We woke with the sun and decided to hit the same banks and eddies that had produced so well the night before. We picked up a couple of small fish before heading back to camp for scrambled eggs, sausage, and leftover potatoes. All mixed together with a pot of black coffee, we were fueled up and on the river heading to untouched water. It was nice to nod and wave to other campers who were still rolling out of bed or sipping coffee in camp. We were able to fish undisturbed water for a few hours before we started seeing other boats.
Throughout the trip we each had two rods rigged up, one with a big dry and a dropper with the other rod strung up with a double nymph rig. We quickly found the top producer on top was a big stone or salmonfly imitation and under the surface the fish seemed to prefer a beadhead hare’s ear. The most productive water were inside seams on the riffle water although the occasional bank fishing could produce a rise to the dry.
We fished one of Eric’s favorite runs and both pulled three or four fish out of the “popcorn” water, Eric called it. We quickly found that the rainbows were holding in the slightly faster and choppy water, were the whitefish were holding in the slower water at the end of the run. After a dozen whitefish, I quickly learned why many fisherman are slightly disappointed in the native fish. When the indicator dips and you set the hook expecting a big jumping redsided rainbow and all you get is a whitefish that rolls over and comes to the net, it gets old real quick.
There was a plethora of salmonflies on the banks and more often than not I would have a couple crawling on me at one time. Fish were looking up and splashy takes were the norm.
Golden stones started to show up more often the farther we moved down river but the fish were not too picky on patterns.
We stopped to fish some great looking water along the way down the river. One particular spot produced two beautiful fish for me. One nice hen took a nymph about a third of the way through my drift and immediately made a run towards me, slackening my line. After lifting the rod and stripping line as fast as I could, I took a step back and stumbled and felt the cold Oregon water fill my waders. Regaining my footing, my luck held and the fish was still on. Bringing the colorful bow to the net was well worth the soggy feet for the rest of the day.
We started looking for a campsite after the sun had reached its zenith and had begun its journey back towards the horizon. The river had begun to fill up with other watercraft and fishermen, which forced us to continue farther than we had planned and put us into one of the more precarious rapids on the river. The middle and lower portion of the Deschutes that we covered has a variety of class 2 and 3 rapids that to an experienced riverman like Eric, is no problem. Whitehorse Rapids is a class 4 rapids that if not given the proper respect can put a serious hurting on your trip. There are stories every year of lost boats and worse of rafters and boaters who made small mistakes and paid heavily for it.
We pulled off the river above Whitehorse and made our way to the scouting location above the whitewater. Looking at the raging water pouring over jagged rocks put my stomach in my throat and quickened my heart rate more than a little. Eric put in sometime looking at rocks and picking his entry and exit point from the rapids.
Donning life jackets and saying a quick prayer Eric pointed the boat downriver and without so much as breaking a sweat brought us through safely. Most of the river travels at about 3 miles an hour but in this section we covered a mile in a matter of seconds.
With the difficult rapids behind us we found a great campsite, quickly threw up the tent and beat the waters for a couple of hours before coming back for a dinner of marinated chicken.
I was amazed at how well the river fished from sunup to sundown. As long as I could get a fly on the water in likely looking spots and have a long clean drift, success was inevitable. The evening winds coming up the canyon made casting difficult.
The sun went down and as usual we were asleep when our heads hit the pillow. Trying to give our bodies time to recover and do it all over again the next day.