This has been my magical duo this morning on the Crooked River in Central Oregon. I have always fought the hopper dropper, today it has been the magic ticket! I did learn that having a hook in my strike indicator makes me feel better about having a strike indicator. The above pheasant tail, does indeed look sad, tattered and torn. I promise it looked proper and correct at one point in its lifecycle. It should look worn, by the time of the photo, it had landed well over 30 fish. It was finally lost to a very large fish or possibly a rock, I couldn’t tell.
Just a few minutes ago, I caught one of my nicest Crooked River Rainbow ever; and the action continues. I was just passing a guide and his client, what I heard was; “set”, “set”, “set”….. I can’t believe I almost went somewhere else today, simply because, it was too hot.
The hopper above was a random creation last night. I am determined to catch something on it today, but it isn’t looking good. While it has yet to take a fish, I am pretty sure it gets their attention by the looks of my deschevled pheasant tail.
As I look over my shoulder I see a gear fisherman who is now all excited over a 4” fish, I am not being judgemental, but always love seeing the fly out fish the gear! Now the gear fishers are discussing how big a fish must be before they can keep it? Again, doing my best not to judge.
If you’re coming out, bring a water proof weed wacker; to keep your fly clean.
This just in, the guide and his client just added another to the scoreboard!
After a noon lunch, a friend of mine showed up and we fished the south bank for another few hours. The above mentioned guide passed by on the hike out and said; tie on the smallest black midge you have. He also mentioned something about loving his job, I bet. Not wanting to give up my ratty pheasant tail I added a dropper and followed his advice. The next hour, partially witnessed, was amazing!
Fish, after fish, all big fish for the Crooked River. I couldn’t believe it, most were Whitefish but all faught hard and even a few jumped. There is something about having that hopper up top, I don’t know that I will ever use a traditional strike indicator again. In the following hours, I caught almost no “small” fish, all were large, hard fighting fish.
One thing I love about Sunday’s on the Crooked River just East of Bend, Oregon and Prineville, Oregon is once the time is past about 1PM; everyone goes home. Very few guide clients pay for a full day and you are typically, left with the river to yourself.
It was hot, really hot, but a quick swim every 15 minutes kept things tolerable. I literally walked through a field full of butterflies, saw some kind of otter swimming back and forth across the river, and at the same time could see and hear lots of fish jumping; a truly magical day.
I finished the day off with some dry action on the flats, I tried a purple haze comparadun and did ok, but there were small PMD’s coming off and the fish were rising everywhere. I switched to the closest, most pale, parachute that I had. When I cast, I tried to land the bug as delicately as possible. All fish were taken within about five seconds of touch down and the presentation was key.
The last fish of the day was another monster, it was taken on a size 18 PMD parachute. I had no measuring device but it did span the distance of my first two guides (to be measured later), not the wraps…, the guides! Despite the constant barrage of green goo and seaweed it was a day that currently ranks in the top 10 of my life (on the Crooked).
Lessons Learned (mostly in order of importance)
- Keep your fly clean, if it goes under and wasn’t a strike check it, clean it, every last bit.
- Go small, that is the rule of all tailwaters and was key today.
- Get your fly fishy, or maybe chew on it first? The uglier the better but you knew that.
- Land your dries gently like a real fly, don’t slam it down hard.
- Hopper dropper, I have to learn more about this, but my partner in crime, no hopper same dropper very different results.
- Carbide spikes and a wading stick are critical on the Crooked, year round, otherwise it is like walking on wet slimy glass! My stick just back from warranty yesterday (Thank you Simms!) surely saved me a broken arm today.
- The pheasant tail and bead headed pheasant tail is quickly becoming my go-to fly.
- It’s HOT! take the time to let your fish recover behind the wake made by your feet. Don’t let it go the first time it tries to return. I also learned to not bounce small fish off of a rock with an overly aggressive hook set but I think you knew that as well.
That’s all from America’s test fly tying bench.