Last week found us fly fishing the Salmonfly and Golden Stone hatch with Littleleaf Guide Service. Spending the day with Alysia Littleleaf, we learned how water is life on the Deschutes River.

Water is Life - Deschutes River |
Rattlesnake Spring

We met Elke & Alysia Littleleaf at Indian Head Casino on the Warm Springs Reservation just a stone’s throw from the Deschutes River.

Alysia Littleleaf |

We’ve enjoyed numerous fly fishing trips on the Deschutes River for many years. Most years, we float the roughly 10-mile section from the put-in at Warm Springs to Trout Creek. I’ve written about it in previous posts, Eric’s Deschutes River Bar and Grill and Fishing the Lower Deschutes.

This is a busy time of year on the Lower D. Word gets out about the much anticipated Salmonfly hatch and fly fishers from all over arrive at this fabled blue-ribbon water to experience their chance at hooking and landing hungry, eager Rainbow Trout feeding on Salmonflies (Pteronarcys californica) and Golden Stones (Hesperoperla pacifica).

I’ve seen the Littleleaf’s guide sections of the 39 miles of Native Land restricted to you and me. A Tribal permit can be purchased to fish a 6-mile section of river between Dry Creek and Trout Creek on the Reservation, but fishing with them opens up water I’ve seen on the west bank of the river where I couldn’t fish. That’s why I booked a guided trip with them, for access to private water.

You can read more information about the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, which include the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute tribes, HERE.

Alysia drove us to our first fishing location downstream from where the Warm Springs River enters the Deschutes, which is below Trout Creek.

Warm Springs River |

The mountains were beautiful, still green from recent moisture.

Warm Springs Scenery |

Turning off the pavement, she continued driving on rutted single track to our first fishing spot.

We tied flies onto our 3X leader. Karen chose a Norm Wood and I knotted on a Clark’s Lady Stone. Both of these flies imitate Golden Stones, not the larger Salmonflies…interesting, right?

She had us tie on an 18 inch section of 4X tippet to the hook bend. Alysia suggested a caddis pattern or Yellow Sally stonefly for the dropper.

We crossed through a wooden pass-through stile between barbed wire fencing and walked to the shoreline. Immediately, I saw what I had hoped for.

Stoneflies on Deschutes River |

We found the bushes full of stoneflies.

We concentrated our fishing along the grasses and drop-offs a short distance from shore.

Karen Fishing Deschutes River Run |

And areas below trees.

Karen Fishing on Deschutes |

And between trees.

Fishing in Bushes on Deschutes |

Here is Karen receiving a little help after breaking off a fish hooked on the dropper fly.

Karen and Alysia on Deschutes |

We hooked a few fish, but I really thought we’d entice more fish to rise. The water looked great, flowing at 4,300 cfs after dropping 200 cfs overnight. In fact, I thought it looked perfect. The weather had been a little on the cool side and I think the bugs were stuck in the bushes, not flying around.

We moved several fish, and I missed the hook set on a couple! I hooked up on a large fish who ate my fly with a down-stream take. In fact, most hook-ups were from fish swimming down to eat our fly. He took my fly to the middle river and popped off. I thought I had him hooked well, but these are STRONG fish!

We did manage to land a couple nice fish. Here is Karen’s best of the day, a “two-hander”.

Karen's Deschutes Rainbow |

And one of mine.

John's Deschutes Rainbow |

A Deschutes Redband with Clark’s Lady Stone – Golden.

Deschutes Rainbow with Clark's Lady Stone |

If you are looking for a different kind of experience, I highly recommend fishing with the Littleleaf family. Choose either their walk and wade option or float down the river in Elke’s driftboat. You’ll learn about the water and how important it is in their life and as well as the fish. They have a couple of other guides too, so be sure to clarify who you’ll spend the day with.

Littleleaf Family on Deschutes River |

Remember the first image of Rattlesnake Spring. It’s where the Littleleaf’s get their water to live each week because of continuing water problems on the Reservation.

Here is a short video by Todd Moen of Catch Magazine. It’s from 2013, but you’ll get a better feel for the land and river. If you are not already subscribed to Catch Magazine, I encourage you to do so.

We fished some beautiful and untouched water. I can’t complain as each of us caught several fish, but in my mind, this was the type of fishing I was hoping for.

I think a few more days of warm weather would have improved the fishing. This week was probably better.

Lastly, here is a link to a recent YouTube video from my RiverKeeper Flies channel where I demonstrate the RiverKeeper Callibaetis Emerger.

Enjoy…go fish!

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