Feb 22, 2016

Columbia Gorge Fishing Report (2.22.16)

Ryan with nice little rainbow trout

Fishing Report

Winter Steelhead fishing has been good throughout the area.  The number of anglers will reflect that just about everywhere that these fish exist.  Fourteen anglers were fishing in one run at the mouth of the Hood River this morning (Sunday).  The Sandy and Clackamas have both been great; we hear more reports from the Sandy as it is closer and has more fly-friendly water (and more anglers).

Ryan with a rainbow
that ate a stonefly nymph
Rainbow Trout fishing was great on the Deschutes.  Ryan and I went out there on Thursday.  Despite 40 mph winds, sleet, snow, rain and colder temperatures, fishing was pretty good. We each caught a fair number of fish, nothing of any substantial size to hand, but a really fun day was had by all.  We were both very appreciative of our surroundings.  There were zero other anglers on the river besides a guide boat that floated by just before dark.  With all of the pressure on the steelhead scene this time of year, we were both very happy to be alone on one of the most beautiful stretches of river in the world.

I threw a double nymph setup under an indicator for most of the day.  A peacock-color rubber leg #8 was catching fish consistently.  I also used a #16 copper john and a red #18 copper john with equal success, as well as a #18 hare’s ear, a #18 Barr’s BWO emerger, and a #18 flashback pheasant tail.  In some areas, all of the fish were caught on the rubber leg, in some areas had all of them eating the small nymph and a few spots produced fish with both flies.  I hooked either an extremely large trout or a steelhead on the rubber leg.  It ran into the middle of the river, put me well into my backing, jumped a few times and broke off the 3x tippet.

We ran into a big pod of nice fish that we could see from the trail above that were working Blue Wing Olive nymphs about 2:00 pm.  It was really windy and they were not eating the adults on the surface, but Ryan did land one on a #18 red copper john before I put a cast well into the bushes during a big gust and put them all down while removing my flies from the shrubbery.

While there was a decent BWO hatch, we never saw any fish consistently working the surface, and despite throwing a dry pattern through a couple of fishy backeddies and riffles, we did not hit any fish on dries, but immediately caught them on nymphs after making numerous casts with the dries.  The heavy wind probably had a lot to do with the lack of surface action.  They were definitely eating the nymphs and fish came very quickly, usually on the first cast or two into a spot.

Blue Wing Olives
Ryan spent most of the day throwing streamers on his Winston 4110-4 MicroSpey.  While the bulk of the day was fairly slow for streamer fishing, there were fish eating streamers in a lot of spots.  Many of the fish early and mid-day that ate streamers were small and non-committal to the fly, nipping at the tail and occasionally getting hooked.

At 4:00, we both started fishing streamers on our switch rods in a nice waist-deep riffle and fish immediately began coming to hand. The action was consistent for the last hour or more of daylight.  We caught several rainbows and each of us landed a bull trout (both were our fish Deschutes bullies).  Both of them had what appeared to me to be Black Spot disease.  It may not be, but it sure looks like it based on my experiences.

I was always told Black Spot disease was a parasite that was often a result of being exposed to warm water for too long, which certainly happened this past summer.  I have heard all sorts of theories of as to how they get it: from eating snails to being exposed to bird feces… I saw this guiding on the lower Teton River in Idaho, where every cutthroat in the river was covered in the same spots, and that water reached the mid 70s every summer.  I am unaware of whether this is a new problem with these fish or something that has been recorded in the river there before.

Smallmouth Bass fishing has been very slow so far this year.  Surface temps in the Columbia backwaters have increased to 47, which should get the fish activated, but locating them seems to be the problem, or maybe it’s just getting them to eat.  He seems to be marking appropriately-sized fish on the finder, but who knows if they are bass or not.  All he knows is that they are not eating anything he throws at them.  The water is only 42 going through Bonneville.  Bassmaster Ryan is perplexed, but is putting in an inordinate amount of time trying to figure it out.  I told him that I will go out there with him once he has it dialed and it is good fishing, then I will let you all know about it.

Just hangin with a fish that ate a stonefly nymph
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.

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist

"Fly Fishing Report"


  1. What streamers seemed to be working on the Deschutes?

  2. Ryan was using a sculpin pattern, similar to a sculpzilla. I was using a large #4 or #6 olive conehead woolly bugger. The retrieve that worked was quicker than I expected with how cold the water was. They were crushing the fly really well at the end of the day.

  3. Thanks for the input. Traveling to Bend OR next week and I plan to stop at the upper river near Mecca on my way back to PDX. I will only have my two hander and now I have a plan to approach the river. I just happen to have a lot of Sculpzillas and Wooley Buggers. I will let you know how it goes.


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