High Plains Drifter - rough, tough, fishing report!


Active Member
Headed for my first eastern lake - res. trip in eastern Oregon and Idaho and have to say had a very tough time of it!

We were trying to time ice-off and the spawn on these large res. Our target lake was Beulah res. when we arrived I took a quick shot of the first view of the lake as we came over the ridge by the dam end -
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we were to go to the flats end and set-up camp, the far end you can see under the mountain! when getting there we could see the water was dirty, like only two feet vis. the area bio had told me that there were three islands to fish and it was high and dry where the Islands would of been. the res. was only at 45 percent full which made this flats end very shallow, which in turn when winds came muddied the whole lake. we decided to keep the gear in the truck and fish first to see if it was even worth camping here. most of the flat was only 2 to 4 ft. deep we had to go a long way from the river end to find water deep enough to even troll our heavy lines and large flies. the lake was almost at summer levels from the year before. we searched and searched that end with nothing. then we went to the dam end looking for fish and cleaner water and nothing. we had to make a decision so we decided to move to malheur res. which was said to have low numbers of fish but did have large rainbows and I know this res!

malhuer was in the same shape! almost as low as it was last fall from the late summer drought. we put in and trolled the dam end (deep water) and caught two fish one going 20" but was still very slow fishing. we went and checked the flats end and set-up in the river channel and fished with indi's but nothing! watching the bait chuckers at that end also never catch a fish we knew it was a bust to stay here also. we left for Unity res.

When we got to Unity res. the ice was still covering at least 3/4 the res. and maybe more. we could barely get my small drifter in at the ramp from the ice and found a way out to some open water in front of the dam. we trolled for a bit and caught 2 one trying to push the 20" mark but still not fast fishing. the flats end where most the trout fishing is done at this res. was 2 miles of ice away! so we decided to pull out and head for Dereks house by Boise and regroup for lower land res. when trying to get back to the ramp we came to a blocked ramp by ice! the wind had shifted the ice and moved it to blocked our way! we were kind of stunned at what to do, then I told derek to sit down and drove the front of the drifter up on the ice with the trolling motor! he knew to bounce his weight in front and the ice cracked and finally broke. I had to keep doing this over and over for about 40 yards until we broke all the way to open water to the ramp! to say the least we got the hell out of there!

So we had hit 3 res. and spent one night in a cheap motel and hadden't even set-up a camp yet and we were tucking our tails and heading for the CJ STRIKE RES. southeast of Boise for lower altitude fishing. At CJ the fishing wasen't much better. we just could not find grouped fish anywhere we went! they were still spread out all over the huge res. and hard to target. we first went to the dam thinking rainbows staging for the spawn would be kegged up by the moving water by the dam under-tow to the snake river below. we found nothing by the dam, even the baiters thinking the same way were not catching fish. we backed off about a 1/4 mile to still water and found a few willing fish but fishing was slow!
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We stuck it out here and set-up camp. we went all over this huge piece of water (some 10 miles long and half a mile to mile wide) we caught =

All on indicators and chironomids. we would get to an area and have to clean the bass out before trout would move in! or we would catch a couple trout and then the trash fish would move in! what a pain!

Now when driving here we went across a bridge over the snake river below the dam and I saw two riffles in the middle of the river current (gravel bars under water) I knew we could get the drifter above those bars and anchor and let rope out to be able to get out and wade to fish the riffles. there were two gravel bars made in the middle of the river! thinking fish should be migrating to the dam for the spawn we should have good fishing!

Well we had to change gear and get our waders and take a different approach and somehow forgot our cameras! I anchored and we waded to each riffle when Derek said he had a big fish on but didn't know what it was! I was changing flies in the drifter so looked up to see a doubled over rod and line screaming out of the reel going down river at a high rate and thought well he must of snagged a carp since we were high sticking nymphs and he was drifting a trout bead with indi. then he got the fish fairly close with his 6 wt. and it came to the surface for a boil. I was still sitting in the drifter when he said quite load "IT'S A TROUT" get the net! well now I knew I had to hurry and jumped out of the drifter and waded to him just in time to watch the top of the rod come apart and slide down the line to the indi! Luckily the fish was close now and in calm water behind the gravel bar so I tried to wade out and net it, the fish went on another run but I was able to grab the top of the rod and move it up and was trying to put it back together when we could see I could net it and did!

This fish went over 6 pounds! for a river fish (below the dam it is a moving flowing river) it was the biggest I had even seen! I don't know if it went seven pounds but it was close - a true trophy for river fishing!!!

We tried the river the next day and the water went from ankle deep to over our knees (get the hell outta here) depth in a matter of minutes and almost swept my drifter down the fast moving snake river. so fishing the river was kinda a bust after that! Derek was truly excited and happy about his big fish! he only started fly fishing a little over a year ago and it was his first truly "BIG" fish on the fly. he had caught trout to 4 pounds and 20" but this was truly a trout in a whole different class and he did a great job fighting the fish for a quick healthy release. here is a picture of our camp at CJ STRIKE RES. with our own little boat ramp and free all by ourselves camping! =
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That is not looking at the other end of the res. that's looking across so that's how wide this res. was. it's some 10 or 15 miles long!

After a few days we packed up and headed for Arrowrock res. above the boise river. it's the res. the south fork of the Boise dumps in and the middle fork. we camped in between where these two rivers arms met the res.
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We kinda knew the fish would be smaller but wanted faster fishing and that's what we had! fish to 17" up the middle fork Boise arm, it was fun for a few days and then Derek had to call it quits! we headed to his place and I headed for La Grande in Oregon to try and talk a friend into fishing three more res. in the hells canyon area - brownlee - oxbo - hells canyon res. on the snake river!

we did and the fishing was the same - no stacked trout anywhere and my bait fishing buddy did land a 23" bow about 5 pounds with bait as we side drifted flies and he used bait below the spillway like steelhead fishing - the only place we could find trout out of all three res. here! everyone we talked to said the only thing that was biting was the channel cats! although we did find trout we had to work hard for them and my friend filled a 5 gallon bucket with cats (I need to develop a catfish fly) he also lost a real big one while we smoked cigars by the fire below the underwater spillway at hells canyon res.
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My friends catfish rod and the start of hells canyon mountains
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Derek and I put 700 miles on his truck just going to res. to res. my truck turned 400,000 miles just before I hit Idaho on the way over and my bait chucker friend and I fished another 3 res. all in all we fished 8 different res.
cj strke
hells canyon res.

And was in some of the most beautiful country west of the rockies! I will proof read later!


Active Member
Hey Mark, great report! That's the way it is over here. I have caught a few cats over on the Snake, incidental bi-catch while fishing for smallmouth. They will take a bugger hung under a popper....my version of the hopper and dropper for those bass you love so much. The best thing about them is the way they fry up. Much better than trout if you can stand the mercury they have in them. Hope to see you next time you are over this way!


Active Member
I also like big waters trip!

I think we were to early if I had to pick an excuse! none of the fish I stomach pumped had anything in them everywhere we went except the hell's canyon area where even the 15 inch fish were filled with baby crappie! 3 to 4 inch crappie minnows whole.

Bakerite they have already raised the water level at beulah from 45% two weeks ago to 57% this week and will open the upper res. for spring irrigation about the 15th so it should fish well and I might not be done with that lake! I just might make it over to try and redeem myself at beulah in May or June. the water at malheur is also raising right now from reports I got from a friend after leaving. Unity had the best levels all winter and could be real good when insects start popping! it has also gotten it's fingerling plants the last few years so number should be up.

My friend and I were both talking about oxbo-hells-brownlee res. and we both remember reading the Idaho powers contract for planting trout for some 30 or 40 years was up and they no longer had a responsibility to plant trout. ever since then (about 10 years) the fishing has gone down hill! I remember catching fish on almost every cast through the 80's there. now the last two trips over 10 years have been horrible, it doesn't help that they now manage oxbo res. for trophy small mouth bass fishing when it used to have the best fishing for rainbows - stocked or native!

Like I told you they did not stock malheur with fingerlings last year when they knew the numbers were already down last year! this will effect it for 2 more years without those plants but they sure had the money to transplant Large mouth bass from Davis lake to Unity res. that actually got fingerling plants - but I guess the huge bass they transfer from Davis lake have to feed on something! I'd better stop now :mad:


Active Member
I saw in the regs. that they have catch and release for all bass over 16" in Unity....so they are trying to make it into a trophy bass lake, those fish probably really put on some weight when they stock the fingerlings. Went to Wolf Creek reservoir this afternoon, kind of a raw windy day. I walked down to the inlet, which was really running strong and cast out a bloody mary on an indicator. Fished for about 45 minutes, caught three fish and missed a few others. Biggest fish was a fat 15 inches or so. I'm going to spend a little more time there...good to feel a tug.

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