Last week I had the pleasure of taking some of the awesome Idylwilde Fly team out for a day on the Lower Deschutes. It was going to be Matt, Patrick, Zach and me. All three of them are very experienced anglers. Matt however had yet to spend anytime swinging a fly in search of chrome. We had a clear mission that day: get Matt (the trout slayer) into his first steelhead on a fly. He was excited to say the least, I don’t think he slept for at least two nights leading up to the trip.
I didn’t know what to expect with the day, as just two nights before, the clarity of the river went to chalk. Something had happened up on the White River Glacier and the White began spitting glacial till into the Deschutes just upstream of Sherars Falls. With cooler evening temps, I made the call to go forward with the trip despite the lack of clarity. I dumped the boat in that morning 20 minutes before first light and the water didn’t look good. Chalk with no more than a foot and a half vis. I did my best to remain confident but it was fading quickly. We jetted up river as the first hints of dawn revealed the path. We started with dry lines and some very proven classic style flies, an Idyl’s Postman and Silvey’s Pool Cleaner. After working through several of the known buckets in the first piece the score was low. Nothing but one subtle bump without return.
We made our way up to the next piece and made the call to switch to larger profile flies on sink tips. Matt with 12ft of T-11 and a Purple Fish Taco for the head of the run, and Patrick with a short 7ft section of T-14 and a weighted Black Party Boy Leech for working the boulder strewn tailout.
I walked Matt up to the top and coached him as he worked slowly down to the sweet spot. When he started to get in the real good section I had him slow down even more. When the first swing came in behind the magic boulder I could almost countdown to when the line would stop and come tight. 3… 2… 1… One bump… drop… Second bump… drop… and here comes the, CRAP! Premature hookset!!!!
I kept Matt calm and we continued to work the fish. I told him sometimes they will drop back 15ft or so from that spot to the next hold, and I walked down to the tailout. Just as I came to the edge of the tall grass at the tail I watched Patrick’s line mid-swing get crushed. Fish on! It jumps, cartwheels, runs, jumps, cartwheels, runs more. All in all it jumped 7 times as it went to deep into the throat of the fast water and eventually popped off. Awesome fish, a perfect, hot chrome, wild, hen and perfectly executed LDR.
It took a few minutes for Patrick to catch his breath and allow his heart to return to a safe beat. But before he could relax, we heard a scream of joy and terror all at the same time come from up stream. At the same instant a chrome explosion broke the surface directly in front of us. The distinct sound of knuckles on reel handle followed by various shouts and mutterings of $#&% @ &$#% @%#. Matt’s hooked up!!!
I ran up there to coach him through the epic butt kicking he was receiving. I think mostly I just offered moral support as the fish flew through the air, ran down stream, back upstream, across stream and amazingly stayed pinned through it all. We walked it down into the softer water and brought it in to be tailed. He did it!!!! He brought his first chrome native buck to hand on a swung fly!
It was truly an awesome event to witness and be a part of. Nice work Matt!!! May it be the first of many awesome fish you bring to hand throughout your new career as a steelheader. The day continued strong with everyone bringing a fish to hand and many other opportunities. And the best part was we had most of the river to ourselves. Seems the glacial color kept most other folks off the water. This was one day that will go down in the memory book for me of special days on the river.
Photos by Zach Mertens