Visions of Trophy Brown Trout Warm Central Oregon Anglers
By Gary Lewis
We pulled on neoprene waders and stepped into the icy shallows. The wind blew a heavy chop on the water and I tugged my hat down firmly on my head.
There was new four pound test line on my spinning reel and a floating Rapala dangling from the end of the rod. I cast into the wind and started to reel. Stories I'd been told last year about this mountain lake were replaying through my head. Could it really have been like they said? Would we hook brown trout as long as my arm? Would my friend Ron quit speaking to me if he didn't catch a fish on this trip? It's hard to imagine that a man could reach the age of forty-four and never have caught a fish but this is what he told me.
I was shaken from my ponderings by a sharp tug at the end of the line. I set the hook and heard the line going from my reel. A trout came halfway out of the water and slid back in, red and black spots against his broad brown back. I backed up and reeled as the fish came at me. He was ten feet from the end of the rod when he snapped open his hooked jaw and let go of the annoying fish that had bitten him back. My rod tip straightened and I looked over at James, seeing the smile on my face mirrored in his. Soon he had a fish on too.
Next it was Ron's turn and I dug in my spinner box for something he could cast into the wind. I pulled out one of my homemade brass spinners. A heavy number four with green tape inside the blade. On his fourth cast he was into a fish and it bent his rod nearly double as he backed up toward the beach. Easily unhooked, we took a picture and let the sixteen-inch brown gently back in the water. It was a fine trout and Ron played it like an expert. I'm still not convinced that he had never caught a fish before.
It wasn't long and he had another one on the beach. A hatchery rainbow this time. Between ten and twelve inches in length, it had taken the spinner farther down and so would go home with us.
We watched an osprey hunt up and down the lake, flying over our heads, searching the choppy water. It began to fly in ever-tightening circles, then stalled, wings beating against the steady wind. Folding its wings it dove, reversing just before it hit the water to slam talons into its hapless prey.
We waited to see what it would carry away but the bird stayed in the water, even going beneath the waves. After probably fifteen seconds had passed, it began to shake the water from its wings and, struggling for altitude, lifted away from the water carrying what looked like a thrashing eighteen inch rainbow.
The wind blew two snow storms through and still we fished with half-inch accumulations on our hats and arms. Water froze in the guides and still we cast and retrieved, hoping for yet a bigger fish.
It was close to dark and I was heading for the propane stove and the warming cocoa when James hooked a fish. I could hear his shout above the wind and the crash of the waves on the beach. Just another fish, I thought, but looked again when I heard another shout. His rod was bent double and he was backing out of the water while the fish ran and wallowed in a vain attempt to shake the annoying steel from its jaws.
James held it against the rod to measure it as I pulled the hook free. Nineteen inches of brown trout slid back into the water, paused to flap its gills and pushed away, vanishing in the dark water.
The water on the cookstove was hot and we didn't waste much time stirring in the chocolate, downing our drinks as the sun's dull glow slid below the western mountains. It was as cold a day fishing as I've had since I quit winter steelheading but the fish we hooked kept us from caring.
For just a few days or weeks longer, the big fish will be coming out of the deeper waters to feed on the small fry. Windy mornings and evenings with heavy cloud cover give the big fish a feeling of safety from predators. This confidence makes them vulnerable to anglers who can put up with nasty weather.
Fish the downwind shallows of our big-fish lakes. Suttle, Wickiup, Crane and Paulina Lake are some of the best spots. Use Rapalas, Rooster Tail spinners or streamer flies to catch big fish keying on minnows in shallow water. And do it quick, the waters will be warming and calming and the big boys will soon head back to the safety of deep water.