Deschutes Summer Steelhead

Anadromous fishing management in the Northwest seems to be 25% science and 75% guesswork, and I'm being generous with the science number. Early forecasts for summer Steelhead returns to the Columbia Basin were dismal, with fewer fish expected to return than in the last few low-return years. Yet, here we are, looking forward to the opportunity to swing flies on the Deschutes and, most likely, the John Day and other Columbia River tributaries.

Why the increase in returning wild fish required to meet ODFW passage numbers? If we had the answer, we could work towards a solution to the downward spiral we have witnessed and perhaps restore our Salmon and Steelhead runs across the Northwest. Once these fish leave our rivers, we need more information on what they face on the open sea. That has always seemed to be the black hole of fisheries management and the one that science and research need to fill.

Nevertheless, wild summer Steelhead and their hatchery-bred counterparts are returning in numbers that will allow angling through the end of the year on the Deschutes and John Day. This is excellent news for local Steelhead anglers, our river guide friends, and especially our Fly Czar, who gave up a weekend of chasing Steelhead to join us in Pacific City as we hosted a group of Veterans with Project Healing Waters. Josh LOVES chasing Steelhead and has updated us on the return numbers. I believe he willed the Steelhead to return. So, we need to thank him for that.

Not only are the fish returning, but they seem willing to grab a swung fly as reports come into the shop of multiple hook-ups by individuals practicing self-restraint, ending their angling day after carefully releasing their second fish. Perhaps this is the best way to help our fisheries and guarantee we can enjoy this special time of the year for years to come.

One reason anglers are finding success is many are seeking enlightenment on the Art of the Swung Fly from our in-house experts, the Oracle and the Legend. I should mention that Mr. Stetzer has singlehandedly introduced a new generation to the Muddler, while Josh has inspired classic Steelhead creations from our local tyers. We have over 100 years of combined experience chasing Steelhead; if you need answers, ask.

Another item of note: we're seeing more faith in the dryline presentation and less reliance on sink-tips and winter flies. Again, this is an influence that you can trace back to our older staff members and, of course, our resident Reel Hussy, who is constantly preaching the virtues of the floating line.

So, let's celebrate our returning fish, treat them with respect, advocate for our resources, and enjoy the experience of swinging flies for summer Steelhead. You just need a little faith, and a Muddler.

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