Updated: May 16, 2020
I have heard of the epic stonefly hatch on the Deschutes River ever since I moved to Washington State over 17 years ago. I have always wanted to fish it, but for one reason or another it has never worked out. Michael and I were determined to do it before he headed off to college. With time running short on the hatch, we decided to head out Friday afternoon, catch the evening bite and fish all day Saturday.
We arrived at Warm Springs, Oregon about 4:00 pm and stopped into the Deschutes River Fly Shop to get Michael an Oregon fishing license and talk to them about the conditions. The owner was super helpful. We bought a handful of flies, and headed to Mecca Flats to set up camp and hit the river.
Since we did not have a lot of time to prepare, we had decided to “truck” camp…no tent, just fish fish till dark, crash in the truck and fish hard on Saturday. So setting up camp consisted of parking the truck.
We suited up in our Compass 360 Waders and headed down the trail. This was the first time we had ever been here, and we really had no idea what we were doing, we just assumed that we would figure it out as we went.
We had tied a lot of flies, and bought several others..all Salmon Flies and Stone Flies, we were not here to nymph. If we were gonna fish this hatch, we wanted to see the fish bust the water on a giant fly!
We walked about 1/2 mile down the trail and decided to wade out at the tailwater of a small island. I had several small fish rise to my fly, but no takers. We fished this spot for about an hour or so, and Michael missed a HUGE Redside, it swiped at his fly but missed!
We continued working our way down the river with little success. We saw a lot of Salmon Flies and Stone Flies on the grass, and a few flying, but the trout were not keying in on them..very little surface activity. As the sun passed over the canyon and it started to get shady on the river, we found ourselves fishing a long grassy section. I was fishing a smaller stone fly and Michael was fishing a “Chubby” .
As I was casting I watched as a huge salmon fly fell in the water just behind me and started to float down river. I was amazed that a trout would not instantly gobble up this giant meal. I was curious as to how my smaller fly would look next to the real bug floating down the river so I casted my fly within a couple of inches of it and watched as the two floated side by side down the river. As I was watching them, a trout rose and grabbed my fly! It totally ignored the big real deal, and walloped my fly, it was fish on!!
It was about a 14” trout, but it put up a great fight! I landed it, we snapped a couple of pictures and I relayed my story to Michael. The fish were simply not keying in on the big
bugs, and preferred the smaller Golden Stones, but even that bite was not on fire.
We fished for another hour or so and headed back to camp for a spartan dinner of deli turkey, french bread and fig newtons.
We were up early the next morning, and on the river by 6:00am. We started at the island again, and saw almost no stone fly activity this early in the morning. There was however a lot of caddis in the air so we tied on some size 14 caddis to see what might happen. Michael caught a small trout right away, and I had several lookers but no takers. Once the sun came up over the canyon the bug action picked up. We abandoned our caddis flies, tied on some stones and got serious. We hiked several miles down the river, fishing various spots with little luck. Again, there were a lot of stoneflies around, but very little surface activity. I missed a big rainbow swinging the stonefly behind a rock, and that was the most action for the
morning. As we worked our way back, we were able to figure out that the best spots were overhanging trees with good current and deeper water. Michael worked one of these spots pretty hard and was rewarded with a small trout early in the afternoon. We fished really hard, but the action was just not there. Talking with other anglers on the river we heard the same story over and over. Some of the guys were doing good on nymphs, but the surface action was very slow.
We made it back to the truck around 3:00, and decided that enough was enough, the bite was just not happening, but we were happy that we had landed a few.
It was a great trip, and I learned a lot about this fishery. We will be back, and better prepared to go after these beautiful fish again next year!