Sep 14, 2012

Fishing Report - Columbia River Gorge and Beyond

Report for September 14th, 2012


So far, the 2012 dam counts on the Columbia for steelhead passage are down from the 10 year average. Late August – September daily passage numbers seem to be cut in half. Hmm, this just might be one of those years that steelhead fishing – albeit summer/fall fishing – may better live up to its namesake. Being elusive, I mean... but that is all part of the draw. When you start playing cat and mouse with your sanity, you just might be whole-heartedly swinging flies for steelhead.

But people are certainly finding them on the area tribs. River temps are really good, falling down into that coveted, sweet spot. On the Deschutes it’s been pretty darn crowded but conditions wise - we’re seeing 56 degrees in the morning, 62 degrees in the evenings – just about perfect. It’s that time of year when you pull out the skater and fish it and know that the fish want it. Little muddlers and a handful of the new foam skaters are excellent patterns this time of year. Find that little piece of shady water where the surface isn’t too turbulent and work some smooth, deliberate swings. Keep it slow in the fast water, speed it up in the slow water. And let the fish eat it. Just like fishing a wet fly, you should feel the take, let it turn before setting towards the downstream bank. It is hard when you see the fish to keep the panties unbunched, but if not, you’ll likely set the hook into air alone. Another word on skaters… it’s really no different than fishing a wet fly other than the fact that you can see it, right? You fish it the same way, however we want to be sure to that the fly stays on top to fish properly and throw a wake. After your cast, the longer the fly sits there at the end of a slack line, the more apt it is to dive under the current when it does eventually come tight. It’s just sitting there mopping up water and furthermore, a jerky startup into the swing will often make it dive. So to really fish these effectively, you want your fly to come tight immediately and start swinging. If there is slack in your leader or line as the fly lands, gently lift your rod tip up to bring it tight and to keep the head of the fly pointing up as it starts the swing. Just getting it started smoothly with its head above water is the most critical point.

Don't be a skater hater!

Over on the Klickitat, fishing has been pretty good. However, this is the time of year when we start to see a lot of Salmon returning home to this river. They are like the bullies on the playground and the steelies will try and keep their distance. This means that they will get pushed into some very subtle and intricate holds. That meaty part of the run, say right in the middle, where the current is nice and soft and your line swings so well and uniformly - you know, the place where you found them earlier in the season - will likely turnoff. Seriously, keep this mind… start eying the subtle current breaks up high in the run and down into the tailout. Look for boulders. Move through the middle of the run as you would if you were just prospecting, but really slow down and work those boulders and slots up high in the run and down low in the run, very thoroughly. In the shade, bring that fly tight immediately. They’ll rise to the skater here too, but tips have a tendency to win out over here. Play around with depth and fly speed, and really slow down, when fishing above and below boulder seams.

This is a great time of year for area trout anglers. As temperatures continue to drop fish should start to take more advantage of their food sources and ready themselves for the cold days ahead. Hoppers, beatles, flying ants and caddis are great dry patterns for area lakes and creeks. Out on the Deschutes, Blue Wing Olives (Baetis) are starting to pop in sizes 18-20 so make sure you have a few adults with you as well as some emergers to trail in the film. Expect to see them in the morning hours when temperatures are still somewhat cool. Otherwise it’s a still a caddis show out here.

Much thanks to our good pal, Jeff Hickman of Fish The Swing, for these recent Deschutes shots.

Have a good time,


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