Pig Trout of the Deschutes River

As October winds down and November begins my thoughts begin to drift towards the late archery season here in Oregon and huge redband trout gorging behind spawning fall chinook salmon. This year I was fortunate enough to fill my deer tag so chasing blacktail deer is out of the question (maybe a cow elk).  I have been drawn to thoughts of the huge pig redband trout of the Deschutes River. No other time of year allows consistent action for large (very large) redband trout like the chinook spawn in fall.  Most anglers target steelhead during this time of year so the trout do not get the pressure. Concentrations of spawning chinook draw in the trout to feast on eggs and all the insects that get kicked up by the commotion.  It only takes a few chinook to draw in the trout. Herds draw in the true pigs.

A sporty specimen

In mid-October a strong frontal system produced some pounding rainfall on the glaciers of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood.  The glacial silt runoff turned the river an Alaskan grey with visibilities of less than a foot that remained for over two weeks.  The fish faired fine.  I think the increase in river level and the color drew a huge push of chinook upstream.  I tried my luck in a few of my usual haunts and egged up this sporty fella behind a group of spawners I located in the glacial tinge.  It is the usual “Turb self-photo” hence the dry bag and buckle in the foreground.  Self photos just add to the adventure.

My stealth floater and arsenal

Of course none of this would be possible without my Watermaster Kodiak.  This boat allows me to sneak into the tightest spots and tie up to twigs where drift boats would spook the whole herd.  You have to watch the rods because there are a thousand ways to snag a 13 foot spey rod in the brush along the bank.  I hope I do not learn the hard way. My advice: break the rods down, secure them with rubber bands, then lash them to the boat.  It may create a few interesting tangles from time to time, and slow down the fishing, but you won’t end up with a six piece spey rod, or worse a six piece spey rod and a five piece single-hander.

No words can explain the action or the size of the pig trout that suck up behind these groups of chinook.  A few photos is the best I can do to explain the quality.

Average specimen

Above average, but common

A closer look at this old pig trout

The release with a peek at a custom egg pattern

Since the chinook are present in numbers the occasional dorsal or tail hook up threatens to take your rig- or worse, splinter your rod.  My advice is to snap your line with the rod pointed right at them.  If you use maxima, half the time it pulls out of the soft flesh.

Every so often they develop a hunger for the egg.  If that happens there is usually a battle.  My advice: play to win!

The battle. Keep the rod up!!

Photo worthy

I rarely take people to my go-to spots.  Other people rarely take me to their go-to spots.  It does happen.  Appreciate it when it does.  This time I chose to share the spots and the knowledge of how to rig up for these pig trout slobs.  The river gods responded with a gift of their own.

Sir slobness (not the angler) made an appearance.  Truly the biggest redband I have handled to date.  Bigger trout exist, many in our dreams.  This one is a pig trout for sure.

Please handle with care and release wild fish to keep the dream alive.

Keeping the dream alive

Deschutes River redband trout

I went on a short float today on the Deschutes River from the re-regulating dam downstream to the boat ramp at Warm Springs.  I hoped to catch a few steelhead, but the redbands were stacked in the riffles like cord wood feeding on eggs behind spawning chinook.  I could not pass by without giving my reel a workout.

Fishing was fast and furious right from the start.   I used my standard fall rig, a weighted size 2 black stonefly nymph with a bead egg dropper.  Some of the biggest redbands I tangled with were sucked up right behind groups of Chinook actively digging redds in the knee-deep water.  The current wast fast so the takes were quick with the indicator racing upstream.  After a strip hook-set most fish made a strong downstream run.  Some went to the air to show their prowess while others just peeled line.  After losing the first four fish in less than 20 minutes I realized I better not horse them on my 8lb maxima ultragreen tippet and 6lb ultragreen dropper.

Deschutes Redband

Deschutes Redband

It was cool to fish Alaska style in Oregon behind spawning salmon.  All the of the fish I landed were plump and sporty, peeling line and requiring me to head back to the shelter of the bank water to land them.  This fishing was good enough for me to limit this trip to a solo mission to catch them all for myself.  The self photos using my Joby tripod will help preserve the memories of the blistering battles with these wild pig trout of the Deschutes.

Another nice redband

Another nice redband

I will be the frist to admit the Deschutes River has no secret spots and gets pounded by fisherman daily.  For many years I went home frustrated and fishless.  I have lived only 15 minutes from this treasured river for seven years now and have made the decision to figure it out.  Well I can’t say that I am a Deschutes expert.  I do feel if I can pick my day and work the water I can usually bury my hook into something beside the bank side brush.

Steelhead are in the river from the dam to the mouth (100 miles) and I have brought more than one to the bank this season.  I plan to probe my favorite runs at least one more time before the late archery season opens and my thoughts focus on rutting blacktails in the Cascades.

Dead Drifting