About this blog

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 24, 2021

Oregon and California Redband Round-up: Part 2 Redbands

With the Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout in the bag, our plans opened up enough to chase after some Redbands, so on the the way back north we would try our luck for Pit River Redbands, Goose Lake Redbands, Warner Valley Redbands, Chewaucan Redbands and if time allowed Columbia Basin Redbands.

Sunday: June 6th 2021: Once again we were up before the sun and by 6:00 AM we were back on the road. After a smooth few hours on the road, we arrived at our first stream of the day. Where the road crossed the creek, it was tiny and as such I decided to forego the wading gear and just rock hop. We decided to work our way downstream and initially didn’t find any fish, but not too far downstream another tributary entered with a nice pool right below it which looked like good holding water. It only took a couple casts to show that this was indeed a decent spot and it quickly produced my first Pit River Redband. 

A beautiful Pit River Redband Trout

The Pit River Redband stream

This turned out to be one of those ultra productive little streams and every pocket and pool held at least a fish or two.  This fish weren’t particularly selective either and the dry dropper setup produced very good results including one trout just shy of 12” that was tucked against an undercut bank.

A sizeable Redband for such a small stream

After a couple of hours we had gotten at least a dozen trout and were satisfied enough to head on to our next spot to go after some Goose Lake Redbands. For this next spot I had decided to revisit a creek that I had fished way back in 2007, yikes 14 years ago already! It is always interesting to revisit streams after such a long gap, sometimes it seems as though time has stood still, but more often than not time and especially people are not as kind to these streams as one would hope. This was one of those rare cases where the stream actually looked better than I had last found it. Back in 2007, there was a restoration project as well as cattle exclusions that had just started and it was clear that the efforts were bearing fruits as the stream now flowed though a lush meadow. 

Goose Lake Redband waters

In the first pool that I looked in there was a decent 7-8" Redband, but this fish was wise to the ways of anglers and despite getting a couple of takes, I could never quite hook up. I did get a couple smaller fish out of the pool and upstream where the restoration work had formed some nice pools I caught a beautiful Redband.

A Goose Lake Redband Trout

While we did find a few fish here and there, this stream proved much more challenging than I had hoped as it was brushy and the fish were extremely spooky making it hard to get a good presentation. After a couple hours in which we both got a few decent Redbands, we again decided to hit the road for the stream I was most excited to check out.  This next spot was a rimrock canyon stream, where we hoped to find some Warner Valley Redband Trout. When I had been researching the trip, I definitely found evidence that there were Redbands in the creek, but I what I didn't find was anything about anyone actually fishing the creek, a fact I found intriguing. 

The stretch of the creek we started on was a big flat, full of shallow riffles and a few deeper pockets. However, it only took a few casts into the first of these pockets to produce a beautiful little Redband and it didn’t take long to figure out that pretty much every deep well oxygenated spot held a least one fish. Add to that the fact that these were some scrappy fish, which weren't afraid to take line or show some acrobatics and this stream quickly became one of my favorites on the trip.

The Warner Valley stream

As we moved further upstream, the gradient started to pickup and with that the fishing got even better. In one deep pocket I rose and hooked into a particularly nice Redband that took my and my 2wt on a ride downstream to the next pool. Luckily the hook held and after a fun battle I slid a beautiful 13” Redband into the net. 

A beautiful Warner Valley Redband Trout

While I figured I had already gotten the biggest trout out of the spot, I also thought that as I had gotten the fish out of the hole quickly it was worth another cast or two. As it would turn out, this wasn’t the only big trout in the spot and this time I had a nice trout grab my dropper. Again, I had another big Redband on the line and again luckily the hook held and I landed a nice ~14” battle scarred fish. We covered another 1/4 mile of the creek again getting fish out of pretty much every likely spot before deciding it was time the head for our final stream.

A big scarred up Redband

The Creek

After catching our fill of Warner Valley Redbands, we hit the road again for our final stop of the day. The drive was smooth and before long we were driving up the valley of the stream we were going to camp on for the evening and hopefully be able to find a few Chewaucan Redbands. Again, like the Goose Lake Redbands, I had fished this spot 14 years ago, however unlike that stream, this one had not faired as well. All along the trip we had been seeing the effects of the 2020 wildfires that had impacted much of the west, and one of the fires had directly impacted this stream as well. Luckily the stretch of stream where we were camping was just outside the burn zone, so hopefully the trout wouldn't be too impacted.

The final stream of the day

After quickly setting up camp, we got on the water and started prospecting for trout. While we had been setting up camp, a great hatch got into full swing, with a combination of Gray Drakes, BWOs, PMDs and caddis bringing the river to life. Dyllon went with a mayfly imitation and headed upstream, while I stuck with my trusty PMX and dropper and I went downstream. Before I was even fishing, Dyllon was into a fish and it didn’t take me long to find some either. The first few fish that I caught were in the 6-8" range, but I had seen a couple good rises along a grassy bank on the far side of the stream and after a couple good drifts I rose and hooked into a big Redband. This fish put a solid bend in my little 2wt but before too long I was able to land the fish, a beautiful 16" Chewaucan Basin Redband.

Me with the big Redband

Another shot of the big Chewaucan Redband

After releasing my big fish, I put a few more casts in the same spot and briefly hooked into another large fish but it popped lose. After that fishing in this stretch slowed down, Dyllon and I decided to work our way downstream. It seems the fires had not had too much of an impact on the trout population, as pretty much every cast into a likely spot was rewarded with a Redband. We caught a few dozen fish in the 6-10" range, but nothing else that came close to the big one, before the fading light forced us back to camp.

Monday: June 7th 2021: For our final day, we had spent a fair bit of time debating what to do. The options that came to mind were either trying for some more Chewaucan Redbands, heading to the Deschutes or the Metolius River being our front runners. Dyllon really wanted to check out the Metolius River as the Green Drake hatch was supposed going on, so we decided that we would give that a shot. I had been to the Metolius years ago and while the river is certainly beautiful, I did not leave with very good impressions, as it was overcrowded, many of the other anglers were flat out rude and the fishing really wasn't that great. Hopefully this time would change my opinion.

The Metolius River

The first spot that we stopped at had ten cars already parked at it and the second was just about as busy (not a good start), so we opted for head to the end of the road where there was only one vehicle parked and start hiking. After heading downstream a ways, we decided it was time to cut down to the river. The first few holes we came to showed no signs of life, but before long a few Green Drakes, PMDs and Caddis started coming off. However, we still saw no risers responding to them. When we did finally find a good pool, we also found the other angler for the trailhead already camped out. After a quick and very cordial talk, we continued downstream and finally spotted some rising fish. Unfortunately, these fish were all on the other side of the river, and the Metolius is a swift and slick river so crossing was not an option. We tried for a while but even our longest casts were falling short so again we pressed on. After covering another mile downstream past a series of rapids, we finally came to some decent holding water at the head of a pool. After a few casts, a fish rose to my Green Drake and I landed a beautiful Columbia Basin Redband. Next Dyllon was up and a couple casts later he also got a decent Redband. 

Dyllon with a decent Redband

My Metolius Redband

We each hooked and lost one more fish in the pool, but we had already spent more time than we had planned on and with a long drive back home ahead of us it was time to hit the trail again. All and all, had much more positive impression of the river this time, but still am not sold on it given its level of fame. After getting back to the car, we were back on the road, but had a much slower go than expected,  with several slow downs due roadwork and one terrible car crash going back over the pass. However, this was an extreme productive trip, where I was able to add 3 new varieties of Rainbow/ Redband Trout and caught four other varieties that I had caught in the past. Next week I am off to Idaho and Montana after Westslope Cutthroat and hopefully will have the same success as this trip.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Oregon and California Redband Round-up: Part 1 Klamath Basin and Eagle Lake

Of all the Rainbow and Redband Trout varieties in the United States, the Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout has been the most daunting to catch. There are three primary factors why, first is that to catch them with a fly there are two short windows when these trout are shallow enough; in the spring and fall. This alone makes planning any trips more limiting. Next is the size of Eagle Lake, which is the second largest natural lake in California and is known for its strong winds. The final thing is just simply that it is in a lake, which I fish way less than streams and thus feel much less proficient at fishing than streams.

Back in October of 2019, I had the opportunity to fish Eagle Lake, but was unfortunately unsuccessful at catching an Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout (see here). As this was one of my last Rainbow/ Redband Trout subspecies to catch failing to catch one was definitely a disappointment and I had hoped to make another trip down to the lake last spring. However, the pandemic made those plans fall though and my schedule during the fall didn’t allow a trip either. This year though, the stars aligned and I had an extended weekend come up where I could break away for four days to try to again. Add to that when I mentioned that I was planning the trip to my neighbor Dyllon he said he could join as well and with that plans were set!

Friday: June 4th 2021: After tying flies every spare moment for the the previous few weeks, it was finally time to hit the road. Our plan for the trip evolved from just going after the Eagle Lake Rainbow, to also chasing down a few varieties of Redbands as well, considering that the lake treated us well. On the morning of the trip, Dyllon and I planned on departing at 4:00 AM. However, upon getting out to the car we noticed that there had been a neighborhood wide egging overnight, so first we had to clean out cars off, which cost us a half hour. Great way to kick things off... 

Once we finally hit the road, our plan was to drive straight to a creek in the Klamath Basin to try to catch some Redbands, prior to heading to Eagle Lake. A study that was published in 2009 indicated that the Redbands associated with Klamath Lake were genetically distinct on a subspecies level, making this fish a priority for me. However, this Redband outing would have to be short, as we were on a timeline and had to make it to the marina at Eagle Lake before 6:00 PM to reserve our rental boat for the next day. Luckily, the drive down to the creek was a smooth 6 hours with no traffic and not long after one quick stop for gas and we were at our first fishing spot.

I had put quite a bit of research into the streams to fish on this trip, and now that we were on the water we would find out if it paid off or not. This stream was a classic cascading mountain creek with lots of pockets and pools. However, despite looking like good water, the first couple holes didn’t show any signs of life. That changed in the next hole upstream where I managed to rise a small trout and after a few more casts I caught a little Redband and we were on the board. 

The stream

A beautiful native Klamath Lake Redband

A little Brookie

As we moved upstream and away from the road, the water and the fishing both improved, with trout holding in pretty much every likely spot. This included some Brook Trout, which I none of my research had indicated were in this stream. However, the majority of the fish were vividly colored Redbands and after a couple of hours we had caught at least a dozen trout and decided it was time to make the rest of the 4 hour drive to Eagle Lake. 

We made it to the marina with an hour to spare, got our rental boat reservation squared away, then headed back over to the campground and got our camp set up. As it turned out, another buddy of mine and native trout enthusiast Steve had been out on the lake earlier in the day and was able to swing by our camp to say hello. We spent a good hour talking native trout and Steve gave a report and some pointers on where he had luck as he had gotten a beautiful 5lb Eagle Lake Rainbow that morning. After Steve headed out and we had a quick dinner and Dyllon and I got a few quick fruitless casts in on the lake before turning in with high hopes for the morning.

Saturday: June 5th 2021: We were up before the sun to make it to the marina by 5:15 AM to get our boat. Luckily the lake was glassy calm and we decided to start out trolling flies on sink tips with our 6WT rods until we found the fish. As we moved out from the marina, the boat in front of us got a fish, but otherwise we saw no sign of fish until we came close to a steep stretch of shore and started to see fish rising. As we passed a point, finally I got a solid grab and was hooked into a nice fish. This was a strong fish and made several blistering runs and also charged the boat multiple times making me scramble to keep up. However, after a few minutes I eased the fish into the net and I finally had caught an Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout and a beautiful 3-4lb perhaps 20” fish at that!

A calm Eagle Lake morning

My first Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout

My box full of streamers for Eagle Lake

As trolling had worked once, we made another pass through the same area and right where I had hooked into the last fish, I hooked into another one. The fight was almost identical, but unfortunately as the fish neared the boat, the hook popped out. After two more passes, we only had one more short strike and as we didn’t see anyone else hooking into fish, but there were still risers, we decided to change tactics. There were Callibaetis mayflies coming off so Dyllon decided to try a dry fly, while I put on a double Chironomid rig.

Time to change things up

After fifteen or twenty minutes with no action, Dyllon asked if we should try trolling again or keep with chironomids? As if on queue, my indicator shot down and I responded chironomids. This fish was a bit smaller than the first one, but as my chironomid rig was on my 4WT it still put up one heck of a fight. Luckily this time my hook held and I managed to land it.

Another Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout

Not long after, I managed to get another, fish on the chironomid rig, which inspired Dyllon to change over his dry fly set up, which had not gotten any attention yet. Over the next half hour, we both had a couple hook ups, but lost our fish. Then the infamous Eagle Lake wind kicked up and we had to head back to the marina as we did not want to risk getting swamped.

After turning the boat back in and grabbing a quick lunch, we decided to head up to the headwaters of Pine Creek the main tributary to Eagle Lake to see if we could find any fish up there while we waited out the wind. Unfortunately, the drought had not been kind to Pine Creek and what we found was barely a trickle. We probably should have checked further upstream, but we saw no sign of life here so we decided that we would head back to camp and see if the wind at the lake had calmed down at all.

Upper Pine Creek

After grabbing a quick early dinner at camp, Dyllon and I decided to brave the wind and try the lake from shore in the area where we had found fish in the boat during the morning. The beach we were fishing faced right into the wind and was being lashed by 2-3 foot waves, definitely challenging conditions, but we were able to cast so we decided it was worth a try. This time it was Dyllon's turn to get into the fish and a small scud under and chironomid soon produced at solid fish. The Rainbow gave Dyllon a good battle before he brought the exceptional fish to the net.

Dyllon's Eagle Lake Rainbow

Before it was time to turn in, Dyllon got one additional Rainbow and lost another amid the surf. However, the persistent wind and fading daylight finally forced us off the water and it was time to head back to camp. It had been a great day on the lake and with both of us having caught some truly beautiful Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout, and with our success we could go ahead with our plans to chase down some Redbands in the morning.

Sunset on the lake