May 31, 2015

Columbia Gorge Fishing Reports (June 1st)

Fishing Reports
June 1st, 2015

Another week marks another change in rules and regulations.  Many rivers in Washington will open on June 1.  Check the regulations, because there are some rivers that don’t open until the first Saturday in June while others open June 1.  For example, the Little White Salmon opens for trout fishing on Saturday, June 6, while the Klickitat opens for steelhead and trout fishing on June 1.  READ THE REGULATIONS!!.  We have had several phone calls from people that have been fishing in closed areas looking for advice. 


All of the rivers in our area are approaching dire low flows.  The Hood is under 400 cfs, (typically 1000) the Klickitat is hovering just above 1000 (typically 2200), and the Deschutes is at 4500 (typically 6000) and the Clackamas is at 1000 (typically 3000).  We just ask everyone to keep an eye on the flows and the temperatures.  Low flows lead to high water temps.  High water temps will kill fish, especially fish that have just been caught. 

Chinook will not migrate when the water is above 70F degrees, and water temps above 70F are lethal to steelhead.  The upper threshold for steelhead is about 75 degrees, meaning that even if a fish is acclimated to warmer waters, there will be 50% or greater mortality.  Both Chinook and Coho reach lethal levels at 73 degree and over 50% mortality rates at 77 degrees.  (Carter, 2005)  This means that we are going to have to really keep an eye on water temperatures this summer.  I was comfortably wet wading the Hood River in May this year and we have four months of hot weather in store before we can expect any relief.   The water temps of the Columbia and the many of our tributaries could easily reach the mid 70s by the end of the summer. 

(Cater, Katherine.  2005The Effects of Temperature on Steelhead Trout, Coho Salmon, and Chinook Salmon Biology and Function by Life Stage

On to the fishing report…

Chris and I went exploring on one of the few high mountain streams that was open last week.  We did find one dandy trout and saw a few salmon.  It was more of a rafting adventure than anything.  We were looking for solitude to hang out more than actually catching fish.  I wanted to test out my new Outcast Commander, while Chris was rowing an Outcast PAC 800.  It was a nice little test of two great boats in a low water scenario.  I will be doing a little write-up on it soon, but anyways, the water was lower than I ever imagined it could be in May for a high-mountain stream. 

American Shad numbers have skyrocketed this last week and should be a great option for anglers for the next three weeks or so.  Shad are 2-5# fish that readily take a fly.  They are not picky, travel in big groups and fight really hard for their size.  They can be found in the Columbia from the mouth up past the Tri-Cities.  Having a boat is very helpful, but a dedicated angler can find plenty of places to catch them from shore.  They like bright flies like a chartreuse #8 woolly bugger on a dead drift 3-6’ deep.   Just find where they are running and get a fly to them.  They have soft mouths, so they toss a lot of flies on the hook set, but once you figure out how to get the hook pinned, it is pretty easy.  

Rainbow Trout on the Deschutes River is a great option for anglers through June.  There are plenty of fish in the river and they are eating a large variety of flies.  Yellow Sallies, PMDs, and small dark olive or black caddis are the main fare.  Fish will likely take dries when the hatches are thick, nymphs during a majority of the day, emergers at times as well as spent caddis in the morning and PMD spinners in the evening.  Streamer fishing can be good at times, especially if there is not much of a hatch going on. 

Remember that there is NO FISHING FROM A BOAT ON THE DESCHUTES and also, fishing on the Warm Springs Reservation is highly regulated, so check the regulations before you start fishing on the wrong side… Some sections require a permit and others are prohibited all together. 

Spring Chinook have peaked in the local tributaries, but there are still fish to be caught if you look for them.  With such low flows, salmon should be taking longer to get upstream and holding in good spots for longer before they continue moving upstream.  It comes down to putting in the time to find out where they are hiding. 

The Clackamas River had a run of summer steelhead early in May, and typically gets another nice push of fish in early June.  With low flows, nothing is guaranteed this summer. 

The Cowlitz River has been kicking out some summer steelhead already, and is probably the most consistent producer of fish in the Northwest for steelhead through the summer. 

While the Klickitat River opens for summer steelhead on June 1, fishing is typically pretty tough until the fall.  There are fresh steelhead in the river 365 days a year, but its a numbers game… go where and when the numbers are best. 

We here at the Gorge Fly Shop love the Klickitat for its beauty and intimate setting.  Plus, we haven’t seen it for six months, so we are going to fish it knowing that the chances of hooking a steelhead are very slim.  It’s more of a rite of passage, marking the beginning of summer steelhead season in the Gorge. 

Smallmouth Bass have been on and off with fluctuating Columbia River levels.  Local fishermen have been speculating that the spawn is mostly over and the big females have begun to move back out to the depths, while the smaller males are beginning to scatter throughout the river.  This means that there is more searching to be done, but good looking spots should produce a handful of fish, instead of searching through a bunch of good looking spots before you find dozens of fish all together.  The water temperature in Government Cove on the Columbia River was 73 degree on Friday, May 29 this year.  That is warm enough that the smallies in the area should be willing to eat topwater flies if conditions are favorable.    

The John Day River is a great place to go to catch smallmouth bass.  They are easy to find and should eat topwater presentations without much issue.  There are not many big ones, but they do provide constant action.  A great place for beginners and the casual angler to go catch fish and have a great time doing it. 

This is a great week to fish lakes for Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brown and Brook Trout. .  Why?  There is a large flying ant hatch that is going in full strength right now.  Fish are getting very fat and eating big topwater presentations.  Some of the fish caught recently have been absolutely full of ants.  The flying ants can be found at most of the local lakes, but the higher in elevation the lakes are, the more likely that they will have some ants.  Timothy, Clear, Trillium, Laurence and Lost Lakes are all good bets this week for Oregon, while Merrill and Goose Lakes should be producing some beauties in Washington.  Even if you don’t see any big ants, damselfly and dragonfly nymphs should be crushing fish, with a chance for a decent callibaetis hatch, stillwater caddis or small chironomids (midges) depending on the location, depth of the lake and weather conditions.

As always, we are happy to talk fishing any time.  Give us a call if you have any specific questions on local rivers, gear, and tactics, or if you just want some encouragement to get out of the office. 


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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