Low and clear. I’m not telling you anything new if you’ve attempted a fishing adventure this past week. Water levels are at summer flows and rivers are running clearer that fancy crystal. It doesn’t matter where you head, there’s very little water to greet you. The good new is, hidden in the shadows, trenches and broken water of our low flowing streams are a few nice Steelhead. They have come home. They just happened to come home to a glass house.With only a faint hope of improving conditions on the horizon we have to work with what we have and make the best of it. It’s time to bust out the low water bag o’tricks and see what we can come up with.
Fish early. In the summer we thrive on first and last light as fish are comfy under those conditions. Your best bet in low water is the crack of dawn. Not to say you won’t score during the rest of the day, but plan a nice steak lunch to reward yourself for all those great fruitless casts. If we get clouds, skip lunch.
Lighter flies. Unless you love tying or buying, switch to smaller, lighter patterns that tend to avoid the underside of river bottom stones. You might want to break out the summer box of super secret stuff. Lighter or slower sinking tips may be in order as well. No need for 15 feet of T-14 this week.
Broken water provides cover and cover makes for happy fish. Look for Steelhead deeper into the tailouts, under the chop at the head of the pool and tucked in on current seams where they feel safe. Structure, they love structure in times like these. I’m not saying you won’t find one hanging out in the open that is willing to grab, but my guess is he will be spooky.
Now that we’ve figured out what to do, we just need a place to go. Pick a spot. I’ve had reports from the coast with photos of big native fish (keep’emwet) as well as live updates from the Clackamas and Sandy, all reporting the odd fish. I sampled the North Santiam this past Monday in an attempt to intercept all those fish that jumped the falls a week ago. While cooperation was nonexistent we did see fish scurrying to get out of our way. Our host, Dave Carpenter, did whip up a nice shore lunch to soften the sting of insult.
You can always fall back on a favorite summertime activity and chase some Trout. This warm weather has jump started the Deschutes and there you’ll find miles of friendly Trout water. Surface action may be spotty, but emergers and small nymphs will draw attention from the residents. Try to avoid the heavy stuff where Trout have staged to spawn.
All in all, it’s not totally hopeless. There are fish and we do have a little water to play in, we just need more. Wash your car. That means you Brian and Marty.