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Lower Deschutes River Report- Fires Out and Fish In

It’s been a crazy season on the lower Deschutes River this year with an onslaught of fires that when it seems like it couldn’t get any worse it did.  We had three major fires on the lower river below Maupin and several above Maupin.  The Substation fire, Long Hollow Fire and South Valley Fire have all had there devastating effects on the canyon below Maupin.  The Substation fire which claimed over 89,000 acres ripped through the river canyon from the mouth to just below Macks Canyon wiping out years of restored habitat in it’s wake.  In nearly every camp I’ve used from Mack’s Canyon to Harris Canyon the trees have all been burned.  Precious shade and riverside habitat has been destroyed but all is not lost.  The river corridor is resilient and fires are a normal thing here (just not to this scale that I’ve seen in 30 years).  Trees are starting to sprout new leaves and riverside foliage and grasses are starting to sprout.  Some places grasses have already reached hip height in just a few short weeks.  All this and the fish are doing fine!

The camp at “Snake in the Box” suffered losses of some big alder trees that are now simply ash…

Alder trees along the river got scorched but many have new growth popping out.

Grasses along the river are regrowing just weeks after the fire.

Steelhead fishing has been relatively good for the month of August.  Low counts at the dams have been seen as a result of the thermal block on the Columbia river- basically saying the water is so warm on the Columbia steelhead stop migrating and hang out in cool tributaries low in the system to survive.  These cold water respites are hangouts until temperatures cool off and allow migration upriver.  September should see big numbers of fish migrating upriver as the main Columbia river cools.

We’ve found good water temperatures on average below Macks Canyon allowing for safe release of wild steelhead.  Here we swing flies for morning and evening fishing with classic patterns like the Green Butt Skunk, Purple Peril, Street Walker, and the Royal Treatment.  Mid-day we use sub-surface patterns like Crandall’s Devils Candy, the Wedding Dress, and the Provider on 10′ T-11 sink tips.  Trout fishing has been excellent with good numbers of caddis flies.  For these feisty fish try a size 16 or 18 tan elk hair caddis on 5X tippet, focus on mid-morning or dusk for best dry fly action.

For guided fishing adventures on the Deschutes River visit us at: Water Time Outfitters

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