Hosmer Lake

Discussion in 'Stillwater' started by Richard Olmstead, Jul 16, 2013.

  1. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,487
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +786 / 0
    I was in the Oregon central Cascades for a long weekend leading a botany field trip. Sneakily, I arranged to camp at Hosmer Lake as a base of operations, which gave me the opportunity to get on the water for an hour or so a couple of evenings.

    Hosmer is a pretty little eutrophic lake that is full of bugs and aquatic vegetation, as well as rainbows, brookies, cutthroat, Atlantic salmon, and (so I was told) Kokanee. It has a famous reputation for once growing giant Atlantics, but the strain they now stock stays pretty small. Some of the rainbows and brookies can grow pretty big; the coastal cutts are a new introduction to the lake, so I was told. The lake is close to the Cascade crest and is in an area with recent volcanic history. The lake is spring-fed, but has no outlet in normal water levels, with the water sinking into the very porous substrate. It is fly-fishing only.

    The campground host has been there every summer as host since 1988, but has fished the lake since the '60s, when it was still called "Mud Lake." Much of the lake now consists of a ca. 20-50 foot wide channel lined with dense aquatic vegetation and surrounded by a large wet sedge meadow, which was lake once upon a time. The CG host says that the lake is being consumed at a rate of about a foot per year by the encroaching vegetation; it will all be meadow before too long. He showed me where he used to launch his drift boat and navigate out into the lake. I said "you mean you went that way?" pointing to some floating lily pads. He said, "No, straight over there" pointing to an area of meadow where you could now walk in mid July without getting your shoes wet!

    Being on the lake at sunset is like being in the middle of a wildlife video. Beaver, otters, several species of ducks (with broods), a variety of birds in the surrounding wetlands, nighthawks and bats swooping overhead, and a Wilson's snipe doing its mating flight, where it creates sound when wind rushes over its tail feathers.

    I guess this is all just a long introduction, before getting around to saying I caught my first Atlantic salmon. It was only about 12-13" long, which was about the size of the bows and cutts that I caught as well. None of the monsters graced my line, but, like any lake, I think it takes a while to learn where and how to catch the best fish.

    The view from the lake shows one of the 3 sisters (along with Broken Top in the photo), Bachelor Mt., and Broken Top to the North.

    Dick

    Hosmer lake evening 2.jpg Hosmer lake evening 3.jpg Hosmer lake Atlantic Salmon .jpg
  2. ganglyangler Bird Dogs and Fly Rods

    Posts: 462
    Port Gamble WA
    Ratings: +42 / 0
    That one has been on my list for a long time! Thanks for the report!
  3. sroffe Member

    Posts: 442
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +16 / 0
    My father and I fished it once a few years back... Heck must have been 7 or 8 years ago. One of the most beautiful lakes I've fished.
  4. Upton O Blind hog fisherman

    Posts: 2,158
    out of state now
    Ratings: +211 / 0
    Excellent report.
  5. IveofIone Active Member

    Posts: 3,057
    .
    Ratings: +1,069 / 0
    Thanks for the report Dick. I fished it almost every year from 1985 up to about 1998. Even back then it was surprising how much smaller the lake got each year. I have been on the lake alone in the spring during a blinding snow storm and in the summer when a couple of fly clubs were present. It was that lake that made me go to silent reels. I was there one July for several days and the second day I figured out the hatches. I spent the afternoon in camp tying some mayfly emergers and went out in the evening to try them out. I had an old SA System1 click pawl reel that was noisy as hell. I was catching more fish than anyone on the lake but that reel was like the Pied Piper and soon my boat was surrounded by fishermen.

    Lots of memories of that lake. Sorry to hear it is disappearing at such a rapid lake.

    Ive
    wadin' boot likes this.
  6. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,021
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,598 / 0
    Hosmer is/was one our favorite lakes. It is the most beautiful of all the lakes I fish on Century Drive.

    When we first started fishing it, we used canoes because float tubes were not yet available. It was common for a dozen or less folks on the lake during the weekends. In those days, there were no paved roads and the campground was pretty basic.

    For many, many years we fished and loved that lake. Then the population of Bend and Redmond exploded and folks discovered Hosmer. It rapidly became over ran with anything that floated. It was quickly loved to death.

    The Atlantics never really grew much larger than 25 inches. The brookies, however grew to the 5 to 6 pound range.

    The original strain of Atlantics they planted in the lake were bonzo-crazy fighters.
    They would jump and run and then jump and run some more.

    It was a blast and a lake I'd hit at least once a month during the season.

    One year, the Atlantics disappeared. No one knew where the hell they went. The ODF&W had a theory that the strain of Atlantics had a hell of a drive to spawn and may have found a lava tube and decided to follow it.

    So, the next strain of Atlantics they planted were not such roving types but they also didn't fight nearly as well. Still, before the lake became so popular, they were a blast!

    I have a large photo of Hosmer in our bedroom... that's how much I loved the place.

    Now... I haven't fished it in years. They paved the roads, improved the campground and it was all downhill from there.

    However, if you don't mind a plethora of canoes and those silly stand up surfboards, and kids jumping off the cliffs into the lake it's still a good place to fish. Hint.... fish as close as you can to the weeds along the bank. If you're fishing subsurface, use two patterns. It is common to hook two Atlantics at the same time so you have a heck of a fight on your hands.

    I mourn the loss of my most favorite flyfishing lake.

    PM me for more specific details.
  7. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,487
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +786 / 0
    Gene speaks the truth. It was hot last weekend, and the lake was covered during the day with every manner of floatation device imaginable. Fortunately, the evening belonged only to the fishermen.

    Evening water temperature was 70 degrees F; I worried about the fish a bit at that temperature.
    D
  8. Drifter Active Member

    Posts: 1,631
    Ratings: +638 / 2
    Great write-up Richard!

    I remember fly fishing the lake in the late 70's or early 80's with my father. I threw my favorite tied blue dun with my grandmothers mink shoal grey dubbing and the one cape I had bought as a teen - a blue dun cape - I landed a 22 inch Atlantic but people said there were ten pounders in there back then, maybe they were just lies but I did see some huge fish roll and fisherman would crawl out on the lava point and throw mayfly dries to big cruising Atlantics.

    From what I remember the lake flooded over it's bank (lava area) and the Atlantics went down into lava lake but again I could be wrong. back than it was said to hold the state record for brook trout! I remember we only spent a weekend there but when I would move from place to place I would throw my line out and row fast in our drift-boat along the deep water next to the reeds and lily pads and huge brooks would roll behind the fly never taking it but kinda just playing with the fly and me!

    Central Oregon is one of the most unique fishing areas in the country. so many fisheries for trophy browns - rainbows - macs - and bulls and many more and the number of lakes and different scenery from lava flow lakes to old meadows with forest thickets (crane prairie) to beautiful spring rivers, it's got so much it takes years to fish everything!

    Thanks for that write-up Richard, I love the history and management of the waters we fish.
  9. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,021
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,598 / 0
    I have yet to ever see a photo of an Atlantic caught in Hosmer that was larger than 25-inches. After talking with fish biologists, it is highly unlikely the salmon can reach a size larger than 20-25 inches.

    They are similar to land-lock steelhead... if they can't make it to the ocean, they can't grow to large sizes. The brookies grew quite large but not the salmon.

    Regardless, I like catching the Atlantics because they are so danged aggressive. You can also catch them in East Lake but you won't find them in great numbers.

    Mark, our gang started fishing the lake in the 70s and those are the days we remember the most. The only folks on the lake were other fly anglers. No fuel powered motors are allowed on the lake so it was the most peaceful, beautiful spots I've ever fly fished. Was.

    A fly club in Washington State "adopted" Hosmer and made a yearly trip to the fishery. I wish I could remember which club.

    Still, if you're in the area, it's certainly worth fishing due to the unique fish the lake holds. Remember, the salmon do have teeth and when you catch them you'll have a heck of a time removing the hook because they won't stop flopping. A net is highly recommended.

    Thanks for your report, Richard. Hosmer may be crowded nowadays but it is still one of the special flyfishing only waters in the NW.
  10. bakerite Active Member

    Posts: 278
    Baker City Oregon
    Ratings: +74 / 0
    Steve Raymond wrote a chapter in one of his books, maybe "Year of the Trout" about Hosmer. It is truly a unique and great place. I wonder if they could regulate it so there would be one or two days a week for only the fishermen, kind of like when they don't let people water ski at certain times.....it sure is a place where that makes sense. The last hour of fishing there can sure be off the charts. I've only fished it in the summer and wonder what fall would be like when the brookies are getting ready to spawn. thanks for posting about this special place.
    dryflylarry likes this.
  11. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,487
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +786 / 0
    Gene -
    It was the Washington Fly Fishing Club that made an annual pilgramage to Hosmer Lake. The camp host mentioned them, including several by name (Steve Raymond, among others I didn't recognize). He will talk your leg off if you let him.

    I've read about Hosmer lake before, including Steve Raymond's chapter, and camped there once about 10-12 years ago, before I got into lake fishing. I appreciate hearing you guys reminisce about your experiences there.
    D
  12. Irafly Active Member

    Posts: 3,621
    Everett, Washington, USA.
    Ratings: +1,053 / 1
    I want to tangle with a nasty hard fighting Atlantic. Thanks for the report, so many waters, so little time.
  13. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,021
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,598 / 0
    Ira, you'd have no problem catching the critters with your indicator system. The fish are certainly not as large as most would envision an Atlantic Salmon but they make up for it in their fight and aerobatics.

    However, stripping a streamer pattern as fast as you can will provoke some hellish hits.

    Richard, yup, that was the club. I always thought it was an odd that a Washington flyfishing club adopted an Oregon lake but whatever.... I'm glad they did. For the longest time, it was ignored by Oregon fly anglers. Probably because stillwater flyfishing wasn't popular.

    I learned much about stillwater flyfishing at Hosmer.

    But once the resorts around Bend started bringing clients for canoe classes to the lake, we knew we were in trouble. The last straw for us was when some crazies decided to practice paddling their war canoes at Hosmer for an upcoming event. It was insanity! They were chanting loudly while paddling.

    The Fall is the best time to fish for the big brookies... small, yellow egg patterns work wonders.
  14. aplTyler Inept Steelheader

    Posts: 511
    The Evergreen State
    Ratings: +87 / 9
    I fished Hosmer for the first time about 3 weeks ago. I did the morning shift (8-noon) and caught so dang many fish that I didn't know what to do with myself... I also got my first Atlantic (15" on a Sparkle Callibaetis Emerger) and caught a myriad of 'bows and cutts. The damsel hatch was insane with fish going airborne EVERYWHERE! I fished a dry Damsel and soft-hackle dropper and it was an every other cast, fish on affair. I didn't get into the large Brookies though... I tried in the channel but I couldn't move the big ones. At least the upper Deschutes Brook trout were more accommodating.

    According to some ODFW hatchery folks, the bows and cutts are new as of this year. No definitive info regarding discontinued Atlantic stocking in the future but there was speculation of that at a fly shop in Bend. I for one love catching feisty Cutthroat and in my very limited experience, the Cutts that I caught fought much better than the Atlantic did (until I got it in the net that is).

    I'd hit Hosmer again this fall... how many lakes can you go to and catch 4 species of Salmonids? Not many... pretty dang good stuff.
    Mark Kraniger likes this.
  15. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,021
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,598 / 0
    For a number of years the ODF&W has talked about discontinuing the stocking of Atlantics in Hosmer so it appears to me that is in the works. The original strain of Atlantics were the hard fighting guys.

    I haven't been up there in such a long time I don't know how the current guys fight. I figured they are the same ones they currently stock in East and those guys do put up a good fight.

    Most likely, it is a pain in the ODF&W butts to raise and stock the Atlantics so I imagine if you want to catch one in Hosmer you'd better do it in the near future. They'll probably also stop stocking East with the Atlantics.

    At one time, they stocked them in Lost Lake on Santiam Pass but that only lasted a couple of years. Lost Lake has a tendency to go dry during drought years.
  16. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,487
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +786 / 0
    I don't know if stocking records are readily available from the state in OR as they are in WA, but it seems like they must have put a butt-load of rainbows in the lake early this year or late last year. It seemed like almost every fish I caught was a 10-11 inch cookie-cutter rainbow, with a few cutts and one Atlantic thrown in the mix. At last light the water was alive with rises all over the lake.

    The Atlantic took a small caddis on the surface and made one amazing aerial, before submitting rather meekly to be stripped into the net. Once in the net he became a wiggler, however. Fortunately, he threw the fly and held still long enough for a quick pic while in the net.

    D
    aplTyler likes this.
  17. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,021
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,598 / 0
    I checked. Yes, they have recently stocked the lake with rainbow and cutts... here's the kicker.... evidently the wise ODF&W are turning the lake into a catch and kill fishery because the only fish you must release are the Atlantics.

    Obviously, as the Atlantics die off, the only remaining fish will be those you can take. So much for the famous Hosmer Lake. Evidently it is destined to become nothing more than a flyfishing only put and take lake.

    Sad. Very sad.
    dryflylarry likes this.
  18. aplTyler Inept Steelheader

    Posts: 511
    The Evergreen State
    Ratings: +87 / 9
    Gene,

    Retention of Brook trout has been allowed on Hosmer for awhile... I doubt the only goal of ODFW's was to make it a catch/take lake. That said, most fly guys that I know release nearly all of their trout so I doubt it'll affect the lake too terribly much. Heck, fish are more likely to die due to the stress of being caught 15 times a season or due to a bad foul hooking.

    I think the original point you made about the Atlantic's being a kind of pain (or pet/non essential project) for the department is probably more responsible than anything else for the other species being stocked. Tight budgets don't exactly help the case to keep them being stocked in two lakes only either, especially if one of the lakes is better known for it's kayaking than anything else these days.

    Either way, I'd get there and fish it this fall. Most of the Cutthroat and Rainbow were cookie cutter (bows were all 10-11", Cutts were either 10" or 14" with few in between) but with a few seasons, I think it'll make a fantastic fishery with more diversity in one lake.
  19. dryflylarry "Chasing Riseforms"

    Posts: 4,097
    Near the Fjord
    Ratings: +565 / 0
    Hey Richard,

    I may have missed you during the same time-frame. I was there on July 10-11th. It was my first visit. I too LEARNED about the "kayak hatch". Every stinking floating device from Bend must have been there. It was somewhat of a disappointment. The first day I was there it was 85 degrees and 75 the next. I got out of there after the 2nd day. It was interesting to find a spot that looked promising in the channels, then, suddenly have a couple kayaks just run right on past and usually thru your fishing area.... I tend to think most of them were simply unaware of what a fisherman is and does. Or, they were plain stupid or didn't care a bit. I finally started "waving" kayakers around me and directed traffic.
    It's too bad every kayak in Bend now goes there. Let this be a warning to you all! Fish mornings or evenings. When I was there my luck wasn't with me and I rose a good number of fish with a beetle or blue damsel and simply didn't hook up worth a dang. It was just one of those unlucky times. Of course, every 5 minutes a kayak would cruise on thru your area you were fishing. Too bad. I may go back, but I am thinking there are better places around there.
    Mark Kraniger likes this.
  20. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,487
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +786 / 0
    Larry -
    We arrived midday on the 11th and camped in the South Campground (nearest the boat launch). You weren't the solo guy with the camper in site 15(?) who offered us your site as you were getting ready to leave, were you? We were looking for 4 sites together for our field trip group.

    The other thread points out that they had stocked 2500 9-10" rainbows and a bunch of similar sized cutts this spring. I think that made it difficult to hook up with the larger fish. I talked with only one guy who had caught a nicer 20" bow.

    D
    dryflylarry likes this.