Against Better Judgement – Chasing Deschutes River Steelhead November 30th 2013

Deschutes River Steelhead?

Deschutes River Steelhead?

I actually laugh when I read stories or fishing reports talking of a bad day on the lower Deschutes river that go something like this; it was a tough day of fishing, we hooked 3 landed 2.  This is quite inconsistent with my and many others experiences this year.  For the record, I have consistently hooked 0 landed the same.

Fish of 16k casts is my new joke, I sure wish I knew how many casts I make in a day so I could make that joke a bit more accurate.   However, being persistent in nature I have every intention of proving the fish gods wrong.  We considered going east to the John Day but the flows just didn’t look promising and given the short days and shorter schedule we opted for the old stand-by.

I was up at 5 a.m. to make a half gallon of hot soup and a full gallon of coffee, preparing for the 20 degree weather I expected to be stepping into.  I roll the garage door up to hook up the boat and it feels, well, warm.  I check my phone, 45 degrees at 5:30 AM at 3600′? The last day of November 2013?

We put in at Warm Springs at around 8:30 there is only one other trailer in the parking lot, slow day for Fish’s Shuttle Service.    ‘Doc’ checks the boater pass website on his phone and it says 28 sold.  We saw 4 boats all day and are still confused on the math, even if you multiply by people in the boats the math is still off…   There are dead Salmon everywhere, smelly dead, cut in half salmon lining the shores and rocks for miles.  It is the end of fall, the beginning of winter and the end of life for many of these creatures who have traveled so far.

We put in and were fishing about 10 minutes later.  I catch my requisite whitefish in the same damn spot as always, it is always my first fish of the day (often my last) usually within the first three casts and today is no different.  Today’s catch is smaller than normal but still in the same spot, I yell down at ‘doc’, do Steelhead share holes with whitefish?, “not likely”.

Once he is well below the boat I pick up my Spey and follow him through the run.  I tied on a fresh new (ESsL) Egg Sucking squidro Leech), it came to me in a dream as do most of my other grand but hopeless ideas.  After tying it on, I held it below the surface, another fine creation destined for greatness I thought.

Cast step, Cast step a mantra we continued through the first 300 yards of our day.  No fish, it was indeed early and the overcast sky’s were promising.  Today we would fish high and push through the lower section to the take-out.

At this time of year, once we get past October 31st we are limited to the “river right” half side of the river as the rest is closed.  This creates some challenges as much of the good lower swing water we are used to is on “river left”, however, there are so few boaters on the river the competition is limited.

We continue the day, swinging absolutely beautiful, perfect, water.   There is no pressure today, it is beautiful and warm with slightly overcast sky’s.

The conditions are perfect for my new ESL that I was determined to fish ALL day.  One of the boats we share the river with passes by and waves.  I have learned this year that the proper response to the query “doing any good?”, is; “it’s sure a nice day, isn’t it?”.

Today was no different, I can’t believe that I have had a 65+ degree days in both October and now the last day of November.   It is possible that I was made fun of because my repeated attempts to show off my new propane heater system were refused because it was simply unnecessary.

We fished the fast water and deep into the frog water because we are all being told the Steel are in the slow water this year.  We throw downstream belly’s to get through the slack water in hopes of finding this magic new holding water.  At the end of the day, it was a truly nice day.  A day, that I lost sleep over looking forward to.

As soon as I came home I started tying a new creation that I spent the day dreaming about whilst “practicing my casting”.  I love this place, I stood waist deep almost all day with Salmon living their last days.  I counted 9 Blue Heron’s and an Osprey with an over-sized payload.   This rare opportunity, provides an experience that few are able to observe.  We reflected and discussed what was going through the minds of the Salmon as they were slowly working their way up stream to their ultimate fatal fate, taking their last breaths.

While today, I did not catch an elusive Deschutes River Steelhead on a swung fly, I did catch my first Deschutes Dolly Varden (Bull)!  I was quite confused about what I had hooked, while it had the color of a Whitefish, it put up a significant and aerial fight.  I thought it was a brown, but was rewarded with something even better, knock one more off the bucket list…  Today, as I like to say, I caught more fish; than I would have on the couch.

Hello Dolly

Hello Dolly







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