Fisher heads to the D to learn the ways of our favorite river...
Fishing is my greatest passion. Even though fishing has always been central to my identity, I had to fit it in around the edges: of school, collegiate swimming, work, or friends and family. Having recently landed my new job at Royal Treatment, I have entered what feels like Eden: instead of dodging other obligations to get out, fly fishing has become a professional necessity. And since I moved here from the Seattle area only four months ago, it behooves me to learn as much of our local water as I can, as fast as possible. Thus, an inordinate amount of fishing is called for!
This week, I had the pleasure of fishing the Deschutes for the first time. Maupin is approximately a two-hour drive from my house in Southeast Portland. Since I always want to fish as long as possible, planning such a drive on a shoestring budget, I would make sure the gas used to get there was well spent in terms of rod hours. So I packed up the night before, got up at three-thirty, and was already driving through the high desert above the Dalles by the time the sun started to light up that rugged country. I went to college in Southeast Washington, and as night was pulled away to reveal that landscape, I felt as though I had been transported back to my home of the previous four years. I passed through Maupin and was suited up, ready to fish before the sun reached the water.
I decided to start just below Maupin and work my way down. Never having been before, and in the process of learning the river, I figured I may as well stop at the very first pullout I came to. This deposited me below a dynamic wave train, where I opted to fish the inside edge of the tail out. Now, I must pause to address an important side note. The vast majority of people who come to the shop, and ask about the Deschutes, are planning on Euro nymphing. I do not yet have a Euro nymphing set up. Enfeebled as I was with my lowly indicator, I worried that I would not be able to get my nymphs down quickly enough or deep enough in the large and fast Deschutes. Shortly after I began fishing, I was relieved to learn that there is no rule mandating that only those who Euro nymph may catch trout, and I was rewarded with my first fish of the day.
Having had my butt kicked so far this season by winter Steelhead, the rest of the day was a blissful relief. I steadily pulled rainbows with strawberry cheeks from the river until stopping for lunch. I watched the glacial turquoise water slide by me while I drank my river beer, pouring some out in the name of good luck, as is my superstition. Perhaps it worked because I landed a seventeen or eighteen-inch fish shortly afterward. It was a perfect day in the sunshine.
I didn't see many bugs come off for those of you planning your own trips and interested in the details. There was a brief blue wing olive hatch around 2:00 pm, but I saw no fish rising for them. There were plenty of caddis around, but I didn't see them on the water or see fish taking them. Only twice did I see a rise, though both times it was large fish coming fully out of the water. It was not clear to me what they were taking, but they refused my BWO and Caddis imitations, both adults and emergers. I had most of my success on some olive euro style nymphs I tied that looked like a cross between BWO nymphs and Caddis Pupa. A red Copper John also attracted several fish. And, while I often bring a couple egg patterns in case I find myself nearing the end of the day without a fish, but at no point did I see a Powerbait hatch coming off, so I didn't try them, though I am sure they would have worked. It was sunny, warm, and not windy the whole day. Hope these details help those of you who are interested.
I had an incredible fishing day and inaugural experience on the Deschutes. However, in my process of learning a new river, trying different flies and presentations, and catching fish, I only progressed a few miles downstream. I am stoked to get back as soon as possible and explore more, even if I only make it down the next several miles; plenty of space to provide many more days of learning the fish and having fun catching them.