Month: September 2016

Yak Attack!

By TB

While we were in Oregon, we were told that the Yakima River was simply like the Deschutes… a mirror image, just on the Washington side of the Columbia River.   What we found was “Not Exactly”.  While we still felt the “high desert” climate and saw similar sights, we found the rivers to be quite different.  No “Redsides” in the Yakima.  A river that isn’t as wild and woolly as the Deschutes.  You can fish from the boat on the Yakima, where on the Deschutes, you float from spot to spot, but have to wade to fish.  So overall, for us at least, it was different.

We floated the river with Jeremy Miller of Mitchell’s Evening Hatch in Ellensburg, WA.  It was a tough day on the water in terms of “catching”, but the fishing, as always, was great.  We “attacked” the Yak with everything we had in the fly box.  We hooked into a few good fish, landed a few, but not as many as Jeremy would have liked.  It’s always true with good guides, they actually are more determined for us to catch fish than we are.   What we found that day, was that we actually had a better day than other boats on the water.

When we left for the day, Jeremy left a dry/dropper rig on my rod.  The next day, we went out and Barb, using my rod and Jeremy’s rig, caught a nice 16+” rainbow on a prince nymph with rubber legs that Jeremy had tied himself.  Needless to say, we sent our thanks to Jeremy.

Please enjoy the interview we did with Jeremy on the banks of the Yakima River.

As you drive south along Highway 27 out of Prineville, OR, you pass through pastureland filled with cattle.  Soon however, the valley narrows and you find yourself in a canyon driving along the Crooked River.  The section below Bowman Dam is classified a “Wild and Scenic” river;  Barb and I will both vouch for that.  It is a spectacular drive which luckily, is dotted with campgrounds providing easy access for anglers.

We had the pleasure of fishing the Crooked River with Eddie Mack of Fly and Field Outfitters of Bend, OR.  Eddie met us at the Big Bend campground where we “wadered up” and began our trip.  For some reason, there were a lot of fisherman on the river this day, so finding some spots where we could have some space proved challenging.  However, one of the beauties of the Crooked, is that there is so much access;  if one campground is brimming with fishermen, you just head on to the next.

Our first stop was at Castle Rock campground.  Barb was a bit concerned with wading on the slippery rocks found in the Crooked,  but, with Eddie’s help, we embarked on crossing the river to get to a couple of great fishing spots where we hooked into both the beautiful Redband Trout as well as some rather large whitefish.  After fishing here a bit, we crossed back and went to another campground where again we crossed the river to get to the best fishing spots.  Eddie was great, helping us traverse the river, making sure our rigs were set the right way and putting us on fish.

We had a blast fishing with Eddie and would encourage anyone coming to fish the Crooked to call Fly and Field Outfitters and book him for a trip.  For now, please enjoy our interview with Eddie, stream side on the Crooked River.

The first time we strolled into the Fly and Field Outfitters fly shop in Bend, Oregon, a young man named Jasper welcomed us.   We needed some studs for our boots as we were about to fish a river with a very slippery bottom, as in, you’re going to fall in the river if you don’t have studs.  I still fell in that river but that’s a North Umpqua Steel story.

We also needed to book a couple of guide trips and get some flies.  You ALWAYS get some flies when you walk into a fly shop.  For us, its an unwritten rule, no, actually a requirement I think.

As we were booking our guide for the Deschutes River, Jasper looked up and asked “Griff, can you take them?”.   He hinted that he could get someone else, but, Griff told him he would take us.  It turned out the exchange between Jasper and Griff was actually between a son and his father.  Jasper was watching out for his dad.

We met Griff at the Warm Springs boat ramp at 7:30 and embarked on what was to be an incredible day.  The weather was perfect and as it turned out, the fishing was perfect as well.  We learned a great deal from Griff who struck a great balance between instruction and fishing.

We did our interview in the Deschutes River, literally in the river, after a stream side lunch of grilled chicken thighs, Asian salad, potato salad and cookies.  While Griff was cooking lunch, Barb hooked into a giant steelhead which took two huge jumps and a few runs before setting loose.

If you come to fish the Deschutes, make sure to book Griff Marshall of Fly and Field Outfitters if you can.  I promise you will enjoy the day and likely find a nice Redband trout or steelhead on the end of your line a few times.  For now, please enjoy our Sweet As the Deschutes with Griff Marshall interview.

Metolius Mystery

By TB

The headwaters of the Metolius River bubble out of springs near Camp Sherman, OR.  These springs push out about 50,000 gallons of water a minute, feeding this gorgeous fishery.  As you look downstream from the Head of the Metolius, you can see a snow capped Mt. Jefferson in the distance.

We setup camp at the Cold Springs RV Resort just down the road from the Camp Sherman Store which is the gathering place in the area.  It’s truly a general store with a fly shop, deli, grocery, hardware and post office all under one roof.  We had already picked up some flies in Bend, but, went to the fly shop at the Camp Sherman Store to get more flies and some very local intel on how to fish the Metolius.

For some reason, guides are not allowed on the Metolius.  We’re still not sure just why, but it destroyed our usual plan of fishing with a guide on our first day on each new river we encounter.  This allows us to get to know the area, the water, what bugs are active and how/where to best fish the river.  For the Metolius, which we’d never seen, let alone fished, we were on our own.  The shop recommended some dries (PMDs, October caddis, gray drake emergers) some nymphs (big stoneflies to size 20 zebra midges and numerous patters in between) and even a “Sno-bunny” streamer for bull trout.  All in all, we had 2 to 4 each of 12 different flies in our boxes as we headed out to the Metolius.

This is when the Metloius Mystery began for us.  We went to what we thought was an ideal spot…. bend in the river…. nice run of deeper water flowing off a ledge… good bank cover and structure (think logs, tree limbs, bushes) in the water.  We fished it up and down, using all the flies at our disposal.   Nothing…. zip… zilch…. nada!

Not to be deterred, we kept walking downstream, fishing fishy looking water for the better part of 4 hours.   Still nothing, but that didn’t stop us.   After our usual lunch (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple and a bottle of water) we ventured to a new river access near the fish hatchery.  We hiked about a mile upstream, studying water, scratching our heads as to how to fish it.  It was flowing fast with deep, deep blue holes.  Ledges holding 12” of water dropped to 10’ deep pools of an inky blue hue.  We’d never fished water like this and finally gave up for the day, well almost.

Remember that “Sno-bunny” streamer I mentioned earlier?  Well, we decided to go out at dusk, to a spot downstream of the OR 99 bridge and hunt for big bull trout.  With my 6wt rod outfitted with 3x leader, I tied on this 4” of white fur with a hook and started chucking it at the banks of deep, fast pools.  Casting this behemoth of a fly was incredibly difficult, but if the payoff was a chance to hook a bull trout, we were in.  As with the rest of the day…. zip.

The next morning, I drove 25 minutes into Sisters, OR, to the Fly Fisher’s Place fly shop.  I was met there by Red, the fly shop dog.  After lots of petting and playing with Red, we got down to business;  where were the best spots to catch fish on the Metolius and what flies should we use.  These are the two most common questions every fly shop staffer gets.  I was lucky to have Red’s owner help me.  He assured me that what I had used the day before was a good option, but, perhaps a more weighted stonefly along with some special caddis pupa was the ticket.

So….. back to the river, but this time, we hiked downstream of the fish hatchery.  We found a great, long stretch of water to fish.  The river was very wide at this point, and wading out too far was very difficult to say the least.  Being swept downstream by the current is never on our list of things to experience.  Barb landed an 8” rainbow and we thought our luck was going to change.  There was one other fisherman in the water where we were and we couldn’t help notice he was catching fish…. with great regularity.  After we’d seen him land about 6 fish, I hollered out asking what he was using.  This is always a crapshoot of a question as some will answer you honestly while many will not be as forthcoming.  In this case, we got “I caught a couple earlier on a caddis something and the last few on a special fly I tie”.  Hmmmmmm….. not helpful!  When we left, there were a couple of folks fishing above him with Barb and I fishing below him.  We had caught no more fish, but, he was still hooking and landing fish.  He had the hot spot and he wasn’t moving anytime soon, so we left him to continue.

That evening, we decided to stay out until dark.  The shop had indicated that if we did, we’d hear fish slurping all over the water.  All we needed to do was cast a rusty spinner fly to the sound and wait for the tug.  About 7:15, Barb packed it in and hiked back to the car to get warm.  I was determined to experience this “event” of the evening.   About 7:45, still no slurping but another event was happening all around me….. BATS!

So there were bugs all around, but no fish rising at all…. not one slurp.  However, bats were zooming by left and right, uncomfortably close to me.  I kept thinking how their sonar was so great and that they would not hit me.  However, not hitting me didn’t mean they weren’t flying within inches of my head repeatedly.  I stood pretty motionless for about 5 minutes as these creatures flitted about my body happily snapping up caddis and other flies.  NO TROUT!  At 8pm, I packed it in.

The next morning we pulled up camp to move to the Deschutes River.   I’m sure we’ll be back to fish here again, but for now, the Metolius Mystery continues.

Crater Lake

By TB

We couldn’t pass up another “road trip”, this time to Crater Lake National Park (CLNP).  As always, I won’t bore you with details of CLNP as you can find them all here on the National Park Service website.   However, it was cool seeing the incredible blue colors of the deepest lake in the US that was formed by a collapsed volcano.  I”m sure you’d also enjoy professional pictures you can find on the web, but we tested out our “go to” camera (Panasonic FZ-1000, thanks Keith M) for our road trip on the various scenic overlooks.

Highlights for us were the “hike” we took up to Sun Notch to see the view of the Phantom Ship, the view from the Rim Visitor Center (see Barb), the sun’s reflection across the expanse of the lake, the views of Wizard Island and the gorgeous mountains that frame the crater.   We hope you enjoy our vistas of our road trip to Crater Lake.

North Umpqua Steel

By TB

There are 46 named fishing holes along a section of the North Umpqua river that is home to a summer steelhead run that puts it in the TU Top 100 trout streams.  The fishing here starts at dawn and our guide, Tony Wratney from Summer Run Guide Service had me in the water at 6:30am.  And I do mean “IN” the water.  My third step into the North Umpqua found one of its infamous slippery rocks and down I went.  I started the day soaked from head to toe.  Yes,I was wearing waders but when you face plant into the river, unfortunately your waders don’t do you much good as the fast moving water streams inside.  However, that wasn’t a deterrent.  We waded out into the first named hole of the day, “Station”.

They say that the first hole is the best because it’s early, no one has fished it and the light hasn’t hit the water yet.  I can now vouch for this as we had several fish flirting with the dry fly I was skating across the water, hoping to entice a strike.  While a mammoth 10+ pound steelhead hit at it, a really nice 7 lb. hen took my fly and the battle was on.  She jumped, ran, jumped, ran… well, you get the idea.  About 10-15 minutes later, Tony had her in his gentle hold and we got a picture of her in the water.   We moved on to the “Pot of Gold” hole and landed another gorgeous steelhead.  This steelhead didn’t fight as hard, which prompted Tony to postulate that the first hen hadn’t been caught before because of the fight she put up.  All I can say is ANY 7-8 lb. fish is a load to bring in.

As the sun was coming up higher in the sky, we had time for one more hole and hit a spot Tony called his “100%” hole.  I will call it the “Nunya” hole because we caught two more steelies of a similar size in this spot.  They hit a “Bitch Creek” nymph that was dead drifted below my fly line.  I say this because you cannot use any split shot or weighted flies on this river.  This means you have to position the end of your fly line directly over the fly to get it to sink down to the level of the fish.  To make matters even harder to catch fish, the “take” on the fly is very subtle and you have to set the hook immediately to hook the fish.  As Tony says, “it’s technical fishing”.

Our home along the North Umpqua was at the Umpqua Last Resort.  It’s not just the “Last Resort” for RV’s but the ONLY spot for RVs that has electricity and water.  While there are many campgrounds along the North Umpqua, they are all “primitive” which is code for no services.  We always choose “services” when we can find them.  The resort was home to a group of turkeys who were seen each morning sampling the wild berries in the bushes around the campground.

The only other “commercial” spot on the river was the Steamboat Inn located just below where Steamboat Creek enters the North Umpqua.  This is a beautiful Inn and restaurant nestled on the banks of the river.  We’d highly recommend it for those not wanting to camp along the stream.  The Inn has great food, an incredibly friendly and helpful staff as well as a good selection of flies (and loaner spey rods) for steelhead fishing.  Our 9’ 5wt. rods we use for rainbows, browns and brookies would be no match for North Umpqua steelhead.

There are amazing tall trees dotting the canyon that runs the entire 31 miles of the river as well as spectacular waterfalls.  We hiked to Toketee Falls and saw the incredible hydroelectric project constructed here in the 50’s.  Its a flow of the river through a pipe made from redwood staves.  Barb even tried to stem the flow from a leak in the pipe 😂

The North Umpqua Trail follows along, and, mostly above the river the entire length as well.  It hooks up with the Pacific Crest Trail near Crater Lake.  If you’re a hiker, this is not to be missed.  The trees, waterfalls and vegetation you see along this trek are gorgeous.

We hope you enjoy this music video of our highlights along the North Umpqua River in Oregon.

Note:  The opening video in this highlights reel was shot from the Mott Bridge you see in the closing video.

Spring creeks are the most difficult to fish for many reasons… crystal clear waters, strong micro-currents, matching the exact size fly, etc…   The best I’ve heard is that the fish have a Masters degree (or Ph.D.) in how NOT to get caught.   Hence, you often get “schooled” when you fish a spring creek.   Well… while we didn’t get “skunked” on Silver Creek, we certainly got schooled.  When you put on a size 20 PMD and the fish want something even smaller, they won’t bite.  When your 7x fly line gets caught by the many micro-currents making your fly float funny, the fish ignore it.  Make a noise wading near a fish, forget it.

Luckily for Barb and I, we had Carl Evenson of Silver Creek Outfitters showing us around the Silver Creek Preserve which is run by The Nature Conservancy.   Carl knew which kind and size of flies seemed to be on the water.  He took us to where fish were rising or hanging out.  It was up to us to deal with the currents which were going every which way, but, we did and we had a great day fishing.

Carl was full of knowledge about fishing Silver Creek as well as the history of the area.  We hiked and fished over 4 miles along the Creek, stumbling upon a huge bull moose and seeing some huge trout.  We even caught a few, even though they weren’t the humongous ones.

In this “guide talk”, Carl shares his story as well as the story of Silver Creek including its iconic hatches.  We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we enjoyed our time on the water with Carl.

On our way to fish Silver Creek near Picabo ID, we took a road trip to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  Talk about a unique landscape….wow!   When we first saw the sign welcoming us to the area, we’d already been noticing the landscape dotted with black lava rocks.  As we continued into the Preserve toward the visitor’s center, the landscape changed to something out of a sci-fi movie.

I won’t bore you with all the details about the Preserve, you can read about them here.  However, I would highly encourage anyone driving anywhere near here to stop and tour the area.  If you get a chance, take a guided trip into some of the “caves” which are really lava tubes.  Some are small as in the “Craters” landscape picture above and some are large enough to hike into (or crawl 😁).

We had a great volunteer guide who took us into the Indian Tunnel lava tube and showed us around the lava flows.   Who knew there were different kinds of lava flows???  She also convinced us to try out another “cave”, Beauty Cave, which had walls and floors covered with sparkling rocks.

You will notice one of the pictures is of me, popping out of a hole in the ground.  In reality, we’d taken a secondary route out of Indian Tunnel which had us climb over two different sets of fallen lava rocks in the tube (see Barb’s pic), then up about 30 feet and out of a man-hole sized hole.  What we found exciting was that when we climbed out of the hole, we were in the middle of the lava flow, no trail, just some poles about 100′ apart which you had to traverse between to finally get back to the official trail through the area.  The only crazies who did this in our group were Barb and me, along with one other couple out of our tour group.   We’ll be talking about our “off trail” caving adventure for ages.  For now, we hope you enjoy these pics from our “road trip” to the moon.   Ramble On!

Bitterroot Chase

By TB

The Bitterroot River flows between the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains in a spectacular setting.  The Bitterroot is one of the Trout Unlimited Top 100 Trout Streams.  We had the pleasure of floating the river with Chase Harrison of The Missoulian Angler Fly Shop.   We started with small mayflies and ended with the usual summer rig of a dry/dropper with a Pat’s Rubber Legs below enticing a number of nice fish.  Chase discusses the river, its moods and its hatches in his “guide talk” interview along the banks of this beautiful fishery.  Enjoy!