High desert in central Oregon is great during the summer and fall but when winter weather hits you had better be ready for the cold. It is mid-november and Water Time Outfitters has great clients like Jeff, Penni and Eric who are ready to brave the cold and mine for steelhead in the cool waters of the Deschutes River. Steelhead in the Deschutes river are of a genetic strain that stays in freshwater a long time; their final destination is to spawn in late winter or early spring. That means long after the prime time crowd has left the river, steelhead by the thousands swim silently in the cold waters of thebig river northbound from the Cascade mountain crested town of Bend.
Our first days lunch was hot chili that warmed us up inside out just as snow flakes began to fall. Snow fell softly and then moved on as the weather changed quickly. We wondered how the night might go with precipitation in the air. Arriving in camp with the glow of lanterns lit in the sturdy canvas tents and the crackle of a warm fire we quickly forgot we were in the wilds of the canyon in winter weather. Heaters warmed each tent and Marty our camp preparer delivered hot chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. That night we clinked our glasses in a toast to the weather and the steelhead gods which were so generous our first day.
Each day we worked our way down the river about 10 miles. The runs and riffles of favored steelhead water were everywhere. What we didn't see were other anglers. The scenery and setting were amazing. We even saw 2 bull elk along the river. Golden eagles soared high above distant ridges and mallard ducks were around each soft bend in the river.
Layering with good thermal base layers like a thin merino wool then a medium thermal with good fleece and a warm hat coupled with waders that didn't leak and all were warm and toasty even when the mercury dipped into the 30's and 40's. Not bad by B.C. standards but still a big change from a warm and comfortable office.
By the last day all had experienced the thrill of fighting and landing steelhead on the fly rod. Wild and hatchery fish were caught. Some were lost but most were landed. A few good pics happened along the way as well. The photos along with the text from this trip.
Even with a few snowflakes the chili was still great!