Davis Lake Oregon
by Dave Scadden
The rise form was almost imperceptible and I had to do a double take to make sure that it was indeed a rise form and not just my imagination. At first I didn’t think much of it but then there was another one. This one was much bigger. My first thought was it must be a carp. Then it hit me this wasn’t a carp …there are no carp in Davis Lake. It had to be a largemouth and a big one at that. No sooner had these thoughts flashed through my mind than I saw another rise then another. Almost instinctively I was frantically stuffing my streamer rod into my rod holder and made a mad grab for my top-water rod.
My first thought was that the cover was so heavy that anything I cast into this cattail jungle would surely snag and I would not be able to retrieve my popper. I had to try, even if it meant losing my trick little foam popper. I held 30 feet of line in the air, methodically false casting for what seemed like an eternity patiently waiting for another rise form to surface. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a surging boil of water in a tiny pocket of open water amidst the cattails. I instantly loaded my Sage largemouth rod and shot the brilliant Fire-Tiger foam popper into the pocket. The popper had scarcely hit the water when the cattails exploded with a blinding flash of green… I set the hook!
The heavy bulrushes formed what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier. I had been forced to fish the edges of the heavy cover for the past two hours not finding a way to work its inner sanctums without snagging up on every cast. I had motored out across Davis Lake at first light to what had appeared to be two islands. Upon my approach I discovered that they were indeed submerged islands covered in matted cattails and bulrushes. I found that working the edges of this mid-lake sanctuary with a heavily weighted Outlaw Minnow Streamer was deadly.
I would carefully work along the uneven reed line with my front control motor probing every little niche of the erratic cover with the heavily weighted bug. I would virtually flip the bug in to the edge of the cover as tight as possible without snagging. I would then focus completely on both the sight and the feel of the line as the bug sank to the bottom. The slightest hesitation, movement or “tick” was followed up with a 1-2-3 count then rear back on the cool little 7’11’ yellow bass rod as hard as I could without falling out of my boat. This technique had proven deadly and I had been rewarded with some nice largemouth bass. Black, purple, blue, and chartreuse had all been productive as the light conditions changed through the early morning hours. Once the sun cleared the Cascades to the east my pattern began to fade and once the sun was up over the distant snowcapped peaks, it stopped.
I had heard about Davis Lake for years. Nestled in the evergreen forests of the Cascade Range in central Oregon it is not what you would picture in your minds eye as a trophy bass lake. Surrounded by towering Ponderosa pines and snow-capped mountains it is the furthest thing you would expect a world-class bass fishery to look like. It is simply stunning. We were on Davis Lake the first week of June filming our 2010 video production. Scott Cook from the Fly and Field Fly shop in Bend had turned me on to this lake years ago. He would taunt me with photos of big bass while attending the O’loughlin Outdoor show in Redmond. I have threatened many times to come out and meet him to fish the lake. His new shop in Bend is so busy that he was unable to sneak a day to fish the lake so he sketched out a little map with a few X’s on it and away we went.
Having never laid eyes on the lake I was surprised at its size, it was bigger than I had expected. I was glad that I had brought the motors. I had my Yamaha 8 hp on my Avenger and Craig Oberg had the 4 hp on his Outlaw X5. It was a good thing we had them. It was a good five miles across the lake to the submerged islands. Dick and Sandy Johnson had their Avenger XX that proved to work very well. Taking turns on the oars they could position each other perfectly to cover the lava flow rock structure near the launch area. Leanne Ross had a 40 lb thrust Minn Kota electric motor on her Outlaw X5. She was able to work the varied structure of the lake within a mile of our vehicles.
The state of Oregon does a great job of managing its fisheries for a quality experience. The management of Davis Lake is no exception. It has very unique regulations for a largemouth bass fishery-limiting anglers to the use of flies and fly tackle only. This has literally transformed Davis into a world-class fishery bringing both quality and quantity to those anglers willing to learn the art of fly rod bass fishing. For those of us who have indulged in the sport of fly rod bass fishing over the years it is a Mecca piece of water.
It didn’t take long to figure out why the bass all of a sudden started boiling the surface. A careful assessment of my surroundings revealed light tan damsel nymphs crawling up the stalks of the bulrushes in huge numbers. This profuse hatch had started a huge feeding frenzy. There were times over the next hour and a half that there were 15 to 20 bass boiling the surface at one time within the range of my vision. It was an awesome sight. I quickly discovered that I could pull my Avenger directly into the bulrushes and forge my way through them both silently and effectively, probing deeper into the heavy cover targeting the larger fish as I went.
The unique Uni-trac hull design of the Outlaw series Avenger and X5 allows you to mount your electric motor directly to your standing platform. Mounted in such a way it is protected from the brush with the rounded hull design of the boat forging the way, literally parting the reeds as you go. With a little practice it became easy to maneuver the tangled mass of bulrushes.
I found that 20 lb tippet with a Duncan loop knot keeping the fly moving freely was the ticket to landing the big bass without breaking off and also allowed me to fish the heavy cover without losing my popper. For 2 hours it was almost mechanical. Stand up on my boat and scan for big fish, drop the popper on the rise forms, watch the lake explode, set the hook and literally wrestle those big bucket mouths out of the tangled mass of weeds, shoot video, release the fish…repeat. What an unbelievable day!