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After weeks of nearly jumping out of my skin in anticipation my brother and I could set off on a dream trip on the Deschutes. We met up with our guide in Madras and made the short drive to the put-in at Warm Springs. My original plan was to hit the stonefly hatch and avoid the crowd that seems to hatch at the same time. We were fortunate to have an accommodating guide in Nate from Deschutes River Outfitters, who scheduled us for Friday through Sunday, ahead of the holiday weekend floaters.

I half expected a mob at Warm Springs, given the long weekend, but was pleasantly surprised. A few guides were setting out, but few, if any, weekend warriors. It was sunny skies and warm enough that the bugs were out by 8 AM.

After a 10 minute drift we got to our first stop, where I caught my first fish on a chubby golden stone dry fly. This single pattern was the go-to fly, producing consistent strikes over the whole trip. As we made our way north we ran into hatches of small caddis (American grannom) and I started using an X-caddis dropper, although the preference was clearly the stone.

Nate, our guide, was a master of putting us on productive water, and although the first day’s float was more than 18 miles it never seemed as though we were rushing or spending long stretches in the boat. Although I’ve done this float several times before I’d never done it with a guide. This was truly glamping, in that we were pampered at every camp and meal stop.

You know you’re on the Deschutes when a 14 inch fish seems like a dink. These guys were big, healthy and wild redside rainbows. Most of the one’s I landed were 16 inch and up. It took a bit to recalibrate my water-reading radar, but once that happened the holding spots were easier to gauge.

I was fishing one perfect little pool just after lunch on Saturday and landed the fattest 18 incher I’d ever seen. It was hooked inside its mouth and had wrapped itself with the dropper. I decided to cut the line to make unhooking easier and managed to set it free without damage. Unbeknownst to me at the time I dropped my rod. I started to mentally beat myself up and add up the cost of replacement when I saw a rafter (in a bikini) just downstream reach into the water at the end of the riffle and pull up my rod. At that point I couldn’t imagine it ever getting any much better than that: Catch and release a great fish, lose my rig but then have it given back by a nearly naked young woman. I probably burned all my good karma right then.

I can’t say enough about the Deschutes. The scenery is a bit like the Yakima River canyon, but on a much grander scale. The first section, from Warm Springs to Trout Creek, is an easy day’s float of about 10 river miles. Trout Creek marks the beginning of the wild section with no public access for more than 35 miles. This, plus a few class 4 rapids, tends to limit the angling pressure and keep the fishery so healthy. Ospreys, red winged blackbirds, and wild horses are common sights.

Lots of healthy fish, drop-dead scenery, solitude, lots of healthy fish, pristine wilderness and lots of healthy fish. Nate and Matt from Deschutes River Outfitters were great. They are nice people with extensive knowledge and the patience and desire to share their passion for fly fishing. They really made this trip was one for the books.
 

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Having a drink in The Buff
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nice report. where did you take out? which were the most extreme rapids? any of them not doable with a Clacka/hard sided boat?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
nice report. where did you take out? which were the most extreme rapids? any of them not doable with a Clacka/hard sided boat?
They're all doable, but not to be taken lightly. This is the first time I've been through Whitehorse without seeing a drift boat wrapped around one of the rocks. If not for the rapids I'd do the trip myself without a guide.
 

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I did that in my drift boat last year about this time. It was flowing at about 4,000 cfs or so. Running Whitehorse made me think that I should get boat insurance. That said, there are several moves to make in the rapid, all with consequences. If you set up well, it's pretty smooth. Just don't start your move too late. The river pushes left, so catching some soft eddy water can help slow things down. If not, you get the opportunity to get to know the three named rocks in the rapid (Can Opener, Oh Sh*t, Aw F*ck). A raft can slop over/off of them pretty easily. I'd call it a class 3+ in a raft, 4- in a hard boat. Buckskin Mary was a fun wave train. I took out at Harpam Flats, but next time I'll do the next 5 miles into Maupin so that I can run the rapids down there as well. I was disappointed about the lack of ability to fish from a boat or most of the left bank. Every corner had somebody posted up, and I thought catch and release fishing from a boat would result in a lot less impact on the bank vegetation.

To that end, can somebody please explain the reason behind the "no fishing from a boat" regulation on the D?
 

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Me thinks you made a nice move by launching early. I drove up the 97/197 on Monday afternoon and saw probably 50-70 boats on trailers between Madras and Maupin. All I could think about was what a zoo the D must have been.
 

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Buenos Hatches Ese
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So why not allow flyfishing from a boat?
Could they realistically do that? I know some rivers have fly only water, but I think there might be a small uprising if they said that you could fish flies from a boat but not gear in the same stretch of water.

The idea is to reduce pressure on the fish, not just the salmon/steelhead and not just from gear fishermen. But I do believe that is the driving force. When there are anadromous fish in the water, trout typically take a backseat. And I don't think the fly crowd is nymphing up steelhead from boats with the same success rate as the gear guys. It's unfortunate for the C&R trout fishermen who have basically zero impact on anadromous fish, but I'm positive that trout have benefit from the rule as well by keeping the trout guys from being able to cast to them literally anywhere.
 

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Dumbfounded
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To that end, can somebody please explain the reason behind the "no fishing from a boat" regulation on the D?
Actually, I do know. I talked to some ol' ODF&W folks about the reason for the restriction and they knew the story.... it has nothing to do with creating a safe haven for the trout.... that's just a happy result of the regulation.

Long ago, when you could fish out of a boat, there was a lot of folks fishing the river the same as they do the Willamette and the Columbia. Problem is, the Deschutes is not nearly as wide as the other rivers yet it also held salmon and steelhead... plus the redsides.

Boats would form hoglines and create a situation where it became very difficult to make your way downstream in a boat. Confrontations and hassles between boaters were common. Guns were drawn... the usual reaction to confrontations during the day. The boat jams also pissed off the Warmsprings Native Americans so they pitched a fit. The solution was simple.

The ODF&W got together with law enforcement and the tribe and decided the easiest way to stop the boat jam problem was not to allow fishing from a boat. So they did. It worked. The fact that the fish now have a safe haven wasn't what they had in mind when they created the regulation but that's what happened.

With the no fishing from a boat regulation, that stopped the boat jams and benefited the trout.

Because the restriction has been in place for so long and anglers have learned to accept it, it is unlikely they'll ever go back to allowing fishing from boats.
 

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Some friends and I did a two day float from Warm Springs to Maupin some time back. Got lucky and arrived just as the hatch was coming on. If you bumped into a blade of grass on the bank you'd have twenty stoneflies on you trying to climb to the highest point. Great float though. Probably the best fishing trip I've ever taken and it's so close to home.

Mike
 

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Interesting story in Gene's post. I read what was supposed to be a history of Deschutes River fishing regulations a while back. The story I read gave a different reason. This occurred in the 1930s, and it was to give the redside trout refuge from anglers. In those days catch-and-release fishing was pretty much unknown, and keeping a limit of trout was the norm. Banning fishing from boats provided enough refuge that the trout population didn't get fished out.

I wonder how many other official and unofficial explanations there are for the regulation.

Sg
 

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Dumbfounded
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I wonder how many other official and unofficial explanations there are for the regulation.
Good question. Evidently no one wrote much down during the ol' days :)

I do lean more toward the boat jam explanation because the anglers of old were primarily consumptive fishers and it seems unlikely the F&G department at the time would have been concerned in the least about providing a safe haven for trout.

...but it sure makes the ODF&W a hero today if they circulate the notion that they were responsible for fish conservation on the Deschutes starting way back in the 30s. :eek:
 
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