Jun 11, 2014

Deschutes Steelhead: Where else do you swing flies in July!

My pal Jamey landed the first Deschutes steelhead of 2013

Where else do you swing flies in July?

I get asked every year, “When do you usually start fishing the Deschutes for steelhead?” My answer is always the same, 4th of July weekend. Usually we start the season with a drift boat trip, take our wives, and have a good time. Somebody usually gets a fish or at least has one on. The earliest we've landed a fish came on the 3rd of July and it happened at Mack’s Canyon, RM 24, that was 2012. Last year we hit, but didn't land, our first fish on the 4th of July in lower Wagonblast, go figure! In 2013 we had success every time out but didn't put one on the deck until the 12th (pictured above).
Johnny Lester July 3, sun in the sky dry line, river mile 24
Yours truly with a Deschutes July steelhead
Getting folks to come out in July is always pretty tough. I guess people think it’s a numbers game and if a thousand fish aren’t coming over The Dalles Dam daily they just aren’t interested. I look at it another way, we chase winter steelhead under way tougher conditions. In the winter there are way fewer fish than any given day on the Deschutes, the water is much colder, and it’s way more crowded. So plainly put, fishing in July is a lot like chasing winter fish only WAY BETTER! Starting on the 4th of July you’ve got a 50/50 chance if you are looking in the right place. Every day beyond the 4th the odds go up and by the third week in July fishing is getting pretty consistent and sometimes downright good.
Solid July day with the guys from Gorge Fly Shop went 2 for 3, Big John Garrett in the photo.
This year we are running a promo for July, 20% off, that’s $500 for 2 anglers or $425 for 1 angler! Why? The truth is people don't think a July trip is worth $625 so I'm reducing my rates for July to Winter Steelhead rates. The rate is discounted but the trip is not. It’s still a guided day out of a sled on the lower Deschutes. I still provide all the best gear, flies, etc. This is just me trying a little harder to get out on the river more!
Milking the shade for every second, photo by John Garrett
A typical July day starts around 5:00 AM at the boat ramp. We sip a little coffee until the trail upriver starts to show. Next we run up a couple miles and pull into the first good run that’s open…it’s usually all open. As with all summer fishing on the Deschutes, the coolest water temps will be first thing in the morning and that means your best chance. We always stay on the lower runs and soak up as much low light as possible and then shoot for the sections of the canyon I know stay dark the longest. We fish dry lines until the sun comes up and then switch to light tips. July fish are notoriously aggressive and they smash anything that comes near them. The early Deschutes steelhead are noticeably higher quality fish than their August counterparts so we gear up like it’s October, 7133 Winstons and Hatch 9-plus reels. The water temps get pretty high in the afternoon so we put the wood to ‘em, get them to the bank for a photo op then send them back to the depths. These fish are not hard to catch, just hard to find. Fishing is only interrupted for a quick lunch then back to fishing. Our day ends around 2:00 PM back at Heritage boat ramp.

Wet wading on the Deschutes
has its advantages
As far as equipment goes, I like to be able to crush it straight into the wind, think west Wagonblast wind blowing straight in your face. 13 foot seven weights, a reel you can put the brakes on with. We’ll fish Scandi floating heads and 10-15’ tapered leaders, or poly leaders if you brought some. Skagit lines with 12’ of t8 work well in the wind and when it’s time to go bigger and deeper. If you’re gonna stop and get some flies on your way over, stop in at the Gorge Fly Shop, they know what I like. Have a good selection of the Lady Caroline, Purple Green Butt, and some Hobo Speys, maybe a skater or two as well. I like a 9 ft leader 0x, I add straight maxima ultra green 10# to get to the 15’ mark. When fishing sink tips I use 3 ft of 15# U/G. We usually start off in waders then pull them off as soon as the sun comes up. Some good wet wading gear is a must for fishing in July: wading socks with built-in gravel guards, sunscreen, sunglasses, and maybe a buff if you need extra sun protection plus a good hat.

Book your Trip:

So here’s My July Schedule, you can book on line, call or send an email.

PS. Here’s my August and September, about 90% booked. Get a hold of me sooner rather than later if you think you’re coming out.

Tight Lines,
Sam Sickles

Steelhead Outfitters
(541) 400-0855

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