Jul 5, 2015

Columbia Gorge Fishing Report (July 5th)

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Fishing Report


We are now forced to focus on warmwater species until we get some serious relief from this heat.  The Columbia River is above 70 degrees in the main current in the Gorge and near 80 in the backwaters.  The Deschutes River has been continually ABOVE 68 DEGREES SINCE JUNE 26.  The temps were topping out near 76 degrees this last week.  The Washougal River was 78 degrees this week, the Willamette was at 79.  This is incredibly bad news and no one seems to be doing anything about it.  The impacts are going to be severe and long lasting.  Huge amounts of juvenile fish are in jeopardy across the region, from last years epic Coho and Chinook runs to last winter’s great steelhead run. 

So here we are in a severe drought with a historic heat wave causing major problems.  Rivers are too low and warm.  Going fishing in many of our traditional summer steelhead rivers raises serious ethical questions; so here we are, fishing for bass, carp and various other warmwater species now.  Ryan and I went to Mayfield Reservoir to chase Tiger Muskie last week.  We got a few follows, and that is pretty successful for Muskie.  I now have a good grasp on what I need to do next time…


Water temp at the Dalles Dam:

Water temp at Bonneville Dam:

Water temp at Astoria:

Water Temp on the Deschutes:


Carp fishing is a seriously good option right now for area anglers.  The best action is when the sun is up because that is when visibility is good and you can sneak up on them.  While they are active early and late, it is harder to find them due to the low light conditions when the sun is off the water.  They aren’t that picky to the fly, but the presentation must be spot-on. 

Smallmouth Bass have been hitting topwater poppers on the Columbia River and John Day River. There are lots of fish to be caught, but moving around is key.  Earlier in the summer, the fish are congregated in spawning areas, but now they are spread around quite a bit.  A fish here, a fish there, but pay attention to the type of structure that you find them on as they will all prefer the same structure types.  Bass don’t really like sand or weeds, but everything else is fair game.

Rainbow Trout fishing on the Deschutes River has been good, but fishing below Sherars’ Falls is not a good idea.  Please stay up near the dam where the water is cool enough for fish to survive a release.  Water above 70 degrees is dangerous for the fish, and fish are dying in the lower river right now without the aid of a fisherman’s release. 

Chinook Salmon are still running in good numbers, but we have not heard too many reports lately.  Last I heard, fishing has been decent but not fabulous below Bonneville Dam.  It is currently closed here in the Gorge. 

The Sockeye Salmon run is approaching record numbers, but the odds are stacked against you as sockeye are definitely not into taking flies.  Sockeye are headed for the uppermost reaches of the Columbia/Salmon/Snake River Basin.

Summer steelhead are typically starting to fish well now, but this year there are not a lot of rivers that have fish, low water temps and enough flow to fish.  The Cowlitz is typically our most productive July and August steelhead fishery and is probably the best option in either state here right now.  The Klickitat River is still very low and clarity has dropped out to less than a foot.  Water temps on the Klick have been in the mid 60’s, so there is a little hope for the fishery to remain intact for the next couple of months… Look for the water to clear up slightly as the heat wave is predicted to wane a little over the weekend.

The Hood River seems to clear up a little bit every evening, but is poor early in the day.  I haven’t seen anyone else fly fishing the Hood in about a month, but there is enough clarity in the evening to get an hour of fishing in.  Water temps at 8:00 pm on July 4 was 66 degrees.  The East Fork Hood River is open for trout fishing, as well as the main branch of the river.  The West Fork Hood River is always closed to fishing, except for the 100 yards or so between the confluence of the East Fork and Punchbowl Falls.  The East Fork is where the majority of the color comes from in the river, so it can be even more colored up than the main river. 

Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brown and Brook Trout fishing should be great this week in the evenings as the Hexagenia Mayfly hatch is going strong at Merrill Lake.  The hatch has stopped or waned in many of the other lakes like Timothy and Goose, but there are a few bugs around.  They hatch at night, so really early and late in the day are the best times to find Hex-eaters. 

Fishing is still great at many of the local lakes (whether there is a hex hatch or not) if you can get a fly down to the cold water.  The thermocline (where warm and cold water meet) can be between 12’ and 20’ in the lakes, so a full sinking type III or type V line can be a key to success.  Lost Lake is very deep and cold, and has been fishing well.  Get a damselfly nymph or leech pattern down deep and slow, slow, slow.  Lost Lake is a great place to spend a day, even if there are a lot of people.  The fishing can be fabulous and you can easily spend the day in relative solitude on the far side of the lake from most people.  We have not heard much from Laurence Lake lately, but it’s also a cold lake that does get some sun protection for much of the day. 

Eagle Creek near Bonneville Dam is a great place to spend the day fishing for cutthroat trout.  Much like the Hood River, the fish are small and hungry, but the scenery is beautiful, and the water is cold.  It is a little bit easier to wade than the Hood, but you are in a canyon and there are not many spots to get on or off the trail down to the river.  Once you are on the creek, it is fairly easy to get around.  


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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