Feb 18, 2013

Got the Steelhead Blues? Go Trout Fishing


Sure, a bright steelhead is certainly the big winter prize around here. But they don’t come easy. Much time, devotion and serious mental negotiation is often demanded to find one. It helps to have favorable conditions on your side like, river levels, temperature, run-timing and yes, the fates. But they still don’t come easy.

Conditions have been rough lately. Low, cold water coupled with few fish moving – let alone to a fly – has doled out a bunch of goose eggs the past couple weeks. Those who keep after it will usually find one, however, long droughts may take a significant toll. Sometimes, you got to get out there and find a fish. Recharge the batteries, so to say. Feel that rod tip wiggle around. Mix it up.

No serious, warm moisture systems are predicted for the next week, so why not head out to the Deschutes for some winter trout fishing? Air temps in the high 40’s. Water temps in the mid 40’s. Midges and Blue Wing Olives hatching. Heck, you might even stumble upon a hatch of small caddis (18-20) out there. There’s something to be said for being the only witness to an early afternoon feeding frenzy and you just-so-happen to be standing there, looking the part.

Hunting up risers along seam and foam lines; swinging little soft hackles and bubble emergers; or nymphing – the old standby – might all be in order. The key is to be flexible. A long time ago, I got into the habit of waiting until I spied the water before rigging up my fly rod. Hang out a bit, look for bugs and mouths; notice the type of rise forms; scan fish likely areas. Have some patience and leave haste for some other activity, like maybe beer drinking. The river is a dynamic place and we had better pay attention if we want to fit in.

This time of year, if there’s nothing happening on top, rest assured that the chances of hooking them on a nymph is pretty good. All kinds of nymphs, however, betting folks might go with your basic pheasant tails (sizes: 16-20), Copper Johns (16-20), Lightning bugs (16-20) midge larvae (20), little stones (14-18) and large stonefly nymphs (6-10). I have a tendency to go small (18-20) this time of year, in light of the Midge and Blue Wing Olive activity, but you should also pick them up on larger point flies as well. Here’s the thing: if it looks like a meal, and you drift it past their nose, there’s a pretty high likelihood that they’re going to want to eat it. So tie on at least one real heavy fly or be generous with the split shot so as to get deep, because although they are fond of easy come food during the winter, they don’t want to travel too far take it.

Most of our attention should fall upon slow moving water. This water can be found all over, like deep swirling eddies to less-defined glassy water. Look for that water some distance down from the riffle, where the current slows considerably. One often-overlooked spot to find trout during the winter are slow moving tail outs. These can be natural lanes for drifting food. Also, if the water is relatively shallow, fish will enjoy the warmer water temps that have been warmed by afternoon sun. If it’s moving at the right speed, I’ll hike a thousand yards to fish just such a spot, because they are typically great for swinging small emergers (think BWOs and Midges).

Well, that’s sort of the short story long. I really just wanted to say that the trout fishing can be exceptional right now, which is nice because the steelheading has been rather tough. Before you head out there, come on by the shop anytime and we’ll pick out some great patterns for you.

Have a good time, Duffy & The Gorge Fly Shop

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