HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER Crane-East report with Ira -Troutpocket and a guide for one of the days.

Discussion in 'Stillwater' started by Drifter, Jul 26, 2013.

  1. Drifter Active Member

    Posts: 1,623
    Ratings: +634 / 2
    Got to Crane with high hopes, the first two days would be just Ira and I in my drifter and he would be picking troutpocket up the third day to meet our guide we booked for the 4th day at crane.

    The first two days Ira and I averaged 10 fish a day. the first day a 23 inch native cranebow was the largest we caught. when we went into the cultus channel Ira could stand on the front of the drifter and spot schools of fish scattering from the drifter in 10 to 11 feet of water. the water was supper clear in this channel so we found some of the deepest water (11 to 12 feet) and started indi fishing. takes were far and few between but we were hooking a few fish, the wind finally came to help chop the water and give our chiro's and micro leaches (Ira's) life and the bite got much better but still you would get a couple take downs in an area and than would have to move to find other fish.

    Ira fished two rods while I stuck with one but what helped was Ira casting one rod over the top of the shoulders in 5 to 7 feet of water with one rod and fishing the deep edge of the channel with the other! I would stick with the deep channel, but Ira would find takers in the shallow water also, when this happened I could adjust and cast up over the shoulder also.

    watching all the other fisherman it seemed fishing was tough for everyone in this channel. the second day Ira counted some 14 boats in the area with not much hooting going one from hooked fish. It was frustrating to see a school of some 50 fish and set-up on them and not get takes. the wind was key for us the first two days and it never came up until around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. than the fish would not be as spooked and the indi flies would be wiggling from the chop and things became much easier, easy would not be the word for this fishery though! we moved into a spot I know in a round circle of trees that had produced for me before and you could see the fish in 7 feet of water right out in front of the boat. Ira started casting shallow and found biting fish, fishing 5 feet deep behind the boat! It didn't take me long to turn around - adjust up and give them a shot and sure enough fish on! brooks and rainbows were in this area.

    The first day we put in the Quinn ramp the algae was horrible making the top of the water look like pea soup. the water was clear at the cultus channel and we could see fish and knew they were there so kinda just stayed in that area the first two days. we caught a few nice native bows around the 20 inch mark both days and some very nice brooks but something seemed to be missing.

    The third day Ira went and picked up trout and that left me and my dog hank to fish crane. I needed to do something different from the first two days so I stayed in close to the Quinn area in the pea soup and first thing I landed a 20 inch bow right off by the 10 mph bouy! I than went out to a 14 foot hole I know of in front of the Quinn timber and anchored on both shoulders and stratled the channel with the boat and left my finder on. I kept seeing fish at 7 to 10 feet in 14 feet of water, they were suspended which for crane is kinda weird but my new finder doesn't seem to lie much no matter how much I try and prove it wrong! I adjusted and hooked fish right away. I waited til the wind came up to go to the clear cultus area and this helped. I landed our average 10 fish that day also.

    Ira and troutpocket stopped at East on the way back from getting trout and put the pram in to a lake that was boiling with fish I guess. they were pretty excited when they got back to camp at the numbers and being able to throw dries to rising browns and bows and I had to agree that some different fishing was in order, so the plan was to move to east after we fished with the guide at crane!

    CRANE PRAIRIE WITH A GUIDE, This wasn't just any guide, he owned the fly shop in sunriver and I knew he had guided the lake for at least 10 or 15 years. he takes the local bio out fly fishing the lake and has been working with the bio in trying to manage crane for better trout numbers. As far as I knew this was the man and I didn't mInd paying money to fish with him, not to catch more fish but to see WHERE AND HOW HE FISHED THE CHANNELS.

    I watched as he found the channel where he wanted to start (an area where we had not fished) and he started to circle the channel once he found it. now we were in a 20 foot flat decked sled with a 150 or 200 horse motor, he went right in with the big motor and circled the channel where we were going to fish in 12 feet of water. he stated that the boat going over the area didn't matter! he through out 3 channel markers on one side of the channel, then lined the boat up on the other side and anchored up across from the three markers. he had marked the deepest side of the channel and told us to cast about 5 feet from the markers, as I looked at the markers I could see the curve in the channel! I always put one marker on each side and than get away from them and fish the channel but he had set us up perfect to fish the deepest side and made it so our flies under indi's would be right where they needed to be constantly!

    Ira had a bucket of fish on his side it seemed. we had set-up a long way from the markers and my full flex and I were struggling to make the long cast. I should of brought out my 696 RPL to fish these distances! anyway indicators starting going down, fish were getting hooked and the fun began! right away while talking my indi went down and everyone saw it but me and I was the first one to get ribbed by everyone "HA" but I can tell you everyone got ribbed once or twice in short order! Ira lost a couple fish in the channel markers and I lost one in the anchor ropes directly behind the boat. we were hooking a mix of smaller fish and fish right around the 20 inch mark that were hard fighting fish that were hard to control. Ira and trout landed the biggest fish here - one going 21 1/2 inch that I think Ira landed to beat trouts 20 1/2 incher! we stayed in this spot for a few hours, there were rainbows there and the numbers of bows were down in the lake. at one time the guide said 5 minutes and we move because It got kinda slow, but before that 5 minutes were up indicator down! and the fun would start all over again with another school of fish moving into the area!

    We moved around that area a few other spots and caught fish in all of them. we took a few hero shots, but I think all three of us were kinda shocked at the first couple fish landed the guide netted them and brought them in the boat and laid them down on the deck in the net! I know I do not do this and I think it was Ira on the second fish that told him we didn't need to do that - that we would do pictures fast and get the fish back in the water fast! we only took a few pictures with the guide so all the other fish would be released very fast. we made it a point right away how we wanted the trout treated and I was glad Ira said something right away because if he hadn't I know I or trout would of said something! The area we started in had algae and the guide said it helped the bite because the fish would be more spooked in the clearer water of the cultus, well sure enough we worked over to way outside the cultus channel but the clearer the water the fewer the fish we caught and it got almost boring after a while not hooking fish like we were in the area with the algae. well I didn't feel to bad after that because Ira and I fished the super clear water deep inside the cultus arm the first two days and found fish but it was tough and it was just as tough in the area with the guide that had fished it for many-many years. we finally moved back to the Quinn area and scratch out a few more fish but it was tough and we ended at crane around 5 o'clock with some 25 or 30 fish landed! cranebows and brooks from crane prairie.

    View attachment 30693 View attachment 30694 View attachment 30695 View attachment 30696 View attachment 30697 View attachment 30698 View attachment 30699

    These fish were with the guide, troutpocket and Ira.

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    East lake!

    we left the ramp at crane and headed to set camp up at east lake. I had only fished here once some 15 or 20 years ago trolling large plugs for big browns and didn't know much about the lake at all. I think I was as green about the lake as Ira and trout. after getting camp set-up I hit the water with about 45 minutes of daylight left. put out the same flies the guide had gave me to use at crane and was fast into fish. I couldn't beleive how many takes I was getting and in that 45 minutes landed 5 fish - three browns from 14 to 16 inches and two kokes to 14 inches. than it was just to dark out and had to quit and go in. I was excited to say the least about the next morning, but things would change!!! hit the water around 7:30 thinking it was going to be a breeze hooking all the fish I wanted but that was not the case! These fish had me changing flies in a short time! there were a few risers were I was anchored in 21 feet of water but I couldn't get them to take a nymph under the surface with a 5 wt - floating line - and 14 feet of fluoro leader to a weighted cali nymph. I scratched out a few fish than moved to 50 feet of water to try fishing a deep sinker and chiro's, I found fish in 30 to 40 feet of the water but just could not get them to take. I finally went back to the huge flat and found trout and Ira and asked how they were doing? trout had found they wanted the kraniger two tone nymph (what they were calling it) down deep under indi's. well I found one in 14 in my box and put it on and it was game on! in the evening I went to the other end of the lake looking for deeper water to fish by thinking I might be able to pick up bigger fish than the 14 to 18 inch bows and browns and kokes we were catching in the huge flat by camp. I found rising fish but fished outside them first with indi's in 18 feet of water and caught fish right away, the browns were beautiful and fought very good with there fairly deep bodies, the bows were blackwater bows planted last year that are already 18 inches and should be in the 4 to 6 pound range next spring. fish kept rolling in close to the bank so I just had to throw a dry out. I chose a #12 blue dun dry because for some reason they did not like my cali nymphs! right away I landed a 16 to 18 inch brown on a dry "sweet" than a good rainbow and another brown.

    East lake was a much easier lake to fish than crane was. the numbers of fish probably tripled crane for surface acres and it was fun to catch all three - browns - bows - and Atlantics all in one spot on dries!
    When you set the hook you didn't know what you had on dries or indi's. with indi's we were getting koke takes also, I landed quite a few kokes on flies here fishing in 21 to 22 feet of water.

    I tried to target this lake in early May but the gate was closed from snow pack to both east and paulina. I think in may and june the fish would feed all day making the fishing better! this time of year - late july- the water was 69 degrees and the fish had turned to there morning evening feeding with chasing hatching added in.

    here are the East lake fish and the calibeatis hatch in size 12 and 14 =

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    I'm sure troutpocket and Ira will chime in! fishing out of a 20 foot flat decked sled is something else! the guide was very nice and tied our flies on and was checking depth with a ruler on the side of his boat! stated he was anal about depth and you be knowing so will I be after this trip! they also used bigger indicators than I did so I need to switch to the larger indi's for larger lakes and big waves. I learned alot this trip and it was fun fishing with the likes of troutpocket and Ira being very good stillwater fishermen, two minds are better than one and with three the fish have no chance ;)
    McNasty, dflett68, Bartfly and 11 others like this.
  2. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,983
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,557 / 0
    Mark, good report and comparison between Crane and East. I've had a love/hate relationship with Crane from the first day I fished it. Fishing Crane is like steelhead fishing... it can take you a long time to hook one of the famous Cranbow and one fish might be it for the day.

    East, on the other hand, is usually pretty good to me and Virginia. As long as the weather cooperates (East has its own weather system regardless of what is happening anywhere else in Oregon) we can normally catch something but are normally targeting the larger browns.

    There were no native fish in East other than something the pioneers called "rough fish"... whatever the devil that it. East and Paulina are completely artificial and the ODF&W dump just about everything they can into East -- which is fine with me. Certain areas of the lake hold brookies, certain areas hold the steelhead size bows and browns, other sections are filled with planter bows, Atlantics and smaller browns and then there's the kokanee that move around.

    Given a choice and my experience with both lakes, I prefer East much, much more than Crane.

    Which I could have met up with you guys to show you all the "secret spots"..:)
  3. pond monkey Member

    Posts: 51
    Portland , Oregon area
    Ratings: +13 / 0
    Got any pictures of those "steelhead size' bows?....I didn' think they got big there at all ...... you would like to think that with all the thousands of catchabals that are planted there each year that a few would carry over 3 or 4 years....but i have never seen any evidence of fish carrying over even two years...PM
  4. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,983
    Willamette Valley, OR
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    PM... evidently you never saw the photos of the bows and browns Royal caught at East when he was posting them on Westfly.

    Doesn't matter... these are a good example of what I'm talking about.


    These are mainly browns but Royal also caught large bows (anything 20-inch and above I regard as steelhead size). I don't have photos of him with the fish but he does. You can believe me or not but I'm not going to try and hunt up proof for you. I know what I've seen and when Royal was posting on WF, there was plenty of shots of him with steelhead size trout he caught at East.
  5. triploidjunkie Active Member

    Posts: 2,308
    Grand Coulee, WA
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    Great report. But what's this about it being to dark to fish? That's the best time to fish if there's big browns around.
  6. pond monkey Member

    Posts: 51
    Portland , Oregon area
    Ratings: +13 / 0
    you specifically mentioned "steelhead size 'bows" very casually like they are common. I have yet to see one or even a photo, just wondering.... I know that there are good numbers of big browns ....
  7. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,983
    Willamette Valley, OR
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    You can't fish at night at East.
  8. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,983
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,557 / 0
    Please point out where I said it is "common" to catch the larger trout? I did not indicate that, I said they are located in specific areas.

    No matter. Obviously you and I are not going to agree on anything, especially dumping hatchery clones in Hosmer, so I'm not going to argue with you. Just use the ignore function for my posts.
  9. pond monkey Member

    Posts: 51
    Portland , Oregon area
    Ratings: +13 / 0
    You were just suggesting that "steelhead size bows" are there if you know where they hang out, which apparently you do, right? ... .don't you have photos of your own? ........I really don't think they to be found anywhere on that lake.... if so they are rare....
    As for Homer, they have dumping hatchery clone atlantics ( pelletheads) in there since day one..... now they are going give rainbows a shot...
  10. IveofIone Active Member

    Posts: 3,050
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    Try East in the fall-maybe after the first dusting of snow. The brooks are in their fall colors, the crowds are gone, the water is cool and the fish are hungry. If I wasn't 600 miles away I'd be there for sure. Fishing in an ancient volcano is just plain cool.

    dryflylarry and triploidjunkie like this.
  11. bakerite Active Member

    Posts: 274
    Baker City Oregon
    Ratings: +74 / 0
    Great post Mark! I'm coming to Portland in a week for a conference and will need to stop by East for a couple of days on the way over. I'll be in a toon, would I be able to row to where you were fishing in Crane without rowing forever!
    Mark Kraniger likes this.
  12. Mike Ediger Active Member

    Posts: 1,399
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +151 / 8
    Mark, were you guys in the blue drift boat?
  13. troutpocket Active Member

    Posts: 1,775
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +326 / 0
    This was my first real fishing trip to central OR and I had a great time. As usual, when traveling to fish there is a lot of work just trying to figure out a new lake. I had the benefit of fishing Crane Prairie for the first time with the best guide available. It all makes sense after he took out all the guess work :cool:

    East Lake is a place I would like to spend some more time. Crystal clear water, prolific insect activity, and a fishery with the potential to produce real trophy trout. The place was busy. . . even on weekdays. We found a nice camp site and fished the water we wanted to fish but wow . . .high season, indeed.

    Evenings at East were consistently good. As soon as the sun sank over the edge of the caldera it was game on. Days were different. Ira and I spent the last day trying to dial in the bobber bite. Early morning was tough but around 9:30 I started getting consistent takes on the Kraniger two-tone nymph fished in 15-22'. The bite tapered off around noon and we struggled until around 2pm when I put on a little chironomid that the guide from Crane gave me. First cast . . .let the flies sink to depth . . .bobber down! After that we had a take or hookup every 5-10min for the next few hours. We opted to eat dinner on the boat and Ira landed three fish while we ate. As the sun set the wind came up and we decided to move out to 22' and see if the anchors would hold. They did and I switched over to fishing my chironomids vertically off my type 5 sinker. While I missed my first 9 takes, I eventually started hooking up and ended the night with 8 or 9 rainbows, a brown, and 2 chubs. About half the rainbows were 18" and deep bodied, real brawlers. I'll be interested to see if they are able to survive to continue growing. A highlight of the night was a triple hookup with Mark, Ira, and myself each landing a different species (kokanee, rainbow, and brown). It wasn't the only triple of the night.
  14. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,983
    Willamette Valley, OR
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    The trick is to catch brookies, Atlantics, browns, rainbow and kokanee... and no chub :)

    The chub population varies from year to year. At one time, they were a huge problem but the last time I fished East a few years ago, I didn't catch any chub.

    The Fall is a very good time to fish East. Once hunting season kicks in, the spin folks disappear and you can have the lake to yourself. During this time, the kokanee try to spawn in the shallows (the eastern side of the lake) so you can do quite well with a small egg pattern on the bobber system.
  15. Drifter Active Member

    Posts: 1,623
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    Yes Ediger, 14' light blue Lavro drifter. were you at East or Crane? At East, trout and Ira fished out of Ira's pram and it was just hank (my lab) and I in the drifter. I mostly fished the east flat but out far in 20 to 22 feet of water. then I went to the slide on the other end of the lake (west end) and fished chiro's and dries, it was by the slide that I caught the browns and bows and one Atlantic on dries over shallow weed-beds next to the bank. Like trout said East was a real cool lake to fish with it's diversity and the blackwater bows already held over for one year so things look good for another hold over year at East with much bigger bows. I wonder if they will keep stock the blackwater bows for a few years? Now that would be awesome!!!and maybe less expensive in the long run than netting the chub during spawn every year like they have been doing for 4 or 5 years I think. if they can get a good population of blackwaters grown to size helping the browns keep the chubs down it might maintain itself for the future. The only problem I could see is if the big bows go deep! At 170 feet being the deepest part (from what I'm told) plenty of deep water for big bows to sulk in and not be available to the fly fisherman on a regular basis.

    The west camp ground at East was full both days we went to East and there was plenty of campers in the east or far campgrounds. They take reservations at the campsites. This was not the time of year to fish East for me, earlier in may or June would be much better I would think with the bite lasting much longer, but this is the time of year to fish Crane with the warmer water pushing fish to the deeper river channels for colder water.

    The third day at crane I notice on my new fish-finder that the thermal-cline or layer of hot surface water was about 7 to 9 feet deep. makes sense that the fish would also cruise at this level since the coldwater started at that depth. this was showing a lot more out in the channels in the middle of the lake. I had read an article about good finders that said you can put them on pixels and turn the sensitivity up and see the clutter of hot water and were the clutter started to clear is where the coldwater starts showing you where the thermal-cline is. the third day when I strattled the 14 foot channel I kept seeing fish at 7 to 9 feet cruising under the boat and remembered about the sensitivity adjustment for water temp difference. I started playing with it and it showed the thermal very well. This was only my second trip with this finder (lowrance GPS-finder) that normally cost around $550, my friend up graded his sled finder and sold me his for cheap, it is also color which helps a bunch!

    When watching how the guide used his 7 inch screen finder I noticed it had the channels on the GPS map of the lake. I asked if it was the navionics chip that gave him that and he said yes. well with the chip he could go straight to the channels and see where the turns were that he needed to set-up on for wind. meaning keeping the wind straight to our backs and keeping the indi's exactly where they needed to be! you be knowing I will have the chip before I go to crane again. this is one of the problems I have at crane is finding those channels and how they turn to set-up! there is a hell of a lot of water out there (almost 5 square miles of surface) the chips are around $120 now but the maps are much better than the basic ones in the finder. using these better GPS maps at crane or East and Wickiup (largest in-land body of water in Oregon) takes so much guess work out of these huge lakes!

    Like I mentioned I learned a lot from the guided trip, mostly about GPS-chips and setting up for the best constant presentation. I also want to learn Wickiup and the finder with good map features I think would be a must have to help with the learning curve! And I will be using the sensitivity feature to see the thermal a lot more and have a fly set just under the hot water and one 1 ft above bottom - only makes sense!
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  16. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,983
    Willamette Valley, OR
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    Mark, what is the name of the guide or the service?
  17. Drifter Active Member

    Posts: 1,623
    Ratings: +634 / 2
    Stillwater fly shop - Sun River Oregon!
  18. Mike Ediger Active Member

    Posts: 1,399
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +151 / 8
    Mark, I was in the Northriver (I think) boat with a buddy, and we visited with you Fri afternoon and Sat in Cultus. Small world. We fished East Lake on Thursday then CP Fri and Sat. Caught more fish on East, but I liked CP more, just a beautiful place. Never got really hot (fishing), but caught fish every day. I did lose a big 'bow in the Quinn channel on Fri. Had him on for a good while before he wrapped me around a log.
    Love that area. Had a fun 3 days but boy was it warm.
    Mark Kraniger likes this.
  19. Drifter Active Member

    Posts: 1,623
    Ratings: +634 / 2
    OK yeah, I remember chatting with you guy's! yeah I wore shorts every day and now I can't wear long plants for a week :) my knees are so sun burnt!
  20. Tim Lockhart Working late at The Office

    Posts: 1,930
    Mill Creek, WA
    Ratings: +262 / 0
    One of the best reports all year...thanks for all that, Mark. I really enjoyed the story and all your pics!
    Jeff Dodd likes this.