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Fishing Reports

Ode to Smelly Cat

Joel La Follette - Thursday, September 27, 2018

Kinetic Type // Smelly Cat // Final Iteration from Emma Thompson on Vimeo.

Report by Josh Linn, the Fly Czar

I spent another weekend floating the familiar water of the Deschutes from Mack’s Canyon to the mouth. I first started making this trip nearly 20-years ago. Every year new stories layer on making it more and more special. Sadly, this year the lower 24 miles was ravaged by fires from canyon rim to canyon rim all the way to the water. I’ve seen fires down there before, but nothing like this. To add insult to injury the run is at an all-time low. Now that sounds ominous, but the only way to catch a Steelhead is to actually go fishing, and I want to catch a Steelhead.

So we packed up the truck and made a mad dash to the river after work. We pulled at sunset, packed the boat, and pushed off from the boat launch in the dark, heading for our first night's camp. It was cloudy and warm making me suspect that fishing had been good earlier in the day.

We made our meager little camp of a couple of cots and chairs and were all set. A small camp that’s fast and light is the best way when you are on a Steelhead mission. You can be out of camp at first light, no dishes and very little packing to do. If you fish with me there aren’t going to be many luxuries. I come to fish, not camp.

We fished our camp water at first light and were running and gunning all day. There were very few other boaters around and we had our choice of prime water. We cover about 10 miles of water by the time we got to camp with zero fish to hand. By mid-afternoon, the wind was howling and I wondered if the evening fishing was even going to be a possibility.

We made camp at the Corral, in prime Steelhead territory. In years gone by I’ve guided quite a few people into steelhead there and even caught some myself. Sadly, this wasn't going to be one of those times.

The next morning we pushed away from Camp at first light and rowed for one of my favorite spots, a steep ledgy run right at the bottom of a hard corner. I let Eric fish the run first last time so this time it was mine. I had been fishing a Green Ant for the past few days with no success and decided it was time for a change. I don’t carry a lot of flies so the choice was pretty easy. I pull out a size 5 Smelly Cat, my purple and chartreuse go-to fly.


I started by fishing short making every cast count. I got to about 10 strips of line and start working my way down the run. I came to a small boulder section about halfway down the run. I know this spot to be one of the buckets, I started fishing more intensely. If it’s going to happen, now would be the time. At that moment I felt it, that familiar feeling. A little tug, not hard, but I knew it was a fish. It kept pulling slowly. I’m not 100% confident it’s on, so I don’t set the hook, I keep waiting. All of a sudden it jumped out of the water. Woo-ha! Fish on. It made a few more jumps and a couple of hard runs but in the end, I won the battle. We snapped a couple of pictures and sent her back on her way. 



We finished up and pushed off in search of more fish. By the time we got to the boat launch we had put three on the beach and I’m feeling like we had a successful trip. Fishing might be tough right now, but they are harder to catch from the couch.




A Quick Trip Around the State

Joel La Follette - Thursday, September 20, 2018

There is a sense of urgency from our patrons in the shop as anglers rush to cram as much as they can into the fleeting days of this shoulder season. There is still a touch of summer in the air, but fall has let us know that those warm days with soon be just a memory. This is the season we wait for all year long and it is here. The only problem is we have far too many angling choices and not enough time to enjoy them all.

While the Deschutes is still the number one destination for Trout and Steelhead anglers at the moment, there are other fisheries calling for our attention. Let's just take a quick tour of the state...


Down in Southern Oregon the Rogue River has been the highlight with Steelhead returns well above average. Half-pounders and adults are drawing fly swingers including yours truly. I fished with a friend above Gold Hill and swung up this feisty native on last week's Fly of the Week, the Green Butt Silver Hilton. I'm heading back this weekend. Trout fishing on the Rogue would be a good option too as Rainbows and Cutthroat were hard to keep off my Steelhead flies.

Marlon RampyMy buddy, Marlon Rampy continues to score monster Rainbows in the Williamson River down near Chiloquin. These Steelhead size Trout are an impressive opponent on 6 weight rods. If you have never tested this fishery, now is a good time. Goat leaches, Damsel nymphs, soft-hackles and sparsely tyed Woolly Buggers should be in your box and an intermediate sinking line on your reel.

Over on the coast, Salmon are nosing into tidewater and making their way upriver on many of the North Coast streams. I battled a dandy on Monday until she sliced through my tippet with her pearly whites. Seeing 20 pounds of chrome take to the air is a thrill for sure! Sea-run Cuttys are following the herd and I saw several chasing bait on the surface. Streamers on a fast swing will insight hard grabs from these migratory Trout. I also like to skid a fall Caddis imitation across the surface of faster tail-outs to pull the action to the top. Give it a try.

Closer to home, the Clackamas is seeing a fairly healthy return of Coho Salmon this year. While our local fly guys are just starting to take notice, there have been more than a few taken on feathers. We can give you some pointers when you stop in for flies. Ask the Fly Czar for his secret weapon.

Green Drakes, or at least the fall version of this legendary hatch have been the talk of Metolius anglers over the last few weeks. Bull Trout are also getting some attention as they await the passing of returning Kokanee. I'm scheduled to be on the Met at the end of the month for some silly photo shoot and will have a better report then.

Back on the Deschutes it's business as usual. While Columbia basin Steelhead numbers are down, fly swingers are still hooking some impressive fish in the Deschutes. You may have to cover some water, but there are fish to be found. While some have resorted to sink-tips and winter patterns, true believers are still scoring on dry line presentations of artful traditionals.

Trout fishing on the D continues to be good, but most anglers are chasing the migratory versions. Watch for hatches of misc Mayflies to bring back-eddies alive with gorging Redsides.

This cornucopia of opportunities won't last forever. Get out and enjoy some of the best fishing of the season, right now.


Mr. Skittle's Birthday Adventure

Joel La Follette - Thursday, September 13, 2018
Nick's birthday was this past Tuesday and to celebrate we spent a couple of days on the Deschutes. If you’ve ever been into the shop and interacted with us you’ve seen the Laurel and Hardy routine play out in front of your own eyes. Well, on this fishing adventure we had a third person our great friend Eric Gunter. Because of the antics we knew would ensue we asked him to offer his unbiased third person account of this adventure.



By Eric Gunter

I haven’t spent many days on the water this year. I make the typical excuses: time, money, girlfriend, too hot/cold/wet/windy, etc. Overnight river trips I cherish and take advantage of them when I can.

I’ve learned much about navigating a boat/raft on moving water from one person. He has been generous with experience and has displayed great patience with me while I ask endless questions, many multiple times. This last weekend we were floating from Mack’s Canyon to Heritage Landing. The second boat in our party was being skippered by a virgin to the lower river.

New adventures should always include the pucker factor. Preparations need to be made. Shuttles need to be called in. The appropriate ratio of foods to sugars need to be purchased and properly hidden, all portioned for the days that lay ahead. A checklist of items needed on the boat: life Jackets, anchor, oars, straps, ropes, stoves, utensils, etc. has been gone over at least 3 times and you’re still confirming you have it all.

New water raises questions. And some people, in particular, ask a lot of questions. Are there any waterfalls, side channels or braids I should avoid taking my boat over, down or through? What are my emergency egress options? How many river miles? How many days do you have to float those miles?  Where do I fish? Can my boat survive its maiden voyage? What do I do about power boats? What do I do about a shuttle? All great questions. All questions and their answers are preferably known by all individuals in the party and should be confidently confirmed. We are talking about navigating a section of moving water with a long, well-documented history hoping for a prime camp that will afford you opportunities that evening and at first light.

Now, one of the benefits of being friends with an experienced oarsman and fly fisher, I get to sit in the front of the boat while he maneuvers us through the incredibly beautiful Deschutes River Canyon. Placing me in all of the best places to swing flies for wild steelhead. I get to enjoy the flow of the river, watch for Osprey, Bighorn Sheep, and all of the amazing creatures that inhabit the canyon.

Seeing firsthand the remarkable comeback of riverside vegetation after two fires burned much of the lower rivers landscape. Rowing downriver, well trying anyway, through gusting/sustained winds for hours making little progress while the topsoil from the farm fields above the canyon walls blows into the canyon obscuring our visibility while I sit in the front of the boat happy that I am not wearing contact lenses. I still have dirt exiting the pores of my body.

Another benefit of being with an experienced person is that they have the ability to give very precise and direct instructions/responses to these questions that should be asked. If you're not listening, you will find yourself needing to ask again. This is typically greeted with even more precise and direct instructions. Finding yourself now with less information than you received from the initial response. So having a question that you are pretty sure you already know the answer to is met with something like “What’s the question? To which the response is “Where are we camping when we get there? Now, this causes pause to allow a well-crafted answer.

I’ve never really tried to learn the names of all the runs to fish and rapids to run. This, unfortunately, does not mean that I do not ask…. I try to focus on the geography and geology and how centuries of time have passed while this canyon remains beautiful to this day. Having an experienced friend really helps with this process. History becomes more important with this documented region of Oregon. So knowing the names of some of the side canyons and the folks that traveled down them to create homesteads and live a life of self-sufficiency, railroad construction and devastation does garner knowledge.

The first night we arrived at the boat launch late, just before dark. We packed the boats and launched in the pitch black. This is a thing we’ve done many times before but raises questions from someone less experienced. We floated a mile or so to our first camp, navigating by the stars.


By this time the birthday boy is deep into his first bag of skittles and is contemplating what other sugary snacks he might have.


That first night is spent photographing the stars and anticipating an exciting hopefully fishy trip.


We are up early the next morning. We spread out in front of Camp and get to fishing. Nick is the last man fishing and is deep into the run. On what seems like should be his last cast he hooks a hot, hot fish. Before we have time to react we can see it cartwheeling off in the distance. After a long hard fight, Nick wins his birthday battle and his first gift is in hand, a 4 or 5 pound wild little net runner. The fish is a perfect specimen and after a couple of pictures, the little beauty is set free.


We push down the river looking for new water, more fish, and our next camp. The river is surprisingly quiet. Brian Silvey and his group of anglers are out and we hopscotch with them. We arrive at our next camp at around 2:00. Sadly we didn’t hook any more fish but we had a great time.

Shortly after we arrive at camp Nicks curiosity gets the best of him and the questions begin.


What were the names of those runs, where did we camp, where is Silvey camped? Zappy’s, Zapperinos, Ned Flanders, Trans Silvey Ania, Austin Millbarge, Nick’s Fish Hole. Where is that next run? Wrong Turn at Albuquerque? What is the name of that camp?

The further along we get in the day the bigger Nicks antics became. “I’m going to have Mac and Cheese if I can find my blue bamboo spoon. Along with German Chocolate Cake and a few other sugar food groups.”

Nick, “While you were asleep some guy walked into the top of the run in front of camp.”
Josh, “ Oh yeah? What did the guy look like?”
Nick, “He wasn’t wearing a shirt but did have on a gray Simms fishing vest, carried a Spey rod and he might have had a prosthetic arm.”
Josh, “Oh yeah? Hmm?
Nick, “Or did he have a white long sleeve shirt on? Or was he just wearing a dark tee shirt tucked into his waders? I don’t know, I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time and just saw this blur of a guy walking down the trail.”

For Nick, giving up the tent was a big step. Sleeping under the Milky Way framed perfectly between the canyon walls on a cot was an acceptable 2nd choice. The second night’s camp, a day closer to his Birthday, was greeted with a hammock hung across the entrance to the camp. Thus began the evening's discussion of being either duct taped or cargo strapped inside of the hammock along with a few rocks would really teach him how to navigate the river.


Having a healthy sense of fear is paramount to having an enjoyable time on the water. Respect must be given and patience and relaxation should be employed. Pay attention to your gut. Trust your instincts. Listen to your friend with the ability to safely pilot you down the waterway.

Happy Birthday, Nick!
It was a pleasure spending time on the water with you and I hope we do it again soon. I am glad you caught the only fish of the trip…not really.



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