Steelhead, Salmon and Wolves; oh what a fall season! It had been a great day on the water; we were just above North Junction (above Maupin) on a late October Deschutes River steelhead trip when I saw them. Four bighorn sheep tearing across the hillside. I’ve seen sheep run before and this was something serious. They ran at breakneck speeds with rocks and dust flying right across the steep hillside before us. In a moment three were gone; they disappeared up into the steep rocky cliffs that rose hundreds of feet directly up from the river. One peeled off across the open hillside. Looking back every hundred yards or so then accelerating at full speed after every look back.
Moments later I saw them. Dark flowing hair, striding across the landscape-much bigger than coyotes, there was no doubt in my mind they were wolves. They followed the trail of the sheep until they hit the area where one lone ram peeled off in another direction. One by one they staggered across the hillside and followed the route of the lone ram. Five dark shapes intent on a mutton meal. All night I wondered what had happened with the lone ram.
Several years back both Todd Rettmann and I had seen three wolves running across the landscape several miles downstream from this sighting. Now this is an officially recognized wolf pack in the Deschutes River canyon referred to as the Warm Springs Pack. Certainly adds a new aspect to wildlife viewing in the canyon!
This seasons Deschutes River steelhead run wrapped up with total count numbers similar to last year with wild fish return slightly eclipsing last’s years total. We are hopeful we will see this run start to recover in 2024. Even with low return numbers we experienced some good fishing during the season. Many days were tough yet those who worked hard for many hours were often rewarded. Our strategy -to work through as many runs as possible during the day was often rewarded. The lower river jet boat trips were especially productive with the large numbers of chinook salmon that joined the steelhead this year. With the fall chinook count over Bonneville dam exceeding half a million fish we definitely had some fun encounters.
November chum salmon fishing was also a blast this year with some very aggressive salmon smashing flies. Not only did we catch chums but we also landed some very nice chrome chinook.
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