As January comes to an end, it’s time to recap what 2022 has offered so far in local fishing action. While we rue the loss of a steelhead season on many of our favorite Columbia tributaries, there is much to be grateful for. No matter what, we all need to do our most effective rain/snow dance. The reservoirs are way too low, and we need a mega wet next few months.

While we wait for the next weather system, there are a few good options for wetting a line in the neighborhood. In the last few weeks, I’ve fished the Crooked River, the Metolius and Fall Rivers, hiked into the Middle Deschutes and driven out to the Donner und Blitzen. Let’s take them in order…

Jasper with a snaky native

The Crooked is in okay condition. Due to very low reservoir level, the river is dirtier than normal for this time of year. The fish will survive this, but the reality is that there’s much less food for them. The lack of UV getting to the bottom of the river isn’t allowing the otherwise steady and predictable midge and BWO hatches the Redbands typically enjoy through the winter months. The legendary whitefish spawn was a little earlier this year and fortunately the fish all bulked up then. On my most recent visit to the Crooked, I fished both up near the dam and lower down, about midway to the end of public access. Sadly, the water was no better in either spot. As with my last several trips out there, small nymphs, under a dry caught a mixture of trout and whitefish. I’ve spoken to a few people who have found some big fish around the dam, perhaps lake fish that slithered into the river. The pictures I’ve seen do not look like native Redbands. And I’ve also heard of small streamers catching some larger fish. The usual black and purple ones are most effective. I have not seen a hatch of any substance since the flows dropped in October. That could change any day. So it’s always worth a mid-day visit to the Crooked with a few BWO dries. You never know.

As beautiful as she is challenging

The Metolius, as beautiful as she is, has been really tough, which is not unusual. The river is closed above Allingham, so there is less water to choose from, meaning many areas are getting a ton of pressure. Unless you like social fishing, avoid the hatchery water. During the week is even pretty busy in there. As long as the road is clear and the weather mild, it will stay like that. Good news is that there are a ton of areas to explore. The trail is a great way to find your own water. Use it!! I’ve caught fish on a variety of nymphs lately. The one common denominator is red/orange colors. That is also not unusual for the Met. So whether it’s a red Copper John, Zebra Midge, Fox Pupae or October Caddis, the color seems to really matter. I have seen a really good BWO hatch on some days, not on others. Keep an eye out around 1:00-1:30. If it happens, find an eddy and look for snouts. #16 Purple Haze, Hackle Stacker, Sparkle Dun will all fool ‘em. As for bull trout, hell I had a 17” fish eat a #18 red Zebra Midge, the same day a kid I met got one the same size swinging a Sex Dungeon. So go figure.

The all-business face of a Metolius bull trout
Fall River Perfection

I’ve been banging around the Fall River quite a bit this year. While the vast majority of the fish in the river are from the hatchery, they’ve been in there long enough now that they’re getting harder to fool, a bit spookier and for sure more keyed in on insect hatches. With the mild winter we’ve had, fairly consistent midge and BWO hatches have been coming off as well the little winter stone, if you know where to look for it. The mornings have been midge time, and arguably the trickiest to fool fish in the flat water. The BWO has been coming off closer to one than noon, which is a little unusual. If the fish are inactive, try slow-swinging a leech trailed by a tiny olive Soft-Hackle. As with any offering on the Fall right now, use the lightest tippet you can get away with. There are some big fish swimming around…

Hatch Dawg!
The rugged and remote Middle D

For those of you who watch the gauges around here this time of year, you’ve noticed a lower flow both entering and exiting Bend than we normally see. That’s because there’s been so little snow at lower elevations and so nothing is melting to augment the meager discharge from Wickiup. Almost all the water that’s getting down here is from the Fall, Little D and Spring River. While we’ve only got 390 cfs leaving Bend, that opens up some Middle Deschutes spots for a little winter fun. And no, I’m not naming names! Go explore. Everything from Bend to Billy Chinook is worth trying. Granted, the flows are a bunch higher than you might be used to, but there are plenty of spots that fish great as they are now. Look for BWO hatches as well as some caddis. There are always stoneflies crawling around too. If nothing’s rising, try the ol’ Jimmy John, a black Jimmy Leg with a red Copper John behind it!

The D und B.

Lastly, I’ve just gotten back from a trip out to the Donner and Blitzin. Sadly I have to report that between the warm flows of last summer and the low, clear and freezing flows right now, the fish have moved to places where we are either not allowed or can’t access. So if you’re a fan of that river, give it a minute. It will come back into shape. The Redbands are so adaptable and resilient. But for the time being, if you’re looking to get out of town, maybe the Ana areas of the Willamette…

Until Next Month…

Get Outdoors!