Yesterday I finished a five day trip down the Deschutes from Warm Springs to Maupin. It ended up being a great trip, but conditions did not look particularly encouraging as we drove to the launch on the first morning. Over the five previous days, a series of warm, moisture-laden, low pressure systems drove most rivers around Oregon out of shape. Though the Deschutes did not rise as precipitously as all the rivers on the west slope of the cascades, the water had come up almost 3300 cfs from the week before, putting it somewhere just over 7400 cfs. Trout Creek and the Warm Springs river were still running brown, and much of the lower Deschutes was off color just the day before.
I hadn’t fished the Deschutes at this flow for many years, and really didn’t know how the fishing would be. All this wet weather, however, ended up really working to our advantage. Some outfitters and many private boaters cancelled their trips, opting to wait for better water conditions. The traffic on the river was only a fraction of what it can be during the fabled stonefly hatch. On the first day of the trip, the majority of the places I would normally fish were fast and washed-out, but we did well fishing spots that had the right look given these high flows. The water gradually dropped over the course of the trip and was a very fishable color from start to finish. Over the five days of the trip, fishing ranged from decent to very good, with a number of good fish coming to the dry fly during every session. The trip was punctuated by some spectacular periods when the Deschutes River’s redsides were attacking the dry fly with abandon. By the last day of the trip, the water had receded to around 5300 cfs and many of the fishing holes were looking a lot more like themselves. We didn’t tie on a nymph the entire trip. All the normal stonefly patterns were producing: the Clark’s Stone, Norm Woods’ Special, Stimulator, and Larimer’s Golden were all effective (#6-#8).
Though this year’s Salmonfly and Golden Stone emergence is already winding down on the Deschutes River, the hatch will linger on a while longer yet on the upper reaches of the lower Deschutes. We saw good numbers of adult insects out still all the way down to the Dixon area. With warmer weather this week and the river dropping toward a more familiar level, the dry fly fishing should continue to be quite good.
Because of all the wet weather this spring the desert landscape was dappled with spots of color from blooming wildflowers. During the summer months, the Deschutes Canyon is a dry and dusty place, but the hillsides are currently a gorgeous green and resplendent with blossoms.