Chasing Tales: The Metolius April 2017

The dream was revived after talking with a customer in our Hood River showroom: The Metolius. I first started talking about Metolius bull trout pursuit when I was a kid and it was time to stop talking. All my research online had told me one thing and it's no secret for Metolius bull trout - BIG, white streamers. I stocked my box with a variety from the shop: some Sasquatch, Conehead Moto Minnows, White Lite Brite Zonkers, two varieties of white Trophy Dungeons, and finally white Beadhead Crystal and Woolly Buggers; grabbed the camping gear and it was go time.

Wizards Falls
Background: The Metolius is a tributary to Lake Billy Chinook. The Lake being one of the rare places where bull trout may be harvested (per 2017 ODFW regulations), and the source of the mouth to the world renown Deschutes River. I guess you could say the Metolius is the grandfather of the Deschutes. Bull trout, actually a char, are attracting the attention of more and more fly fisherman and fast becoming the next hot pursuit. They can be ethically targeted with care on rare select waters with healthy populations throughout the greater Pacific Northwest and Canada. My infatuation with bull trout started when I was a preteen and over a decade later I finally sought to satisfy it.

After a three hour road trip from our Hood River showroom and some time spent rigging my setups I hit the water. My discontinued 7/8 weight rod is armed with a Big Y Fly Nano 7/8 weight reel led into a Frog Hair Great Lakes Steelhead leader, a foot of 2x Frog Hair Fluorocarbon attached to a Sasquatch fly, two feet of Rio Fluoroflex 5x tippet finally attached to a #14 Edible Arrangement dropper. An additional six weight on deck with a Prince Nymph Jig and a Moto Minnow dropper completed my loaded artillery.

The Met. She was beautiful. Everything I imagined and more. I scouted for what my research had told me was key for bull trout - deep water near the bank, rocky and with logs if possible. The water here is crystal clear – so clear I almost filled my waders my first few steps in and dunked my Blackberry Priv. Seeing the bottom is no indicator of depth on this river. Logs every which way lay like drowned souls at the bottom, seemingly trapped in purgatory waiting to be washed downstream and ready to snap off your setup, making you start all over again. The river is unlike any I had witnessed before and is truly magical – under the surface is hauntingly eerie and peaceful. Above water is lively and bright, yet made out like a very articulate museum exhibit the way the US Forest Service has the riverbank parceled off to prevent erosion and protect regrowth. The entire scene is absolutely beautiful and one of a kind.
10" Rainbow netted with our Ghost Net

From Lower Bridge Campground I rode my fat tire bike a few miles down the only biking allowed trail out of camp. It's tempting to stop every 100 yards on this river and often times 20 casts would do before I was ready to head to the next hole. At the furthest hole I was about to reel in and head back to camp when a 10 inch bow took my Prince Nymph Jig near the end of the drift. A feisty little guy for his modest size, his colors were very prominent making it a gorgeous catch.

The second day I tried fishing above Wizard Falls in a hole where you could not see the bottom. A variety of white streamers brought no strikes. I returned to camp and headed down stream on foot on the opposite side of the river where bikes are not allowed. Unable to walk as far as I had rode I turned back again with no luck. After lunch I completed the Lower Bridge to Wizard Falls six mile loop, up one riverbank down the other. There is plenty of good water along this stretch. I ran into several anglers who had the same luck that day – nothing. I twice passed one fisherman hours apart camped out in the best hole on the stretch. When I first saw the water I wanted it but he occupied it all afternoon/evening. I tried the water above and below the hole and saw him get a couple very small strikes - juveniles at best. 

The next morning, my last, I set out to try the same hole I had saw the only other strikes I had seen all trip other than my own. I passed the guy who had them on the way to his spot and he knew exactly where I was headed as he shook his head as I walked by with a smile. He had stopped at my Plan B hole on the way to the better one. It didn't turn out to be a bad decision on his part as I again struck out in the better hole. I fished every decent spot on the way back before getting rained out.

All that way and time invested for one trout. Was drowning my cell phone and two days of no fish really worth it? On this river it's a resounding yes and I will be doing it again. The Metolius is one of the most beautiful places I've been and the fishing is just an added bonus to the magical scenery on this one of a kind river. I asked nine other anglers and none had caught anything. Most were trying for rainbows but a couple had white streamers tied on. Apart from the one gentleman and his minnows, I didn't see anyone else get any strikes. Water levels were above 2,000 cubic feet per second all three days I was there – even for being a steady flowing river, 2,000 I'm told, is a little high. I intend to make a return trip later this year in late fall/early winter to try again for bull trout, hopefully at near or below 1,500 cubic feet per second and with much better luck. On this second trip I'll be spending the majority of my time on the wilder section of the river, much further down from Lower Bridge campground – past where I netted my lone Bow. I plan to take more nymphs, including some Kaufmann Stones, and longer white streamers such as our Hare Sculpin. Unfortunately by not bringing in a bull trout the dream continues and the adventure carries on...

-Jake Larsen



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The Blog of Big Y Fly Co: Chasing Tales: The Metolius April 2017
Chasing Tales: The Metolius April 2017
The Blog of Big Y Fly Co
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