2013 Deschutes River Pig Trout

Without question the Deschutes River is an amazing place.  I have been blessed with opportunity to fish many of the West’s legndary trout waters.  My skills with the bug whipper are reasonable and my fly tying skills are about the same.  My ability to find fish and understand their desires is a lot better.  This comes from years working in the conservation field and the need to understand fish ecology.  It took me a while to figure out the Deschutes.  It is a big river, deep right off the bank, burdened with regulations, and loved to death by fishermen and women just like me.  Two things I have learned about the Deschutes that have improved my catch rates are:

1.  Get up early and get there first.  Sloppy seconds can be less forgiving.

2.  Slow it down.  Stop and think about what you are doing and dissect the river.  Then it will not seem so intimidating.

With that 2013 proved to be a good year on the Deschutes.  The steelhead run was pretty paltry.  Fall Chinook were off the chart due to the record return in the Columbia River. Trout were getting fat on all the food available to them over the course of the year.  Fall is the best time on the river because all the target species are present in the highest numbers and they are aggressive due to the uptick of their biological clock caused by the changing season.

I love this part.  "See you next year little fella"

I love this part. “See you next year little fella”

The combination of power and beauty within the redband trout population never ceases to amaze me.  Of all the wild creatures I cross paths with the Columbia River Redband Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) are by far the most stunning.  Do not get me wrong chrome steelhead are a thing to behold, but the variation in coloring of the redband trout is a true representation of mother nature’s artistic power.

Dr. Robert Behnke in his book Native Trout of Western North America believes the origins of the Columbia River Redband Trout came from a mixing of coastal rainbow trout and cutthroat trout when the species came in contact after the last ice age.

Cutthroat or Rainbow? Good observation Dr. Behnke

Cutthroat or Rainbow?
Good observation Dr. Behnke

I make sure to save a bit of my “use or loose” vacation time for this time of year so I can spend a day or two reminding myself (and the fortunate few who tag along) of this power and beauty.

A true 20 inched

A true 20-incher

going home

Going home

Due to his infamy and paparazzi appeal I need to include some Russ Mitchell porn in this post.

It is tough for Russ to break away from his life of stardom, as a retired pro-athlete waiting for induction into the Hall of Fame.  His constant touring promoting the “organic only” lifestyle and autograph circuit from his days as an all pro snatchback for the Redmond State Sasquatch requires a bit of down time.  When Russ has the time he wants to fish, so he calls The Turb.

Russ choking on that smile

Russ choking on that smile

It was a good thing we had the discussion the night before whether or not we should bring the back-up rod.  Russ put the meat to the next fish and I jumped in for a rather rare over the shoulder shot.

Just after meat was given

Just after meat was given

I can't say enough about my water master.  Makes it all possible.

I can’t say enough about my watermaster kodiak. Makes it all possible.

With the growing fan base and the popularity Russ brings to The Turb Memoirs the board of directors for Turb Media Group unanimously voted to fund a full length feature film of Russ’s adventures.  Please take a minute to watch the trailer below.

Before I take Russ out for the day I always test fish to make sure it is up to his standards.  Nothing makes him more crabby than a day of sub-parr fishing.  Included below is a short selfie video of my test fishing.

Until next time.  Respect the river and try not to cry when you overpay for your 2014 Oregon fishing and hunting tags.

Turb

Deschutes River Donkey Steelhead Rodeo Style

There are steelhead in the river from the dam to the mouth and have been for weeks. Where and how many is anyones guess.  We here at The Turb Memoirs strive to find quality, consistent sporting action in order to produce the verbal and visual art form that brings you back.  That is no easy task.

Please watch the 5 min video  to formulate your own opinion of whether or not the self-guided part of this adventure is legit!

Deschutes Steel

Turb Memoirs style

Lower Deschutes River October 2013

October is fishing time in these parts.

With the low steelhead run this year we knew a few chinook (record fall run return year) would help fill the lull between yanking steel.

Russ is just back from a publicity tour for his new book “Row of Turds.” Proudly landed a gnarly specimen of the chinook species for me.  His new book provides plain analysis and insight to the people’s perception of the 2013 Government Shutdown, along with a heart grabbing story about a recent date arranged online.  The book flows nicely, making it an easy read by relating the subjects to an experience with a row of turds he stumbled into one morning years ago on a Deschutes River steelhead trip.

As I towed the salmonid beast towards the shoreline Russ quickly got the milty look in his eye again. First fish of the morning thing I guess.

Squirt?  It's organic?

Squirt? It’s organic?

With that out of the way the steelies came slowly.

Target species!

Target species!

Proven tactics in a proven spot produced this catch.  More were expected at this stop, but we were reminded of the poor run size this year.  Russ connected on the third cast, not the first, as in good run years.

Glamping was around, but not here.

Glamping was around, but not here.

Deschutes Mini

Deschutes mini steel.  Lower D swinging run

 Typical Deschutes scenery abounds throughout.

Peeking sun...

Peeking sun…

Fish were present throughout the lower river.  I was averaging two grabs each time I fished through a run.

This is a self guided and self taught outdoor blog not a stockpond, pricy guide kind of place.  I missed a few takes OK.    I hacked my way downstream trying to perfect my D-loop and anchor placement. Kept my fly fishing good water.  I figured it out…..   Eventually I landed several Deschutes mini steelhead (22-24″).

Being a hacker I fish stuff deep and slow because that is what I know.  It is not pretty, but my batting average is rising.  Once I get it out there I can swing it pretty well.  Self-guided.  

These fish were aggressive.  Russ caught one on a nymph, then another larger one quickly after.  My minis were all on red stuff.  Pro-tube stuff.

Reverse marabou tube Fished naked without a hook guide.  I dropped them in the river.  I was grabby on some T-11

Reverse marabou tube “naked”

After day two I was fishing my tubes naked without a hook guide. I dropped a small pack of hook guides in the river. The tubes were still as grabby on some T-11.  I eventually switched to some standard fly shop flashy stuff and stuck with it.

* Note 1.  A spinner fished slow in a long jet boat run under the trees produced a donkey that evaded the camera at the last second.

Standard flashy stuff

Standard flashy stuff

When you find the right run (there are many).  Fish it several times.  I caught more than one fish per run.  Let the line be taught on the swing, but only slightly, fishing a few feet under the surface.  This wild doe exploded on the fly in the tail of a huge run.

Wild self-guided steel

Wild self-guided steel

Russ had a few insights into the shutdown between sessions of yanking steel!

Did you get your government shutdown steel?

Russ on the shutdown "Congress in session"

Russ on the shutdown “Congress in session?”

Pig Trout of the Deschutes River

As October winds down and November begins my thoughts begin to drift towards the late archery season here in Oregon and huge redband trout gorging behind spawning fall chinook salmon. This year I was fortunate enough to fill my deer tag so chasing blacktail deer is out of the question (maybe a cow elk).  I have been drawn to thoughts of the huge pig redband trout of the Deschutes River. No other time of year allows consistent action for large (very large) redband trout like the chinook spawn in fall.  Most anglers target steelhead during this time of year so the trout do not get the pressure. Concentrations of spawning chinook draw in the trout to feast on eggs and all the insects that get kicked up by the commotion.  It only takes a few chinook to draw in the trout. Herds draw in the true pigs.

A sporty specimen

In mid-October a strong frontal system produced some pounding rainfall on the glaciers of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood.  The glacial silt runoff turned the river an Alaskan grey with visibilities of less than a foot that remained for over two weeks.  The fish faired fine.  I think the increase in river level and the color drew a huge push of chinook upstream.  I tried my luck in a few of my usual haunts and egged up this sporty fella behind a group of spawners I located in the glacial tinge.  It is the usual “Turb self-photo” hence the dry bag and buckle in the foreground.  Self photos just add to the adventure.

My stealth floater and arsenal

Of course none of this would be possible without my Watermaster Kodiak.  This boat allows me to sneak into the tightest spots and tie up to twigs where drift boats would spook the whole herd.  You have to watch the rods because there are a thousand ways to snag a 13 foot spey rod in the brush along the bank.  I hope I do not learn the hard way. My advice: break the rods down, secure them with rubber bands, then lash them to the boat.  It may create a few interesting tangles from time to time, and slow down the fishing, but you won’t end up with a six piece spey rod, or worse a six piece spey rod and a five piece single-hander.

No words can explain the action or the size of the pig trout that suck up behind these groups of chinook.  A few photos is the best I can do to explain the quality.

Average specimen

Above average, but common

A closer look at this old pig trout

The release with a peek at a custom egg pattern

Since the chinook are present in numbers the occasional dorsal or tail hook up threatens to take your rig- or worse, splinter your rod.  My advice is to snap your line with the rod pointed right at them.  If you use maxima, half the time it pulls out of the soft flesh.

Every so often they develop a hunger for the egg.  If that happens there is usually a battle.  My advice: play to win!

The battle. Keep the rod up!!

Photo worthy

I rarely take people to my go-to spots.  Other people rarely take me to their go-to spots.  It does happen.  Appreciate it when it does.  This time I chose to share the spots and the knowledge of how to rig up for these pig trout slobs.  The river gods responded with a gift of their own.

Sir slobness (not the angler) made an appearance.  Truly the biggest redband I have handled to date.  Bigger trout exist, many in our dreams.  This one is a pig trout for sure.

Please handle with care and release wild fish to keep the dream alive.

Keeping the dream alive

Deschutes River redband trout

I went on a short float today on the Deschutes River from the re-regulating dam downstream to the boat ramp at Warm Springs.  I hoped to catch a few steelhead, but the redbands were stacked in the riffles like cord wood feeding on eggs behind spawning chinook.  I could not pass by without giving my reel a workout.

Fishing was fast and furious right from the start.   I used my standard fall rig, a weighted size 2 black stonefly nymph with a bead egg dropper.  Some of the biggest redbands I tangled with were sucked up right behind groups of Chinook actively digging redds in the knee-deep water.  The current wast fast so the takes were quick with the indicator racing upstream.  After a strip hook-set most fish made a strong downstream run.  Some went to the air to show their prowess while others just peeled line.  After losing the first four fish in less than 20 minutes I realized I better not horse them on my 8lb maxima ultragreen tippet and 6lb ultragreen dropper.

Deschutes Redband

Deschutes Redband

It was cool to fish Alaska style in Oregon behind spawning salmon.  All the of the fish I landed were plump and sporty, peeling line and requiring me to head back to the shelter of the bank water to land them.  This fishing was good enough for me to limit this trip to a solo mission to catch them all for myself.  The self photos using my Joby tripod will help preserve the memories of the blistering battles with these wild pig trout of the Deschutes.

Another nice redband

Another nice redband

I will be the frist to admit the Deschutes River has no secret spots and gets pounded by fisherman daily.  For many years I went home frustrated and fishless.  I have lived only 15 minutes from this treasured river for seven years now and have made the decision to figure it out.  Well I can’t say that I am a Deschutes expert.  I do feel if I can pick my day and work the water I can usually bury my hook into something beside the bank side brush.

Steelhead are in the river from the dam to the mouth (100 miles) and I have brought more than one to the bank this season.  I plan to probe my favorite runs at least one more time before the late archery season opens and my thoughts focus on rutting blacktails in the Cascades.

Dead Drifting