The Big Bugs have moved on, as have the crowds... for now.
Salmonflies slowly fade into memory as the tiny town of Maupin takes a breath, preparing for the on-slot of rafters waiting for hot weather to return. It's quiet on the main drag, and J-walkers will likely survive unattentive crossings to the grocery or fly shop. Like the calm before a raging storm, locals and long-time visitors know this peace will soon give way to a circus played out on raging white water under the burning sun. While not for everyone, this transition to amusement park pays the bills and supports a population making a living on the banks of the mighty Deschutes.
Oregon's spring weather is anything but predictable, making it less attractive to those wishing to splash and giggle their way to evening cookouts and beer in the shadows of the basalt canyon. Such unpredictability is perfect for anglers untethered by comfort considerations and educated in the art of layering.
Having secured the services of "Old Number One," Brian Silvey, Jennifer, and I made a leisurely trip over the mountain on Sunday afternoon, with plans to fish the evening, nest at the Imperial, then meet our guide in the morning, refreshed and ready. With no need for towing or camping accommodations, we left the Adventure Vehicle parked at home and stuff our gear into the trunk of my midlife crisis. Here, I should interject that while our schedule did not require hast, our pace was, in a word, brisk.
The late lunch in Sandy at the food cart pavilion sustained us through the evening hours as we fished a few favorite spots below the town. Coaxing fish to the surface as the light faded was our reward for sticking with a dry fly presentation, and we retired to our lodging, having tested our gear for the following day. A rousing game of checkers with chips and guacamole the distraction of the evening.
Brian pulled into the parking lot at the appointed hour, loading our gear while commenting on the unseasonably cool weather. We all pulled on another layer, then pushed off to start the day.
With Salmonflies off the menu, resident Trout now focus on the various aquatic insects just starting to hit their stride as summer pushes spring into memory. Caddis, PMDs, Spinner PEDs, and prolific midge hatches required a concerted effort to avoid ingestion as we drifted downriver. Sun protective masks now served to keep organic protein intake to a minimum. Thankfully, the lone Caddis taking refuge in my right ear found the accommodations less than appealing and departed without need for eviction.
The cool weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Trout who rose to our offerings. Most lacked the length or girth of the fabled Redside Trout that put the Deschutes on the map, but their efforts to bulk up were commendable, their strength a testament to their lineage. Foam Caddis, Parachute PMDs, and even the venerable MFFR brought splashy responses.
Our host, ever the consummate professional, laid out a feast at the lunch break in the shadow of the landmark grain silo, his plans for civilized picnicking derailed by previous visitors. The concrete platform somewhat less appealing now that feathered Canadians have discovered this prime dining location. Nevertheless, the meal was delicious and filling, renewing our energy for the afternoon efforts.
As the sun gained the sky, clouds broke into a haze that kept the action going until finally, blue sky dominated. Still, even under full sun, Caddis and the Purple Chubby hatch brought some of the biggest fish of the day to hand. If there is one complaint to be filed on this day of angling, it would be that it was, in fact, far too short. In the shadows of a favorite island, one respectable fish put the perfect ending on a day filled with laughs, beautiful sights, good food, and enough piscatorial action to require a return visit as soon as our schedule allows.