Nov 7, 2018

Deschutes Steelhead Camp

As a fly angler there is one destination sooner or later you have to check off your bucket list, the Deschutes River, Oregon. Come to think of it you may have to visit this desert river more than just once to experience not only the aggressive steelhead but also the hardest pulling redside rainbows you may ever encounter.

I joined some friends this year on their annual fall camp. With less than stellar fish counts this year I understood the challenge would be high but with big challenges comes great rewards. The promise of good company was also a great influence. Part of what makes steelhead camp special is in the fact that one is not alone in the quest for the unforgettable catch.

Spotting the big horns
This season on the "D" came with a different landscape. The fires early in the year claimed up countless acres, (or more appropriate square miles), of the desert landscape. While one could choose to dwell over destruction I instead chose to witness the rebirth. While sadly some of the famous man made landmarks have been lost forever, nature is quick at work to regenerate the rivers edge all while advancing into the hills.

I watched big horn rams from great distance grazing the hillsides while wondering what could they be eating with the only answer I could come up with is a sparse delicacy of new growth of which I could not see. I fear for their future but must remind myself the combination of their will to survive and natures will to replenish equals an equation much greater than of my own understanding.

A few years have passed since I last waded this fishery. The river itself hasn't changed much. Still big current and slippery bedrock as always. If you go here do yourself a favor, equip your boots with the best traction possible and a Wading Staff is a good idea. The old saying for this body of water is "It's not if you will dunk, but when will you dunk!" I foolishly relaxed on my boot traction and left the wade stick behind. That decision cost me.

Please keep your hands arms and legs inside the vessel and remain seated
Another part of the adventure to appreciate is the jet boat rides. Myself, having been a licensed boat captain, can fully appreciate the knowledge and skill it takes to navigate all the dangers from the big class rapids to the shallow broad runs. Fun fact for those who've never been here, regulation is; No fishing from boats. Boats are only used for transportation. All fishing must be done on foot. This regulation includes rafts and drift boats as well.

The great part of camp trips is you fish optimal times. Up before dawn to fish first light and through the morning hours, break for lunch and afternoon siesta, and back at it for the evening shade until darkness takes over. Camps are generally set on some of the best runs of the river to take full advantage of first light fishing. Wake up, slip into your waders, grab a snack and chug a cup of coffee, grab your rod and get at it. Simple and effective! You will have made many casts before the first day trippers head up river.

Swinging into the sunrise
If you follow our fishing reports then it's no secret that 2018 has been less than stellar. Fish counts back that up. While the counts keep many away, the ones who do visit are blessed with far less fishing pressure. Several opportunities presented themselves and some very nice fish came to hand. A couple even fell for a skater.

I welcomed the opportunity to sample a lot of great gear on this trip. I could write a whole article on my findings. But if one rod really stuck out to me it would have to be the Burkheimer's. It's as if they were born on this river. There's just a soul about them that plays a direct connection between you and  this mysterious underworld.

CF Burkheimer, Vintage build 7127-4
On the morning of my last day in camp I was rewarded with a solid hookup on a nice buck. He fought hard as I navigated the challenges of maneuvering to a landing spot. Jeff and Barrett had arrived to secure the landing. We caught glimpses of this beautiful solid steelhead. In the last moments with just feet to go he gave one last knuckle busting run when something just felt wrong. Line went slack and I let out a heavy sigh! As I reeled in the line Jeff says "Hey, whats that hanging from your fly?"

No one can say exactly how it happened but there hanging from my flies hook was a black and gold hot-n-tot lure. Maybe the lure was snagged on a rock and the fly line got tangled in it or maybe that lure was broke off in the bucks mouth. The only explanation that was for certain is it somehow interfered with the desired end result.

"Hey, whats that hanging from your fly? You've got to be kidding me!"
This event was certainly unexpected. I mean what are the odds. While I would never wish this happening to anyone it is just another example of how the Deschutes River can challenge your every ability.

I've faced many incredible experiences over many years on this demanding river. This river will teach you to appreciate being a little lucky. Success here should never be taken lightly. I believe it is for these reasons that captivate a lifelong pursuit of desire to be at one with Oregon's famous, desert river The Deschutes.

Click Fish the Swing for more information

Greg Darling 

"My Passion For Fishing Is A Lifelong Pursuit Of Discovery"

1 comment :

  1. Funny end to the trip! Something similar happened to my dad on the Kilchis River years ago. He fought a large chum for quite a while, and as he reeled it in closer to the drift boat, suddenly his fly was suspended in mid air and the fish was still tugging... we were all confused. Upon further examination, we realized his fly had become entangled with a 20lb buck, that had previously been caught with a wiggle-wart lure and the line had broke. Somehow he landed a fish he didn't even hook.. go figure!


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