Friday, October 17, 2014

Steelhead fishing the Deschutes River

 A fishing report from Dale - 10 October
Tom and Brandon "working" the river

The price of catching a Pacific Northwest steelhead should not be calculated in the price per pound of fish,
because the
experience of catching steelhead is Priceless. 
~ DB McKain

It was a week ago 10 October that eight Walla² Fly Fishers came together in the Grove Elementary School parking lot in Milton-Freewater at or about 4:55 a.m. to head out for a day of fishing the Deschutes River. Our objective was to be fishing the river before the sunlite hit the water. In carpooling we took 4 vehicles since no one knew how fast their creel would be filled with fat, sassy, sea-run summer steelhead, and our return home times could differ.

We had to make a quick pit-stop in Pendleton for fuel, since one of our drivers was unable to fill-up before closing time of the gas stations in Milton-Freewater the night before. From Pendleton we hit I-84 and made a due west line to Biggs, OR and the Deschutes River's Heritage Landing. From the hiking/biking fishers' parking lot we headed for the river above Moody Rapids. Every steelhead and salmon that turns into the Deschutes River, out of the Mighty Columbia River for cooler water and rest, enters this stretch of river. Many days from August through December this stretch of water is some prime Fall Chinook (early on) and steelhead fishing waters up until Christmas.
A rather small Deschutes River steelhead w/ 8wt. rod system
 It was a beautiful day for steelheading; clear skies, warm autumn air temperatures, cool refreshing water flowing between our feet. The river's water flow at the Moody Rapids gauge station that morning was 4580 cfs, which made for very easy wading and creating a nice downriver fly swing. Dale tells everyone that he has found that the river is very easily waded and fished with water flows up to 5200 cfs, it gets to be very tricky wading with need of a wading staff around 5800 cfs, and quite treacherous at 6000+ cfs. Water temperature was cool, not cold skies were clear, and a couple of days before there was a Full Moon, actually a Full Moon - full lunar eclipse.

Dale was the "guide" for this fishing trip, as he had fished this stretch of the Deschutes River previously and caught a few steelhead along the way.

Dale's first Deschutes River steelie in hand

 Dale had advised everyone via email before leaving to plan to spend the day on the river with a bag lunch and some TP as part of their hiking/fishing gear. About a mile and a half upriver from Moody Rapids is a riverside outhouse - a regularly scheduled cleaned comfort station, but always bring extra TP.

Best flies for steelhead fishing the Deschutes River are --- Bright flashy flies on bright day, Dark silhouette flies for cloudy days. 

Not too long after entering the river above Moody Rapids, Erik hooked into a nice jerky - sucker, first catch of the day. At the same time everyone else spread out across about a mile of river and worked the fishing "slot" they found easiest to get into.  There was not a lot of fishing traffic on the west bank that day, maybe a dozen other fishers in sight below Rattlesnake Rapids.
Dick at "work" as we are looking upriver

On the east side of the river a lot of people use the hike/bike trail to go upriver with their float tubes. 

Between Rattlesnake Rapids and the Columbia River it is legal to fish with hard artificial lures and flies, as long as your feet are on the ground. 

Floating ~ boating and fishing together are illegal on the lower 3-miles of the Deschutes River unless your feet are set on the bottom of the river.

Fast forwarding on through that day... several of the guys after lunch walked to the bottom end of Moody Rapids to watch a number of fishers "working" the pool between the rapids and the Columbia River. That's when Erik caught the only steelhead of the day by our group of fly fishers. Because of the unique way Erik caught his steelie (pictured below), we will let him tell his fish tale, about tailing this fish, the next time you see him.
Erik with the only steelhead caught this day

A little later in the day Erik caught another sucker. A good fish catcher Erik is. Erik used to work at the Joseph Fly Shop, and has spent a lot of time catching steelhead from the Wallowa River during that river's prime steelhead season - after New Year Day.

Two vehicles left before the rest -no catching report from them- our other rigs returned to Milton-Freewater around 8:00 pm. A full day's "work" done.

Keep in mind that the catch rate for steelhead fishing is usually measured in angling hours or days per fish, not the number of fish caught per hour or day.

We hope to make our next steelhead fishing trip soon to the John Day River, when steelhead fishing conditions are right... wanna go?

Some ODFW steelhead fishing tips, you might wish to look over.
2014-15 ODFW predictions of winter fishing for summer steelhead in Central and Northeast Oregon.

Respectfully submitted,
Dale McKain

Club Secretary

Tight lines and good fishing

Walla² Fly Fishers

Tom Craig – President
Dave Stemmer – Vice President
Doug Coe – Treasurer
Dale McKain – Secretary ~ Blogmaster 
Gerald Newell - PROJECT HEALING WATERS Coordinator

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