Olalla, One More Time


I didn't think we'd be headed back there again but the reports keep coming in that larger fish are now in the reservoir... and sure enough, the average size of the trout John, Jay and I caught where in the 14-inch range. No steelhead this time but the trout were larger and we all did well so we had a good time.

It was a cloudy day with the air temps in the 60s so it was perfect for stillwater flyfishing.

The three of us, as usual, were using the full fast sinking lines. But I'm having problems with my sinking lines breaking. This time, I was stripping line off my reel and about 5 feet of the tip section broke off... and no, it had nothing to do with a cigar this time because I wasn't smoking one at the time and the break was clean. It simply snapped.

Very odd. The line isn't that old and certainly shows very little wear. I tied a leader on the remainder of the line and it worked just as well as it did with the extra 5 feet so no harm done... I guess.

The crowds were nil. Hardly anyone else was fishing but there were still a lot of trout remaining in the lake. It wasn't easy fishing but we caught fish at a fairly constant rate to keep us happy.

Jay with a fish on:
jay with fish on web size.jpg

John with a fish on:
john with fish on web size.jpg

A couple of the ones I caught:
trout web size.jpg

trout on skirt web size.jpg

95% of the trout we caught were with a Woolly Adams. There were a lot of short strikes but if you changed up the speed of the retrieve, you could entice the trout to eat the pattern.

As I almost always us a two pattern presentation, it is possible to catch two trout at the same time. Which I did. One of these took the Woolly Adams the other took an experimental olive colored pattern I'm still working on. Landing both these trout at the same time was a chore. The larger one was in the 16-17 inch range:

2 trout web size.jpg

So, it was a good day... other than breaking a fly line... again.

BTW: I caught the most trout for the day and my catch rate went up drastically when I finally lit up a cigar... dispelling any notion that smoking a cigar while flyfishing has a negative effect on your catch rate :)

As a side note: I tried a tactic that has been working for Jay and it also worked for me. You let out almost all of your sinking like until there is nothing remaining on your reel other than the backing. Then you troll around and strip in line, then let it out. If you got a short strike, which I did, I'd very the speed of the retrieve until the trout finally ate the fly.

Plus, another technique I used to catch some fish is one that I know works but it's so odd for flyfishing that I seldom use it -- even when it works. You simply let out all of your sinking line and then rapidly reel it in. I caught two trout one after the other using this technique but decided it was too much work to let out all your line, reel it all back in and then let it all out again....

Besides, the technique reminds me too much of spin fishing with lures... however, if no other presentation would have worked, I would have continued to use it.


Jim, the pattern certainly works at Olalla... at least this year. The real test is when I start trying it in other lakes. I know it also worked at Foster but again, we're talking planted trout. I think we're going to Gold Lake next Saturday and it is full of nothing but wild brookies and bows. I'll be surprised if it works up there because the fish there seem to prefer olive colored patterns.

I'm working on another experimental pattern that is a olive colored WB with a simple modification to represent damselflies. Gold is a damselfly and midge pattern kind'a lake and I've done quite well up there with olive colored leeches and I'm pretty sure the trout take them as a damselfly.

The experimental is a cross between a WB and a leech. If it works I'll post it.

One of the trout I caught yesterday was with the pattern but I never regard a fly as effective if it only catches one fish.

What shocks me the most is that four adult steelhead at Olalla tried to eat the Woolly Adams. That was a surprise.

I have no doubt I could have caught a lot more trout using the reel-in technique but it is a strange presentation for flyfishing. I've used it before in other lakes when no other presentation was working. I know a couple of stillwater ACEs who are also aware of the technique and use it with good success when all else fails.

For those who are into indicator fishing, Gold is the place to go. Sometimes, that is the only technique that catches trout. The trick at Gold is to catch the wild rainbow instead of the brookies. The lake was once a flyfishing only trophy sized rainbow fishery. Then the brookies showed up from somewhere and took over the lake.

There are some 20-inch bows in the lake but catching them instead of the thousands of brookies is the hard part. There is no limit on the brookies so it is a great place to go if you're into eating fish. All bows must be released.

To date, I've invented ten patterns that started as experimentals and are now used by the guys in our group. Three are salmon/steelhead patterns, four are for trout, two are bass poppers and one is a streamer. None are sold in shops.

How rude :)


Indi "Ira" Jones
I also broke off 5' feet of my full sink yesterday, not cigar related. Mine was electric trolling motor related and me not bringing out my Leatherman.

Nice report!


Active Member
Nice report Gene. I'm at Wallowa Lake for a week long music camp. Fished the river in the canyon yesterday with almost no love, about 10 fish for two of us and the water is high as can be, weather cold, windy and only saw one golden stone. I think we are going to explore the Lower Imnaha today. It will probably be way high too, but fun to see some beautiful country. We'll fish the lake next to get a fish fix. Next week will be the first planting of "trophys" at Anthony, an event that guarantees a sore right arm!


When I grew up back there, the largest things at Anthony Lakes were the mosquitoes! :)

I've fished Wallowa Lake from shore near the boat docks with an Elk Hare Caddis and surprisingly, did quite well.

Good luck on the Imnaha and watch out for rattlers. At one time, the Imnaha was THE secret river for large trout in Oregon. Lately, I haven't heard that's still the case.


John or "LC"
Good report, Gene. Those fish are chunky! I had to Google Olalla as it's been so long since I've lived up there I had forgotten it. What was strange is that I came across some forum posts with pics from 2008, and the trout were the same chunky fish as yours. It looks like they are full of snails but you'd hear those if you picked up the fish. What's the forage? I'm not used to seeing that here.


Last Saturday, I noticed small sculpins in the shallows... very small. I suppose the trout could eat those. Otherwise, they must survive from eating the tiny midges and I'm sure there are probably other hatches in the evening the trout take advantage of.

Why they are chunky may have more to do with what they are fed at the hatchery before they're dumped in the lake than what they are eating while in the lake. The pellet composition may vary from hatchery to hatchery and I'm not sure where the trout in Olalla are raised. I've heard the ODF&W is using a new pellet composition that makes the planters grow much fast and fatter.

Jay went back yesterday and once again caught a lot of the 12-14 inch planters and another adult steelhead with the Woolly Adams. I have no idea why both steelhead and trout would take the pattern... maybe it looks like one of the small sculpins.
Nearly every time i am at olalla there is some form of chironomid hatch, though not as prolific or large as you would see in central oregon or other rich environments. Ive seen them to size 14 and almost always black/maroon or olive/maroon. The only problem is the water is so deep at olalla that chironomid fishing is tough there. Out of the many times i have fished there , there have only been 2 days at olalla where the fish were suspended shallow enough to target while bobber fishing. they were at 15ft and eating ascending pupa,and the fishing was lights out but most of the time i find the fish too deep (25ft+) to bobber fish and would just troll with a sink line.. but man on those days when those holdovers are shallow enough, hanging a glass beadhead leech or a small chironomid can be deadly as anything. Olalla also has a somewhat decent population of damsels and dragons and like gene said there are sculpin. I would say the chironomids are the primary food source though hands down.

both times i have bobber fish olalla i caught all of my fish along the bank closest to the person with a fish on in your first and second photos. that bank from the dam all the way up to the cove/point.
Here are 2 photos i was able to dig up from a day bobber fishing micro leeches at olalla a few years back. I had several folks ask me what bait i was using that day because they saw i was using a bobber and catching the crap out of them. I was anywhere from 15-30 ft off shore and casting towards where the bank had a steep drop off and was catching fish almost every cast that morning,then the fish went deep and the bite died.

days like that (i caught over 2 dozen trout) are why i like olalla over most stocker lakes.


John or "LC"
I have to come up (if I'm invited anyway) and fish these lakes with you guys sometime. I've never wet a line on the coast except for steelies on the Wilson in college, salmon in Tillamook Bay, and one unsuccessful run at SRCs a decade ago. I'd love to fish those lakes that get steelies in them!

I look at those pictures and am reminded how beautiful the coastal range is. Incomparable, in my opinion, to most anything down here.
Great reports. I have family in Newport but never tried fishing Olalla. Hoping to change that next trip down.

ODFW says there are Largemouth Bass in Olalla. Has anyone ever seen or caught one?
There are indeed bass in olalla, potential state records too.The reason being is the lake isnt heavily targeted for bass and they just eat the trout like fish sticks, a pretty much unlimited food source. The problem with the lake is that it is so deep bass fishing with a fly rod can be hard, i personally have not tried fly fishing for bass in there just yet.

i would imagine anywhere near fallen trees and points with anything that looks like a trout or perch on a sink line just retrieved at a regular pace will work.

i have seen gear guys catch fish to 7-8lbs easy in the back side of the lake where it is shallowest up near the inlet,lots of downed trees/stumps there.
Thanks for the info. I'm currently on a Largemouth kick after having a good top water day at Davis. I love the take! Nice to hear I have a place with quality bass to go to while visiting family. Hooking up with some trout or surplus steel would be a bonus.