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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

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.


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.

Floodwaters Receding

Joel La Follette - Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Trout Bum Road Trip turned into four days of photographing animals sprinkled with a few hours of chasing Trout. Yellowstone National Park is a wondrous place in the late season before the snow falls closing it for the winter to wheeled vehicles. The tourists are gone, the animals are everywhere and the rivers are uncrowded. Having no real plans I ended up staying a few extra days in the Park and explored places I hadn't seen before.

I was able to fish the Lamar, Gibbon, Firehole and Madison rivers while dodging snow storms and hurricane winds during my visit. Brown Trout seemed the most willing to grab my streamer selection, while Rainbows preferred my go-to Silvey's Super Sinker. A Sunday morning blizzard finally chased me to the west and home.

Meanwhile here in Oregon, Trouters are lamenting the passing of the general Trout season this coming weekend, but there are still plenty of target rich environs to explore all across the state. Our popular east side streams host the dedicated all winter long so there is no need to sell off the tackle bag just yet. Layer up and get after it. What are you, a mouse?

Speaking of "mouses," my friend and fellow fly shop owner, Jeff Perin, is waging a battle royal with the mouse population around the old homestead in Sisters. I'm hoping that he can break away from the frontlines for a little angling on our favorite spring creek this weekend. Reports from that local have been favorable and demand further investigation. Besides, the dude owes me a burger and shake.

Just up the road, the Deschutes has been blessing anglers with a mix of migratory and resident Rainbows willing to play according to our Fly Czar. Since he covered the fishing report last week and did such an awesome job I've asked him to fill in the blanks for me again this week. Take it away Josh!



Not sure if you guys looked outside or saw the weather this past weekend, but it rained a lot. Like flood level rains. I’m guessing the only way you missed it is if you were in another state, like Montana or Wyoming... 

High water and big rain storms are to be expected this time of year and sadly it takes a little longer for rivers to clear. The ground is super dry, the roads have lots of dirt on them and everything washes into the rivers. Not to mention all the leaves that are falling off of the trees non stop. When the rivers finally drop and clear the fishing will be good!

I’m already planning my next couple of days of fishing and counting down the days till winter fishing starts. I’m thinking the Klickitat would be a good choice or maybe the Deschutes. Both will have lots of Steelhead and should fish good this weekend.

In anticipation of winter fishing I’ve already put my floating lines away, dusted off my skagit lines and sink tips and I’m looking for my boxes of big flies. It’s no secret that I love fishing sink tips and every day I’m thinking about fishing bigger tips and bigger flies. Right now I’m reaching for MOW tips like the medium 5x5 and the 2.5x7.5 sink. Those tips produce really well on those east side rivers like the Klickitat, Deschutes, and Grand Ronde. The flies I’m choosing are 1.5”-2.5” long, typically Black or Red. I like little rabbit tube flies like the Silveynator or mini Klamath Intruders. When I’m fishing these flies I’m typically casting them to the far bank if it’s a smaller river and letting them hang in the deeper water till the current pulls them out. A lot of the time you get the takes when the fly starts to rise up and pull into the current. Don’t be afraid to fish deep into the run where it transitions from the fishy water to the deeper un-fishable tanky stuff. As it gets colder the fish will be holding deeper and deeper.

As I sit here I’m looking at the river gauges thinking about where I should go fish. Deschutes? Klickitat? What will it be? All the rivers are quickly dropping into shape. The Deschutes at Warm Springs is almost back to normal flows. The Deschutes below White River is still pretty big. The Klickitat is up and slowly dropping, but should be in good fishable shape this weekend.

If you’re not interested in Steelhead or you want to stay a little closer there should be plenty of fresh Coho in both the Sandy and the Clack and probably a few Steelhead as well. If you want to chase Trout this is the last weekend before the general trout season closes, and with that closure comes the end of Sea-Run Cutthroat fishing.

Whatever you decide to do this weekend get out there and make your own fishing report. 

Zombie Bugs Invade the Deschutes

Joel La Follette - Thursday, May 05, 2016
It’s time to get your Trout face on and hit the river. Big bugs are popping on the Deschutes and near perfect conditions are on tap for the weekend. This past Monday, Team Royal Treatment split up to recon the river so we could file a boots in the water report. While Josh chauffeured Nick and the Stig on the Warm Springs stretch, I headed to Maupin to see how things were progressing, bug wise.

Bug action above White River was off the hook as Golden Stones and Salmonflies crawled out like zombies on a mission. The temperature climbed to the high 80s and that even got a few to take wing over the river. I managed 3 nice fish on big dries before I had pack it in and head home. My banjo playing buddy, Shane Blitch, spent the night and scored well the next day. Don’t wait too long or you may miss the action.

Rob Crandall was doing a father/son trip below Mack’s Canyon and his son Tanner showed pops how to get it done with big flies. Look for Tanner to be piloting his own sled in the future.

Upriver where the A team drifted, the big bugs were not as prolific yet. Nevertheless, the guys did very well drifting nymphs or swinging streamers, with streamers being the most productive. Look for the hatch to overtake the upper river and start the Salmonfly madness for 2016.

For a change of pace I met up with Jeff Helfrich on the McKenzie River yesterday, spending the day tossing dry flies at hungry wild Rainbows and Cutthroat with my dad. We landed plenty of fish with several tipping into the chunky category. The weather was warmish, but damp which brought out a springtime mix of insects. Brown and Green Caddis flitted about with Craneflies, March Browns, PMDs, BWOs and Yellow Sallies throughout the day so the fish had plenty to choose from. If you’ve not fished the McKenzie in a while, now would be a good time.


Steelhead? Yes, action continues to be fair on the Clackamas and that will continue until the river gets too warm. Sink-tips are still the best bet, but maybe dialing in an unweighted fly might save you a few bucks as the water drops. Those rocks have been hungry too. The river is at 12.2 this morning and 51 degrees. A dry line may not be a bad option for the optimistic.

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