September 2008 – Deschutes River Information – We fished the Deschutes for two days in late Septmber. One day was self guided, the second was guided by Deschutes Angler, our guide for that trip was Amy Hazel. We stayed at the Maupin City RV Park and fished the river around the town on Monday. In the mornng we tried our luck upstream of Maupin, then took a break for lunch and fished below Maupin in the evening. I had no luck in the morning, but caught 3 whitefish off dry flies in the evening. Results of the guided trip are provided in the discussion of that day.
The Deschutes is a beautiful river. The area around Maupin is all canyons, so the banks are relatively steep, but there is a road on one side and a railroad track on the other, so walking and wade fishing is possible. While the river is most famous for its steelhead, called redsides, we tried our luck at trout fishing on Monday. If you know what to expect and talk to any of the fly shops in Maupin, you should be able to catch some fish there. We were told that the best trout time was later afternoon and evening and that they were hitting close to the bank on small dry flies. I got my 3 doing exactly that.
The reason we went to the Deshutes was to steelhead fish and specifically to steelhead fish with Spey rods. Deschutes Angler is the Spey headquarters, so we wanted to learn from the best. In my option, Amy Hael was just that, the best. Her ability to teach us not only to Spey cast, but how to correctly fish the swinging fly made for an enjoyable day.
So in addition to wonderful scenery, fast, deep, cold water, and beautiful weather, we learned a lot of new casting techniques for the Deschutes and other Nortwest steelhead rivers.
Monday – Self Guided – Around Maupin
On Monday, we visited the Deschutes Angler Fly Shop, this shop is out of place in Maupin, its a high end fly shop and would fit perfectly in any upscale mall in any large city. we talked with John Hazel about the Tuesday guide service and he informed us that Amy would be our guide. He also informed us we better be ready to fish, that Amy was a no nonsense guide and would keep us on our toes. we got some trout information and of course had to buy the latest and hotest flies prior to heading out to the river.
Maupin is located on the canyon walls with the river running through it. There is a BLM access road that runs both up and down river, with BLM campgrounds in both directions. Most of the campgrounds can handle 1-4 campers, with most having some limited RV space. No hook-ups, just a place to park. But they are all along side the river. The road is paved for a few miles out of Maupin, but rough gravel after that. There is a large campground at the pavement end going up river and a large campground at roads end going down river. The two large campgrounds each hold 15-20 sites. On weekends, especially in the summer, Maupin is rafter heaven, so the campgrounds fill fast. My advice if you can is go mid-week to avoid the crowds. We stayed at the Maupin City Park, which has RV sites with full hookups. Read my review under RV and Camping.
So on Monday, we took the upriver BLM road to the very end. There is a locked gate to stop vehicle traffic, but you can walk from there. We walked up river for another mile or so and fished our way back down to the truck. We mostly nymph fished, that side of the river is steep and deep, so we figured nymphing would work best. I did try a dry fly combo and got one hit on the smaller trailing fly (x-caddis #16). So about 1:30 or 2 we headed back to the trailer.
After a break and some food, we drove down river and tried our luck at dry flies. I fished a salmon fly #6 with an x-caddis #16 trailing. The salmon fly was a bad idea, the season was long over for them, but I did catch 3 whitefish on the x-caddis. Fish were jumping all around me, but the bigger trout didn’t care much for my flies. But the whitefish were fun to catch, so I just stayed stubborn and kept fishing the same setup until dark.
Tuesday – Lower River above Mac’s Canyon – Guide: Amy Hazel
Tuesday came early, we met Amy at the fly shop at 5:30 AM, waders and boots on ready to go. We had gotten our instructions the day prior, be there ready to leave at 5:30, be ready to fish, boots waders and vests on, bring a complete change of clothes, including undergarments and socks, the Deshutes is not too forgiving of unsteady waders. Our guide was Amy Hazel, she has been guiding for over 8 years, her husband John and her own the Deschutes Angler Fly Shop and both guide as well.
We departed the fly shop at 5:30 AM, just as planned. Drove to a launch south of town and put the boat in while still dark. Amy started rowing toward the first spot long before there was light. Luckily she knew the river very well and could determine her location by the sound of the water. We went a short way down the river and pulled into our first run to learn how to fish with a Spey rod. Rather than go into great detail about what a Spey rod is, just check out this article on two-handed-flyrods. My brief summary is, the Spey rod is a two handed fly rod between 12-15 feet long. Its claim to fame is the ease with which it casts a long line with minimum backcast. On the Deschutes, it is very difficult to find any space to have an adequate back cast, required by an overhead cast technique. The Spey cast is a highly modified roll-cast and can get 60-70 feet of line on the water with a minimum of space behind you. In addition to the casting lessons, Amy taught us how to fish each run, and a short speech on how to hook a steelhead, which obviously didn’t take on me, as I proceeded to violate it on my first 2 grabs.
As the day went on we fished various runs and Amy continued to provide coaching and tips. We were fishing with Echo 12’6″ #6 rods, Vision Shooting Tip floating line, and Galvan R-10 reels, a great setup for a summer steelhead outfit. Amy also provided a 13′ #7 outfit to let us see the difference. The #7 is better suited to casting both floating and sinking tip lines, thus a better all around outfit. The two handed rods were much easier to cast than a #9-10 one handed rod and less tiring as the day worn on.
You can’t fish from a boat on the Deschutes, so we used it for transportation between runs. Wading the Deschutes can be difficult, the reason for the change of clothes. I almost went under on my second run, but managed to stay up. Thought I had learned my lesson, but did stumble and go down later in the day. Luckily, it was a warm sunny day, so I just air dried, but even that was cold. We were wearing breathable chest high waders, wading stick (mandatory), and wader belt (mandatory), but the river is swift and the rocks large, round, and slick, so a tumble is not uncommon.
We fished numerous great looking runs before lunch. At lunch there is a break of a couple of hours. The steelhead don’t like the sun at noon, so they stay down. The guides take a short break and we could either nap, practice casting, or trout fish. We had our #5 fly rods, so we opted for trout fishing. But no luck there. Amy had put us in the best place for lunch, it was the first place to get shade in the afternoon, so by 3:00 we were back fishing. The first run after lunch is were I lost footing and got baptized by the Deschutes. My boating partner lost it on the same run, so at least I didn’t have to put up with a bunch of razzing.
I had 2 or 3 “grabs” during the day, but instinctly raised my rod tip to set the hook, not the way to hook steelhead. You have to release line and let them hook themselves. On my last run of the day, I finally got the hang of it. I was fishing down to the boat when a large hatchery steelhead took the fly, I relaxed, and she set the hook in her jaw, perfect! She was a beauty, she immediately took a long run with an aerial exhibition at the end of it. I tried to gain back some line, but she immediately took another long run and went airborne again, beautiful! By this time Amy was back with me and giving me plenty of coaching. The two handed rod is great for casting, but it doesn’t provide the same leverage as a stout one handed, the fish definitely has the advantage, but it just makes the fight better.
The fish got down into a deep pool and just wallowed around, I kept the pressure on an tried to get back more line. The reel had a 15′ leader, 35′ of shooting tip, 150′ of running line, and 200 yards of backing. I was way down into the backing. I wasn’t concerned until Amy got concerned, she even took a photo of the reel and backing, so we started walking down river to the fish, after falling once already, I must say I wasn’t too confident that it was a good idea. But after some walking, another run by the fish, and continued pressure, we were able to recover the line back to the running line. Amy had decided the net as too small, so she would tail the fish and as I got it closer gave some good instructions on how to get it positioned for her. So after a great fight and about 20 minutes of tugging on a long rod, I got her in position for Amy to tail.
Amy estimated she was 10-12lb, all during the fight we figured she was a wild fish, but once landed we saw she was a hatchery fish. I could have kept her, but after such a great fight, letting her go was the best option. Amy’s philosophy is that the hatchery fish that are the most aggressive, get caught and removed from the gene pool, so releasing a great fighting fish will enable her to go up river, spawn, and provde eggs for fry with that aggressive gene. Five years from now, we’ll be back fishing for one of those aggressive and great fighting off spring.
We continued down river to the take-out. Got the boat out of the water about 7:15PM and back to the fly shop about 8:00 PM, so it was a long day for all of us, but especially for Amy who did all the hard work.
Two days fishing in Maupin, Oregon. Stayed at the Maupin City RV Park, fished up and down river. First day self guided, #7 rod, nymph and dry fly. 3 whitefish late in the evening on dries. Day 2, Guided trip with Deschutes Angler Fly Shop, Amy Hazel guide. Fished lower river below Shearer Falls, drift boat, wading various runs. Caught 1 10-12 lb steelhead. 13-14 hours on the river, mostly fishing, very little down time, John was right when he said Amy took her guiding serious, I am confident she put us on fish all day. Either they didn’ bite, or we missed them, but she worked hard to make sure we had the opportunity to catch one. So Amy, here’s to you.
I fell in love with the Deschutes and will definitely be back. Even before I caught the fish, I was thinking about when I could work a return trip in.