The case for the early season Deschutes River fishing trip

May 1st: Deschutes River guide Ethan Nickel set out into the high desert with trusted camp chef and professional wrestler lookalike Kyle Duke at his side. Their mission, to put practice-dudes (TJ Matteri, Nate and myself) on some nice rainbow trout and get a warmup on the upcoming guide season. We set out from Trout Creek on a three-day float to Harpham Flat, camping two nights in the BLM designated campgrounds.

I had only been on the Deschutes in the summer and fall, so the green-ness of the spring season was a surprise. Hackberry, alder and willow were all starting to leaf out, the hills were green with new grasses. The new growth made for a great backdrop, with low clouds scudding over the canyon walls.

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

We had rain on and off all weekend with river levels at around 4800 cfs at Madras. The water was gunmetal gray most of the trip, with decent visibility. We were primarily nymphing, a two-fly rig with a large stonefly pattern and a red copper john, fishing drop-offs, boulder gardens and riffles. Lots of chunky, wild Deschutes Rainbows, kicking out of the water.

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

One of the coolest parts of the off-season trip is the lack of crowds. We had the river to ourselves a lot of the trip, hardly seeing anyone aside from at a few campgrounds. We didn’t see any insect activity on top, aside from just a smattering of caddis. But we did have solid fish on nearly every hole we fished.

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

I need to say something about camp: It’s hard to top Ethan’s gear and Kyle’s cooking. Big tents you can stand up in, fold-up cots with inflatable pads — I slept better than I do at home. And Kyle worked up fresh grilled town-run steelhead for dinner, elk hash and poached eggs for breakfast, beer-boiled and grilled bratwurst for lunch. The man is serious about food. This kind of camping will spoil you.

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Ethan has been guiding on the Deschutes for 14 years, and this year he’s outfitting trips as well. Call the shop if you’re interested in booking this crew for a high desert trout or steelhead float. The salmonfly hatch, copious caddis, and summer steelhead are all around the corner.


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8 Responses to The case for the early season Deschutes River fishing trip

  1. Bpaul says:

    Awesome pictures for the armchair fishermen out there. Thanks,


  2. Rob R says:

    Great pics! What a beautiful time to be on the big D. Thanks for the virtual trip…

  3. Michael says:

    Awesome trip report… Nice looking redsides too.. We did the same float for the opener two weeks back, and the fish were more then willing to take any number of nymphs in their vicinity..

  4. FJ says:

    Nice work there gentlemen. Thanks for posting. That’s a long way from the ocean for Nate!

  5. Randall says:

    Great report guys!!! I love those photos, fantastic work!!!!!


  6. Arlen says:

    It looks like you guys timed it perfectly and just made it before the water levels started to really spike. I’m jealous–I was going to head over there the end of this week, but it looks like I won’t make it now.

  7. Furiouscoco says:

    Nice backyard ! The fishing looks great in the off season and you timed it just right. Nice guides…sounds like your fishing with buddies.

  8. rj mineo says:

    what folding cots did you use

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