Winter trout fly fishing

Peaceful

Peaceful

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Hi guys, first post in the OFF. I love the spirit of camaraderie here, especially during these semi-chaotic times.

I have a two-part question for y'all:

1. Fly Fishing Swollen Rivers -- I went out to a few of my favorite runs & riffles on the Wilson river this weekend and got mostly skunked and completely soggy. I'm willing to deal with the soggy part, but I'm wondering what I should expect when the river jumps up a couple feet in one weekend... I'm certainly not an advanced fly fisher, but I usually pull in at least a dozen to two dozen fish (not big ones necessarily, but something) from these spots on the Wilson. I felt like I was throwing my go-to nymphs, droppers, and dries to what I usually consider prime trout water, but to my dismay -- nothing. (One exception: caught a 10" in the side. 🤦‍♂️ eesh) Just wondering what you guys expect/do differently when these favorite trout streams jump up the banks in Oregon rain showers.?

2. Portland-area Winter Stream Options & Trout Regulations -- the regs are kind of exhausting for us non-analytical types! :rolleyes: I'm looking for small / mid-sized streams within a couple hours of Portland and it seems like there are a couple dozen creeks that I'd never heard of buried in the Exceptions section. I can go google map each of those exception creeks / small streams, but just wondering what you guys & gals in the PDX area like to do? I know Maupin / Deschutes is ~2hrs away (and I can't wait to go exploring Fall & Crooked, too!), but at that point I'm going to be staying/camping out there and that is not my wife's idea of a great weekend. I know this is a very common question here in the forum, so I apologize for the overlap.

Thanks in advance everyone!

Jason

Attached: a pic of my first "one cast, two fish" experience, double nymph rig on the Wilson a couple weekends ago.
 

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TheKnigit

TheKnigit

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Welcome Jason. I can throw my 2 cents at question number 1, but it has been several years since I have been fishing up around the Portland area.

For questions 1. In my experience, if the water level is raising by a foot plus over a weekend, then it completely kills any bite that might have been there previously. You have a barometric pressure drop, a temperature drop, and a water flow change that all seems to happen over a short amount of time. It seems to me that the fish hold up and wait for everything to normalize before eating again, unless you can floss your fly through a trouts mouth where it is sitting. If you already had a trip planned then I will still go out, like you did. I just wouldn't expect it to be banger day, but a fishless day on the river is better than a day doing almost anything else.
 
Peaceful

Peaceful

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I just wouldn't expect it to be banger day, but a fishless day on the river is better than a day doing almost anything else.
Thanks @TheKnigit , that helps a lot. Just gotta reframe the purpose of the trip. Probably didn't help that my "water resistant" gear apparently had a 2-hour expiry period nested in the fine print. 🧜‍♂️🤷‍♂️

I've been watching a lot of underwater videos lately to study trout habits, but I haven't seen anything speak to this situation (quickly rising water). Some fly fishing winter articles mentioned that you might have some luck with bugs that get washed off their normal land/tree habitats (terrestrials, basically) but that this is most effective at the beginning of the rain showers. I think I was 2 or 3 days into that surge. Another article suggested being much more experimental than normal. But then there's what you said: change the frame... it's not a fishing trip, it's an "enjoying nature while casting things into water" trip. 🐛 Thanks man!
 
TheKnigit

TheKnigit

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I like the experimentation idea. I am not sure if this is backward thinking or not, but I might try upping your presentation size during a surge flow moment. If you have favorite patterns, maybe a larger size would be more appealing to a lying trout that has been fasting for a little while?

Congrats on the two fish catch by the way. That is pretty awesome.
 
Blue Lining

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Love this thread, especially as we enter into the rainy season and some select river systems remain open to trout.

How long after a storm will tbegin to resume their feeding habits? I’m sure a lot of variables come into play here (water level, duration of storm, size of stream, water temp, turbidity, etc...) but some general guidelines would be extremely helpful to a newer angler like myself. I’ll break this into 3 categories of rain events:

- light rain for half a day- river rises slightly but is back to normal level within 24 hours
- small storm, intermittent heavy rain for 48 hours- river rises somewhat significantly and takes 2-3 days to return to seasonal normal level
- large storm, very heavy rain for 4 days or more- rivers washed out with high water long after the storm eventually clears

So... in each of these three scenarios when would you hit the river again with the possibility of a good day? While the water is beginning to recede? After X amount of time with river at normal levels?

I’m a little over a year into fly fishing and last winter fished some of the few Willamette zone streams that remain open year-round with no luck. About 40 hours of fishing without landing a single fish... glorified casting practice (but still better than time not on the river!).
 
TheKnigit

TheKnigit

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@Blue Lining, here is what I would do under each of your circumstances. I have caught fish during each of these outings, and I have been skunked as well.

- light rain for half a day- river rises slightly but is back to normal level within 24 hours
- It typically wouldn't do anything different except prepare to get wet. I might switch my patterns from dries to nymphs, or emergers, but I wouldn't wait for the rain to stop.
- small storm, intermittent heavy rain for 48 hours- river rises somewhat significantly and takes 2-3 days to return to seasonal normal level
- If the water body doesn't muddy up then I would probably still go, but I might travel upstream farther. As long as there is no lightning tagging along with this storm. However I would not plan to catch a whole lot. If the water muddies up then I might try and make my way into tributaries and smaller streams
- large storm, very heavy rain for 4 days or more- rivers washed out with high water long after the storm eventually clears
- This typically seems to happen during winter steelhead season a lot for me. It normally comes along with a lot of muddy color changes to the rivers. I typically just wait for the water to clear up, not necessarily drop.
 
Blue Lining

Blue Lining

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@Blue Lining, here is what I would do under each of your circumstances. I have caught fish during each of these outings, and I have been skunked as well.

- light rain for half a day- river rises slightly but is back to normal level within 24 hours
- It typically wouldn't do anything different except prepare to get wet. I might switch my patterns from dries to nymphs, or emergers, but I wouldn't wait for the rain to stop.
- small storm, intermittent heavy rain for 48 hours- river rises somewhat significantly and takes 2-3 days to return to seasonal normal level
- If the water body doesn't muddy up then I would probably still go, but I might travel upstream farther. As long as there is no lightning tagging along with this storm. However I would not plan to catch a whole lot. If the water muddies up then I might try and make my way into tributaries and smaller streams
- large storm, very heavy rain for 4 days or more- rivers washed out with high water long after the storm eventually clears
- This typically seems to happen during winter steelhead season a lot for me. It normally comes along with a lot of muddy color changes to the rivers. I typically just wait for the water to clear up, not necessarily drop.
Exceptionally helpful, thank you! I certainly won’t hesitate to go out in the rain, but this will help me prioritize my timing.
 
Peaceful

Peaceful

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I went back to my spots on the Wilson this weekend, a week after the major precipitation subsided (though I still got soggy just standing in the light, misty stuff). The river is now really swollen and, not surprisingly, the results were just about the same. Got a fish on for a few exhilarating moments, but she jumped her way off the hook. Hearing from veterans that this is just something to get used to has helped soothe the frustration, and the lack of success is forcing me to develop other techniques like streamers and euro nymphing / weighted tight line nymphing. Didn't change my results but I feel like I'm getting my reps in.

To anyone... are lake trout and kokanee the same way (tough to catch) during the winter?
 
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Snopro

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To anyone... are lake trout and kokanee the same way (tough to catch) during the winter?
In general, no. Fly specific, kokes are going to be tough.

Hit the Deschutes if you want some good river trout fishing this time of year. Good chance of a steelhead too.
 
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Peaceful

Peaceful

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No question that fishing is tougher in high rising water. I have had modest success fishing the small eddies that form right against the bank. I have never had success in the current in high muddy water. I just let a nymph or wet fly swirl around in the eddy. Not exciting fishing but it seems to work some.
That's good insight. Not exciting stylistically but sometimes you just need confirmation that trout still exist right?
 
Peaceful

Peaceful

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In general, no. Fly specific, kokes are going to be tough.

Hit the Deschutes if you want some good river trout fishing this time of year. Good chance of a steelhead too.
Been scouting it out for sure. Might sneak down this weekend and see if I can restore some of that summer mojo. What parts do you like? I was thinking about starting at Mecca and kinda explore up river from there.
 
Peaceful

Peaceful

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@Blue Lining, here is what I would do under each of your circumstances. I have caught fish during each of these outings, and I have been skunked as well.

- light rain for half a day- river rises slightly but is back to normal level within 24 hours
- It typically wouldn't do anything different except prepare to get wet. I might switch my patterns from dries to nymphs, or emergers, but I wouldn't wait for the rain to stop.
- small storm, intermittent heavy rain for 48 hours- river rises somewhat significantly and takes 2-3 days to return to seasonal normal level
- If the water body doesn't muddy up then I would probably still go, but I might travel upstream farther. As long as there is no lightning tagging along with this storm. However I would not plan to catch a whole lot. If the water muddies up then I might try and make my way into tributaries and smaller streams
- large storm, very heavy rain for 4 days or more- rivers washed out with high water long after the storm eventually clears
- This typically seems to happen during winter steelhead season a lot for me. It normally comes along with a lot of muddy color changes to the rivers. I typically just wait for the water to clear up, not necessarily drop.
Yes, the water is still very clear in this case, but it's very high and speedy. Added weight, tried coneheaded streamers, dry dropper, still barely a bite. My pole isn't helping much, especially with the euro nymphing. 9' 6 weight trying to pretend it's a 10' 3 weight. 😬
 
M

Murphythedog

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I try to get out three times a week atleast even during the winter and it’s been difficult the last few weeks finding good water due to the rains. Atleast in my part of the state.


using this site and checking water levels and flow rates has made a big difference. I’m also always looking for better water to fish this time of year. The fish action has slowed down for me but it’s still pretty steady and productive but I think like you a lot of it is finding suitable water to fish as temps drop and flow rates increase.
 
M

Murphythedog

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Oh man, I'd LOVE to have a Fall river in my backyard! That's the one I have yet to try; it's the furthest away. You live in Central Oregon then?

no I’m actually in Florence on the coast. That water report is from fall creek out of jasper not the Fall River over east which is on my list of places to go this year for sure lol
 
O

olshiftybiscuits

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Hi guys, first post in the OFF. I love the spirit of camaraderie here, especially during these semi-chaotic times.

I have a two-part question for y'all:

1. Fly Fishing Swollen Rivers -- I went out to a few of my favorite runs & riffles on the Wilson river this weekend and got mostly skunked and completely soggy. I'm willing to deal with the soggy part, but I'm wondering what I should expect when the river jumps up a couple feet in one weekend... I'm certainly not an advanced fly fisher, but I usually pull in at least a dozen to two dozen fish (not big ones necessarily, but something) from these spots on the Wilson. I felt like I was throwing my go-to nymphs, droppers, and dries to what I usually consider prime trout water, but to my dismay -- nothing. (One exception: caught a 10" in the side. 🤦‍♂️ eesh) Just wondering what you guys expect/do differently when these favorite trout streams jump up the banks in Oregon rain showers.?

2. Portland-area Winter Stream Options & Trout Regulations -- the regs are kind of exhausting for us non-analytical types! :rolleyes: I'm looking for small / mid-sized streams within a couple hours of Portland and it seems like there are a couple dozen creeks that I'd never heard of buried in the Exceptions section. I can go google map each of those exception creeks / small streams, but just wondering what you guys & gals in the PDX area like to do? I know Maupin / Deschutes is ~2hrs away (and I can't wait to go exploring Fall & Crooked, too!), but at that point I'm going to be staying/camping out there and that is not my wife's idea of a great weekend. I know this is a very common question here in the forum, so I apologize for the overlap.

Thanks in advance everyone!

Jason

Attached: a pic of my first "one cast, two fish" experience, double nymph rig on the Wilson a couple weekends ago.
Hey Jason,

it seems like most people covered the high water question pretty thoroughly so I’ll focus on the second. The one thing I would add is that the Wilson is a skinny river, so a jump in water levels really reduces the prime water for trout. The anadromous fish returns this year were also earlier and more robust than usual (probably a benefit of COVID keeping humanity off the road to some extent). When salmon and steelhead enter a small, skinny, high gradient system like the Wilson or Zig Zag, the resident fish are simply harder to find where they should be.

As for trout options around Portland in Winter, I’m afraid it’s tough. There are a few creeks within an hour to 90 minutes of Portland that are open year round and hold fish, but they are restricted almost entirely by private property. Where they’re not, you’re going to run into homeless camps at bridge easements. Or, you’re going to have to go way up the system and bushwhack in areas I would certainly not explore alone. I’ve done a lot of this, and the result is always an injury and little to no fishing. Usually it’s two hours or more until you’re actually on the water, and at that point you’re better off on the Deschutes.

That said, winter fishing on the Deschutes is an easy day trip. The prime hours are about 11-3, and then the sun goes down. Pick one or two holes and fish the holy hell out of them, it’s winter so if you find fish there are more in that hole, then head home. If you leave at dark you’ll be back by dinner.

The middle fork willamette also has good access, takes about 15 minutes more to drive to and is also a day trip I make frequently in the winter. If fishes best under 1250 CFS, but you can fish it all the way up to 2,500 if your mend game is strong.

Winter fishing is hard. I have 5-6 fisheries that I consider options, 2-3 of which are actually options on a regular basis, while the others are heavily weather dependent. I keep a close eye on all of them, and head where I can when I can. But as someone who asked all these same questions when he moved here, let me try to save you some time - become intimately familiar with the Deschutes. It’s close, it’s a fish factory and it’s as close to weather-proof as they come, provided you’re upstream of the white river confluence.

good luck, and feel free to shoot me a DM if you want some more specifics.
 
Peaceful

Peaceful

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That said, winter fishing on the Deschutes is an easy day trip. The prime hours are about 11-3, and then the sun goes down. Pick one or two holes and fish the holy hell out of them, it’s winter so if you find fish there are more in that hole, then head home. If you leave at dark you’ll be back by dinner.
Hi, thanks for that insightful reply, @olshiftybiscuits . I have indeed been getting familiar with the Deschutes recently, although I get a bit confused by the regs! This last weekend a steelhead fisherman told me I needed a steelhead tag, even though I was very much targeting trout. Here's what I read on page 6:

All anglers, regardless of age, must have in possession a valid Columbia River Basin Endorsement when angling for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon in the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 upstream, and in all rivers and their tributaries that flow into the Columbia River

So do I need the tag if I'm 1000% not angling for those species? (Nor would I even think about harvesting it if I caught one of those species.)

He also told me (in a very friendly way) that the river was closed for trout fishing as of Oct 31st. My mouth dropped when I heard this, as I was under the very strong impression that this was an all year fishery. So now I'm even more confused, because the signage out there at Trout Creek campground/day use indeed said "open for trout and whitefish between April something and Oct 31". But the online regs say that that area, Northern Boundary of the Warm Springs Reservation to the Pelton Regulating Reservoir. is open Apr 22 - Dec 31 for trout and hatchery steelhead. (Whereas the rest of the river downstream is open all year for trout.) Is this just a matter of "posted onsite regs" being outdated? Should I trust what I read in the online version?

On a more fun and interesting note, at least to me, I hooked on to a wildly unexpected fish this last weekend there on the Deschutes! If you're interested, I put compiled the footage of some of the bigger fish in this youtube video:

Love to hear your thoughts on that first fish! 😅
 
jamisonace

jamisonace

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I get suckers on beads all the time. Feel like steelhead for a bit when they're 4 or 5 pounds.

The last person I would trust is the guy on the river telling you that you're doing something wrong.
 
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