From the moment the jet boat backed away from the ramp at Mack’s I had an ear to ear grin on my face. Looking around we were engulfed by massive glowing canyon walls as we buzzed downstream, flying by so many great pieces of swing water. I felt myself slip into the dream that would be steelhead camp for the next few nights.
Our longtime friend Mr. Mark Bachman of the Fly Shop in Welches invited a crew from RIO and Sage to come down and stay on the river at his river camp or home away from home. As everyone tossed gear onto the bank unloading the jet boat we looking at the piles of gear laying on the shore. We had brought enough equipment to open up a modest fly shop on the banks of the Deschutes. Mark made the comment that he has more rods stashed away on the boat than we brought in an effort not to make us feel bad for brining 4 rods each.
Camp was so set up and dialed for us upon arrival and it is impressive how comfortable and convenient “roughing” it has become. After changing into our fishing gear, getting rigged, and then eating a quick bite it dawned on me. The camp water we had right in front of us was an epic piece of swing water. I really enjoy getting to know a run and learning where the best spots are and then just lapping the home pool with efficacy. Needless to say that I was giddy about the possibilities at camp. We played 20 questions with Mark about what techniques work best when, fly and color choices, and talked briefly about theories about fish behavior and steelheading ethics before we were totally worked up into a frenzy. It was all we could do to not just all jump into the same bucket and start casting.
Over the course of the next three days we all went through the cycles of a steelheader. The encounters, the hookups, the fish lost, and the fish captured. Mack’s Canyon is a place of extremes and the emotions that you feel echo the surrounding landscape. My first extreme high and low happened on the first evening in the camp run. Upon getting into what I felt was the best zone I got ripped, it was not a bump, or a tug tug tug, the fish must have took the fly while swimming downstream and murdered it. The first run was big and so hot that the old “classic” reel I was fishing backlashed. Oh yes…
So there I am, nearing my backing and a bird’s nest of epic proportions forms. Once she finally the settled down in the middle of the river and I go to town picking apart this disaster. 85% of the way through the mess the fish starts to work back up towards me and I start to crank her in. I am hoping that I have control over the situation and that she was only good for one big run. The head hits the top guide and my heart is racing. It’s going to happen and right here in camp…a wild steelhead on the first evening session, I’m so excited. As soon as she hit the shallow water she flared up and went out again just has fast and hot as the first run. I’m palming the reel and trying to put as much pressure as I can on the fish, but she is racing to the center of the river and the rod is throbbing. The birds next is showing its self…
Moments later the line is slack and I’m slumped over in defeat. The canyon goes quiet and I wade out the water into camp to come down from the high. I enjoy a couple off long sips off a beer, smile, and grab a different rod. Life is good. Mark, showed us the mighty Deschutes in all its wonderful color. A river worthy of all the stories and the fish are what make the stories great.
Where: Deschutes River in Mack’s Canyon
When: October 2nd-4th
Who: Zack Dalton, Ben Crook, Jesse Robbins, Russell Miller
Species: Wild Steelhead
Conditions: 2-3 feet of visibility due to the White River and a variety of sun and rain during the course of the trip
Best Fly: Waking Skater and the Fly De Jour
5216-4 ONE – Floating Line Rod in light wind conditions
RIO Scandi 320gr
12lb 12’ Salmon/Steelhead Leader
6126-4 METHOD – Dailey Driver with a tip and a larger traditional fly
RIO Scandi 420gr –
Scandi VersiLeader 10’ Intermediate – 12lb Salmon and Steelhead Tippet
6130-4 MOD – Floating Line Rod for a mellow stroke and all conditions
InTouch Short Head Spey 5/6 – 12lb 12’ Salmon/Steelhead Leader
6119-4 METHOD – Tight Quarters Casting
RIO Scandi Body 6/7 325gr
VersiLeader 10’ Int – 12lb SS Tippet
7126-4 ACCEL – Mid Day Tip Rod
RIO Skagit Max 500gr
10’ Type 3 or 5 InTouch Tip – 12lb Salmon and Steelhead Tippet
Swinging flies down and across