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Fishing Reports

Last Cast Native Trout-a-thon Report

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 01, 2018
This week the fishing report is being preempted by a travel log of my efforts on the Last Cast Native Trout-a-thon. As I never was much of a runner or jogger, an actual marathon would never be on my list of things to do. A Trout Bum road trip, on the other hand, is right in my wheelhouse and I took on the challenge of the Trout-a-thon with a focus garnered from years of planning such an adventure.

First, you should know the idea for this event came to me at 3:30 in the morning as most of my silly ideas do. I got up, wrote out the concept, and sent it to several of my friends at Trout Unlimited and the Native Fish Society at that very early hour. The plan was simple:
  • Bring awareness to the general population of the importance of wild native Trout to our society and our world. 
  • Challenge local anglers to discover native Trout species they may not have known about. 
  • Encourage local anglers to explore more of their state and its waterways. 
  • Raise money for restoration projects to benefit native Trout.
  • Have fun.

Since I wanted to participate and not oversee this event I passed the idea off to TU and NFS and acted as a consultant. Then I started making my plan.

The first order of business was to choose the species and their home-water that would score the most points. Then I determined the best driving route to be on location at the optimal time thus maximizing my success. Understanding the odds and setting a time limit on the effort for each location would hopefully lead to accumulating enough points to take home the title. After several revisions, I made a plan and fished the plan.


Appropriately, my day started at 3:30 on Saturday morning when I got up, tossed a few extras into the 4Runner and headed to the Deschutes.

The number one target on my list was a wild native Steelhead and the 15 points it would tally. It was also the species I was most concerned about. Given the current state of the Steelhead population in the Columbia basin, finding and landing a wild Steelhead on demand would be only slightly more likely than finding a hundred-dollar bill in the couch cushions at a Motel 6. Add to the fact that the Deschutes has a larger population of hatchery fish and you can see why I was concerned.

The odds of scoring a wild fish would have been better on the John Day, but the chance to add a Redband Rainbow and Whitefish, both 10 points, made the choice of starting this adventure on the Deschutes easy. The Deschutes was a target rich environment; if I didn't score a Steelhead, I could always focus on Redsides and Whiteys. At least I'd score points.

Having swung flies on the Deschutes since the 70s I have a few places up and down the river that stick out when it comes to encounters with Steelhead. I needed a place I could get to by first light and close enough to the highway as to allow a timely transition to my next target watershed. I picked the spot and hoped that no one else had the same idea.

Daylight came slowly as clouds prolonged the night. At 6:51 AM the phone in my backpack buzzed with a “Good Luck!!” text message from Tracy at the Native Fish Society. I thanked her and slipped the phone back in the pack and waited for enough light to fish.
My first cast touched the water a few minutes after 7:00, but I didn’t work down the run until I could see the line clearly on the surface. Keeping close to the bank to maximize the swing I worked down to where I expected the fish to be. When the fly swung through my perceived bucket there was a light tug on the fly, followed by another. The fly continued swinging but was intercepted again, this time a little more enthusiastically. One last jolting grab and the game was on.

From the hook set, it was obvious that this was the holy grail of Trout-a-thon fish, a wild native Steelhead. The fish ran frantically for the tail-out, but I was able to turn it back by easing on additional pressure. It then turned and charged straight at me, breaking the surface in an aerial display that gave me a brief glimpse of its adipose fin as it reentered the water. Now I was nervous.

After a few tense minutes, I was finally able to slide the fish towards shore and slip my net under its powerful body. A quick photograph to record the catch and prove its wild origins, then a gentle release to continue on its journey.
 


I must have looked crazy to the unknowing observer as I tossed my Spey rod into the grass and sprinted for my Trout rod as the Steelhead made its way back into the current. I dropped in at the head of the run and start to cover the water with a Silvey’s Super Sinker and a Perdigone dropper tied by Mike McCoy. Recent Czech nymphing experiences have increased my faith in this technique to produce quick results. In a few casts, a scrappy Redside lay in my net followed minutes later by a chunky Whitefish. It was time to move on to the next target. I checked my watch, and it was 8:30 by the time I was out of my waders and heading up Hwy 197 towards Antelope.



A couple years ago I had been infatuated with the idea of finding a healthy population of West Slope Cutthroat in Oregon. I spent hours pouring over maps and documents before settling on two watersheds to investigate. During an unusually good water year, I mounted an expedition to see if my research was correct and check a West Slope Cutty off my list of Oregon species. I found a short section of stream in one watershed where the gradient allowed for pools and riffles. There I found my Cutthroat living happily as they had for hundreds of years. I was now counting on them to still be there.

After hours on winding back roads and highways, I made my way up the rough trail to my destination. As I approach the stream I rolled down the window to listen for the sound of water. All was silent. I worried that my efforts would be met with a dry creek bed and a very long drive to the Metolius. I continued on and finally arrived at the GPS coordinates I had saved only to find my worst fears had come true. The creek was a shadow of its former self and trickled through the rocks and boulders without much fanfare. I was deflated.

Rain wept from the low-hanging clouds that encircled the mountaintop. I grabbed a jacket and headed into the brush to see if there was a pool or riffle that might hold a fish. I hiked upstream only to find my path blocked by a downed tree, its branches making an impenetrable barrier to any progress in that direction. I turned and headed downstream, quickening my pace as I saw my efforts slipping away. Suddenly ahead I could hear the sound of water falling into a plunge pool. I pushed through the brush and came upon a Cutthroat oasis in the middle of a dry landscape.

Back at the 4Runner I pulled my vintage Winston 4 wt. from the rod rack and grabbed my net, camera and a box of flies. Retracing my steps I once again pushed through the brush and took a position below the pool. There was no room to cast and only a small part of the pool that could offer any cover for a hungry Trout. With the fly in my left hand, I bent the rod back and fired a “bow and arrow” cast to the head of the pool. The little foam Humpy drifted about a foot and was engulfed by a fat West Slope Cutty. He knew his home waters well and raced for the cover of an exposed tree root. Carefully I guided him through the tangles and into my net. A quick photo and he was gently released, no worse for the experience.



I broke down my rod as I made my way back to the truck, arriving slightly damp from rain and perspiration. I peeled off my jacket and made a sandwich to fortify me for the long drive ahead. I now had 55 points on the board and over a three-hour drive to figure out my next move.

Night had descended on Sisters and a much-needed rain was dampening the streets. I fueled up the rig at the Chevron station and pulled into a parking lot to file an email report with my sponsors and post a few photos to my Instagram account. I would be out of communication once I made the turn to Camp Sherman, so I checked in at home and headed down the highway. It was now time to find a camp spot on the Metolius and get some rest.

The rain had splattered on the roof of my tent during the night, but the morning was dry and overcast. I broke camp, slid into my waders and grabbed my Bull Trout rod. The prize was in sight. I would score quickly and head toward the coast. I would be casting for Sea-runs before mid-afternoon and dining on clam chowder as the sun set in the west to mark the end of this adventure.

About this time the wheels came off the bus. I hiked upriver and down, unable to find a fish willing to grab my feathery offerings. I switched to a hunting mode and stalked the shore looking for targets in the cold clear water. All of my unusual spots were empty, and others held fish that charged the fly but backed off and lost interest. Two large fish connected briefly, but retired deeper into the pool, refusing to be tempted again. I watched one fish charge at my fly only to veer off at the last second and destroy a floating Kokanee carcass. Leaving a cloud of fleshy debris to drift off, adding decomposing nutrients to the river. The giant satisfied now settle into his place in the pool and ignored my offerings.

Bent, but not broken I changed my tactics and went to focus on improving my Redband and Whitey score by finding a couple of bigger fish. I ran into an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years and we stopped and visited for a while. It was clear that a Bull Trout was not to be, so I relaxed and took in the beauty of the river, and enjoyed a conversation with a friend. Soon we parted, and I grabbed my Trout rod and stepped into the pool. Two casts and the line twitched, and I set the hook. Expecting a large Whitefish to break the surface, imagine my surprise to see a foot long Bull Trout putting the bend in my rod. The net flashed, and a photo was quickly taken. The little Bull Trout rejoined the rest of the fish in the pool and I headed to the truck. 



Time was no longer on my side. My watch told me I wouldn’t be able to make it to the coast, and even a shot at the Santiam was in question. A traffic jam on the pass ended those hopes so I head home and pulled into my driveway 42 hours from when I left. I had driven 651 miles, caught 5 different species of native salmonids, scored 70 points and had a fairly dirty ride to show for my efforts. Was it worth it? Yup. I’m already making plans for next year. You should join me.

UPDATED!!!
I'm happy to report that in this past weekend's Last Cast Native Trout-a-thon yours truly cleaned up in the prize department taking top honors for most points, biggest fish and most money raised. This is great news for all of you who sponsored my efforts and donated $3885 to the North Creek Campaign through the Native Fish Society. I'll be raffling off all the prizes and adding a hosted trip on the Metolius to the collection.  Of course, after reading the report of the adventure above you might want to rethink spending the day on the river with me.

In any case, once all the donations have been gathered I'll be holding a raffle and announcing the winners here in the newsletter and on Facebook/Instagram. The prizes to be raffled off include:
  • Guided trip with Kyle Smith on the McKenzie.  WINNER:  JK Hussa
  • Guided trip for two with Mark Sherwood on the Rogue. WINNER: Rocky Dixon
  • A hosted trip on the Metolius with Joel La Follette (includes lunch) WINNER: Jeff Evershed
  • YETI Cooler WINNER: Michael Gentry
  • YETI Growler WINNER: Jeff Howard

Riding the Heat Wave

Joel La Follette - Thursday, July 12, 2018
Nick Wheeler Photo
We're heading into a warm spell this week that will make standing waist deep in a cool stream sound like heaven right here on planet earth. As long as you're wet you might as well make a few casts. You just might have to think outside the box to find water void of swimmers, floaters and stick chasing canines, but there are options.

First on the hit parade is our favorite spring creek, the Metolius. Running at a chilly 48 degrees most of the year the Metolius is consistently inconsistent when it comes to fishing, but with a little leg work and some patience it can pay off with fat Rainbows and broad shouldered Bull Trout.

I found myself boots wet on the Met this past Monday and would gladly repeat the adventure even with the lack of measurable success. PMDs and misc. small Mayflies failed to draw much attention, but stories of bent rods filtered through the smoke in the filled campgrounds. Look for Mayfly hatches from 11ish into the evening. From the Gorge Campground upriver Goldenstones are crawling out on the bushes and getting fish and anglers excited. Old school Clark's Stones are getting it done pushing popular foam creations to plan B status. Bull Trout are present and taking nymphs and streamers much to the surprise of light tackle Trouters sharing the tales in those smokey camps.

Mr. Silvey rang me up the other day from his ranch near Maupin with a favorable report from the Deschutes. It seems the dry fly action has been good most mornings and that has recently extended into the early afternoon before the hot sun drives everyone including the fish into the shade. Evenings have been very good if the wind doesn't kick up. Misc. Mayflies, Caddis and Craneflies have been giving glimpses of what's possible with cooler river temps. So far, the Deschutes has been running slightly cooler than last year at this time. Brian does have some availability this month and reported that the fishing pressure has been light. Give him a call at 800-510-1702 to get in on the action. I find that Brian takes it to another level if you bring cookies. Just say'n.

Higher elevations offer another escape from the heat as the Callibeatus hatch kicks into high gear on our Cascade lakes. Clouds of these Mayflies are pulling timid lake residents to the surface on Mt Hood impoundments and Central Oregon lakes. My buddy, Jeff Perin from the Fly Fisher's Place in Sisters has threaten to take me out in his aluminum yacht to sample the action first hand. If I can free up some space on the calendar that might be a very interesting trip.

The last time we fished together I learned a new hook setting technique that involve not letting the fish know it was hooked. It's very effective for releasing the fish closer to where he was feeding and follows the #keepemwet mantra nicely. No, Jeff, I'm not going to forget the Sister's hook set.

For those ready to swing flies for summer Steelhead there have been confirmed encounters in the lower Deschutes. Floating lines, your favorite fly and a sack full of optimism is required. Fish numbers over the dams are optimistically creeping up.

Locally, it's going to be tough sledding on the Clackamas with the warmer temps and the rubber boat hatch in full swing. If you can pull yourself out of bed in the dark and be on the water when the sun pops up you have a chance at some fresh summer chrome, but note the river is already warm enough for a morning swim. It's not impossible, but maybe the mouth of the Deschutes or Klickatat is a better option.
Mitch Moyer Photo
Last, but surely not least is our theater of operations for this weekend's outing on Puget Sound. Reports filtering out of the Evergreen State have been exceptional and we're hoping for a repeat of last year's success for our group of adventurous anglers. Baitfish are plentiful and the resident Coho and Sea-run Cutthroat has been feasting on the abundance. The tides are identical to our last visit so our hopes are high. In any case, there will be S'mores involved.

Just A Little Cheesy

Joel La Follette - Thursday, December 28, 2017

At Woodsprite Lodge, the Christmas Eve dinner was ham, scalloped potatoes, mac and cheese, cheese fondu and a cheese plate with cheddar, swiss, coastal and brie. Oh, and a salad. While this may seem over the top, it falls far short on the cheesy scale when compared to this fresh fishing report from our favorite cub reporter, Mr. Skittles...

Hey Guys, against my better judgement Josh is having me write the fishing report this week. So, if you have any problems or concerns please file them with josh@royaltreatmentflyfishing.com.

Apparently, I’m not on the naughty list this year because Santa gave me a big bar of Silver in my stocking. I had been hearing good reports about our local Washington Rivers, and Josh has been on my case about how I don’t fish them. So, I had to prove Josh wrong and boy did I. Of course, when I do go out and catch a bright winter steelhead in my new local watershed I could already hear him saying, "I told you so." As I am writing this Josh is behind me taking full responsibility for me catching the darn thing. He’s my bother from another mother.

So, this is what really happened...
Twas the day before Christmas not a creature stirring in our little house. A rod was strung with a fly that was right, in hopes of chrome for my Christmas delight. I headed to Starbucks on my way to the river so I could have my coffee jitters. I pulled into the parking lot to find I was not alone, there was some other brave sole out mining chrome. I walked down the trail with visions of Steelhead dancing in my head. I got to the spot, and I knew it was right. I cast my fly and to my delight a fish crushed it and what a fight.

Around the local neighborhood Steelhead are being caught in the Sandy and Clackamas as well as on the coast. It looks like we should see some precipitation in the next couple of days here and hopefully the water levels will increase to more normal winter flows. Remember high and dropping rivers makes for happy steelhead, low and cold make for sad ones.

We’ve also been hearing lots of reports of guys venturing out east targeting Bull Trout in the Metolius. This river has been fishing well and if you want to experience the colder version of winter there’s no better place.

The New Year is almost upon us and it that time of year where we come up with goals to strive for. This year my New Years resolution is to feel the power and fish more. I hope one of your resolutions is to get out and fish more too.

The End

Totally Epic Fishing Report

Joel La Follette - Saturday, March 26, 2016
Winter/spring Steelheading remains good when the weather and water levels cooperate. Big wild fish made up a large portion of the swung fly grabs this past week. The forecasted Spring Break deluge hasn't really affected conditions very much both locally and on the coast. Upward bumps in water levels have been short lived and have been followed by happy fish on dropping rivers. Pay attention to what IS happening and not was is FORECASTED to happen. That has been two very different things for most of this winter.

"Totally epic" is how our own Nick Wheeler and his sidekick "The Stig" described the Metolius this past weekend. That is not something heard very often in conversations about this special spring creek. Hatches were slight, but Rainbows and Bulls were grabbing nymphs tumbled deep under an indicator. The Stig is investing heavily in one of the new patterns we added to the inventory that seems to be Metolius magic. Look for BWOs and the misc. small Mayfly hatch to pop on cloudy days. If you need additional intel, Nick is easily bribed with Jelly Beans or donuts.

The Deschutes is a great Trout option for plan B if your westside Steelhead adventures are sidelined by rising water. Trout have been more active as water temps rise and with those subfreezing days of winter hopefully behind us fishing should continue to get better. BWOs, March Browns and the occasional Skwala can be seen flitting around. Please note: Yes, the upper Deschutes River is open to fishing year-round now, but please refrain from targeting spawning Steelhead and Trout. Reports and photos on social media seem to have some anglers promoting this practice. Don't be that guy! Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

As long as I'm on subject, my friend Frank Moore down on the North Umpqua would appreciate the same consideration for the wild fish on his home waters. We are all stewards for the resource and need to set an example by avoiding spawning areas wherever wild fish swim.

Spring Break Report

Joel La Follette - Thursday, March 24, 2016
There is still plenty of Steelhead chasing to do, but spring break anglers seem to have Trout on their minds as they prepare to head out on vacation across the state. Armed with a few extra days destinations like the Owyhee, Ana, Blitzen and Chewaucan rivers are mentioned as they tank up on new fly patterns here in the shop. Hopefully, the weather will be cooperative over the next week. Reports are typical for early season Trout fishing with varying water conditions. On the Owyhee water releases below the dam have been around 15 cfs. for the last week, but are forecast to rise a little next week. Fishing has been fair to slow depending on the day and water clarity. Skwala Stoneflies should be showing up there and on other area waters. Success on these other rivers will be dependent on flows and water condition. It is early spring after all.

Those of us staying closer to home have fair conditions to play with as we are getting a short break in the precipitation. The Sandy has remained the shining star for locals as cold temperatures dropped the freezing level during this last rain event. Chrome fish are still finding their way home and that trend should continue through April.

On the Clackamas, 14 feet on the Estacada gage is the new 12 as that river seems unable to dip any lower this winter. It's more a case that we got use to less water last season and now we're getting a normal winter flow. Willows and other stream side vegetation filled in on the edges last year, and they are now providing great line grabbers where the river is retaking the bank. Wade carefully and be safe. We'll see good winter Steelhead opportunities on the Clack into May, then our summer fish will start to make a showing.

Most coastal streams look good for the weekend and should have fresh fish in them. Big wild fish have been grabbing swung flies as levels drop.

The weekend looks great for Trout anglers on the Deschutes and Metolius with near perfect conditions for spring hatches. BWOs and March Browns should pop with the warmer temps and partly cloudy skies. You might even see a few Skwala Stones. If the weather turns damp on Sunday as forecast, that should liven up the Bulls on the Metolius.

Silvey's Super Sinker

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 04, 2016

Brian O'Keefe Photo

Springish weather has many anglers making Trout plans, which is never a bad option between rain events. I donated a couple fish-a-longs to the Native Fish Society's auction last year and hosted the first pair of anglers this past Monday on the Metolius. Sunshine kept the Mayfly hatches to a minimum, but it was sure a beautiful day to be on the river. Trout seemed to be keying on Little Black Stones fished deep, the perfect situation for a black Silvey's Super Sinker. Yes, a shameful plug for Mr. Silvey, but the silly thing works. I'm a believer and that's half the battle.

Meanwhile, Steelhead streams dropped into shape by Monday and success has been coming to those who venture out. The coast saw the most craziness with plenty of barbecue fodder mixed in with some beautiful wild fish. Closer to home the action wasn't as fever pitched, but there were rewards to be had for anglers putting in the time. Conditions look great for the weekend. Color me gone fishing.

On the drop/on the rise.

Joel La Follette - Thursday, December 17, 2015
Last week we saw most of our rivers go up past flood stage as storm after storm swept inland off the Pacific. Communities on the coast suffered terrible flooding as ocean swells backed up floodwaters turning roadways into waterways. Here in the valley, rivers and streams that are prone to flooding exceeded their reputation. Canoes and small craft were put into service rescuing many residents in waterside communities. This mess may take a while to clean up.

The good news in all of this is that we now have considerably more snowpack in the Cascades then we did at this time last year with more on the way. That also means there is more rain in the forecast for the low lands this week and rivers will bump up again.


The Clackamas River dropped just below 14 feet yesterday, but if this rain on the roof I hear right now does what it's expected to the river may hit 18 feet by Friday. The long range look is not very optimistic, and it maybe Boxing Day before the Clackamas fishes again. Of course, long range forecasts can be wrong.


For anglers itching to get out for a little pre-Christmas Steelhead fishing it looks like the Sandy River could be your best bet. While it was not immune to our last deluge, it did come back into shape fairly quickly and should do the same this time if it does go out. Fresh fish have been reported throughout the system and a good number of hatchery fish have already been recycled downriver. Keep an eye on the river level and unlike your stock portfolio look forward to a downward trend.

The same holds true on the coast where smaller watersheds will drop and clear sooner after the rain moves through. Conditions can change rapidly so always have a Plan B. Clam chowder and a view of the ocean is a great option. And pie, pie is good too.

Trout fishers can find peace and tranquility plus a little snow on the Metolius if that is more to your liking. Little Black Stones, BWOs, Midges and miscellaneous small Mayflies should help you crack the code. Bull Trout provide a distraction for those carrying big sticks and big flies.

The Deschutes can also be a great winter Trout destination if the weather cooperates. While not has protected from the elements as the Metolius, the Deschutes Redsides can be less selective even in winter. Sporadic Blue Winged Olive and midge hatches will occur throughout the cooler months drawing fish to the surface. Crowds will be light.

Just like falling off a truck

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 05, 2015

It’s always hard to get back in the swing of things after a couple days of fishing. Sitting down to write does take away from my time at the fly bench, but I promised you all a fresh report so at the keyboard is where I find myself at this early hour. The task should not be too hard as the week has proven eventful for many anglers and uneventful for others, but they all have been kind enough to share. Brian Silvey sent along these great photos from the Sandy, and George Marshall checked in from the coast. Combine those reports with my own experiences and poof, a fishing report has appeared. Easy deal, just like falling off a truck.


Relatively dry weather has prevailed over the last two weeks, but we have seen heavy showers move through parts of the northwest and freshen streams with their passing. While it remains to be seen how the current system will effect the weekend angling opportunities, you should be in fine shape for the next few days.


The Marshall family has taken full advantage of clear streams and fresh fish these past weeks and chased Steelhead with a vengeance . Mom Kirsten got on the board with a very nice fish while fishing the Sandy River with Brian Silvey, as son George battled the leftovers of a nasty bug. George wasn’t going to miss a day of fishing and rebounded nicely a week later on the coast. Our “Clipped Tying Champion” scored this very bright wild fish on the Wilson while the rest of the country watched some lady dressed like Jeff Gordon’s race car ride a lion. By the end of the game that all made sense, while the action on the field did not. I believe most of the city of Seattle would have rather been fishing with George that day.

Steelhead junkies have plenty to be happy about with fresh fish moving into most area streams. The coast is seeing some nice wild fish swimming home as the hatchery returns start to fade. Same goes for the Clackamas where chunky natives have showed up in the catch. As long as the rivers are in good shape, you have plenty of options. Take advantage of falling levels and fish to happy fish. With both dry and rainy days in the forecast for the next week, we’re probably in for a bumpy river ride as levels rise and fall. Hopefully a little snow will grace the mountain in the process. We need it badly.


Trout anglers will find little traffic and plenty of action on the Deschutes if they are willing to make the drive. While surface action has been sketchy, nymphing has proven to be effective on big fish looking to get bigger. Stone nymphs with Mayfly trailers seem to make it happen. Keep an eye out for BWO hatches when condition allow.

The Metolius was less than welcoming on Monday as sunshine pushed the clouds away leaving three anglers to walk the bank in search of feeding fish. With only the occasional Caddis taking to wing the Trout seemed to be resting elsewhere. While a few Bull Trout were encountered, the action was slow and the only feeding was at the Mexican place in Gates on the way home. That’s the Metolius for you. I have a first hand report that says the Crooked wasn’t much better. It may have been the weather system that move through on Monday, or just two truck loads of bad mojo.


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