When the month of August comes around, I get tunnel vision. This is the time of year when big numbers of summer steelhead start moving into the Lower Deschutes, and these early fish are some of the hottest, most quality fish of the Summer, in my opinion. All I can think about is when I am going to hit the river next.
I spent three days with two great fishing buddies in the stretch between Pine Tree and Macks Canyon last week. This was my first steelhead trip down there this season, and trust me, there will be many more. While floating Macks to the Mouth this time of year can produce some epic days due to large numbers of fish in the lowest 7 miles of the river, I enjoy fishing a bit higher this time of year. Crowds seem a little thinner, and I honestly believe that a big percentage of the fish that enter the river this early bolt upstream in search of cooler water temperatures.
We fished with dry flies and traditional wet flies in the mornings and evenings, and used sink tips (T-8 and T-11) with heavier articulated flies in the middle of the day. Overall, the fishing was decent for this time of year. We hooked a few fish, got a few rises, and a handful of grabs, which is all you can really ask for.
The fishing is only going to get better from here on out. Day by day, fish are moving into the river and chances of hooking up increase that much more. If you go down there, I recommend fishing hard during the shade sessions-morning and evening. During the middle of the day, slow down a bit; drink a beer (or two), take a nap and go for a swim. Don’t get me wrong, sink-tip fish some spots along the way, but make sure you’re not about to collapse from exhaustion in the evening after a 14 hour-long fishing binge spent in a furnace. You want to be ready when the sun starts getting low and its game time again. The days down there are long this time of year-waking up at 445 and fishing until past 9, Im 21 years old and I can barely hang with that schedule after a few days!
I would say another important part of fishing down there this time of year is setting yourself up with productive camp water. Ensuring you have a quality piece of water to fish during an evening/morning session around camp is the key to success I feel. Also, keep your eyes out for rattlesnakes, they are down there in full force!
From now until late Fall steelhead will be in the river waiting for your fly to swing past them. Get out there and show ‘em no mercy.