Yep, That's how my hand felt after about 30 minutes of fishing Chickahominy Saturday evening. The stiff 30-some degree breeze blowing over wet hands made it painful. Sure, I've been there before. Many times. We all have! Sometimes I'm smart enough to bring gloves. Sometimes, I even tear open a package or two of the disposable hand warmers and have them activating as I pull on waders and rig up the fly rod. Sometimes...I don't.
I need to figure out why my gloves are not in my wader bag.
And I need to put some hand warmers in my wader bag. And sling pack. And vest. And anything else I may be bringing along, just in case.
So, after 20 or so minutes of fishing (more on the fishing report momentarily), I ventured back to the rig, sorted through the early season and unprepared gear, and found some toe warmers (more on the toes coming up, too). I figured if they can keep toes warm, they'll take the edge off the inferno in my fingertips. No go. Not an ounce of heat coming from them. Of course, they've probably been in my wader bag for several presidential administrations. Mental note made...
The hands got their initial dousing upon releasing a fat...no, FAT....15" 'bow on about my sixth cast. At the same time, I glanced over to see my son-in-law hooked up as well. The water is still cold, of course, so there were more head shakes and throbbing surges than line-peeling runs. These fish are in excellent shape! A couple more casts found the line tight again. The takes, I had a half dozen or more in that pre-sunset hour, as did he, were all subtle. The line came tight, and a raise of the rod tip indicated it wasn't the weeds we were fishing in. Ok, maybe once or twice, but most were "fish on" indications. My SIL did say one of his strikes was solid, but the rest were simply a slight sensation in the line as it was retrieved. More than one fish was lost in the weed growth we were wading around, so not sure if we hooked up with anything in the 18-20" range which we know are prevalent in pretty good numbers. Another trip, adequately supplied with survival gear, will hopefully answer that.
Now, regarding my toes. Wading thigh deep into water which was covered in ice a week ago often makes one aware of the appendages below the knee. For this trip, I was wearing a pair of WetSox which had been sent for me to try from the company, and I'm pleased to say I didn't even think about my feet. They were warm! WetSox are lightweight, lined neoprene socks which I must say, so far, I'm pretty darn impressed with. The outer lining makes them a breeze to slip into and out of the foot of the waders. This was my first time fishing with them. I had tried them on one cold coyote hunting trip, found them warm for that excursion, as well, but a bit damp inside after a long morning of hiking. But still pleasantly warm. I may have to consider handling these in the shop. WetSox is now making a set of waterproof wool socks, which has me a bit intrigued, as well.
As for other "Chick info", the water is very clear (maybe 3' visibility) and water level is good. Just wishing it was "great", but will suffice to get us through the year, at least, pending no run-off or spring rains. And the flies getting bit? If you have to ask, you haven't been reading this blog.
...a reason to start getting excited.
Last evening I was shown a picture of Chickahominy. I had heard Friday that there was a crack in the ice, which means it wouldn't be long until there is open water to fish, especially coupled with the "warm" temps we are anticipating. I was planning on checking the pond this next Friday to check on the progress of the ice regression. Imagine my surprise when I look at a pic on a friend's phone which shows OPEN WATER. And I'm not talking a sliver, but what appears to be the entire south side of the reservoir being open.
Break out the Woolly Buggers, friends!!
OK, maybe some emergers and nymphs, too...
Keep an eye out here for a fishing report, as I hope to shake off the cobwebs and coyote hair from my casting arm later this week. I guess there is room in my rig for both my predator hunting gear and fishing equipment, too.
As the temperatures here are falling, the fishing is picking up! Water temperatures in all areas are where we like to see them in the fall, and the fish are feeding. And now that I'm home and since I put a deer in the freezer, and have some wonderful meat from a bull elk, thanks to my hunting partner, I've been able to spend a bit of time on the water, as well as talk with folks fishing the area. (However, coyotes, beware...I'm after you next.)
Blitzen: The river has been running in the low 40 cfs range, with temps in the low 40's to low 50's each day. I'm hearing of some good reports the past 2-3 weeks, with some top water action being seen the first couple weeks this month. Look for fish moving up and down the system, as always, and concentrate on deeper holes. Don't be afraid of days that there is ice on the river....they are still feeding. On warmer days, try an attractor pattern on top solo, or as an indicator with your favorite nymph dropper.
Krumbo: Fish in the 15-20" range seem to be the main fare, with limits coming to those soaking bait, I've heard. Leech and streamer patterns should be ready to go on floating or intermediate lines. As always, make sure that 3X leader is tied well.
Chickahominy: This fished very well on Monday afternoon, and fairly good Tuesday morning. While several flies were tried amongst three of us, there was one stand out which accounted for all of the fish between two of us, with a close replica doing it's job for the other. Yes, it was brown.... Be armed with the formidable brown woolly bugger and fish it s-l-o-w. Overall, these fish are the fattest I've seen in the three decades I've fished "Chick". These 'bows are running 14-18" for the most part, and are DEEP bodied fish. And strong. And acrobatic. Even the one little guy (9-10") was strong and feisty! The next few days are to be warm (mid-60's), and I anticipate good fishing until the ice hampers our chase. Water quality is pretty good, with just some bloom atop, but quite clear under it. If you don't find fish in the first 20-30 min, move to a different depth, possibly dependent on time of day and ambient temperatures.
Beulah: I heard from a buddy hunting that area this past week that there were a couple of boats on the reservoir; however, realize that it is only 20% full (as of tonight) now that the irrigation season is winding down. No reports.
...a bit late in coming??
Well, it's been hot for several weeks now, and as with most the state, smoky. But it's the heat which has the fishing report somewhat void of information.
I have been receiving quite a few inquiries regarding the Blitzen the past few weeks, and with each visit or call I'm pretty much saying the same thing: how about we leave those fish alone until the water temperatures drop! We have been seeing temperatures of that system in the 70's nearly everyday now for the past month or so. With those temps, fish get quite stressed. While redbands can take the 'extreme' temperatures a bit better than other sub-species, they are still quite susceptible to mortality when hooked and fought in these low water-high temp conditions, so please fish responsibly. If you see a dozen fish gathered tightly together in a hole, they are seeking refuge near a cool seep/spring. Watch, and don't bother them! Friends don't let friends stress trout. :)
The stillwaters are a bit 'green', as one may imagine. And to be honest, I haven't heard of any local fishing reports for several weeks now. As for myself, I've been slacking, moving and painting a house for my parents, playing with my 10 month old granddaughter, and waiting for cooler temps to go chase elk with a bow, all the while being patient(?) for cooler days and nights, the fall desert fishery, and of course, the fall run of salmon and steelhead on the coast. Gladly, the house in Brookings survived the inferno down there; now just hoping the fishery in the Chetco isn't affected too badly.
Once things pick up here in the SE part of the state, I'll post some updates. Until then, breathe well, stay cool, and keep on tying!
For those of you looking for updates from the area, hold on...I'll be back soon! Currently finishing up chasing rockfish and salmon on the far southern Oregon coastline. Salmon from the Chetco estuary fishery are in the freezer, joining a number of rockfish from some fun offshore fishing from some days of nice water on the ocean. Even landed some on the fly. Fun times.
I did fish Chickahominy a couple of times just over a week ago . Fish are running 12-14" and FAT!! I was surprised how much algae growth occurred overnight once the warm water hit. It did appear that there was a lot of activity in the middle of the lake at sunset. Be prepared for 'green' conditions in the shallows from here on out...and strong fish come fall!
As we finally witness warmer weather here in the high desert, more snow is melting in the mountains. I was amazed three weeks ago when I ventured into the hills north of Burns to put up some trail cams, only to find many areas still not passable due to drifts, as well as acres of standing water in what is usually a flat, a campsite, or just a depression in the forest. Amazing...
So, with warmer weather, better fishing should follow. Personally, I've only fished Wallowa Lake this past month (with, *cough* non-fly methods *cough*) and am not receiving many reports. I am hearing that some of the lakes on USFS land (Yellowjacket, Delintment) are not only accessible now, but have been planted, with a few holdovers being taken at YJ. I would be surprised if Delintment held over, however, we were surprised that it did last year! From ODFW reports, all local stillwaters have received their plantings, with Krumbo getting a couple doses.
Blitzen: For the past several days, the Blitzen has been experiencing 100 cfs fluctuations each day, with the "lows" and "highs" seeing a steady upward trend. Looking at the USGS graph, it appears that the high, around midnight, was at approximately 630 cfs, with a current (12:25 PM) 492 cfs reading. Watch for steady or on the drop levels; I'd prefer them at about half of the current level, if not even lower.
Mann Lake: I just called the local ODFW office to see if there is any "new" news beyond the ODFW recreation report, which hasn't changed for several weeks now. Unfortunately, it's the same news - low water and poor fishing. If I hear anything changing, I will add it to the website immediately.
Krumbo and Chickahominy: No recent reports, however, Krumbo should be picking up after the "lull" it seems to experience after plantings. Not sure why that happens, but seems to year after year (no, it's not just a brown Woolly Bugger issue). Chick should also be showing some activity in the shallows early mornings and late evenings for the few carry overs. (A word for those wanting to fish Chickahominy this fall or next year once the this year's plants gain some size - don't be afraid to wade to mid-thigh depth in the evening and fish back toward the bank. Over the years, these fish like the shallows, allowing sight fishing to rising or bulging fish.)
Owyhee: As I often mention to those inquiring, with the river being 2 1/2 hours away, I don't get a lot of info on the river. The big flows have been tamed to a current reading of 293 cfs, about 50% higher than the average release this time of year. ODFW was reporting that some fish were being taken at the 1,000+ cfs stage, so with the lower discharge, fishing should only pick up. Be careful wading the stream, as it can be a bit milky and difficult to see the large rocks/small boulders, especially at higher water levels.
As alluded to in a previous post, there's a parallel between many of my southeastern Oregon successful fishing stories and parcel carrier UPS. While I, as most of you, carry a plethora of flies afield (or is that a-water?), there is a small handful of patterns which seem to find their way consistently to the end of my tippet. I'm sure that a good percentage of still waters in this area give up trout to the "simple six": Prince Nymph, Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Chromies, Wooly Worms and Wooly Buggers. It's that final pattern, the one we often tie in the first lesson of fly tying classes, which my compadres are quick to chastise me about as the "only" fly I fish. I will swear on a stack of Ernest Schwiebert volumes that this is simply not true. However, I would be committing perjury if I said a very high percentage of my fish are not caught on said pattern...and in brown. And yes, it's often the first fly I tie on. And with success, it's often the fly which is still stuck in the hook keeper at day's end. It just works. In size 6. With 12 wraps of 0.025" lead, positioned in the front third of the shank. And copper Krystal Flash. That's three strands on each side of the marabou tail. By the way, that's a tail which is a couple of hook eye lengths shorter than the length of the hook shank. And that hackle - not the long, webby stuff. Use what you'd use on a #10 Wooly Worm. And since we are talking SE Oregon reservoirs, remember that for most the year it's a dry line, 3X leader, and a 10 second sink before retrieval of the leech imposter, unless the wind is blowing, than go ahead and use that spool with the intermediate line.
Chickahominy is full. Possibly as full as I've seen it in 30+ years. Stories of a few fish in the 10-12" range taken on chironomid patterns are circulating the area. Again, we just don't know of the population in the reservoir.
Beulah is 95% full.
The Blitzen is running at 157 cfs.
Krumbo provided a humbling moment this past weekend. While the water level and quality is great, the fishing wasn't quite that way. There were three boats/'toons on the water, several bankies soaking bait, and only a couple fish noted to the net, with a couple others lost. I cannot account for any of the said fish, even though a previous trip had my rod bent often, and with two of us taking 9 of 10 fish on the brown pattern. But not this time. Not a strike. My fishing partner, however, touched three fish, landing one. (She even tried THE pattern, to no avail.) But I know, next trip out, BROWN will do it for me.
Harney County is seeing water levels which haven't been noted in a number of years. This weekend saw flood warnings for various parts of the county, and reservoirs are gleaning the rewards of our snow-laden winter.
Chickahominy is, for all purposes, full, and completely ice free. On 3/17/17, I checked on it to find it very murky (about 6" visibility), and with the wind, and ensuing gales on Saturday, it'll be awhile until it clears up. Of course, I had to cast a fly there for awhile, and did get surprised with a fat 10" rainbow on a black Wooly Bugger. (For those of you who know me, yes....black. More about that in another post....)
Krumbo is so full that a couple of sections of the dock are under water. Other than that, the water is in good shape, and there seem to be fish from 13-20+" swimming about. Brown is a good color when fishing Krumbo. (Again, more about that sometime in another post...)
It appears that the Blitzen is going to be seeing some high water soon, as the daily flow keeps inching upward the past few days, nearing 200 cfs today. Water levels appear to be highest around mid to late morning.
As of yesterday, Beulah was at 82% full.
The lower Owyhee is currently flowing at 2700 cfs. Yes, two "0's" there....
Hearing a couple of reports from Mann Lake and, unfortunately, they seem to be echoing what ODFW has been saying...little water to be found. ODFW states in their weekly recreation report that in many areas there is/was only a foot of water to be found under the ice. Reports that Kiger Creek Fly Shop has been receiving are much the same; mud, low water, no sign of fish, no strikes for those trying to fish. If things pick up, it will be posted here. But for now, trips planned for SE Oregon may want to focus on other water bodies.
Beulah Reservoir is at 63% full as of today.
With Owyhee Reservoir at 77% full, anglers below the dam are finding the tailwater swift at 952 cfs, or nearly 700 cfs above what we normally see.
Krumbo Reservoir is ice free and should be fishing fair to good. Perhaps a report will be coming soon from KCFS staff!
The Blitzen is running most days in the 55-75 cfs range. Upcoming warm weather could push that number upward...
The first week of February has us buried under nearly 30" of snow, with a bit more in the forecast. Unfortunately, this means that most winter fishing has been limited, even for those ice fishing, due to lack of accessibility. The good news is that, once the white stuff is gone, the reservoirs which have been essentially non-existent the past few years, should be high, providing us with a few years of quality fishing once stocked. Trout grow quickly in our high desert alkaline rich waters, and we could be seeing rainbows in the mid-teens by 2018 in a number of nearby waters, and pushing the magical 20" mark in just a couple of years. Scud and leech patterns, on solid tippets, will rule!