like somebody flipped a switch and the fish turned off to dries. It looked like the info that I had gotten from the fly shop was good so I switched back to a nymphing set up and started working a seam along a drop off. I got a couple of strikes that I was unable to act on in time, and then a I got a solid hook up. I could tell what I had was decent sized, but it sure wasn't fighting very good. When I got the fish in I quickly became evident why...

Post spawn redband

I guess sometimes when you get down and dirty nymphing you dredge up something dirty as well. Don't ask me why this fish decided to eat my fly as it did look long for the world, but I made sure to quick release it so if it is planning some miraculous recovery its chances will be a little better.

Just after releasing the fish a drift boat with two sheriffs pulled in next to me and they asked see my fishing license. I handed them my license and with everything in order they handed it back to me, asked me how fishing was and headed downstream. Two things happened though after being checked, the first was that the presence of the drift boat they were in spooked all of the fish that I was working. The second was that a thunderstorm that had been lurking in the distance finally closed in on my position, telling me it was time to go. From the Deschutes we drove to Sunriver and checked into our hotel room and made plans for the next day.

Saturday May 30th 2009: I decided that I really wanted to try to catch some more KlamathBasin redband trout and as their native range was only a couple of hours from us it looked pretty doable. From the research that I had done it looked like the there were some streams draining the southern slopes of Crater Lake that held these fish and as my sister had never been to Crater Lake what better way would there be to get there then cutting through Crater Lake National Park.

We got to Crater Lake around 10:30AM and found it to be just as beautiful if not more so then I remember it the last time I was there. I had never gotten to see the lake with some around it and it definitely added to the beauty. We spent about an hour hiking around the park taking in our surroundings before some rain moved in and we decided to get on the road again.

Crater Lake

The headwaters of a Klamath Basin redband stream in Crater Lake NP

One the way out of the Park we drove past the headwaters of a redband stream that I had cut itself an amazing canyon through the volcanic soil. I would have liked to try some fishing down in that canyon, but from what I could see there were no safe ways to the bottom and I wasn't about to risk life and limb getting down there so we kept moving.

When we pulled in to my the first stream that I had chosen to try out, the water was high and of color, but there was a great hatch of brown drakes coming off. Unfortunately there was also a great hatch of mosquitoes coming off as well. Mosquitoes usually don't bother me too much so I rigged up and started fishing anyways. However this spot was ridiculous and everytime that I would stop to may a cast I would get mobbed by hundreds of the little bloodsuckers. On a couple of occasions I killed around 15 of the little buggers with one swat on my arm. I will put up with a lot in the pursuit of native trout, but this crossed a line and for the first time in my life I was driven from a stream by mosquitoes.

The mosquito creek

With my defeat on the mosquito creek I set my sites at a spring creek a little further down the valley. When I arrived at the spring creek the water was a bit high and off color so I decided to start out with a flashy woolly bugger to try to get down to the fish. However after cover a sizable stretch of the stream with out so much as a bump I decided that it was time to switch things up a bit.
The spring creek

While walking along the bank I finally spotted a rising fish in a back eddy. It was unclear what this fish was feeding on, but every time that the sun would get blocked by a cloud he would invariably rise a few times before things got bright again. As there were a few caddis around I put on a small caddis emerger and threw a few casts to him. Nothing. Next I tried a double nymph rig. Nothing. A small mayfly dun and emerger followed this. Still nothing. I even resorted to try some midges, but even these couldn't get his attention. Finally I went back to a nymph, trying a small copper john this time and had a quick hit but didn't hook up. I don't know if my timing with the sun was off on this fish out what, but with the frustration that he was causing me and an encroaching thunderstorm it was time to call it a day.

Me getting frustrated on a super picky trout

Sunday May 31st 2009: With my crushing defeat on Saturday, I decided that it was time to regroup and get some information at on of the Sunriver fly shops. I had been thinking about head to a stream that drained the Oregon high desert and oddly enough this is exactly where the guy at the fly shop suggested that I should try. So I got a few courtesy flies and hit the road for the desert.

Upon arriving at the river I found a good looking stretch with some nice pools and pocket water and a very promising looking side channel. I decided that I would use my 2 wt here as I had been itching to get some fish on it for a while. I started out with a double nymph rig, using a size 16 pheasant tail trailed by a size 20 black and white copper john. As I was rigging up my rod I also started watching the side channel and to my delight I could clearly see several decent trout holding in a pocket not far from me.

The river

I decided that I would start at the bottom of the side channel and work my way around before trying the main channel. At the bottom of the channel I found decent little pool and after a few cast I hooked up with a fish but lost it. I got a few more casts in here and missed a few more fish before heading up stream to where I had spotted the fish while rigging up. I found that the fish were still there, but the water was much shallower than I had originally though, at about 6" deep or less making getting a good drift a little difficult, but I still managed to hook up with a 16" trout that thrashed around scattering the rest of the fish before tossing my tiny nymph. With the fish in here spooked I moved up to the top of the side channel where there was a nice deep piece of pocket water and it was here that I finally got a solid hook up with a redband. After a short fight I brought the little 9" trout to my net, got a couple photos and sent it on its way again.
Columbia Basin redband trout

On my next cast I briefly hooked up with a much larger fish, but he spit my hook so I headed back down the bottom of the channel again. This time I had a bit more luck and got two redbands on consecutive casts, both of which jumped several times and put of a considerable fight on my little 2wt.

A darkly colored redband

From here I decided that head out to the main channel, so I added on little weight and started covering the water. After a couple of casts my indicated shot down and a 20+ inch redband rocketed out of the water. I had a solid hook up on this fish and he jumped several more times and made a few blistering runs out in the main channel before I was able to work him into the slower water. I got the fish directly below me and was slowly easing him back upstream when the combo of a 2wt, size 20 fly and 6x finally caught up with me as the fish shook his head at the wrong time and with a little pop snapped my line and was gone. I can't say that I wasn't a bit bummed to lose this fish, but I had gotten the best part of him and won't forget that battle anytime soon.
The stretch where the big guy was hanging out.

By this time the daily thunder storm was starting to approach, so I knew that I didn't have much more time to fish so I headed upstream to try a couple of pools above where I hooked the bruiser. I found the first pool to be vacant, but in the second one I hooked up with a nice 16" fish which I had on for a minute or so before he managed to get out in the current and through my fly. This was the final straw and with thunder rumbling in the distance it was time to head out.

Monday June 1st 2009: There wasn't going to be any time for fishing today as my it was time to head out. However I did have time to run the Fall River check out a stream for my next trip. This has to be one of the nicest looking streams that I have ever seen as trout to its character it is a crystal clear spring creek.

Something to look forward to on the next trip

After checking out the Fall River we headed back to Sunriver to take care of a few things before making the long drive back home.


Chris S. said...

Great report! Nice details and nice photos.


wyoflyfish said...

What a great trip. Beautiful scenery and great fishing, well done.