The Covid-19 pandemic has altered my perception of time. Spring seemed interminable, with stay at home restrictions making one day blur into the next, and little difference between workdays and weekends. Conversely, the summer has flown by faster than usual. The past few nights have found me reaching for an extra blanket as cooler temperatures and noticeably shorter days confirm the inexorable shift to autumn.
Although we have not been able to meet as a club due to the pandemic, it has been a good summer for fishing, which in my view is the perfect social distancing activity. And apparently I’m not the only one to hit the outdoors during the pandemic. Boat and RV sales are going through the roof as people seek to escape the indoors for a safe refuge from Covid.
Although I still feel a twinge of sadness at the imminent departure of my favorite season, August means steelhead season on the Deschutes. For the past few years, Rick Pay and I have done a midmonth steelhead trip with Marty Sheppard of Little Creek Outfitters. We spent the night in Maupin at our friend Dale’s house overlooking the river and were treated to a passing thunderstorm that provided some exciting moments as lightning flashed and thunder echoed through the river canyon. Then the skies cleared and we had a gorgeous sunset.
Marty picked us up at 4:30 a.m. and we ground our way down to Mack’s Canyon to hit the water early. We had lots of company on the river, so competition for shady water was fierce. Rick had a fish take some line and jump once before coming off and I had a bump that was aggressive enough to confirm I didn’t snag the bottom, but that was the sum total of our fish activity. The water temperature had risen to 69 by 2:45 p.m. so we called it a day and headed back to the launch. Despite the lack of catching, it was still a great day on the water. Marty had drawn a once in lifetime bighorn sheep tag this year so he has been bringing a spotting scope and binoculars to glass the canyon walls and found a number of sheep on our trip. It was fun to see some nice looking rams through magnification, and I hope he is successful this fall.
A week later I hit the John Day with some other friends for a weekend of bass fishing and camping at Service Creek, about three and a half hours from Portland. We heard a few elk bugling before dawn, and I was able to get a few pictures of the glorious sunrise. Fishing was very good, with lots of scrappy smallmouth eager to hit surface poppers or chase stripped woolly buggers. Most were typical John Day smallies in the 8-10 inch range but a number of them were substantially larger. I landed some that were 1-1.5 lbs. and my friend Dean had several in the 2-3 lb. range, which is pretty good for the JD. There are also some really big pikeminnow. One hit a popper a millisecond after it landed on the water and took serious line from my reel before breaking off upstream. Not a fan of these aggressive invaders, but I will give them credit for being strong fish.
My last fishing trip of the month was to Goose Lake in SW Washington. It was my first time back after our club trip in 2019 and the water level was much lower, but the fishing was still quite good. After a slow morning, the action picked up around noon and I landed about 30 over the course of the day. I had a hat trick of rainbow, cutthroat, and a lone brookie, but no brown trout. Despite an abundant callibaetis hatch, the dry fly wasn’t working. Virtually all of my fish came on a red chironomid suspended three feet below an indicator or on stripped streamers. The fish are put and take stockers with most running around 12” but I found a nice 15”-plus cutt later in the afternoon which made it a very worthwhile adventure.
I hope you are all able to take advantage of the remaining summer days to get outdoors and enjoy the warm weather while it lasts. I miss our monthly meetings and look forward to a post-Covid return to our in-person presentations and dinners.