Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Eighty-eight



Deschutes River in Fall

By David Dornblaser


I am going to include a little background on the Deschutes River for those who may be unfamiliar with this river.

We flew into the Portland, Oregon airport on Sunday, October 2nd. From Portland we drove east into the mountains via Route 26. The Deschutes River is only a little over 2 hours east of Portland. Once you cross the Sandy River you quickly climb into the the mountains. It was raw and raining but being in the mountains was beautiful. We skirted Mt. Hood but saw snow on it's peaks. Once you start dropping out of the mountains the vegetation and topography changes quickly. East of the mountain is cattle country with sparse vegetation. The Deschutes River is in a classic Western Canyon.

Sunday we met two friends from California who were fishing at the same time that we were. These gentleman planned on fishing with single-handed rods. After spending a morning double-hauling their single-handed rods, they took up the spey rods. One of the California boys had a fabulous first morning with 7 hook ups and landing 4 steelhead.

The fishing program was for us to meet the guides at 5:00 am in front of the lodge. From the lodge we would either go to the boat launch or the access points. We were generally fishing over 30 miles of river. We would have been fishing over more of the river but the White River which enters the Deschutes was blown out from flood water from Mt. Hood's glaciers. We would fish until about 11:30 when the sun was above the river. Our shore lunches were BIG deli sandwiches, hot soup, etc. The Deschutes steelhead are hard to catch when the sun is in their eyes, this is a north-south river which empties in the Columbia River. We would then rest after lunch and resume fishing in the late afternoon and fished until it was dark.

The Deschutes is a great spey river. We guessed that the river was normally about 150 feet wide and it was flowing at 4,000 cfs. The Deschutes has a reputation for being one of the harder wading rivers. Believe it. We had cleats in our boots and I purchased a wading staff for my wife, Lynn, before we left. I had a wading staff by the second day. Although some areas where tougher wading than others, most of the river was filled with larger round rocks covered with moss. Unfortunately, we have no fish pictures to share with you. Neither Lynn nor I felt comfortable carrying the camera on the water, we were both convinced that we would be taking a swim in the river. The camera stayed in the drift boat or in the guide's truck. As a result, none of our fish ever left the water. The guide did show Lynn how to revive her fish. She has a new respect for steelhead.

The fishing was great. We fished by swinging wet flies - boy, is summer steelheading fun! Lynn only used a spey rod and caught her first steelhead on swung fly no less! Unfortunately, Lynn decided that my new Winston and Bougle was her favorite rod and she used it the last two days. Sometime over that period principal ownership of the rod and reel past to her. Hey, but I have a new, hard core steelhead fishing partner who happens to be my best friend!

The Deschutes is home to a special rainbow trout called "Redsides" for the red coloration. We had intended to fish for trout during the rest period after lunch but decided to rest instead. I did catch two Redsides while I was trying out a Burkheimer 139 9 wt. Boy, talk about overpowering the poor fish! (For you single-handers out there, that is like landing a 12" trout with a long 11 wt). That's me above.

Weather on the Deschutes ranged from the high '30s in the morning to near '70 at lunch. A true desert environment.

We fished for three full days. On the way back to Portland we stopped to see some classic Oregon wilderness:

We had a great time and are totally hooked on fishing for summer steelhead with a spey rod. We will be returning next year for three days as well.

Our guides were John and Amy from The Deschutes Angler Fly Shop and Guide Service; Maupin, OR. You can reach them at 1-877-395-0995 or their website, www.deschutesangler.com ~ David


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