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Fishing guide: Explore the scenic Deschutes River
Around this time of year, after numerous trips to the Yakima, me and my fly fishing accomplices yearn for a little diversity of aquatic scenery. So in April, we overload the designated driver’s vehicle with fly fishing gear, food, the cribbage board and selected beverages and head south to Maupin, Ore., to take advantage of the incredible fishing in the area.
Maupin is about a four-hour drive from the Valley, but with the spectacular nature of the scenery along the way, time passes quickly. The usually brown and heat-baked desert of eastern Washington and north-central Oregon is literally alive with a carpet of light green grasses that is heavily painted with an amazing diversity of colorful wildflowers, from yellow bunches of balsamroot and purple lupine to yellow desert parsley and white camas.
Located on a steep canyon wall of the Deschutes River, Maupin is a small and dusty desert town. Once there, we always stop at the Deschutes Angler to glean advice from the owners, John and Amy Hazel — two legendary guides of the Deschutes recently featured in the film “Drift.” This year, they first steered us to some private lakes near Shaniko, Ore., which is just a 30 minute drive east of Maupin.
Shaniko is one of the largest remaining ghost towns and the physical remnant of the once-thriving wool empire centered there. The lakes are just a few miles north of the old town located on a high, wind-worn desert plateau which now serves as cattle country. Be prepared to cast a fly line while a few wayward Angus stand watching in the wings.
April in north-central Oregon is mild and the lake fishing can be prolific. The Hazels pointed out to us that there should be a dazzling display of callibaetis mayflies hatching. They supplied us with the appropriate patterns, mostly callibaetis emergers and some nymphs. In short, the fishing was one for the record books. In fact, it was so good we decided to fish the lakes a second day and netted the same result.
The third day it was suggested we fish the Deschutes near Maupin for Redside trout. We stocked up on March Brown dries and wet flies and fished just south of town. Again, the fishing was unbelievable. Adding to the experience were the scenic vistas, as the Deschutes flows through an expansive and colorful basalt canyon, stratified in hues of copper and bronze with its lower slopes matted with silvery gray sage, green and amber bunch grasses and dusty green junipers.
When fishing the Deschutes in Maupin for trout, take your fast action 5 or 6 weight rod. As for flies, that of course depends on the time of year, so I recommend visiting the Deschutes Angler for suggestions. For accommodations, call ahead and make reservations at the Imperial River Company, which is located within casting distance of the Deschutes. And, be sure to visit Patty at the Rainbow Tavern for some of their famous chili.
If you are looking for a change of fishing venue, be sure and visit Maupin for some truly satisfying fly fishing. And, if you get time, head over to Shaniko and enjoy an authentic western ghost town and maybe catch a few lake trout as well.