Trout Creek to Maupin – 4 Day Summer Steelhead Adventure – Late September 2013
“Something Purple” was the answer to the daily question of what to tie on. I fished with two veterans of the D and a guy new to the two hander who made up for a lack of experience on the swing with tenacity and total commitment. We set off on a four-day trip on a Thursday at 4AM under cloudy skies that threatened rain; perfect fall steelhead weather. We were guided by Vail of River Borne Outfitters and his staff. At the put-in we strung up rods and decided “teams” for the day and headed down the river. I handed Vail my fly box(esss) and he selected a Green Butt Skunk and said floating line. It was pretty cool that out of the 3 dozen green butt’s I had in the box he selected the one I literally tied for the article: http://westernflys.com/2013/07/13/nor-vise-dubbing-loop-using-utc-thread/.
We fished hard the first day, we analyzed the pulls, the nips, the light tugs but did not bring a fish to hand on day 1. Just before dark we pulled into camp and had to do little more than change as every other detail had been handled for us. Fresh hot water for a refreshing wash is still something I cannot believe I never thought of on all of my own self supported trips.
We quickly transitioned to camp, made a cocktail with fresh ice and began dissecting the day while making plans for tomorrow. Dinner was amazing; steak, potatoes, salad and beer. It is truly great to have the chance to live with these guides in their “natural” environment. They truly love fishing as much as the rest of us and they gracefully handle the constant queries about the best flies, time of year and line types. They clearly think about these things just as often, likely more.
Dessert on night 1 was a secret recipe that I will protect but I am confident it contributed to the 5 lbs. I gained during the trip. I don’t remember much after that other than falling asleep to the sounds of wild horses and like clockwork, the rumbling of a train.
We woke on day 2 to fresh coffee, fresh fruit and an awesome hot breakfast. I am really bummed I did not get a picture of our bagger Ryan, he is a true, passionate, outdoorsman and very good at what he does. From the moment we met until we left the take out, we were so well taken care of. I remember discussing several times during the trip how we could pull this trip off on our own but would never think of such a thing.
On day 2 I was fishing with Vail on a long deep tailout with a “tip and a leech”. He literally gave me the “go ahead and make one more cast”, we were far down in the tailout I was standing in chest deep water and under the limbs of a big tree and boom! Quick hard pull, I waited then slowly lifted into the fish, at this point I was now in the branches of the tree. I reached down to start to reel then realized I was on Vail’s rod which was right-handed, I switched hands and the fish was gone. Vail saw the line go slack just as it hit the first limb, the elusive steele strikes and puts an LDR on the board. It was a great feeling and gave us confidence that there were fish in the river.
We ate lunch and not wanting to let any water go unfished a couple of us hooked some nice trout just under the train trestle bridge, right at the lunch spot. We caught lots of trout during this trip, it is my understanding that this is somewhat unusual. These were big trout, some of the nicest trout I have ever caught on the Deschutes and all but one were caught on flashy purple flies.
As the other boat from team 2 pulled in we learned that one of the other guys had just landed a nice wild hen. I will not disclose the fly but, it had a green butt…, I do remember him telling me it was his new favorite prior to catching that fish. We talked allot about favorite flies during this trip and I can tell you favorite flies have a great deal to do with the first fly (or last fly) you caught a steelhead on. I have also learned that in most circles the fly matters a great deal less than a proper presentation.
While I never landed a steele on this trip I am so grateful for the casting lessons and practice I had. I finally put a number of things together with my spey casting and now feel confident in my primary casts. Vail would make us wear sombrero’s all day which was challenging in the wind but for some reason it really helped my casting, they didn’t help much with the sun though.
One of my other goals of the trip was to scout Whitehorse and understand the line at Buckskin. Our guides put boats through both without a drop, I really developed a healthy respect for this section of the river; it is definatly not like the day float up above.
Day three brought more time on the water and two more fish, it was very cool to witness the hooking of one as we floated past moving onto our next spot. Unless you are in the position to fish this river daily your opportunity to catch one of these wild and beautiful fish is in no way guaranteed so it is extra special when it finally does happen. Luckily the catching of fish, while ultimately the goal, is almost overshadowed by the beauty and peace of the canyon. We were blessed with near perfect overcast but still warm weather and cool but not freezing nights. The end of day three brought some crazy wind, rumors of 60 mph wind by other outfitters. Ryan had spent the entire day trying to lock down our camp, he continued to work throughout the evening, despite the hurricane we remained comfortable. At some point in the night the wind finally subsided and brought a solid rain, very few slept well that night but it definately could have been worse.
I will never forget the dinner on night 3; an amazing pasta with salad and a side of fresh steelhead. Vail ended the night telling us stories while igniting a flaming desert that I will not ever forget, partially, because it was really good and partially because of the prior mentioned slight breeze…
We fished hard one more day and took out at Maupin as a heavy rain just began to fall, final score; 3 fish (2 wild, 1 hatch). We loaded up and began the 90 mile trip home, as we pulled out a comment was made, calculating the days until the trip next year as we all rode home in quiet reflection.
I want to thank Vail and his team for a luxurious river trip and my new friends for inviting me on such a wonderful adventure.