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Haven't seen a lot of reports in Stillwater lately so I'll take a turn.

Great recent outing in an unfamiliar part of Oregon, so thought I'd share some stuff that worked. I found it interesting that a lot of what I did to find fish was the same stuff guys post about all the time when offering advice. Meaning it actually works. And the things I did for this out-of-state trip were the exact things I do anytime I'm looking for new water around home. So in the spirit of Ed's 'New to Fishing' thread I thought a real life example might take his great idea a step further.

Tools: Oregon Fishing Guide, Oregon Gazetteer, 4WD and a float tube.

The trip was a short family vacation, not in Central Oregon, so any fishing would have to take place in unfamiliar territory. And I wondered how well my usual methods of finding new fish would work on a plain white canvas. And so began the experiment. Ahead of time I narrowed the list of options to meet my usual criteria: Smallish mid-elevation lake with limited accessibility, yet reachable with some effort. Over the years I've found this recipe to be the best balance of good habitat and little or no traffic, and at mid-elevation there is no growth issue for the fish…all the major food groups and other conditions are there.

Once decided I set out for probably the most challenging part of the trip…getting there and finding it. This particular place would require 4WD and a bit of hiking. As expected the directions would need a big fat grain of salt to be used successfully. Admittedly I was going up alone and a little nervous about it. At the very least I had a phone and was within foot distance of civilization (but I'd highly recommend the buddy system for something like this…so do as I say, not as I do :clown:). No prob finding the major FS road and, though 4WD was a requirement, getting up the hill was more fun than treacherous. But finding the 2nd road, an abandoned route where the hike would take place, was the usual clusterfuck. I got lucky. I stopped at a major washout since the road looked less than fun to go any further, plus my trip OD said I had gone far enough. On instinct I got out to look around and think about it. Looked down the cliff where the washout had gone and spotted what little was left of the metal gate which marked the 2nd road. Pure luck. All I had to do was hop over all the debris. The rest of that road was a breeze on foot and, after another directional clusterfuck, the small lake appeared nicely tucked into a bowl. Elevation was somewhere around 2,000 and the place wasn't lacking for scenery.

The lake fished well for rainbows averaging maybe 12." Numbers were 'all you want' and I lost count after a couple dozen or so. Method-wise, again I didn't bother with any rocket science. Fly was what I had on from the last outing and I never bothered with a floater. I'm not much for traditional methods when stuff that makes less sense works so much better (for me the floater never comes out on lakes till I'm throwing dries; I simply hate them for anything else and have my own theories on why a sinker is more effective). #12 beaded leech and a Type V was it the whole time…shallow, deep, in the cover, wherever. Worked. Point is a little outside-the-box thinking is not a bad thing, and developing one's own style, even if unconventional, can be a very good thing.

That was all fine and good but what I really cared about was the combination of depth, cover and food I was observing. Food in particular. For the short time I was there I noticed, among other foods, a constant midge hatch, an overwhelming hatch of callibaetis (#14ish) in one corner, a surprisingly large crayfish and a significant population of salamanders (I saw more of them than fish coming to the surface taking bugs…never seen that before). Again, this was a rather small lake. So the wheels began to turn about what this lake could support. I stuck around a while and worked the place hard…in the cover, out in the open cruising areas, down deep, pretty much every cubic foot of that bowl. Sure enough the little bowl began giving up its secrets. As I suspected it held a population of old timers, much larger, a lot wiser and very determined not to be found. And I loved that they were so tough to get to…if they came up easy I would have been disappointed.

Seems that would have been the highlight of my day, but no. Something much better and far more rare occurred. As I arrived back at the truck I could hear a motor approaching from higher up the mountain. A minute later this couple rides up on a quad...only folks I saw all day. The guy had seen my outa state plates earlier and decided they would go ride the hills for a while instead of joining me on the lake (had his rod all set to go mounted to the front of the quad). They spent a chunk of their day avoiding the spot where I was so I'd have it to myself…WOW. And come to find out he hadn't been there in several years so I know he was itching to get down there. That's what I'll remember about Oregon. And hopefully it's contagious around here…guess that's up to me now.

So I couldn't have asked for a better day. And main thing was how simple the method was in figuring it out given unfamiliar territory and only one shot at it. Hope a practical example of putting this stuff to work is helpful (and interesting). It really does work.

Would love to hear similar stories, both from newer guys and old war horses.


969 Posts
Great report and pics. Thanks for sharing, it's always nice to find new water.

· Remember when you could remember everything?
7,174 Posts
Thanks for the terrific report! It never fails to bring a smile to my face when I read about how people who invest a few calories by getting off the road to find gems like your little lake are so richly rewarded. Sadly, too many folks seem to only fish lakes that they can drive right up to and then are disappointed when they find no fish but plenty of trash.

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