Deschutes Steelhead Report: Bighorns and Bombers
Steelhead fishing on the Deschutes has picked up since my last post. River temperatures have cooled. Slightly cooler water was released from Pelton Dam on August 1... part of the "Blend 17" schedule. After about four days of filtering through Lake Simtustus, it finally spilled from Pelton Dam and into the Deschutes. However, the river didn't cool much by the time it reached Maupin. In fact there was only a minor dip in temperatures being released from the dam. I wasn't overly excited, but I suppose it kept the river from warming even further.
I just got back from a three day float last night. On day two (Monday morning) I dipped my hand in the river just below Macks Canyon and noticed cooler water. Monday and Tuesday mornings the river was 61 - 62 degrees, and around 64.5 in the evenings. When I checked the online river data this morning the river was significantly cooled between August 8 and 9. With improved river conditions, we were in the right place at the right time. No need to brag exact numbers, but nobody was disappointed. In one of my favorite runs yesterday morning we experienced the best fishing I have ever witnessed... in one pass with floating lines. Many of these fish took Nick's home tied bombers. After that we enjoyed a hot breakfast at camp, another cup of coffee, and reflected on the morning for a while before taking out at Heritage.
Most of our fish were hatchery strays. Only a few of them were Round Butte fish (destined for the Deschutes). Also, only about 1/4 to 1/3 of the fish landed were wild. So much for warmer water discouraging stray fish. Also, I regret to report seeing three dead wild steelhead floating down river. It is strange that I saw this after river temps cooled. I think it may be because more fish are being hooked and landed now, or fish caught a few days prior to the river cooling were just then expiring. As much as I regret to mention this, a report should include the good, the bad, and the ugly.
To preface that trip, on the drive down to Macks Canyon we spotted a large herd of bighorn sheep across the river. We stopped to admire the animals for a minute... two large rams and a bunch of ewes. They are impressive beasts. A short distance further down the road we spotted what looked like deer a ways up. We slowly approached and realized there were too many kids to be deer. More sheep! When we came within twenty feet of them they bolted up the hillside. The wild part is that there were about twenty more sheep down by the river. They came flying up the bank, over the road, and up the canyon. Sheep were in front of the truck. Sheep were behind the truck. Sheep almost hit the side of our truck! We jumped out and tried to snap a few shots... after we were sure they weren't going to stampede us. I felt especially good about the float trip we were about to make as I finished the drive to Macks.
We also saw a giant golden eagle land on a gravel bar forty feet from us. Life is good!