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Camp Water

Camp water is close to home. Here you will find information on stuff happening here in the shop and on our local waters. You'll also find our weekly newsletter feature, Trailer Trash Thursday, a fun collection of fly fishing videos, perfect for a midweek distraction. If you don't get the newsletter, be sure to sign up today!

Green Drakes make a showing/Salmonflies slowly depart

Joel La Follette - Thursday, May 19, 2016
The Deschutes is the focus again this week as the Salmonfly hatch garners most of you Trouters attention. The big bugs are slowly fading away below Mack’s Canyon, but fish are still grabbing plump offerings bumped off the grass and brush. Same holds true in the Maupin area, with spotty clumps of Golden Stones still hanging on. Those of you venturing to these areas may wish to arm yourself with a collection of other spring patterns just to have your bases covered.

On Tuesday, I was the guest of Marty Sheppard who chauffeur Shane Blitch and  myself downriver below Mack’s Canyon to do a little exploring. There were hanger-ons in the bushes and a few dropping eggs, but the 2016 Salmonfly hatch was pretty much over. Fish still rose to Goldens, but March Browns, PMDs, Caddis and Green Drakes were more prevalent. Flocks of Seagulls working like Swallows over riffle water are a sign that something big is hatching. After observing several mid-air grabs I was able to spot a few Green Drakes taking to wing even on a bright sunny day. I even convinced a few fish that those might be a good idea.


Above Maupin fishing has been very good as the big bugs continue to be the main course in dining rooms next to the bank. Josh and his buddy Eric did the Trout Creek to Maupin run with great success this past weekend. They reported that the set up to run with is a Hopper/ Hopper/Hopper rig, which for the less adventurous of us is a Salmonfly dry, with a Yellow Sally Dropper, with an Elk Hair Dropper. Not the easiest collection of fluff to toss into the brush, but it does offer fish dining options. Just take a lot of flies with you.

Continuing up the creek we find the hatch is spotty in places and off the hook in others. No doubt this is due to the changes we’re experiencing in the post Pelton Dam mixing tower era. Consistency is not a word that describes any of our insect hatches and that may be the new normal until the issues facing the Deschutes are  rectified. Look for Salmonflies and Goldenstones to continue to hang around for a few more weeks in places up and down the river before fading into memory. It's time to start thinking about that other fly box filled with the bugs of summer and prepare for a variety of hatches over the coming months.

Have fun and be careful! 

The Legend of Kenny 5 Legs

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Have you ever wondered how a special fly pattern goes from the obsessed mind of the creative tyer to your own fly box? I am not talking about welcomed gifts from your more talented friends or the millions of clones tyed commercially to perfection by trained hands that have never seen a trout or held a fly rod. I’m referring to that one in a million fly that somehow possesses something a little more than all the others. That fly that stood out in the bins of your favorite fly shop and called to you drawing you to it and establishing itself as part of your collection because it was different than all the others. It had something special about it that your subconscious mind picked up on and reach out for. You may not have known it at the time, but looking back you now know it was your destiny to cast this fly to share in this part of it’s journey. 

Sometimes the story of this migration borders on the unbelievable, yet buried in the tale I’m about to share is enough truth to make you wonder what secrets lay waiting in your collection of feathers, fur and steel. This, my friends, is the legend of Kenny 5 Legs.


In the very early hours of a cold winter day a tyer sat at the vise trying to pull the vision that had possessed his fevered dreams and transfer it to the hook locked before him. Scattered among the materials across his tying bench were photos and sketches of the creature that had caused his nightmares for many years. Some had been done when his mind was clear and he could focus on the task at hand. Others were hastily scratched on any surface that was available and ranged from cocktail napkins to the tossed off packaging of a newly acquired waffle iron. Bottles of insects preserved in various liquids peered down on him from the windowsill as he worked, seeming to mock his attempt to create what they had been in their short life. In frustration he sat back and sipped cold coffee from a pilfered diner mug and turned to watch the sunrise over southern Oregon.

Dark clouds that had blanketed the valley parted briefly as the glowing orb mounted the sky scattering into a thousand beams cutting through the gloom. His hand went up to shield his eyes as a laser of light focused on the window illuminating the dusty room in which he worked. He had to turn away and in doing so saw a vision on the wall before him. The outline he was looking for was being projected in great detail by light that had traveled 93 million miles. There between his hanging leaky waders and favorite poster of the pirate Jack Sparrow was the shadowy answer. He just had to get it right.

Months turned into years as the process of bringing his creation to the public plodded on. Samples were tyed and rejected then tyed again. Finally, all parties were satisfied and small boxes filled with flies made their way from distant shores to fly shops across the land just in time for the annual Salmonfly hatch.

As a shop owner I feel that part of my duty is to test many of the new patterns that come into the shop. While some are simple enough, others seem born from the philosophy that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. These tend to get my attention as I’m a firm believer in the “Keep It Simple Stupid,” principal in most things and become suspicious of complicated creations. As I poured though the new offerings and distributed them into the bins, one fly destined for the “Morrish Fluttering Stone” bin popped out and landed on the floor. Retrieving it and tossing it towards it’s new temporary home it bounced off and again landed perfectly on the floor. Upon closer examination I was convinced that this was a pattern far beyond the level of talent and time that I would personally dedicate to it’s creation so I grabbed this stubborn sample for my box box.

The Salmonfly hatch on the Deschutes is like a combination of the opening day of duck season in Louisiana and Carnival in Rio. Anglers who’s gear has been left idol for 12 months withdraw it from spiderwebbed storage and descend on the river armed with a collection of newly acquired flies. All professed by their friends and friendly shop owners to be much better than the ones they fished last year which still hang in the trees along the river.

When the population of big bugs booms up and down the Deschutes River, places like Maupin, Warm Springs and Mecca become trendy destinations with Range Rover wantabes double parked in front of fly shops and purveyors of liquid refreshment. Parking at boat launches becomes competitive, but by 11:00AM shuttle drivers have things under control and peace is restored to the land for the most part. It’s a social event not to be missed, but I do try.

While I prefer to fish in solitude, it is hard to escape the draw of the Big Bugs and so a few days each year I pull out my box of Salmonflies and hit the river. I drift or road fish depending on the day, but never take the adventure too seriously. It’s a time to run into old friends, reconnect to the river, take photos and test out a few new flies. Sometimes it’s about reconnecting with an old fly.

Kenny 5 Legs has lived in the same spot in my Salmonfly box for three years now. His stubbornness in refusing to be left in the bin with the others of his kind set him apart in the beginning, but his prowess at convincing big Trout to grab earned him a permanent place in my Salmonfly rotation. He has survived excursions deep into stream side vegetation and trees, always returning with the help of a good yank on the fly rod. Strong 3x tippet and well tied knots have been his salvation over the years. He lost a leg the first year in a battle with an overly toothy Trout, but seemed to still fish well, and thus maintained his ranking. I’m convinced that Trout aren’t mathematicians so the loss of an appendage was no matter and earned him his nickname. Another leg was lost in the second year, but nicknames are never modified and so Kenny 5 Legs he remained. Close friends came to know of him and often asked about his successes. Some wished to acquire him, promising cash or other custom creations in exchange. None would meet my price so Kenny 5 Legs continued to build on his legend.

This past Monday I stood on a basalt knob 15 feet above the river and surveyed the water bubbling around a grassy archipelago splitting the river a very long cast from shore. I had remarked to Brian Silvey about my infatuation with this island while drifting by one day several years ago. A few weeks passed and a customer came in wishing to pay the toll for fishing Joel’s Island as he had been directed to do by Mr. Silvey. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but soon deduced that Brian had made landfall and successfully explored the island kindly naming it in my honor. I waived the Island fee and called Brian. Since then Brian and I have fished it together a few times, but today I was separated by 75 feet of raging water.

Optimism is perhaps the most important ingredient in the building of an angler. Not knowing that it can’t be done or not caring and doing it anyway pushes the limits set by the less adventurous. I stripped most of my fly line from the reel and coiled it at my feet. Checking the knot that secured my old friend to the tippet, I launched into a series of false casts to build up line speed. The breeze abated for just a second and I released the cast. Kenny 5 Legs flew as gracefully as his non-aerodynamic body could. He bounced off the grass on Joel’s Island and into the waiting grip of a very large Trout.

The battle won it was obvious that this hook-jawed encounter had taken it’s toll on these bits of rubber, foam, deer hair and imagination. Kenny 5 Legs was pretty much used up and had earned a rest. I clipped him from the tippet and replaced him with another version of the dream. I neatly snipped away one front  leg before making a cast towards the Island. Expecting the same result is the optimist in me, but the realist knew when the second fish rose the story would be different. The line ran deep into the island and went slack. The fish and fly were gone, but the legend lives on.

ODFW Press Release:Lower Deschutes River re-opens to afternoon fishing

Joel La Follette - Thursday, August 06, 2015
Aug. 3, 2015

THE DALLES, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has lifted fishing restrictions the lower Deschutes River. Anglers can now fish after 2 p.m. from Macks Canyon to the mouth of the river. The change is effective immediately.

Water temperatures in the lower Deschutes are back to near normal for August, prompting fishery managers to re-open the river to regular fishing hours. The entire lower Deschutes River from the Pelton Dam to the mouth is now open for fishing from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.

“We typically see water temperatures in the lower Deschutes begin to cool in August,” said Rod French, ODFW fish biologist. “Despite some very warm temperatures in late June and early July, the river is starting to look more normal as we head into August.”

A number of factors contribute to the August cool down, French said, including:

the increasing influence of cold water springs as river levels drop, and
longer nights and cooler nighttime temperatures and the changing angle of the sun increasing shade cast by the steep canyon walls.
Fishery managers will continue to monitor water temperatures in the lower Deschutes and will be prepared to announce subsequent closures, if necessary.

In the meantime, anglers are encouraged to follow the usual precautions when catch-and-release fishing in warm weather:

Fish early in the day when water temperatures are cooler.
Check water temperatures frequently and stop fishing when they reach 70 degrees.
Use barbless hooks so you can release fish quickly.
Keep the fish in the water as you unhook them, and cradle the fish upright until it revives enough to swim away.
The lower Deschutes was included in the July 16 closure of most rivers and streams in the state to fishing for trout, salmon and steelhead after 2 p.m. The closure is to help protect native fish already stressed by low water levels and high water temperatures associated with this year’s drought.

ODFW has also re-opened the upper reaches of two northeast Oregon streams to regular fishing hours: the Imnaha River above Freezeout Creek and the Wenaha River above Crooked Creek.

Both are cold water systems somewhat immune to excessive water temperatures, and were inadvertently included in the statewide restrictions.

These three changes from the early closure are consistent with ODFW’s exemption process, where cool, high elevation streams, spring-fed systems, tail-race fisheries and estuaries are generally exempt from early closures. The Department will continue to monitor conditions across the state and evaluate proposed changes on a case-by-case basis, but anglers can anticipate that the most closures are likely to remain in effect until temperatures cool significantly, generally associated with shorter days, cooler nights and fall rains.

When is hot, too hot?

Joel La Follette - Thursday, July 09, 2015
The thermometer is your friend. No, not that vintage Hire’s Rootbeer model you have nailed to the garage that has been stuck in the 90s for a few weeks. I’m talking about that handy little stream thermometer that you carry with you, but never use. You really should get to know it better. It could be a life saver, for fish anyway.

With hot being the word of the month I thought perhaps I should share a little insight from my group of friends and water whisperers on the subject of water temps and fish. Unless you’ve been living in a cave in Nova Scotia you probably realize we have a serious low water problem with our rivers and streams as Santa forgot to deliver our snow pack. Temperatures are climbing as sunbaked watersheds trickle to the sea. Migratory runs are slowed by thermo blocks and local salmonids are just plain grumpy. This issue has reached a critical level across the state and I would be remiss if I didn’t do my part to educate and inform.

In putting together this simple guide to safe warm water fishing practices my goal is to inform you as to how and where you can find waters that still provide water cool enough for angling, without harming the population of finned residents. Note that conditions do change and it is possible to see a very rapid cooling or warming of a particular stream dependent on the factors that influence that watershed.

First we'll start with the basics. For salmonids to survive a return home, water temperatures need to remain below 68 degrees fahrenheit . This number, from my brief research, will allow upstream migration of anadromous salmonids ( Chinook, Steelhead) that are genetically prepared to survive warmer flows. Some salmonids ( like sockeye) are not as robust and will not do as well in these conditions. It is very important to note that the survival of all of this fish at this temperature is dependent on the lack of outside stresses. Meaning simply, not fighting for their lives on a end of a line or being chased by a predator. To recap, fish can survive 68 degree water, but only if we leave them alone. Water temps over 70 can be lethal and over 80 terminal. The die-off we’re seeing in the Willamette is a sample of temps in the terminal range.

As I said earlier, conditions do change and as summer gives way to fall our days shorten up, while our nights grow longer. Longer nights allow for more overnight cooling providing much better fishing conditions in the early hours of day. For summer Steelhead that “happy place” is between 50 and 60 degrees. Many of the anglers I contacted about this article pull the plug on any interaction with Steelhead at 65 and even then take great care to land and release in a timely manner with no removal of the fish from the water at all.

Trout have a similar set of numbers dialed into their thermostat that make them happy and willing to participant in our angling efforts. 50-63 degrees seems to be the sweet spot as observed by my good friend and Trout guru, Brian Silvey. While temps below 40 and above 70 are not conducive to successful Trout fishing, fishing in those warmer temps put fish in danger of not surviving an encounter. If the water’s warm, do no harm.

Now, all of this doom and gloom does not mean you have to hang up  your fishing kit and go swing golf sticks. Not at all. What it does mean is that we all need to be aware of the conditions and adapt. Here are 10 tips to get you through the summer heat.

1. Carry a thermometer and use it. Knowing the water temp will add to your success and save fish.

2. Fish early in the day when the water is cooler and take the afternoon off if temps break into the danger zone over 65 degrees.

3. Fish higher up in the watershed. Rivers and streams warm up as they flow to the sea. Well forested rivers stay cooler than waters flowing through an open landscape. Explore new water.

4.Tailwater fisheries provide cooler water conditions as you move closer to the dams that create them.

5. Try lake fishing. Many of our Cascade lakes stay much cooler in the summer months as they are spring fed.

6. Explore the coastal waters off beaches and jetties, or visit Puget Sound.

7. Utilize the USGS website to track flows and temps.

8. Maybe succumb to the carp and bass craze.

9. Have fun and learn something new this summer.

10. Share this information with others


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