Fishing Amongst Fires: Deschutes, Lake Simtustus, and Metolius River Fishing Reports

My dad and I putting in at Warm Springs for trip #1!

It’s wildfire season in Central Oregon. It came fast and hard, knocking firefighters on their heels with winds and high temperatures. Despite this, I got out to do some fishing last week on the Deschutes, Lake Simtustus, and the Metolius.

My dad and I did a Tuesday-Wednesday float trip from Warms Springs to Trout Creek. It was hot, but thankfully we both had a pair of Simms Guard Socks for wet wading, which saved our butts. The fishing was good despite the 95+ degree weather. X-Caddis was still a hot fly on the surface, while Sparkle Pupas, nest building caddis, and emerging caddis nymphs down low also produced.

Wednesday night my uncle from Washington arrived at the Lake Simtustus RV Park, which acted as our base camp, and the next day we put in at Warm Springs for Thursday-Friday float trip. This trip met us with cooler temperatures, and even cooler fishing. An X-Caddis pattern worked early, but once the wind picked up the bugs and the fish sulked. Despite this I managed fish on Sparkle Pupas below a heavily weighted Mega Prince.

One of my dads fish caught on a #16 olive X-Caddis

I targeted the rocky banks with my tandem nymph rig and went about 4-5 feet below my indicator to my anchor fly. I hooked into two monsters that both broke me off thanks to a too-hardy drag setting, ugh. The next day was even cooler, but less wind, and even though there were bugs on the surface the fish didn’t seem to go for them. I kept with the same nymphing rig and managed to hook into a few.

Saturday I woke up back at the Lake Simtustus RV Park. Check out was at 1pm, so I only had a few hours to explore. I’d heard the lake has hearty populations of Rainbows, Browns, Kokanee, and Smallmouth Bass. I went with an olive/black Woolly Bugger and started banging the banks next to low hanging trees in the shady spots. One of my first casts produced a nice 12-inch smallmouth, my first on the fly.

My dad, my uncle, and me looking like dorks at the Warm Springs put in for trip #2

I caught two more, and had two more bites, but then I noticed fish rising towards the middle part of the east arm I was on. I began trolling with that same Woolly Bugger, but got nothing. Maybe I wasn’t deep enough, or maybe they were just focused on surface flies, who knows!? The sun was getting higher, and the wind was picking up, so I started casting perpendicular to the bank about two/three feet out, letting it sink a little deeper and did a slow retrieve around jetties and rock outcroppings. On my second cast I hooked into something monstrous. It shook its head a few times, but then I felt the sinking feeling of a slack line. He’d broken me off and stolen my last tungsten-weighted Woolly Bugger.

Me fishing near Grassy Camp under a smoke-tinted sunset.

After that the sun was too high, the fish too low, and the wind too strong. Over the few days and nights I spent there I was impressed with the size and number of fish in Lake Simtustus, and would recommend anyone who hasn’t fished it to go there and check it out. It’s also a great base camp for doing day or overnight trips on the Deschutes, which is only 15 minutes away.

Seems like mornings and evenings are best at Lake Simtustus, and a boat is a must because the bank is steep and inundated with bushes that make casting a pain. There’s also a small creek feeding the lake near the RV Park on the east arm that holds many small trout. Pheasant tails and Parachute Adams both worked there, and targeting the deeper pools below cascades was successful.

Finally, Sunday brought with it cooler temperatures and cloudy skies. I sped over to the Metolius and was met with larger crowds than usual. Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery and below was closed to fishing and visitors due to the fire, so everybody moved upriver to fish the Camp Sherman to Gorge stretch. Still, most of my favorite holes and runs were open when I got to them, and luckily the fishing was hot. I caught two rainbows, one of which was about 15”, and one large white fish all on a Yellow Sally nymph. The Golden Stones are late this year like most of the hatches due to high water and weird weather. Anyways, the Golden Stoneflies are migrating to the shore to hatch, and the trout are keyed in on them. So if you’re heading there, make sure to pack your Beldar Stones and Yellow Sally nymphs.

Overlooking Lake Simtustus RV Park. Image thanks to lakesimtustusresort.com

As for dries there wasn’t much action on top. However, around mid afternoon at Allingham hole a group of kids started throwing Cheetos into the river just below where I was fishing. I hadn’t seen a fish rise all day, and was convinced they’d fled or weren’t eating just to spite me.

“Watch the Cheeto,” one of them said.

As I did a massive redside crashed the surface and took the Cheeto with him. I looked at the guy fishing the other shore.

“Did you see that?” I asked him. “Do it again,” I said to the kids.

Sure enough every Cheeto they tossed into the water was met with a voracious rise from another rainbow. I tried everything, even an orange and brown stimulator I though looked like a Cheeto, but couldn’t get a fish to rise.

After another half an hour of unsuccessful attempts I looked at the other guy who was equally frustrated.

“Typical Metolius,” I said before setting off downstream.

Even though I didn’t get a fish on the dry that day, the fishing was still hot, and seeing those fish rise to Cheetos was a kick too. All in all it was a great week of fishing and I can’t wait to do it again soon!

Summary:

Deschutes: X-Caddis, Missing Link Caddis, and Parachute Adams in size 16 worked well early, late, and during breaks in the wind. Sparkle Pupas, Mega Prices, emerging caddis patterns, and Nest Building Caddis worked well all day along seams and rocky banks.

Lake Simtustus: Woolly Bugger early in the morning along jetties and rocky shorelines below trees produced Smallmouth. Cast close to shore and wait for your fly to get low then do a slow 6-inch retrieve. Pheasant Tails and Parachute Adams worked on Willow Creek on the east arm below cascades and in deeper pools.

Metolius: Yellow Sally nymphs were the hot fly on the Camp Sherman to Gorge stretch. Below Wizard Falls was closed to fishing and visitors due to the nearby fire. Bring some stone fly nymphs and adult dries as the Golden Stone hatch is coming off a bit later this year due to high water and weird weather.

Bryan T. Robinson

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2 Responses to Fishing Amongst Fires: Deschutes, Lake Simtustus, and Metolius River Fishing Reports

  1. Sam says:

    Keeping in mind that the fish on the Metolius have seen just about every fly in the box I will be tying up some Cheetos imitations before heading over next trip …

  2. Mrmachinist says:

    Note to self;
    Buy orange foam, tie batch of “cheetos” flies for trip to Metolius…….

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