Sep 1, 2015

Columbia Gorge Fishing Report (August 31st)

August 31st, 2015

Well, I have never heard so many anglers say so many different things about the clarity of the Deschutes.  As soon as I got off the river last Friday, I heard that it was everything from “completely blown” to “ehh, two to three feet”.  My most reliable sources were all saying something about a couple of feet of visibility all week, which is what I saw when I left it last.  Fishing sink tips and larger, dark flies was the ticket, and those that did were rewarded.  Those that looked at the river and went home did about as well as those guys using a floating line and a #8 coachman… not good. 

As the rain starts to come down for the first time in six months or so, I doubt that the early part of the week will provide us with any better clarity on the lower Deschutes or the Klickitat…  It will be a “wait and see game” as we see how much rain hit any certain river basin and how much the rivers are affected.   We will update as the rains progress.  . 

I fished the Klickitat this last Friday.  The water was 18” of clarity at the beginning of the day, slowly but steadily decreasing until we took off in the evening.  At the takeout, the clarity was less than a foot.  In less than a foot of visibility I was watching many, many trout rise to size 18 black flies with no concern for the apparent lack of visibility that kept everyone else at home.  If a (many) ten inch trout can see a size #18 dry fly from the bottom of the river, then a steelhead will absolutely have no problem seeing a three inch black bunny leech.  We did not get any hookups, but we did get a few solid grabs and felt good about the water we fished.  Talking with several guides that day, fishing was off that day.  Most attributed it with the front moving in instead of the clarity.  Travis Wallace of Western Waters Guides said he had been doing well last week with clarity fluctuating between a foot and 18”. 

The Deschutes above the White River confluence should remain in great shape despite potentially heavy rains this week.  There are definitely steelhead up above the White, although the bulk of the fish typically do not make it up that far until October.  The Klickitat will probably be unfishable for the first part of the week.  Unfishable is whatever you make of it, but I don’t usually spend a full day fishing in less than eight inches of visibility. 

The correct way to test visibility (turbidity) is to use a Secchi Disk (google it).  I do not have one, so the way I test visibility is to stick my rod/reel in the water and carefully watch for when I lose track of the reel or line.  I then measure the distance from where the rod entered the water to the top of the reel.  8” is where my cork enters the water, so if I can’t see my reel when the cork is at the water’s surface, I will likely not put in a full day’s effort.  I will still fish hard because I am on the river and I love fishing.  I have never driven to the river and then turned around and driven home.  I could only see doing that if the river was approaching flood stage…

The chances of catching a steelhead in perfect conditions are not that great, but the chances of catching one in less than ideal conditions are not that bad, so get out and fish if you feel like fishing as long as it is safe to be in the water because the chances of catching one from your couch are zero. 

Drano Lake:  A love/hate relationship…  If you want to catch a steelhead out of a float tube in a lake, now is the time.  The love part is that I love fishing in a float tube and I love catching steelhead within 30 minutes of my house.  The hate part is the very drunk bait fishermen (I’m no bait hater, but I am observant) that will troll their boats right over you and your line despite all reasonable attempts to avoid them.  I witnessed several near fights last year; constant yelling, bickering and overall bad sportsmanship while I was out there.  But… the fishing can be really good, especially because it’s the only local spot that is not suffering from bad clarity this week.  My advice is to go very early, before people start getting too drunk there.  An intermediate line with an olive bugger works fine.  The key is to get the fly right to their face.  They will not move much if at all to take a fly, but a fish will eat it if it is in front of them while they are moving.  A variety of drab, soft hackle style flies seem to work just fine, but there haven’t been a ton of guys out there and there is no magic formula for this place. 

Trout fishing has been good.  The Crooked has been a little off, but producing fish nonetheless.  The Metolius has been good, as fish seem to be more willing to take a good, sneaky presentation than usual.  The upper part of the Deschutes (above Lake Billy Chinook) has been really good with terrestrials.  The upper part of the Lower Deschutes (below Pelton Dam) has been fishing less consistently; it has definitely been more hit and miss this last week for trout.  One guy comes in and says he had a great day while another comes in and says it was terrible.  It just goes to show that a “good” day of fishing is what you make of it.  The McKenzie River has slowed down a bit in the past week or two.

Lost Lake is still fishing very well, and trout have been coming up to the surface early and late to eat Callibaetis, Grasshoppers and Carpenter Ants, as well as just about anything else including beetles, damselflies and maybe some early caddis.  Pull a woolly bugger deep and slow on a sinking line during the day for your best shot at good numbers of fish. 

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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