2014 Deschutes Steelhead Adventures

Its been a while since my last post.  There is no reason for concern though.  The “self guided” adventures have been continuing and the memoirs will follow as time allows.

Russ confidently guides us threw Washout Rapid

Russ confidently guides us threw Washout Rapid


2014 was a “better” year for steelhead in the Columbia River system with 325,452 past Bonneville to date.  For some perspective the 10-year average for the date is  350,593.

This nominal boost in the run size, and subsequent increase in fly whipping interest has finally allowed for the formal IPO of Dawn Patrol Flies on the New York Stock Exchange.  Dawn Patrol provides a select line of proven and durable NW flies for most big fish situations.  The company provides a reliable line of jigs and speciality flies to small list of chosen anglers only in the rarest situations.  Orders are in person only and can get pricy.

If you choose to read on there will be a few shots from the product line. A bit on the history of Dawn Patrol, and an introduction to the pro staff.

Fish Fart- Red Pro Tube

Red Fish Fart tied on Pro Tube micro tube         Dawn Patrol Flies

It has taken me some time to understand how fly tying works.  I have been at it since the 9th grade, but have just finally realized that “less is more” most of the time.

This is very true with Dawn Patrol’s latest version of the Fish Fart tube fly.  You could go lighter, but the fly pictured above is about where I am at these days. Three wraps and no more than 4 strands of flash.  The body is wrapped flashabou, and some palmered guinea hackle is laid in to help push the marabou out.

It can be tied regular or reverse marabou style in a long list of color and flash combos.  This is a slightly poached rendition of a proven winner.  So be careful who you show it to on the river.  Dawn Patrol uses Pro Tube materials with the addition of a tiny bit of bling in the form of a flash body and palmered guinea.  .

The annual trip on the Deschutes River from Mack’s Canyon to the mouth at Heritage Landing provided a quality testing ground for Dawn Patrol’s 2014 product line.


We added and extra day to our annual float.  This allowed allowed for a more relaxing trip and of course more fishing and fly testing.

Russ is on the short list of Dawn Patrol's chosen ones

Russ is on the short list of Dawn Patrol’s chosen ones

The Turb CEO and fly tester gets in on the action

The Turb CEO and fly tester gets in on the action

On every trip we keep track of the numbers.  Shortly into the second day Russ stated after my third fish of the trip “If you catch another one.  You will tell me what your doing.”  “I was not doing much different.” I replied.  Let him in on the step down technique which I felt works very will with the Fish Fart series of flies.  I cast, mend, then step down allowing the fly to sink and pulsate through the bucket.  I cover the water faster doing using this technique, but feel it will produce tugs from most players.

Poached!  I stepped into Russ' run a bit sooner than he expected.  Oh boy did I get the "move down" talk.

Poached! I stepped into Russ’ run a bit sooner than he expected. Oh boy did I get the “move down” talk.

I addition to the Fish Fart series, Dawn Patrol is happy to report good results on the Delusion 4 series.  These flies come in both weighted (with cone head) and unweighted (without).  The cone head will detract from the pulsating action a bit, but allows for a quick decent in the depths were probing for the slobs can occur in proper fashion.

Delusion 4 - Red   Tied on Pro Tubes of course

Delusion 4 – Red
Tied on Pro Tubes of course


The highly sought after Delusion 4 Green Butt.

The highly sought after Delusion 4 Green Butt.


Russ is a fan of the unweighted Delusion 4.

Oh my!  A nice doe from a run we call Slim Shady.

Oh my! A nice doe from a run we call Slim Shady.

Russ got in on some well deserved bonking on this trip.  Hatchery fish are keepers anyway.

Speyed and neutered  Mitchell style.

Speyed and neutered Mitchell style.

CEO style

CEO style

2013 Deschutes River Pig Trout

Without question the Deschutes River is an amazing place.  I have been blessed with opportunity to fish many of the West’s legndary trout waters.  My skills with the bug whipper are reasonable and my fly tying skills are about the same.  My ability to find fish and understand their desires is a lot better.  This comes from years working in the conservation field and the need to understand fish ecology.  It took me a while to figure out the Deschutes.  It is a big river, deep right off the bank, burdened with regulations, and loved to death by fishermen and women just like me.  Two things I have learned about the Deschutes that have improved my catch rates are:

1.  Get up early and get there first.  Sloppy seconds can be less forgiving.

2.  Slow it down.  Stop and think about what you are doing and dissect the river.  Then it will not seem so intimidating.

With that 2013 proved to be a good year on the Deschutes.  The steelhead run was pretty paltry.  Fall Chinook were off the chart due to the record return in the Columbia River. Trout were getting fat on all the food available to them over the course of the year.  Fall is the best time on the river because all the target species are present in the highest numbers and they are aggressive due to the uptick of their biological clock caused by the changing season.

I love this part.  "See you next year little fella"

I love this part. “See you next year little fella”

The combination of power and beauty within the redband trout population never ceases to amaze me.  Of all the wild creatures I cross paths with the Columbia River Redband Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) are by far the most stunning.  Do not get me wrong chrome steelhead are a thing to behold, but the variation in coloring of the redband trout is a true representation of mother nature’s artistic power.

Dr. Robert Behnke in his book Native Trout of Western North America believes the origins of the Columbia River Redband Trout came from a mixing of coastal rainbow trout and cutthroat trout when the species came in contact after the last ice age.

Cutthroat or Rainbow? Good observation Dr. Behnke

Cutthroat or Rainbow?
Good observation Dr. Behnke

I make sure to save a bit of my “use or loose” vacation time for this time of year so I can spend a day or two reminding myself (and the fortunate few who tag along) of this power and beauty.

A true 20 inched

A true 20-incher

going home

Going home

Due to his infamy and paparazzi appeal I need to include some Russ Mitchell porn in this post.

It is tough for Russ to break away from his life of stardom, as a retired pro-athlete waiting for induction into the Hall of Fame.  His constant touring promoting the “organic only” lifestyle and autograph circuit from his days as an all pro snatchback for the Redmond State Sasquatch requires a bit of down time.  When Russ has the time he wants to fish, so he calls The Turb.

Russ choking on that smile

Russ choking on that smile

It was a good thing we had the discussion the night before whether or not we should bring the back-up rod.  Russ put the meat to the next fish and I jumped in for a rather rare over the shoulder shot.

Just after meat was given

Just after meat was given

I can't say enough about my water master.  Makes it all possible.

I can’t say enough about my watermaster kodiak. Makes it all possible.

With the growing fan base and the popularity Russ brings to The Turb Memoirs the board of directors for Turb Media Group unanimously voted to fund a full length feature film of Russ’s adventures.  Please take a minute to watch the trailer below.

Before I take Russ out for the day I always test fish to make sure it is up to his standards.  Nothing makes him more crabby than a day of sub-parr fishing.  Included below is a short selfie video of my test fishing.

Until next time.  Respect the river and try not to cry when you overpay for your 2014 Oregon fishing and hunting tags.


Deschutes River Donkey Steelhead Rodeo Style

There are steelhead in the river from the dam to the mouth and have been for weeks. Where and how many is anyones guess.  We here at The Turb Memoirs strive to find quality, consistent sporting action in order to produce the verbal and visual art form that brings you back.  That is no easy task.

Please watch the 5 min video  to formulate your own opinion of whether or not the self-guided part of this adventure is legit!

Deschutes Steel

Turb Memoirs style

Lower Deschutes River October 2013

October is fishing time in these parts.

With the low steelhead run this year we knew a few chinook (record fall run return year) would help fill the lull between yanking steel.

Russ is just back from a publicity tour for his new book “Row of Turds.” Proudly landed a gnarly specimen of the chinook species for me.  His new book provides plain analysis and insight to the people’s perception of the 2013 Government Shutdown, along with a heart grabbing story about a recent date arranged online.  The book flows nicely, making it an easy read by relating the subjects to an experience with a row of turds he stumbled into one morning years ago on a Deschutes River steelhead trip.

As I towed the salmonid beast towards the shoreline Russ quickly got the milty look in his eye again. First fish of the morning thing I guess.

Squirt?  It's organic?

Squirt? It’s organic?

With that out of the way the steelies came slowly.

Target species!

Target species!

Proven tactics in a proven spot produced this catch.  More were expected at this stop, but we were reminded of the poor run size this year.  Russ connected on the third cast, not the first, as in good run years.

Glamping was around, but not here.

Glamping was around, but not here.

Deschutes Mini

Deschutes mini steel.  Lower D swinging run

 Typical Deschutes scenery abounds throughout.

Peeking sun...

Peeking sun…

Fish were present throughout the lower river.  I was averaging two grabs each time I fished through a run.

This is a self guided and self taught outdoor blog not a stockpond, pricy guide kind of place.  I missed a few takes OK.    I hacked my way downstream trying to perfect my D-loop and anchor placement. Kept my fly fishing good water.  I figured it out…..   Eventually I landed several Deschutes mini steelhead (22-24″).

Being a hacker I fish stuff deep and slow because that is what I know.  It is not pretty, but my batting average is rising.  Once I get it out there I can swing it pretty well.  Self-guided.  

These fish were aggressive.  Russ caught one on a nymph, then another larger one quickly after.  My minis were all on red stuff.  Pro-tube stuff.

Reverse marabou tube Fished naked without a hook guide.  I dropped them in the river.  I was grabby on some T-11

Reverse marabou tube “naked”

After day two I was fishing my tubes naked without a hook guide. I dropped a small pack of hook guides in the river. The tubes were still as grabby on some T-11.  I eventually switched to some standard fly shop flashy stuff and stuck with it.

* Note 1.  A spinner fished slow in a long jet boat run under the trees produced a donkey that evaded the camera at the last second.

Standard flashy stuff

Standard flashy stuff

When you find the right run (there are many).  Fish it several times.  I caught more than one fish per run.  Let the line be taught on the swing, but only slightly, fishing a few feet under the surface.  This wild doe exploded on the fly in the tail of a huge run.

Wild self-guided steel

Wild self-guided steel

Russ had a few insights into the shutdown between sessions of yanking steel!

Did you get your government shutdown steel?

Russ on the shutdown "Congress in session"

Russ on the shutdown “Congress in session?”

Plumpkin Pleasure

Spring has sprung here in the high desert of central Oregon and transitioned into summer rather quickly.  Temps have been well into the 80s here for the last two weeks or more. Rain has been scarce and folks are worried of what the dry season might bring.

As we await the furious top water action the Deschutes salmon fly madness usually brings we scheduled our annual trip to stillwater plumpkin paradise where the trout are hungry and fat.  We left at dawn and headed east in to the sun.  The thunder shower overnight washed the dust off the roadside vegetation and showcased the short burst of spring color in this dryer than average spring.  I was happy because the moisture kept the dust cloud down and off my boat.  There is not much worse than a layer of dust on your boat when you arrive at your destination.

Spring in full blossom

Spring in full blossom

We got camp set up quickly and claimed our shady home for the next few days because I expected a train of people to be showing up to try there luck for the plumpkins.

Tossing a curl of my Rio lake line

Tossing a curl of my Rio lake line

We searched the murky water for hours before we regrouped and thought about a systematic approach to cover the water and find a tug or two.  We saw one other fish caught by a bank angler.  The murky water was throwing us off and left us wondering if the trout could find our offerings.  We napped in the shade, re-rigged the rods, and refueled with a few snacks and drinks.  A slab of sausage on a bagel kept us full through the evening hatch.

Fueling up before the evening hatch

Fueling up before the evening hatch

Worth the wait; a true plumpkin!

Worth the wait; a true plumpkin!

With our tactics revisited and a plan to cover the water systematically we headed out and ‘slowed down’ to figure out where the trout were and what they wanted.  A few stops into our searching grid we connected with a plumpkin slob.  Using the the fish finder along with keeping track of where I was getting weeds on my offerings I located a weed line in the murky conditions and anchored up in search of cruisers.  Making sure I stayed just on the edge of the weeds we focused our efforts and stayed put.  Eventually this patient approach paid off.

We got our photo to document the specimen for historic purposes, had a high five session, and let the pig go out of respect.  The shoulders on this thing were immense and proved the growth rates that are touted from this plumpkin paradise.  This was more than an ice breaker in our book.  We could have left for home as soon as the beast swam into the murky depths, but we new better.  We would be back early in the morning for a few more slobs and a stringer of pan fryers for home.

Getting ready for the celebratory first s'more of the season.

Getting ready for the celebratory first s’more of the season.

The next morning we were up early ready to restart our searching grid with the technique of choice.  The weather was perfect warm with a light cloud cover.

Sunrise at  plumpkin paradise

Sunrise at plumpkin paradise

With our new technique the pan fryers came quickly.

Typical pan fyer

Typical pan fryer

We did have to sort through a few slobs to get our stringer loaded with some fish to take home.  I will say “It was fun!”

Plumpkin slob.  This guy was a chubby jumper!

Plumpkin slob.  This guy was a chubby jumper!

Again our story is release the big ones out of respect with the hope they will grace us with a tug next year.  Keeping dreams alive one release at a time.

This pair should feed the family tonight.

This pair should feed the family tonight.

With the stringer full and tied off to the boat we pointed the bow to the ramp and motored back slowly.  On the way back we discussed the importance of not giving up our secret technique.  We decided it would be best to tell folks we got them on rainbow power bait, and to make sure to keep it fresh and out of the weeds.

Releasing the big ones


Swung the fly–winter steelhead

Classic "over the shoulder"

Classic “over the shoulder”

Oregon winter steelhead  Photo-book January 2013

First Oregon winter steelhead on a fly swung off the two hander.

Photo Credits



Barton Ltd


Fish the Swing

Oh my!  Thanks edhepp.com

Oh my!
Photo of the year 2013
Thanks edhepp.com


Thanks edhepp.com and Fish the Swing

Just a few more shots to tell the story

Gentle now

Gentle now

Follow the glow 1

Getting “Pumped Up” Oregon Coast

Pumped up

Pumped up

Warning Please no....

Warning Please no….

Well Hmmm</p><p>That's gooey!

Well Hmmmmm
That is gooey! You should see the grub style

Next time fresh sand shrimp under a float.

Are you up for it?

John Day Birthday Float

The John Day River in a fresh coat of white

The John Day River in a fresh coat of white

Well my birthday falls two days after Christmas and my “giving” employer allows all staff to get a paid day off on their birthday.  This year I strung together the holidays, my birthday, and my remaining “use or loose” time to have a week long winter break.  Actually, I had no choice seeing as the daycare was closed, and locking my kids in the closet with our new cat would not be inline with the holiday spirit whether they needed it our not.  I did however pre-schedule a shuttle on the John Day River from my mom on my birthday.  I was going regardless of the conditions because everyone needs a little adventure on their birthday!!

As you will see in the photos and story below we did have a white Christmas here in Central Oregon with the snow and cold sticking around longer than usual.  Conditions were cold, with temps barely above 32F during the “heat” of the day.  Ice fog persisted all day shrouding the badland peaks along my wild river float.  The shuttle was questionable at best and required my mom to put her new Volvo XC 90 all wheel drive to the test.  It performed.

Awd Volvo XC90 headed back to pavement

Volvo XC90 headed back to pavement

The real issue was not the conditions, but whether or not there was any wild steelhead in the river this year.  Passage at John Day Dam was well below the 10-year average this year with only 61,631 wild steelhead able to navigate the gauntlet of “fish unfriendly” obstacles in the main-stem Columbia River.  The total number of steelhead through the obstacle course and above the John Day Dam by the end of 2012 was 162,083.  It sounds like a lot, but it isn’t for a watershed with millions of fish accessible stream miles and an area over 300,000 square miles.  The 10-year average for steelhead passage at the John Day Dam is 88,062 wilds and 297,088 total.  The graph below puts the 2012 run in perspective.

I would guess that the historical numbers were well in to the millions.  Ouch! The endangered species act restored the bald eagle.  Can it save the iconic summer steelhead?  Please comment.  Are our federal and state agencies upholding their public trust to provide you and me with the resources (steelhead) that we pay taxes to protect, conserve, and restore?  Please comment.  In short the simple premise of the public trust doctrine is that – government must conserve natural resources for the public good.

Read more about the principles of the public trust doctrine at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929161333.htm 

Rather than worry about whether these agencies can provide us with the “tug drug” I suggest buying some solar panels, becoming more self sufficient, and writing a few letters.

JD SteelheadOK enough dismal steelhead politics; back to the float.  Fish were hard to come buy.  I got one good grab and head shake on a swung reverse marabou fly at the end of the trip, but no fish to the bank.  The usual runs held no takers.  Maybe the fish were holding in the deep slow “frog water” runs with the water being so cold.  The only way to fish these runs is with a spinner.  I should have switched up.

Anyway I got a few cool pics and threw in one from a day when the steelies were more receptive to my offerings.

Getting "pumped up"

Getting “pumped up!”

Swinging the first run of the day

Swinging the first run of the day.

Geese were flying.  Should have brought the sky cannon.

Geese were flying. Should have brought the sky cannon.

Searching for the next run

Searching for the next run.

Pure wild pleasure

Pure wild pleasure!

Thanks for reading.

Remember to ask our elected leaders to put some steelhead back in our rivers.

Holiday Float Season Finale

The excitement of opening day has made it through the season to the last waning days.  My excitement peaked when Russ Mitchell showed interest in a late season probing of the Deschutes.  Russ was fresh off an autograph and publicity tour.  Vintage sports memorabilia kills in the collectors circuit.  Russ is no stranger.  As an all conference snatch-back for the Redmond State Sasquatch, Russ developed a following.  Enough said.  A true legend!  He occasionally pulls and old jersey or some shorts out of the hamper for a ‘yard sale’  The die hards sniff it out days before any signs are hung.

I was excited to put him on some Rudolph redbands before the season closed. Instructed on the rigging, I directed him to the river and a likely set of seams and pockets.  At depth the action is quick and sporty.  Spit hooks and fumbles at the bank are expected and not appreciated.

I was seeing glimpses of spotted tail escaping me with repeated monotony all night.

Lots of tail today

Lots of tail today

The size of the fish impressed me.  The true pigs were still feading on drift and eggs in the prime lies.  A few large “nookies” were out doing their thing and enjoying the holiday gravels; the trout were aware and tuned in.  Mixed with steel it made for a fun day.

Russ  " I horsed 'em"

Russ ” I horsed ’em”

He thinks I dropped his leviathan Rudolph at the bank on purpose.  Either way the story is forever forged in our brain matter, and sworn to copyright ownership of Turb Media Group.

holiday present wrapped in the colors of the season

Holiday present wrapped in the colors of the season

Wading skill and stamina are required!  Sportiness cannot be under estimated.

hooked up!

hooked up!

I enjoyed watching Russ probe.  He figured it out as the trout schooled him lesson by lesson.  At one point I heard him say “I wish I caught a third of what you just hooked down there.”  I gave him the best water, and my custom flies that get to the zone fast and stay there…until WHAM fish on!!  That shut him up!

I had trouble with the hooking:landing.  I hooked, and landed several pigs throughout the day and shook-loose over a dozen more.  The combination of downstream angle to the fish, fast current, and instinctive well conditioned end of the season violent head-shaking behavior, left the trout winning the hook:land score.  Action was consistent and the fish seemed aggressive.

Client is happy happy

Guide says “Client is happy, happy, happy”

Action was callable in select locations.  Russ concentrated for the last few strikes.

Intense!!! Grab him look

Intense!!! Grab him look

By the end you are wet, cold, and tried of hucking the beaded monster and custom egg.

A sense of “I have had enough” starts to settle in as you realize how wet you are as the sun parts quicker and quicker.

Back at the rig we debriefed and loaded gear.   We make our peace until next spring and allow the river to rest and recharge.

debriefed dismissal still pending

Debriefed.  Dismissal still pending and no more autographs

Conservation does not need a paper weight.

Conserve our healthy places and support advocates of wild.

Have a Turbulicious Holiday!