|November 14, 2003
Steelhead: With the arrival of cooler temperatures, the steelhead bite in the Deschutes has turned on a bit. What started as a good summer in the lower river with many large native fish caught, quickly became a slow summer with the White River causing problems and making the Deschutes nearly unfishable most of August and September. To add to the less than favorable conditions, high temperatures in the Lower Deschutes didn’t entice the usual mix of stray fish to enter the river. These problems combined made the Deschutes a less friendly river for fisherman and fish alike for the bulk of the summer.
However, the Deschutes run of fish is in the river now and the inconsistency of conditions has caused many a fly caster head for other waters. This leaves the river relatively crowd free for the hardy anglers willing to brave the near freezing temperatures that greeted us at the beginning of November. Colder weather has done nothing but good for the fishing with good reports coming in from the upper river from Warm Springs down to South Junction. While not the preferred method by many, fisherman using nymphing tactics are having the best days as of late. Rubber-legs Stonefly nymphs, bead head 3-D nymphs, and glo bugs have all been picking up their fair share of fish. Traditional dry line swing tactics are still working well in the runs. Undertakers, Purple Angels, and Coppertops are all top choices for taking fish on the swing.
As the water continues to drop degrees you might want to think about adding a sink tip line to your bag of tricks. A type II or type IV sink tip and a hand full of Hareball Leeches are as good a choice as anything from Thanksgiving on. Preferred colors are black, purple, and black with blue. Fish a short leader (4ft or shorter). Cast slightly further upstream than you would a dry line and mend upstream to keep the fly from swinging through the run too quickly. As the water cools, fishes’ metabolism slows down and the name of the game becomes keeping your fly moving as slow and deep as possible, giving the fish as much time to see your offering as possible. A word of caution: Bring lots of extra flies!
Trout: Epic hatches of Blue Wing Olives around Maupin have had trout rising even in the cold water, something that is fairly unusual. If you find yourself on the river on a cool, cloudy, yet muggy day, consider yourself lucky. Trout feast on the BWOs like no other insect. I think they know that it’s now or never and they better eat while they can. If the hatch is really strong, fish seem to lose all abandon. Think about skipping lunch because this hatch happens just as the bacon and eggs from Henry’s Deli start to wear off.
Pre-hatch from about 10 am until you start to see adults or surface activity, fish a heavily weighted nymph like a stonefly and a #18 pheasant tail dropper. You will catch all your trout on the dropper, the stonefly is for weight and you might find it fast into a pair of steelhead lips. As the hatch materializes, switch to an emerger like a sparkle dun. As you fish, watch the bugs on the surface. It will become apparent when the trout start feeding on the duns. My favorite is a quill body BWO, but any #18-20 dun pattern will work.