Friday, June 23, 2017

Okay, I know that I wasn't very good about updating the fishing report this week, but I woke up on Friday morning with my left eye swollen completely shut. It was not pretty. It took me out of the writing mood - so that is why this is the first fishing report in six days. At first I thought the swollen eye might be due to poison oak from the day before out on the water, and it was quite itchy, but I ruled it out when no bumps appeared. I am extremely careful about poison oak because I can get it just by looking at it, and it has been years since I have had any. However, I broke my cardinal rule of not petting and snuggling dogs that have been walking along the river with you. Alex's dog, Nellie, was with us on Thursday. She stayed in the boat most of the day, but came out of the boat a few times for potty breaks and likely walked through PO and got the oils on her coat. Then, we were babysitting her and she slept in my bed. So, I now have poison oak on both arms, my fingers, and my side. Fantastic!

So, the eye did not turn out to be poison oak - I think it must have been a spider bite. I was deep in the jungle water, wading up to the top of my chest waders under trees that hang out over the water. Those trees are loaded with spiders, so I have to assume that is what happened. Over the week, the poison must have worked its way out because the swelling is mostly gone now. It still itches a little and the eyelid skin is tender, but it's not so bad, could be old familiar Minnesotan saying.

Now on with the fishing report....

The hot weather is here and it seems to be having an effect on the fishing and not for the better. A few days ago the fishing was pretty good, but in the last two days, for whatever reason, the guides have reported to me that fishing has been tough river-wide. What is going on? Anyone's guess. The moon is new, not full, so that should be a plus for the fishing. The weather has gotten hot, and we are seeing decent bug hatches - mainly caddis and yellow sally stones, but the fish seem to be focusing on something else from about 11:00 AM on. We have been out on trips that go until dusk and the caddis activity, which is typically awesome in the evenings on the Deschutes, is just so so.

Last Thursday, when John and I floated and fished with Alex, the fishing the day before was excellent (according to another guide who was out there with clients) but it dropped off markedly on the Thursday that we were on the river. We did some experimenting with trout Spey rods and sculpin and leech patterns, and that method actually produced a few more decent fish than fishing with a dry/dropper rig. So, are the trout scouring the bottom for food? One has to wonder. Is this a response to the rapid change in weather over the past six days? Possibly. The water warmed up significantly and that may have driven the trout into deeper cooler water, or into the heaviest, most oxygenated riffles. Whatever is going on...we hope that it will change back to the reliable trout fishing that we once knew on this river. It could be better tomorrow - which is the attitude you really must have if you are going to be any kind of fisherman/angler.

The crew just got off a three day camp trip on Tuesday and there were smiles a mile wide on the faces of the guides because the camp trip was a refreshing change of pace - BASSIN' it up on the John Day River. They took two fathers and their two sons on a 40 mile two night camp trip, which sounded like summer camp for the kids. The weather was hot and the water was warm, so the fishing portion of the day contained frequent intermissions of swim time. Catch about 10 bass on surface poppers, jump out of the boat and float around with your life vest on, jump back into the boat to catch a few more bass, and repeat. All this fun in one of the most scenic and spectacular river canyons in the is hard to beat these trips. As I type this, I am excited to be launching on a JD trip on Sunday with a few of our guides. We are going to focus on capturing some great images - so my camera bag is ready to go with no fewer than 5 cameras plus my iPhone. We have a new drone to test out on the trip, an old familiar drone to do most of the dirty work, some cool new camera accessories, and we are ready to roll. After I finish typing this fishing report it is time to hit the tying bench to whip up some crazy bass poppers.

I hope to see some of you on the river this weekend. Don't let this less than stellar report change your mind about the potential for great trout fishing this weekend. As a fishing guide out here for 18 years now, I can tell you that there are good days and bad days and it is not often predictable which days will be which. If the trout aren't coming to your fly, perhaps you will find them by changing the water that you fish or by changing your tactics. I have always loved fly fishing because there is always another riddle to solve. Get out there and have some fun. Enjoy your weekend!

Tight lines,

Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop

This 17" redside charged at and ate a yellow sally dry fly


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Well, I got a little fishing in this week, as John and I celebrated our anniversary on Thursday by doing a float trip with Alex as our guide. It was a cool and slightly rainy day, and we saw an okay mayfly hatch in the afternoon but caught most of our fish on yellow sally dries or dries with small beadhead droppers under them. We also caught several nice fish on the trout Spey - swinging little sculpin patterns through the classic steelhead flats.

I am in the fly shop on a beautiful Saturday morning and cannot believe how few people there are in town to go fishing. What's up with that? The best hatches of the year are right now and the trout are eager and hungry. If you want the river to yourself, some beautiful sunny weather, and a lot of trout eating dry flies, now is the time to hit the river.

Due to the cooler spring, our lakes are still opne and fishing well. I sent Evan up there today on a guide trip - they should have a hoot. There will be midge dries, callibaetis dries, and damsel dries for the trout to devour.

Our John Day bass trips are picking up too. As the river levels drop, the popper fishing has been awesome. Alex is doing a day trip today with a mother and son - it shoudl be a great day of catching catching catching!! The weather looks to steadily improve and get hot over the coming week. This is great for all of our venues (except the lakes - which we will have to close when surface temps get too warm. So, come on out to the Deschutes for a rip-snortin' fun time. Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there! Tight lines,

Amy Hazel and the Crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop



Saturday, June 10, 2017

The first three days of this week were windless, beautiful fishing days. These were the sort of day you hope and pray for when you have a fishing trip planned. Thursday and Friday, however, were not forecast to be good fishing days - weather wise - and those were the two days that I had on the calendar for guide trips. Guides cannot afford to be fair-weather fishermen, we would go broke if we rescheduled every time the weather forecast called for wind or rain. So, we take what we get and we just go fishing. When I guided a lot more often, especially in the days before the fly shop, I never looked at the weather forecast. Why get all uptight about something over which you don't have control? Deal with the hand you are dealt. That is exactly what I did this week.

On Thursday morning I awoke to rain, which became heavier and heavier as I packed up my gear bags, switching out all trout flies in my vest for bass bugs to prepare for a guided trip on the John Day River. By the time I drove down the driveway, I had the windshield wipers on full blast. I arrived at the fly shop before open hours to get last minute items prepared. Evan and Harley were there with boats in tow ready to get on the Deschutes for guided trout trips. Alex was there too, as he was going with me to the John Day to row a second boat with a film crew aboard. The three of us stood under the awning outside the front door and watched the gutters fill as the heavy rain continued to beat down. We looked at the bright side - possible great mayfly hatches, no wind yet (thought the forecast called for up to 20 mph), and the White River was back in shape (for now). The temps had dropped overnight from the 80s to the 60s and it felt more like the Oregon coast than the high desert.

Clients arrived, gear bags were transferred into vehicles, and we all drove off to face whatever the day might bring. I had two nice young ladies who do a travel/adventure show for JUCE TV - basically traveling around the country/world finding adventurous things to do, connecting with other women, and delivering a wholesome message to viewers around the world. Jeni Molitor and her college friend, Casey, played basketball together at a small college in Florida. Needless to say, these gals are tall and athletic, though fly fishing was quite new to both of them. For this episode of their show, Jeni - Seeking the Extraordinary, I chose to take them to the John Day River for a couple of reasons - 1: we can fish from the boat, which makes filming a whole lot easier. 2: Bass are eager participants who don't mind a sloppy cast and their abundance assured us that we would have some good action for the cameras. My river choice paid off, but fishing started off slow due to (possibly) colder water in the morning, or maybe due to the gals getting the feel for casting a fly, stripping a fly, and setting the hook on a subtle bass bump. The rain let up a bit by lunchtime, and we even saw brief periods of blue sky before the next rainstorm was upon us. I wasn't fretting too much about the rain - it was the wind forecast that had me concerned. In a big canyon like that of the John Day, the wind can be brutal. It can make a three hour float take 6 hours if you are pushing against an upstream breeze. Fortunately, the wind wasn't too bad after lunch and the gals starting hooking and landing smallmouth. When it did start to blow, I was able to tuck the boat into some backchannels and other sheltered areas that offered a refuge. We landed a few dozen bass and hooked and lost many more. The gals progressively improved throughout the day and started to get the hang of setting the hook at the first inkling of a bite. We got the footage we were hoping for, but more than that, Casey exclaimed by the end of the day that this was the most fun type of fishing she had ever done. Both Casey and Jeni loved how active the act of fly fishing was, never a boring moment, and despite the wind ramping up to 20+ mph, we hooked and landed bass all the way down the river. Fortunately, for me on the oars of a raft (and oars of which I am not too fond), the wind changed in the last few miles of the float and started to blow hard downriver. It was to the point of being difficult to control the raft, especially when I had to drop the oars to net fish after fish, but it all worked out in the end. Jeni and Casey had a great day, they learned a new skill, and they have memories of a beautiful canyon in Oregon where we were the only two boats on the float.

The weather forecast for yesterday was even worse than the day before, and I had a guide trip on the Deschutes with a long-time family friend from Minnesota and his 12 year-old nephew who had never made a fly cast in his life, but who is a die-hard Minnesota fishing kid just like his uncle and I were in our youth. Andrew Jones and I go way back - our parents have been friends since the early 70s and we spent a lot of vacations together, summers back and forth from one family lake cabin to the other (our northern Minnesota cabins are only 20 minutes apart on different lakes). Andrew and I were the fishing kids - out chasing bass and northerns while the rest of the kids swam or waterskied. We both grew up and married Oregonians and we now both reside in beautiful central Oregon. I made fishing my livelihood, while Andrew became a surgeon. Aidan, the son and spitting image of Andrew's older brother Tony (who was also the Minister who married John and I on the Deschutes River) was visiting his uncle and having adventures all around central Oregon. Aidan was cut from the same cloth as Andrew and I - which I found out as we drove down the access road to the boat launch. Aidan told me about the monster bass he caught on Eagle Lake (the Minnesota lake where the Jones family cabin is located) and how he likes to fish for 18 hours a day, only stopping when it gets too dark to see. Andrew and I shot knowing glances at each other - yep, Minnesota fishing kid, born with it, just like us.

Andrew had scheduled this Deschutes fishing trip with me months ago, and I admit that I was feeling a little dread as I saw the weather forecast deteriorating as the date approached. The morning started out fairly calm, allowing Aidan and I a chance to learn how to cast a dry, how to roll cast, how to strip line, and how to feed out line as you false cast. We also stopped at a riffle and learned how to rig a nymph set-up, how to cast it, how to mend, how to dead drift, and how to set the hook. I could tell right off the bat that Aidan was a predator. He was focused and determined to catch more fish and bigger fish than his uncle (bets were placed at the beginning of day) and the kid was downright fishy (a very high compliment to those of you who may be reading a fishing report for the first time - like grandparents, Sarah and Doug). We had dropped Uncle Andrew off on the other side of the river in some fine trout water and planned to pick him up later when we had Aidan's skills dialed in. The first time the indicator went down Aidan set that hook like any good midwestern bass master...high into the trees the nymphs and split shot flew! So, we began working diligently on taming the bass master within Aidan. I knew there was a refined fly angler inside that boy, he just had to be shown the ways of the river. As we drifted past Cedar Island under the shadow of 2000 foot-high towering canyon walls, my heart warmed to hear Aidan exclaim how beautiful and amazing this place is. Just the two of us were floating, as Uncle Andrew was on the other side of the river, and I said, "It's sure a lot different than a Minnesota lake" as the driftboat bobbed up and down through a wave train.

Throughout the day Aidan steadily improved in both nymphing and dry fly fishing. He hooked a few off the bat on the nymph but struggled to land any before lunch. When we got to a good dry fly spot, Andrew watched from the boat as Aidan made the cast and a big redside rose to inhale a yellow sally dry. Missed it! The frustration creeped into the young man's soul - which was not helped by the heckling from Uncle Andrew. There is nothing soft and gentle about growing up in a family of three hockey-playing boys in Minnesota in the 1970s...ah, the days before helicopter parents. The Jones boys played rough and teased each other relentlessly, as we did in my family. Everything was a competition and nobody was cut any slack - ever. Memories of our Minnesota youth and of days spent with the rough and tumble Jones boys flooded back during the day as Andrew and I reminisced about tackle football games we played in their backyard - their huge yellow lab was an all-star player who would rush you and wrap his paws around your waist to bring you down. Andrew and Tony would pin down little brother Teddy while the Nicko the lab humped him - we all thought that was hilarious (well, maybe Teddy didn't). The way Andrew ribbed and teased Aidan in the boat brought back those memories of sibling rivalry. Uncle Andrew shouted out "Fish on!" with every fish he hooked while Aidan pursed his lips in frustration as he looked upstream at his uncle's bent rod. Aidan could hardly stop fishing to eat lunch, he continued with intense determination as Andrew and I enjoyed our sandwiches in the boat.

Fish started jumping after lunch as dark clouds rolled in and the mayflies started popping. The wind picked up furiously for a while, which was what I had feared, but we kept moving down river and fishing nymphs when the wind was howling. The persistence payed off for Aidan at a honey hole of a riffle where he landed his first ever rainbow trout. Cradling the fish in his hands - which, to Aidan's delight, was bigger than his uncle's best that day, he declared the fish a great fighter and so beautiful! A few casts later he was into another one. This rainbow grabbed the fly right next to Aidan and, with the lightning fast reflexes of a true fish ninja, he grabbed the slack line to keep it tight and ended up landing this rainbow by hand-lining it in! And just like that, the contest was evenly matched. As we made our way down into Ferry Canyon, I was confident that we could hook some nice fish on dry flies if, for the love of God, the blasted wind would let up. Miraculously, it got calm. Big raindrops started to plop onto the water and the sun shone through cracks in the clouds. I said, "We might see a big rainbow..." and Aidan chimed in, " I hope we see a lot of them!" Clever kid. Very punny.

The window of calm allowed many many mayflies to emerge and struggle on the surface rather than being blown into the riverside grasses as they had been all morning. We saw large pale evening duns and smaller pink alberts as well as lots of yellow sallies and small caddis. We pulled into a great spot where a tree hangs right down to the water and Uncle Andrew showed the kid how it is done - hooking a large trout on a dry right off his rod tip. Aidan saw the cast, the drift, and the explosive take from his vantage point in the drift boat. This spot was too deep for him to wade, but he got to see the epitome of fly fishing - stalking trout and fooling one on a dry fly.

Our final stop was all about Aidan. I had this one in my back-pocket, a special spot for a special kid to hook his very first trout on a dry fly. We pulled in with stealth and Aidan's eyes grew wide as he saw mayflies on the water and trout rising to eat them. I prayed that we could just get a few casts in before the gusts began again. He slipped out of the boat - his uncle reminding him to keep that fly secured on the rod until he got into position to cast. A few stops earlier in the day, Aidan was so excited to get the fly in the water that he unhooked it while walking to the spot and that resulted in a huge rat's nest. Aidan held it together while my old eyes struggled to change his yellow sally to a mayfly dry. I have been living in denial that I need readers - but we had no time to waste here, and I pulled out a pair of 1.25 glasses in order to thread the eye of the size 18 pink albert. I told him to keep his eyes on the foam lines while I changed the fly, and he and Uncle Andrew let out quiet shouts and cheers with each surface splash of a feeding trout. Some were juveniles and others slightly larger - but none were too picky to reject a mayfly dry. I handed Aidan the rod. Now, remember, this was the very first day he had ever fished with a fly rod. I had crammed his 7th grade brain with a ton of information all day - he had lots of muscle memory to overcome after a lifetime with a spinning rod. Buck fever was at hand also. The first few attempts to put the fly where it needed to go resulted in hooking up the grass behind us, the grass in front of us and the tree to which we were casting. Uncle Andrew coached from the driftboat parked behind us while sipping a Coors Light, I corrected the cast when it got wild and wristy, and we both tried to calm him down so that he could concentrate on the task at hand. After several errant casts, Aidan's mayfly landed in the right zone, he saw it, and he watched a fish engulf it - missed it! "Slack line is your enemy." Words from my mouth as I showed him again how to strip the line to be ready to set the hook. Frustration bubbled up as he hooked the grass again. "Rrrrgghhhh" I knew the feeling. We all know that feeling. I changed the fly in order to give him time to settle. The fish started rising during that break in the action. I looked back at Uncle Andrew and said, "This moment will haunt him for the rest of his fishing days." I knew, deep down, that it would haunt me too if Aidan didn't hook his first trout on a dry here with me, at this beautiful spot on the Deschutes, under dark skies and the watchful eye of his uncle. He settled. The fly fishing ninja within him took over and his next cast was perfect. The mayfly touched down and floated just a few feet before the trouty lips sucked it down. Resisting his Minnesota bass master instinct to absolutely reef on the rod, Aidan simply tightened the line by raising his rod and the fish was on! Yes! Andrew and I rejoiced as he landed his first rainbow on a dry. We had accomplished our mission of getting this kid hooked on fly fishing.

As we wrapped up our day, I told Aidan that he can catch all those big bass and crappies on Eagle Lake by using a fly - in fact, he will have an advantage over other Minnesota fishermen because the fish will never have seen the flies and poppers that fly fishermen use. Aidan swiveled his head and looked at me with disbelief - "There are POPPER FLIES?" "Oh, yes!" I said and I pulled out my John Day bass box to show him the colorful selection of poppers. His mind was reeling as we rowed to the takeout discussing all the Minnesota places that he could try with a fly. Uncle Andrew and I created a monster!

I look back on the last two days of fishing and I think to myself, if I hadn't been committed to taking those trips - if I was just a casual angler who went fishing when the forecast seemed good, would I have gone at all? The weather looked bad on the usual weather websites, and, truly, the weather wasn't great, but the experiences that I had on the water for the last two days were fantastic. Was the fishing the best I have ever seen? No, far from it. But, the time on the water helping people learn to cast and watching their excitement as they hook fish on the fly, that will always outweigh the memory of bad weather. The light was amazing when the clouds rolled over. The rain brought on a late mayfly hatch and probably helped to kill the wind for the critical window of dry fly fishing. I guess the lesson here is this, don't let technology kill your chance for a great experience on the water. Don't wait for all the planets to align perfectly before you string your fly rod. Just go fishing.

The rivers are empty, the campsites are empty, people are busy going to graduations, weddings, their kid's sporting events, festivals, who knows what else? Of course, those things are important too, but if you don't have a commitment don't let the weather forecast keep you off the river. Even on the windiest days the mornings are calm - right now the blades of tall grass outside my window are barely moving and the clouds are darkening the sky. Aidan and his Uncle Andrew are out there on their own fishing the Deschutes. I hope to get a glowing report when they check back into the shop later today - which is why I have to wrap this up and get to work. Happy Saturday!

Tight lines,

Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop


Monday, June 5, 2017 5:45 AM

Looks like another beautiful day is upon us here in Central Oregon. The Deschutes River is in fantastic shape and the hatches and fishing are as good as we have seen this entire year. The big question we keep asking ourselves is, "Where are all the anglers?" Did everyone put all their hopes and dreams into the beginning to middle of May, hoping to cash in on the big salmonfly hatch, only to be disappointed by the less than stellar fishing during that part of the month? Newsflash: if you want to fish big stonefly dries, now is the time to do it. There are fewer bugs on the bushes but the trout are now desperate to consume the last few calorie-laden bugs, and they are really keyed into and chomping down on chubbies. We have also had fantastic mayfly fishing with PEDs, green drakes here and there, and the droves of summer caddis have begun in ernest.

If you were here on the weekend before Memorial Day, well, I can't blame you for not wanting to come back. THAT was a zoo. We have never seen the river packed with so many people, ever. It was like the perfect storm of the salmonfly hatch coinciding with the first hot and sunny weekend for Portlanders who had been cooped up in the rain all winter long. I must have had 17 other boats on the Beaver to Mack's float - every single campsite was occupied and the banks were crawling with people. Boats were pulling in above us, below us, and leaving little room for trout to have any kind of peaceful feeding time. It was a madhouse out here - and since then it has been a ghost town. Yep, even on Memorial Day Weekend, there were very few anglers around (I think everyone assumes that the holiday weekend will be SO BUSY that they avoid the river - which leaves the river wide open). We thought things would pick back up again this past weekend, but that was not the case. We were left scratching our heads and wondering where the anglers could have gone. Sure, there are high school graduations and weddings and things this time of year, but the stream of anglers should be steady considering how good the fishing has been. Those anglers that were here were full of glee and excitement when they came to the fly shop to resupply. Wide-eyed, full of fish tales, grabbing at the bins of salmonflies for fistfuls of bushy dries, these anglers hit the jackpot on Saturday when the weather was hot and muggy and overcast. Sunday was a little cooler, but folks were still pumped about how actively the trout were feeding.

I hope the fishing stays strong through the coming week and weekend. Most of the outfitters have churned through their client lists and are practically wrapping up their trout seasons already. With the funky water temperature regime, the hatch timing is hard to gauge. Many guided trips that were scheduled to hit the hatch missed the mark by a long shot this year. Yes, there were plenty of salmonflies and stoneflies in the bushes by Mother's Day, but the weather kept cooling off and the bugs stayed in the bushes. Spurts of hot days put them in the air, but those hot days were few and far between in May. The weather was funky and so was the hatch, which is why there are still so many fish willing to grab stonefly dries right now. To the fish, the hatch is still on, and so it is for anglers too.

Not much else to report on this morning. No fancy quotes from angling literature. Just the cold, hard, facts on the river and the hatches. Oh, yes, the White River was pretty bad last week but it has since cleared up quite a bit and is no longer causing the lower river visibility problems. GO FISH!

Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop.

Here is a picture of shop dog, Lupine, who is wondering where all the people have gone. She had so many people coming into the shop to pet her and now they are gone. She is very sad.


Friday, June 2, 2017 6:45 AM

The sun rises over the Deschutes early these days! At about 5:15 AM the ball of fire peaks over the distant hills and hits me in bed despite my attempts to cover my face with a pillow. The moment I stir, my dogs are upon me - Lupine up on the bed with kisses and bearded snuggles, and KD (now too old to make the jump) at my bedside staring into my eyes with a panicked look that says "I'm starving!" And so, I am up very early these late spring mornings to enjoy the sunrise drinking coffee with the dogs. John spends the morning watering the garden and all his flowers. This is when I usually write my fishing reports - one eye on the clock because I still have horses to feed and barn cats to account for before getting to the shop to open the doors.

Quick story before the normal fishing scoop.... yesterday, I saw one of my barn cats use up one of her nine lives. Here's what happened. I rushed out the door with the dogs and jumped into the Toyota FJ to head to the shop. I decided not to stop by the barn, because the horses were in a new pasture and didn't need food and the barn cats eat in the evenings. So I bounced and jolted down the driveway for a couple of miles before hitting the highway. I played a game on the hill into Maupin - seeing if I could glide the whole way (as if I were out of gas). As I rolled into town, I had a very strong voice in my head telling me to pull into the gas station to check my oil. It was weird, because I have never checked my oil in this car. So, I listened to the voice and pulled into Richmond's Service just a few doors from our shop. I popped the hood for Rod to check the oil and I was shocked to see our little shy barn cat, Kuna, staring up at me from a small platform over the wheel well right next to the engine. WHAT?? I quickly scooped her up and we found a safe container in which I could place her to take her back to the barn. What a lucky cat! Had I ignored that voice in my head, and parked the car behind the shop, she surely would have crawled out and disappeared into Maupin. I would have assumed that the coyotes finally got her. Anyway, I was so relieved that she survived the 12 minute ride and that I randomly opened the hood that very morning. That is a fine example of why you should always listen to that little voice in the back of your head.

So, if the voice in your head is telling you to go to the Deschutes this weekend, the voice in your head is very smart. The fishing has now gotten very good and most of the crowds that were here for the salmonfly hatch are long gone. The hatch, however, is not long gone. The weather we have had has been perfect for extending this hatch, and we are hooking lots of fish on golden stones and yellow sallies right now. The green drake hatch has been elusive. I have heard reports from parts of the river of a hatch here and there but I haven't spoken with any anglers who hit it at the exact right time and right place. It had to have happened in the past few days of hot muggy cloudy weather, but it didn't happen for me or any of our guides. Not that it couldn't still happen, we have weeks yet for the window of the green drake hatch to appear, and there are so many other mayflies and caddis active right now, it is the best time of the year for dry fly fishing.

I love June. This is the best month on the Deschutes for surface action, the John Day trips are also a blast - fishing from the boat to the edges of the JD for bass explosions on poppers. It is hard to beat this month. The damsels are popping on the private lakes and huge trout are leaping to catch them in mid-air. Anywhere the rivers have been high and muddy, they are finally starting to calm down and become fishable again. Spring is gracefully sliding into summer and I welcome the great fishing opportunities that this time of the year brings.

The weekend before Memorial Day weekend was as busy as I have ever seen the Deschutes. I don't expect to see it like that until next salmonfly hatch, but it got me thinking about rivers becoming more and more crowded as people migrate to the Northwest to enjoy the bounty of outdoor recreation available. I have seen more and more young people who have just moved to Oregon or the PNW from the east, the southeast, the midwest, and other places. They are eager to learn about the Deschutes and I try to help them wrap their heads around how to fish a river this big. I never give out spots but I do describe the type of water one should be fishing and that gives them something to look for when exploring the access road. When I go fishing, I see trails to spots that never had trails before, so I know that people are finding new water and good water, and with the right flies and the right presentation, they are surely finding some nice trout too.

If you are new to the Deschutes, it is really critical to understand the etiquette of the river. We need to give each other ample space on the water - which means that you don't pull your car in next to someone else's car expecting to go down to the river to share the water with that person. This is a big river. Big. There are always places to fish away from other people and you need to have alternate game plans if someone is fishing in the spot where you did really well last week. Most fly anglers I know are friendly, happy, social people - unless you invade their space on the water. If you see someone fishing, go elsewhere. If you are floating in a boat and they have pulled their boat over to fish, move away from the bank so you don't run over the water or spook the fish they are about to target. There will be other spots for you to pull over, you don't have to crowd anyone. We are all out on the river because we share a passion for all that fly fishing gives us. One of the gifts of fly fishing is the gift of friendship with a kindred spirit along the river. Fly fishing friends are found in the campgrounds, or at the local watering hole, or in the fly shop, but they are seldom found by stepping into the river ten feet away from another angler. Just respect the space and privacy of others on the river and hope that they will do the same for you.

Another quote from Steve Raymond's The Year of the Angler sums up nicely my feelings about fly fishing:

"I fish because fishing takes me to places where the land is still as it has always been, and as long as such places still exist there is hope for mankind. I fish because fishing humbles a man, and humility is a rare virtue. But most of all, I fish because it makes me feel closer to myself.

"For whatever reason men fish, they are rewarded simply by the things they see. All the mechanisms of life are visible to those who look for them, from the nature of the very smallest creatures to the natures of men. A man's behavior on the stream is likely to tell much about the kind of man he is, and the deepest friendships are those made along rivers. And perhaps this is another good reason why men fish."

GO. Have a great weekend. Make a new fishing friend. Discover a new spot. Fish a new river or a new stretch of a familiar river. Chat with the locals over a cup of coffee in a small town cafe. Learn a bit of the history of the area you are fishing. Identify a new bird, or flower, or insect. Take a road that leads to nowhere and get lost for a time in our wonderful land. Just get out there and soak it all in. Tight lines!

Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop


Wednesday, May 31, 2017 5:00 PM

It's hard to believe that it is the last day of May, especially with how chilly it was last night after a big cold front blew through. So, yesterday morning it was sunny and I had to run a few errands in The Dalles before hitting the river in the early afternoon. It was really windy in The Dalles, which I knew was a bad sign for my plan for afternoon fishing, because the heavy winds in the Gorge usually make it to Maupin by early afternoon. The cloud cover, however, got thicker and the weather calmer as I made my way back to Maupin on Hwy 197. Crossing the White River twice in two hours, I noticed no change and certainly no improvement - it was the color of a latte with plenty of latte foam. This meant that I would be fishing in town, staying above the White River, which was my plan anyway.

After dropping the guys in the fly shop a pile of tacos from Taqueria Mi Pueblito taco cart in The Dalles (which I HIGHLY recommend) I grabbed the new Winston bamboo 4 weight and a handful of green drake patterns I didn't already have, and I headed for the river. As I left, one of the guys asked if I was going up or down, I turned the key in the ignition and replied, "Don't know 'til I cross the bridge!" I knew my friend Brian was out guiding and I didn't want to fish anything that I thought he might be planning to fish, so I headed down river to some gnarly jungle water where 99% of people would not want to wade or fish - it is just nasty, deep, pushy, the rocks are slippery and sharp, and the trees are everywhere. I pulled the cane rod from its case and applied a light coating of Ivory soap to the male ferrule to make it easier to take apart at the end of the day. What a beautiful rod! I was excited to fish it. The clouds were heavy and the atmosphere muggy, and so far, as I was stringing up my rod, the W had not yet picked up. In the ten minutes that it took me to put my waders on, string up the rod, put a new leader on, add tippet, and tie on a fly (I selected a green drake dry with high hopes) the W started to stir. It was just a puff here and there as I carefully sidestepped my way down the steep rocky bank, mindfully watching where I put my hands and preparing to sacrifice my body to the sharp basalt in case of a fall - rather than put a mark on the cane rod that had never been fished.

The cane felt like a living thing in my hand as I made my first few casts, and, of course, it had been a living thing - grass - and now, after over a year of waiting on the display rack in the fly shop, it was about to become a living thing once more. As I cast it upstream and it danced in the foam line back to me, the green drake dry was taken a few times by juvenile trout and steelhead but got no looks from any dark slabs. I brought the fly in to change it. It was now 1:00 and I sat on a log for a few minutes looking and waiting hopefully for the big green drakes to make their appearance. Nothing. I cut off the green drake and, after checking the sixth fly box in my vest, found a little yellow sally chubby fly to fish. I tied it on and noticed that the W had now arrived in full force from the Dalles, but there were still small windows of opportunity to make a cast during the lulls. First cast to a deep water foam line that ran parallel to a large log, a dark body flashed under the fly and a nose nudged it. This is typical after a few weeks of heavy pressure during the big hatch. The largest trout want to make sure that they won't get fooled again. After one nudge I knew that I had the right idea on fly selection but that he wasn't going to take this particular pattern today - I didn't make a second cast until I had changed to a smaller yellow sally pattern. That did it. The larger trout slammed the little yellow sally and I got to feel for the first time in a while, the electricity and excitement of fighting a good trout on a 4 weight soft bamboo rod. I was out of control. It was awesome. One center river jump gave the trout the exact right angle to release the barbless sally from his lip - which was fine by me, at least I got to see him. As I brought the fly in to check the hook, there was now no mistaking that the W was here to stay and that the calm cloudy afternoon I had been dreaming of was blowing away on the W.

I don't mind the W, after so many years of fishing the Deschutes I have certainly gotten used to its arrival on most afternoons. However, this soft little 8 foot 4 weight cane rod was turning out to be a rather poor choice for casting straight into the teeth of the 20 mph gusts. Despite the fact that I saw plenty of golden stones flying around and laying their eggs on the water, I wouldn't have had a prayer of casting a bug that large on a 9 foot 5x leader with an 8 foot 4 weight cane rod. I didn't even consider putting on a fly that large, so I stuck by my small sally as I continued to fish. I found windows of relative calm that kept me fishing for another hour, working my way upstream, and I had a back-pocket plan to hit the large back eddy nearby where I could cast with the W, which was ramping up by the minute and blowing with considerable force downstream. As I had gone over my waders by stepping into a rather deep hole, and I had lost a few flies to grass tufts that I couldn't quite wade out to, I thought again about the plan B back eddy. Lo and behold, one of only two rafts I saw that day began paddling toward me. I knew the eddy would be ruined and all the trout spooked because the guided rafting parties love to slide into the eddy for a split second. I guess it gives them something to do during a rather boring stretch of river. Never mind the angler that you are only ten feet away from as you paddle past. Sure enough, they spun into the back eddy, spent ten seconds there, and spun back out into the main current. Those trout would be down for a while - at least an hour or more and I knew it was coming. I could have asked them politely not to pull into the back eddy, afterall, they floated just a short cast away from me. But Memorial Day weekend officially kicked off the rafting season on the Deschutes and from this point forward we anglers may as well get used to having prime water invaded by the splash and giggle crew - especially on the downtown stretch. Oh well, it was now after 2:00 and the green drakes did not fulfill the promises they made to me in my dreams the night before. I guess I woudl have to find them on another day.

As I drove back to Maupin, I passed my friend, Brian, who was now standing on a mid-river bar straining to hold the boat as his client cast into the teeth of the W. I honked. Later, after he was off the river and we were having a "guide meeting" in the back room of the shop with the CLOSED sign flipped, we told John and Alex that all the conditions seemed perfect for drakes until suddenly they didn't. That's fishing. Even when you live in Maupin and have your finger on the pulse of the river daily, you can't make a hatch happen.

Here's a great quote from Steve Raymond's THE YEAR OF THE ANGLER that sums up chasing hatches:

"Good hatches - and good rises - occur so haphazardly on Western waters that I never go out with the expectation of finding them. But they happen just often enough that I always go prepared to deal with them if they should occur.And on those rare occasions when everything goes right - when the new flies are thick on the water, and the trout come eagerly and fast to naturals and imitations alike - it provides a sense of satisfaction that one seldom receives from using the wet fly or the nymph. Perhaps that is why good hatches on Western waters are so often discussed, so well remembered and so much appreciated."

Tight lines on this fine Wednesday - another cloudy day. One which will find me in the fly shop instead of on the water.

See you on the river,

Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop


Monday, May 29, 2017 5:00 PM

Wrapping up a holiday weekend, I am happy to report that the fishing has improved significantly over the past three days and much of that had to do with good HOT weather. HOT is what the big bugs like and my guides all reported a vast improvement on the dry fly fishing in the past 3-4 days. We just finished a Trout Creek to Maupin three-day camp trip today and we have also been running day trips in the Maupin area all weekend. We have mostly stayed above the White River, because it still has color in it (tomorrow I will drive over it at 7:00 AM and again at about 11:00 AM so I can get a better feel for how muddy the weekend's hot weather may have added to the mud). Until then, I will assume that the White is still muddy but probably not to the point of ruining the Deschutes below it. Our old buddy, Andrew Dutterer, whom many of you remember as our former shop manager, was visiting us this weekend and he found some nice fish on dries below the White down on the lower access road on Saturday. So, the color isn't that bad.

Today was a hot and sunny day, becoming a bit windy this late afternoon with a wall of clouds looming to the south. The forecast tomorrow calls for rain, hot and muggy weather, 10-20 mph winds and overcast skies in the afternoon. I have a brand new Winston bamboo rod leaning on my desk as I write this report, a sweet little 8 foot 4 weight that I "stole" from the shop last week after hearing the tragic news that the bamboo shop for Winston Rod Company burned to the ground and everything was lost. I knew that this rod might be that last for a while and I love to fish cane. Tomorrow I shall go to the river with my new boo buddy (bamboo) and we will hope for a GREEN DRAKE HATCH. Yep, it could happen tomorrow. We have seen a smattering of drakes here and there all week long, we know they are coming, this is my very very very favorite hatch of the entire year, and I am going to hope to hit it in the afternoon.

Green Drakes tend to emerge in really heavy water - you know, big rapids, lots of oxygen, and they are the absolute favorite meal of Deschutes Redsides - I am convinced of that, anyway. I have seen the river absolutely BOIL with heads during this hatch and I hope to see shades of that tomorrow - but I will let you know if it happens. This is not a hatch that is easy to hit, or even to predict, but it is one hatch that is forever burned in my brain as top five experiences on the Deschutes in my 18 years of living on and guiding on this river. Okay, getting engaged on the Deschutes was good, getting married on the Deschutes was better, landing my first dry fly steelhead was amazing, but the green drake hatch is way up there with those top river moments.

I can't promise anyone that it will happen tomorrow, but I will not be in the shop to sell you the bugs.....sorry, not sorry.

Hope you all had a great Memorial Day Weekend. I want to dedicate this Memorial Day fishing report to my dad, Ron Randall, who took me on camping and fishing adventures as a kid that instilled a love of the outdoors and a passion for fishing. He has been gone now for four and a half years, and I would give anything to spend one more day on the river or on a Minnesota lake with him. A flag is waving over his marker at Fort Snelling National Cemetery today, placed there by my mom. To all who have served this country, thank you for your service. We don't have to "Make America Great Again" because it has always been great.

Tight lines,

Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Brief update - guides reported late yesterday afternoon that the White River had gotten very dirty sometime during the day yesterday. This will negatively impact the fishing in the lower part of the river below the confluence with the White. If the fish can't see well, they can't see your bugs on the surface.

Overall, the hatch has just been so so this year. We have been getting nice fish on chubbies and Clark's stones here and there, but the fish don't seem to be lined up along the banks waiting for their buffet of stoneflies like we have seen them in past years. Don't know why, hope it isn't related to the tower operations - but I suspect that the trout are eating worms and snails on the bottom of the river because that is the biomass that has resulted from the poor quality water that the dam operators have been spilling into the Deschutes for several years now. The majority of the trout that we land have black spot disease, which they get from eating worms. Before the tower, no black spot disease, after the tower, the trout are now riddled with parasites. ODFW did a report on the health of the Deschutes trout and failed to even mention black spot disease....hmmm, you would think that might come up on their radar. Aren't they fish biologists?

We will keep you posted on the condition of the White River - perhaps a little drone footage later today so you can see it for yourself. As for the salmonfly hatch, it was really chilly last night and temps didn't get higher than about 70 degrees yesterday, so that will slow down the bugs that are here and in the bushes along the river. Most of the bugs are now in the Maupin area and upstream. Of course, golden stones and salmonflies are not the only players in the game this time of year, we should also remember that mayflies such as the Pale Evening Dun and the Green Drake will steal the show if they start popping off. Little yellow sally stoneflies are the little darlings of the Deschutes and they will be entering the limelight in the weeks to come - we have several species of yellow sallies, which means that they will be on the menu for at least 4-5 weeks.

I know that a lot of anglers only come to the Deschutes this time of year to fish the salmonfly hatch. I see the traffic patterns in the store. In terms of traffic and behavior of fellow anglers - you are seeing the Deschutes in, perhaps, her worst light. After the hype of this hatch passes by, the crowds of anglers disappear and the really good fishing begins. The trout get a little shell-shocked during the hatch and tend to sulk a bit after being hooked multiple times. They perk back up again when the crowds head for other rivers. I was guilty of being a salmonfly hatch only angler when I lived in Portland in the mid 1990s. It is such a fickle hatch that it usually disappoints a bit - "all these big bugs and I can't find a trout willing to eat my dry? I guess I'll nymph fish." It is a fickle hatch and you have to hit it on the right day with the right weather and the right moon and so on, but when it all comes together and you are hanging by one arm in the jungle water slinging big bug after big bug to eager trout in the trees, well, it's pretty magical. The hope is still alive and those days are still out there to be had this season. We have always said that the beginning of the hatch and the very end of the hatch are the most productive times for the big dries. I don't know if we are nearing the end, but a few more hot days will probably do it. Weather in the high 70s and low 80s this weekend may not be quite hot enough to get them all flying, so I expect the stones to stick around for at least a week or two longer. My prediction. Take it or leave it.

Let's end this report with another lovely fly fishing quote. This one is from "A River Never Sleeps" by Roderick Haig-Brown:

"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the life blood returns to the heart. Rivers can attain overwhelming grandeur, as the Columbia does in the reaches all the way from Pasco to the sea; they may slide softly through flat meadows or batter their way down mountain slopes and through narrow canyons; they may be heavy, almost dark, with history, as the Thames is from its mouth at least up to Richmond; or they may be sparkling fresh on the mountain slopes through virgin forest and alpine meadows."

Tight lines, Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop

I usually write these reports between 5-6 AM in my living room - which happens to look out over the river I love. Here are some pics taken just outside my back door (we have a 900 foot cliff in about 60 feet from the edge of the patio!)


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

After two very hot days with temps in the 90s, a bit of a cold front rolled in last night and cooled things down. The weather trend, however, is for things to warm up through the weekend. Saturday's high is supposed to be 80 degrees and there is nothing but sunshine for the foreseeable future. The salmonfly hatch is still going strong with lots of bugs in the bushes and now on the wing. Despite the abundance of protein on the wing, fishing has not exactly been lights out on fire. It's hard to put a finger on exactly why that is. I had a guide trip on Saturday and found all of our fish on the dry fly, but we had to hit a lot of good water in between hook ups. I had a couple of great guys with whom to spend the day, and they were on board with fishing dry flies all day in search of trout who were looking up. We got fish on purple chubbies, Clark's stones, and we also got them on the purple parawolf, which is a mayfly imitation. We switched to the smaller bug after seeing lots of PEDs in the air, and the trout were quite receptive. .The most important thing for our success was to fish the shade on the water cast by the few overhanging trees. It was warm, and the float was busy, so we had to pick and choose our water carefully and hope that we fished it before someone else got there. Boats were pulling in all around us - you couldn't expect to even have a hundred feet of fishing water before the next boat pulled on in. Unfortunately, lots of the boaters pulled into the shade of the trees to get out of the sun, and plopped their anchors right on top of some of the best trout holding water. I also noticed a lot of boats rowing right over the water they then stopped to fish. I guess they wanted to give the trout a heads up that they were coming in.

It's Wednesday - hump day - middle of the week. How about a great quote from one of my favorite fly fishing authors to give you all a boost this morning? Before I go there, I want to say how much I love this time of the year - the big hatch brings people from all over the world to our little town of Maupin. I get to see old familiar faces, and I have the pleasure of meeting new people every day. This past weekend, our friend, Jeremiah, got together his favorite group of bamboo rod builders and lovers of cane rods. They camped at Wapinita campground and fished hard all week. Massimillano (Max) from Italy and who lives in Smithers, BC, happened into the fly shop as John and I were catching up with Jeremiah. Max also happens to build bamboo rods and he brought them out for us to cast. His rods were fantastic, with bamboo ferrules, and light in hand. Jeremiah welcomed him to the brotherhood of boo camping fest and everyone bonded over boo and good times in camp. This brings me to the quote of the day, from Steve Raymond's The Year of the Trout, "The trout has a way of rising to the floating fly that takes your breath away, and I love it for that and for what it will do after the fly is firmly taken. I love trout because they are honest and uncompromising creatures; no man was ever cheated by a trout. I love them because they have inspired me to seek a wider knowledge of the natural world, and such knowledge brings immense satisfaction and pleasure. And I love trout because they have led me into friendships with others who feel about them as I do, and such friendships make a man's life immeasurably richer."

Here are a few pics - a little eye candy from the river.

Chris Obuchowski stands over his 4 and 5 weight boo.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

It is an absolutely beautiful day out here on the Deschutes!! The sun has just creeped over the edge of the canyon and the sunrise is magnified by a few scattered clouds in the sky. My weather forecast calls for a 0% chance of rain today and a 100% chance of catching trout on big bushy dry flies. Yep, it is game on for the weekend with salmonflies and golden stones thick in the bushes, grass and trees along the river. Also thick along the river's edge, anglers who have been pent up in rainy dark weather all winter long. The word is out, the hatch is here.

We have had a very busy stretch of days in the shop since the weather started to turn to the bright side. Lots of anglers are here and many are fishing this hatch for the first time. There are a lot of expectations and, seemingly, a lot of disappointment because the expectations of some anglers are way out of line. First off, if you have come to the river expecting to see fish boiling and slurping big bugs off the surface, and all you have to do is add your dry fly to the buffet line for instant will be disappointed. This is not a "hatch" as you have read about/heard about/seen in fly fishing films/ watched in youtube videos/etc. The stonefly emergence is not really an emergence as we see in caddis or mayfly hatches - stoneflies do not have a pupa stage, they go from nymph to adult in one step and they EMERGE by crawling to the edge of the river in their nymph body, up onto a tree or blade of grass, and they shed that body to become an adult. Unlike a mayfly hatch, which will take place in the mid-day and last roughly 1-3 hours (during which time the trout are steadily rising for emerging mayflies, cripples and adults) this hatch lasts several weeks. The actual emergence of the stoneflies has been going on for 3 solid weeks, but the weather has not been conducive - until now - to allow the stoneflies to be super active. They are really just beginning to actively mate and will be flying today here and there with a few beginning to lay eggs.

If you are deep in the jungle-like banks along the river's edge, you may see the odd trout slurp a struggling stonefly who has fallen off a branch or clump of grass, but it is more likely that you won't see that. You have to be the one to create the opportunity for the trout to slurp or gulp your stonefly imitation by casting it up and under the overhanging trees and tight to the edge of the grass.

I know you think the trout are not "keyed in" because you stood at a boat launch and you threw several adult salmonflies and golden stones onto the water and they didn't get eaten! What? You mean to tell me that you stood in slow flat water about ankle to shin deep where there is lots of regular human activity and very little cover and you threw live bugs onto the water and not one monster trout ate your offerings? Of course not, you are standing in the field of vision i.e. UPSTREAM of the trout, AND there is no depth or cover that would define good holding water for trout... and it's a boat launch. Steep and deep. That's what you need to find. Don't expect to find a single campsite along the river near Maupin this weekend, but expect to find trout if you go to the places that they like, not the places that you like. Believe me, you will not like what you have to go through to navigate yourself to the best holding water for trout during the salmonfly hatch.

I have a guide trip today, and I am looking forward to fishing some great water with my guys.

Tight lines! Amy Hazel and the crew at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Awoke to a rather cold and blustery day here on the east side of the Cascades. The sun is out but the clouds are looming and the wind is already blowing hard at 8:20 in the morning. Of course, the weather can change and things may calm down, but the start of the day looks a little grim.

My fishing report yesterday was a bit bland and straightforward because I was exhausted. We slept down by the river in a tent the night before and my very cold feet kept me awake despite the -20 degree North Face sleeping bag. So, I wrote a quick fishing report after stopping by the shop and went home to take a nap.

Two very well known fly fishing authors, Rick Hafele and Dave Hughes, spent the night at our house last night and we had some great bug conversations as well as conversations about fly fishing authors. Picking through my library in search of some aquatic entomology books, I came across Steve Raymond's book, The Year of the Trout. This was a book I had read years ago which had torn pieces of Post It notes sticking out of it all over the place. I started paging through it this morning and was happy to reread some of my favorite written passages on fly fishing.

One of the greatest things about fly fishing, to me, is the wealth of incredible literature and history that comes with the sport. I hope those literary riches are not falling by the wayside because young people are more concerned about Instagram and Facebook posts than they are about keeping a journal of their fly fishing experiences, or some record of the time on the water that they can look back on years from now to relive the experiences of their youth. Yes, they say a picture is worth 1000 words, but having an Instagram account of 100 grip and grin selfies (you and a fish) cannot match up to having a journal of your fishing which encompasses everything that happened on that day leading up to the selfie.

Before we had a fly shop I was guiding frequently and I followed John's advice to keep a journal every day as he had done since the 1970s. I purchased a Write in the Rain notebook and recorded the events of the day, including weather, water temperature, hatches, fish hooked, what type of habitat I fished, who I fished with, etc. etc. Reading back though those journals now is fun for me because it brings me back to that specific day, place, and time and I get to experience the fishing trip again. When a client came out the next year, I could review my journal from the previous years to recall the details of that client's past experiences. As we floated down the river and pulled into a piece of water, I could remind him/her that this is the spot where we hooked that nice trout under the tree branch, or where we saw the deer swimming across the river, or the Golden Eagle that dived and just missed the Blue Winged Teal. Those memories would otherwise fade away, but they can be brought back to life again through our recorded memories.

Here is a passage from Steve Raymond's book, The Year of the Trout that resonates for me:

"...various entrepreneurs have begun selling printed page forms with neatly arranged columns and spaces in which a trout fisherman can record just about any kind of technical information he could possibly want - water temperature and clarity, hatches observed and the time they began and ended, fly patterns used and results obtained, weather data, trout species caught and the length and weight of each, and so on and on. I suppose such forms have a proper place, but it always has seemed to me they are better suited for accountants than for anglers. Cert