Deschutes River, Oregon
By Dave Scadden
I scanned the river below me intently looking for rise forms as I drifted down the heavy current. The willows along the bank were heavily laden with three-inch long stoneflies and the fish had gorged over the last few days. Only the larger fish were still feeding and the surface takes were few and far between on this stretch of the river. We had floated through the leading edge of the hatch earlier in the day where the fish were voraciously feeding and the fishing had been red hot. We were now working for every fish.
Suddenly I caught the flash of a good fish slashing the surface in a run below me and I scanned adjacent water for a place to jump off my boat to get a shot at the feeding rainbow. A midstream gravel bar looked shallow enough and would offer a 60-foot cast to the fish that had now risen three times. I maneuvered my Outlaw Avenger into position and looked down between the pontoons to check the depth. The water on the gravel bar appeared to be about three and a half feet deep. I held my breath and launched off the seat of my boat. My calculations were a little off and the water came within inches of the top of my waders. My Simms guide boots dug into the shifting gravel and I slowly ground to a stop.
The fish was now sixty-five feet down and across from me and I quickly stripped line off of my reel to prepare for the cast. I made several false casts to establish my distance and let it fly. The bright lime green Rio fly line glowed in the early evening light as it unfurled, dropping the big foam stonefly twelve feet above the big rainbow. I threw some “s” loops into the line and jerked back on my Sage TCR as it descended to the surface to insure a drag free drift.
The fly lazily drifted down the current alongside the big logjam I am sure had offered a safe haven for this actively feeding fish. To my surprise the strike did not come where I thought it would. I was at the end of my drift and ready to pick up and re-cast when all of a sudden the water exploded and my fly disappeared in an eruption of water. I hauled back hard on the 5 wt. and set the hook!
Craig Oberg and I were on the Deschutes River in central Oregon in mid June filming our 2010 technique video. We had hooked up with Scott Cook from the Fly and Field Fly shop in Bend. Scott had told us about the phenomenal stone hatch that comes off on the Deschutes and had insured us some fantastic footage if we showed up mid month. We weren’t disappointed. Herb and Leanne Ross were gracious enough to put us up in their gorgeous home in the upper hills of Bend for a few days while we chased the hatch. The stones were in full swing and the big bugs were everywhere. The streamside willows were literally bending over with the weight of the huge insects.
Our float took us from Warm Springs to Trout Creek that took in about 13 miles of prime water. I was especially interested in the Deschutes because of its unique regulations. The state of Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife service has mandated a regulation on the river which doesn’t allow anglers to float and fish. The angler must have both feet firmly planted on the streambed before they can cast a line. With the pressure the river receives on an annual basis I am sure this regulation has helped maintain a healthy fishery. There are a number of other major fisheries across the nation that have similar regulations. It just so happens my new Outlaw series pontoon boats are made to order for this type of regulation. The new Uni-trac pontoon design of the Outlaw series can be set up for conventional front entry or the frame can be reversed so you are running with the rounded end of the boat facing forward.
Running the Outlaw in what we call the switch stance configuration allows the angler the ability to jump off the boat and stand within the rounded end of the boat without the boat floating away. On a river like the Deschutes this is a revelation. You can literally jump off the boat anywhere that the depth of the river allows. Brushy streamside edges, mid river rocks and mid stream gravel bars are all prime targets to jump off your boat giving you the distinct advantage of being able to work adjacent water and do it legally. As we floated the river we had a constant audience from other anglers who were taken by our ability to work the entire river while they were resigned to the areas where they could only beach their boat and wade fish. Because of the high river flow these areas were few and far between. We were able to fish the virtually anywhere we wanted.
The Deschutes is famous for its red band rainbows and it was a treat to be able to tie into these colorful hard fighting fish. My last experience with red bands was in Siberia, Russia a number of years ago. We were on an exploratory trip with the University of Moscow. They were doing studies and documenting the multitude of river systems in inner Siberia and the Kamchatka peninsula. It was on this trip we discovered that red band rainbows did exist in other parts of the world other than the Pacific Northwest.
My good friends Dick and Sandy Johnson from Redding, California were on this trip and they had their Outlaw Avenger pontoon boat set up for two people. This configuration also proved to be a huge advantage on the Deschutes. With the unique Aqua-lok sliding standing platform frame it was easy to simply slide the standing platform and lean bar back out of the way and walk out of the boat to fish submerged gravel bars. Dick would spot the gravel bars and slow the boat to a stop and jump off the boat holding it for Sandy while she would slide the standing platform out of the way and hop off onto the gravel bar. This technique proved flawless and they were also able to fish many stretches of the river that other floaters simply could not.
The Deschutes is a fantastic fishery and famous for its red band rainbows, world-class whitewater and amazing steelhead runs in both the spring and fall. It is the steelhead runs that have now captivated my attention. With my new secret weapon the Outlaw series pontoon boat, you can bet that I will be back on the Deschutes real soon gunning for those big runs of steelies fresh out of the Pacific!