Whitefish and Rainbows on the Deschutes

I was in Bend, Oregon for business last week (my real job). I knew the weather was supposed to be a little warmer than the last time I was there (-10 degrees Fahrenheit), so I packed my fly rod and fishing vest, just in case I got a wild hair, and decided to walk down to the Deschutes River near the office and fling a few flies.

After a little investigating, I became privy to the fact that there is a nice little park within walking distance of the office. So, on Thursday night (April 22, 2010) I walked down to the river, wearing my nice shirt, pants and shoes (I never learn). I didn’t want to drive all the way to the hotel and change.

Arriving at the park, I donned my fishing vest and when I reached the river, I realized that I was standing on the edge of a miniature canyon. Of course that wasn’t going to stop me (being a full fledged, self proclaimed nimrod)… I began to climb down the canyon wall, about 20 - 25 feet high.

I know what you are thinking… “He just did this because he knew it would make a great story for his blog.”

My friends, I can assure you that I wouldn’t purposefully risk my life (or even extreme pain) just to impress my faithful lectors. Though, if you throw in the guarantee of a few nice fish in the deal, I’ll probably shake on it.

As I made my way down the canyon wall, I noticed a gentleman sitting on a rock overlooking the river about 30 feet away from me. I could tell he was soaking in the peace and serenity that surrounded us, and he apparently hadn’t seen me. So, I tried extra hard not to make any noise. Maybe he wouldn’t notice me. I guess I just didn’t want to disturb him. Besides, I was feeling pretty self conscious, being all dressed up, wearing a fishing vest, and climbing down a rock cliff with a fly rod in my hand… you know the feeling… don’t you?

On my way down, I got a small taste of the excitement experienced by rock climbers, when I almost fell backwards onto some unfriendly rocks below. I’m pretty sure I would have survived it, but it definitely would have been extremely painful. “What the hell am I doing here?” I thought to myself (like I say, I never seem to learn).

My hopes of a covert mission were in vain, however. When I was safely standing on the bank below, I took a quick glance over my shoulder in the gentleman’s direction. It looked like he was staring right at me (it was kind of hard to see, because there were some branches in front of his face at this point). I could only imagine what he must have been thinking… something like “Who is this idiot?”

I thought I might be able to impress the gentleman if I was able to cast into the small pool and land a nice brown trout or something. “Just keep it cool,” I thought. After making a couple of casts I made another quick glance over my shoulder, thinking this time he would wave or something. Well, he was still looking at me, but no wave. I fished on…

A couple of minutes later (still not a single fish), I looked in his direction again and waved this time. He immediately waved back. Ok, cool, he doesn’t seem to be angry that I am invading his territory and spoiling his solitude or something. I fished on….

A few minutes later, I had a strike, a good one! I set the hook and FISH ON! It was a big, fat… brown… ish… gray… something. I brought the fish to hand. It was about 15 - 16 inches long . “Oh, that’s right,” I thought to myself, I did read in Fishing Central Oregon and Beyond 5th Edition that there are whitefish in here! It was a very respectable and heavy Mountain Whitefish.

Oh, I forgot to mention that as I started walking down to the river, I stopped and turned around to go back and get my digital camera… then I stopped again and thought, “Forget it, I am only going to be down there for a few minutes, and I probably won’t even catch anything.” So I turned back around and walked to the river…

And it’s a good thing, because I am sure if I had the camera with me, I wouldn’t have caught a single fish over 9 inches long!

I released the fish, quite content myself (though I would have preferred a brown trout of the same size, or of any size).

View a YouTube video about the Mountain Whitefish here.

After standing up and looking around, I shot yet another quick glance over my shoulder to see if the gentleman would give me a thumbs-up or something… but, when I looked, he was nowhere to be seen - go figure!

I fished on… casting:

a size 12, bead head Copper John (the same fly I caught the large whitefish on);
a size 10, bead head, rubber-legged Hare’s Ear; and
a size 12, standard bead head Hare’s Ear.

I ended up fishing for a couple of hours (I was having so much fun) and hooking 4 - 5 more fish. I landed a beautiful 9-inch wild rainbow and another whitefish at about 10 inches long.

It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening. I only scratched my new leather shoes up a little bit and most of the mud washed off pretty easily. So, I didn’t end up doing any significant permanent damage to any of my office garb… and I had a few fish to show for it (or tell about rather).

And that’s the story of the first fish I ever caught on the Deschutes River.

Tight Lines!



  1. Note to self, take along a set of fishing clothes when traveling, especially if you are taking your rod & vest.

    On our trip to Maupin last October, we stayed in Bend. I was tempted to wet a line in the Deschutes, but the day got away from me. On the way back, through Bend, the weather got away from me too. The Whitefish reminds me of the Shad in the American River.

    Sounds like a fun evening. Used to do the same, when I was in sales and traveled a lot.


  2. Mark,

    The funny thing is, when I started writing this post I realized that I actually had a change of clothes in my car, that I had forgotten about.

    I guess I was just a little too focused on getting down to the river.

    I have heard stories and seen some photos of some big brown trout taken from the Deschutes.

    Were you up in Maupin huntin last October?

  3. Some guys just seem to have all the fun! Glad you did not let the "flyfishing mistique" stop your trip to the river in your office wear.


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