The lessons of two trout


Last updated 7/18/2023 at 10:52am

Photo by Chester Allen

The Deschutes redside rainbow that ate my fly.

The best - and the worst - part of fly-fishing is that there is always more to learn.

Two fish showed me this during this past week.

A lot of people don't like fishing in hot weather, but I love it. The warm air sparks a lot of aquatic insect hatches, and this gets the trout going. Most of the time, our Central Oregon trout, especially on the Metolius and the Deschutes, don't like to rise to hatching bugs in bright sunshine.

That's why you see many anglers - including me - arriving at the Metolius River at about 5 p.m. or so, with the notion of fishing until dark. Lots of insects hatch or return to the river to lay eggs during the last two hours of a hot day, and anglers call the last hour of daylight "the magic hour."

The first trout that stuck in my mind this week broke all the hot weather rules. It was rising in bright sunshine - at 3 p.m. - on a section of the Lower Deschutes River that gets a lot of angler traffic.

The fish, along with at least 10 other redside rainbow trout, was rising steadily on the edge of a current line - where shallow, faster water was dropping off into slower, deeper water.

This part of the Deschutes doesn't get much foot traffic on a hot day, and most of the drift boat anglers had gone past this spot before noon. So I think the fish hadn't been pestered for a while - maybe even four or five days.

Lots of different bugs were flopping around on the water, but the fish really wanted a tiny, size 18 or size 20 black caddis that was emerging by the thousands. More than 100 of the bugs were crawling all over my waders as I knelt in the current.

I noticed all these bugs after that one trout ignored the first four flies I showed him. He didn't want a size 16 X-Caddis, a size 14 Pale Evening Dun Sparkle Dun, a size 14 Pale Evening Dun spinner or an Iris Caddis emerger.

This redsides rainbow was big and beautiful, and each rejection made me want to hook him even more. Thank goodness I finally noticed the elephant in the room (those tiny caddis romping all over my waders).

This fish ate the size 20 X-Caddis on the first drift. He showed me my backing line and ran me about 50 yards downstream. I took a couple of photos and walked back upstream to try for a couple of his friends.

That fish reminded me that trout will rise under a blistering sun if there is a banquet of bugs on the surface.

It was a golden - and hot - afternoon.


The next day, I wandered around the Metolius River a little bit after 5 p.m. I hoped to find a fish or two rising to tiny Blue Wing Olive mayflies in the shade. My friend Jeff Perin, owner of The Fly Fisher's Place, reminded me of this hatch a few days ago.

Often, you can get to the Metolius and fish the shady spots until the whole river is in shade - and then it's game on for the evening fishing.

My little triumph on the Lower Deschutes the day before had me a little cocky, so when I saw a trout rising in a shady spot about the size of my truck's hood, I felt like it would be easy.

This brown trout, about a foot long at the most, was banging away on the surface, and I saw him eat blue-winged olive mayflies and a tiny olive stonefly that was flapping its wings and trying to take off.

I knelt behind a bush and showed this brown a size 20 Sparkle Dun, which matched the hatching blue-winged olives. This fish came up and looked at that fly on four casts in a row.

On the fifth cast, this trout came up and sucked down a real, live mayfly that was about two inches from my fake bug.

After a few more casts - the fish was ignoring my fly by this time - I tried a little olive stonefly. The fish came up and looked at this fly a couple of times, but it didn't eat.


I then jumped on the crazy train and frenetically showed this fish a variety of dry flies, including mayfly spinners, mayfly emerges, caddis emergers - and different kinds of blue-winged olive dry flies. I dropped my tippet size to 7X, which is pretty darn close to spiderweb class.

This brown kept eating natural bugs and not eating my fakes. Brown trout have pea-sized brains, but they must use every bit of what they have, as these fish can be very, very tough. This fish had a doctorate in detecting fake flies.

This fish taught me - again - that on some days, some trout just cannot be caught.

And this is why I keep going back to the river.


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