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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

Say Good-bye to Big Bug Love

Joel La Follette - Thursday, June 07, 2018

Big bug love is winding down on the Deschutes, but there are a few pockets of activity still drawing interest from gorging Redsides. This annual feeding frenzy finishes up much earlier than in pre-tower times yet, there seemed to be some areas that showed more of an abundance than in recent memory. A welcome change for sure, but the hatch remained relatively inconsistent throughout the lower river compared to pre-tower emergences. Smaller offerings and our favorite Purple Chubby are still producing as the hatch fades into memory.

Green Drakes will continue to make appearances for the next few weeks if conditions are right. With clouds in the forecast a collection of these big Mayflies would be a good bet. Pay attention to the waters below faster riffles where Trout gather to intercept this delicacy. As mentioned in previous reports, Seagulls sometimes will announce the presence of Drakes with their aerial displays over the river.

PMDs, Yellow Sallies, Caddis and smaller insects now take center stage as we progress into summer. Mornings and mid-day find us seeking surface takers in riffles and shaded back eddies until the sun dips below the canyon walls. The now famous Hopper/Dropper combo is a good option until a hatch is observed. Evenings become our focus as these insects draw fish to the surface in the fading light of day. Wise anglers will pace themselves in the well heated canyon and do their work when the temperature moderates. Soft-hackles on the swing are a good pre-hatch choice when the sun leaves the water.

On the Metolius, Green Drakes have made brief appearances when conditions are right. PMDs have been more dependable and the fish seem to respond to them. Personal observation this past Monday did not log a single Drake encounter. Sunshine and blue sky kept the big Mayflies grounded all day and into the evening. PMDs were sporadic throughout the day and pulled the occasional fish to the surface. Caddis flitted about, but didn’t draw much attention from the local residents.

Steelhead swingers are still connecting on the Clackamas when cooler temps keep the rubber boat hatch at bay. Rain in the forecast this weekend will draw in fresh fish, keep the pool toys beached and offers a great option if you need a Steelhead fix. There are some Springers still around too.

I fully expected a page long Shad report to ping my inbox this morning, but it seems the Shad Prince has focused his attention on irrigation installation this week. My reliable sources report numbers climbing on the Columbia and Willamette and fishing has been good. Shad Skittles seem to still be the go-to fly here on the Willamette.

Not to downplay this popular invasive fishery, but I’m passing up on a trip to the falls next week in favor of a short flight to San Diego. Mako sharks are staging in the warming waters of SoCal, and I feel like tugging on a real big fish. Stay tuned.


Springers, Shad and an Island in the Sun

Joel La Follette - Thursday, June 15, 2017

While the consensus is that the Salmonfly hatch did not live up to it’s billing, not all was doom and gloom over on the Deschutes. Anglers plying the river in the later stages of this major emergence were rewarded with some memorable fish. The dandy Redside pictured above was captured by our youth ambassador Ian Wildermuth on a drift with Capt. Skittles. This image missed last week’s edition due to the overflow of Shadness.

The past weekend’s weather was fairly challenging with cooler temps and a bit of a breeze. Forecasts look better for the coming week after we get through this damp lead up to the weekend. Today the weather in Maupin is supposed to be cloudy and hovering around 71F. That sounds like a Mayfly kind of day to me.

I chatted with Brian Silvey Tuesday evening and he reported PMDs and Caddis were keeping things very interesting on the town run and the Pine Tree to Mack’s drift. Competition has been light since the Big Bugs bugged out, and he has been able to fish just about anywhere he’s wanted to. He even exercised a few fish on the lee side of Joel’s Island the other day with a couple friends of mine. Brian noted that the snack bar and t-shirt shop have not yet been rebuilt on the island since the winter high water, and he filed a formal complaint regarding the mooring facilities. Mr. Silvey has a few days available over the coming weeks and will include a personal tour of the island if requested. I’m graciously waiving all landing fees for the next three weeks, so give Brian a call.

Over on the Metolius, the whispered report is that Green Drakes are showing when conditions are right. This mystical hatch favors cloudy days, but in some cases will make an appearance when the sun drops behind the trees. Don’t pack up and head home too early. PMDs and the misc. small Mayfly hatch are adding to the menu.

Meanwhile, the Shad Madness continues with plenty of scales flying in the shadow of Willamette Falls. Grabs by Springers have been adding to the excitement of crashing waters and barking Sea lions. Shad fishing can be a full on sensory overload even on slow days. Add 30 to 50 hook-ups a day and soon you have a boatload of happy anglers.

Speaking of Springers, Steelhead swingers have been intercepting a few brutes as they cast, step, cast, down the Clackamas River. Cooler cloudy days are prefect for this past-time. Keep an eye pealed for a ponytailed bamboo caster teasing fish with skaters. He's fairly harmless, but his affliction is contagious. Stay back.

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