Breakfast was made and coffee perked while we broke camp and repacked the boat. We again were an hour or two ahead of most other anglers and had our pick of prime water. The morning was spent picking through the riffle water and pulling redsides to the net.
The big river fishing took some getting used to and although I can pick up fish from my small streams, the fast moving water of the Deschutes proved I had a lot to learn. I spent the trip working on perfecting long drag free drifts which were necessary to fool these big shouldered bows. When drifting nymphs through the popcorn water, it was imperative to mend and allow the fish all the time they needed to take the fly. Most takes were about 3/4s of the way through the drift and once the hook was set, the aerial acrobatics were impressive.
Eric’s goal of the day was to prove that the mini-hopper would produce on the Big D, and within the first couple of pools, he was proven right. After fishing a foamy eddy, this nice rainbow splashed the surface and took off running with an Arizona tied mini-hopper stuck squarely in its jaw. The mini-hopper continued to pick up fish throughout the trip goes to show that this bug will fish just about anywhere.
Good fish continued to rise to our flies all day long and we were truly blessed to have had such great fishing throughout our entire trip. We figured that we each wrestled in about 20-30 fish each day and lost the same amount. The standard fish was between 14 and 18 inches with big shoulders. Their football shaped bodies were built for speed and power and gave our fly rods some serious workouts. Eric sported the new Arizona Wanderings t-shirt which brought good mojo all day long.
Around this time, we encountered a midge hatch that rivaled a biblical plague. Maybe I am being dramatic, but we do not get bug hatches like this in Arizona
Our fish numbers continued to rise even through the heat of the day. I could not have been happier with the conditions. I had braced myself for rain and cold and it was sunny and pleasant the whole time we were on the water.
It being our third day on the water, the river was full of other drift boats and rafts which made finding campsites difficult. We found another angler who was willing to share camp with us and after setting up our outfit, we combed the banks, looking for rising fish. By this point in the river, the salmonflies had all but disappeared and were replaced with golden stones of equally impressive size.
I picked up several good-looking fish and was pleased to take all of them on the top of the water. Upon returning back to camp, Eric filled me on a monster bow he had fooled with one of my stonefly imitations. The fish pushed 23 or 24 inches and was definitely the fish of the trip. I am pretty sure it was the Arizona Wanderings t-shirt mojo that sealed the deal on this fish, although I am sure my stonefly pattern helped a bit.
The evening was cooler and the updraft from the canyon kept the wind blowing steadily, like it did every night on the river. The beef stew warmed our bellies and the conversation with our fellow angler brought stories about waters from all over the U.S. It is truly amazing how fly fishing brings out the best in others and the camaraderie that the river creates. We talked well past dark until our aching bodies forced us to get some sleep before our final day on the river.