OREGON BUCKET LIST TROUT TRIPS - Gary Lewis

OREGON BUCKET LIST TROUT TRIPS - Gary Lewis

Sunshine. Windshield time. And rainbow trout.

Chicks dig Chickahominy. Laurie Luoma, of Bend, Oregon, with a nice rainbow. Rainbows are stocked in Chickahominy as fingerlings and reach ten to eleven inches in length by the following year. Two year-old fish reach eighteen inches. Dragonfly nymph patterns are productive as are scuds and red and black leech patterns. Concentrate on weed beds, edges and drop-offs. The reservoir reaches a maximum depth of 28 feet. A slow-sinking fly line provides the best control for fishing below the surface. Photo courtesy Laurie Luoma 

 

It’s all sunshine and rainbows east of the Cascades. We have, the chambers of commerce tell us, 300 days of sunshine a year. And, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, 365 days of trout fishing. So it’s almost all sunshine and rainbows.

Here are four bucket list trips to some of Central and Eastern Oregon’s great trout destinations. We’re guessing there are some lakes on this list you haven’t tried. Let’s start close to Mt. Hood with three lakes and plenty of places to pitch a tent.

    

    

    

    

MT. HOOD HIGHWAY LAKES LOOP

Badger Lake / Laurance Lake / Lost Lake

The hard part is Badger Lake. Badger Lake has three roads in and none of them are excellent. If you are driving a full-size truck, you will want to avoid the Bennett Pass approach. This is best done in a four-wheel drive smaller SUV or pickup with good tires. You’ll see what I mean if you try it.

A better way to get to Badger is to follow Highway 35 to the 48 road just after the White River crossing. Take the 48 to the 4860 and go north to the 140 road. If you find patches of last winter’s snow in the road, it’s best to turn around and leave Badger for a bit later in the summer. You can sink even the most agile trucks in those snow banks. And then you wait for someone to come by with a tow strap. Trust me. Oh yes, you won’t be happy if you try to pull a trailer to Badger. Go with a car top boat or a float tube.

     

     


     

Best timing is early July. Badger is flat gorgeous. Forty acres at full pool, it is a natural lake with a dam to increase its size.

The lake is stocked with hatchery rainbows and is home to brook trout, too and wild rainbows. Robert Campbell, co-author of the Fishing Mt. Hood Country book recommends fishing Callibaetis nymphs, Parachute Adams, foam ants or Woolly Bugger and similar leeches. If using spinning gear, Campbell suggests an F4 Flatfish in a frog, perch or black pattern and for casting, a 1/4-ounce Kastmaster or Kamlooper spoon.

  

A Lava Lake rainbow. 

   

Some of Mt. Hood’s prettiest fish can be found in Badger Lake. Let the picture fish go and keep your limit of stockers.

Next stop on our Mt. Hood loop is Laurance Lake, which is one of the best fly-fishing still waters. This long, deep reservoir is limited to artificial fly and lure to protect bull trout. The main attraction are the hatchery rainbows supplied by the kindly folks at the Department of Fish and Wildlife, but there are wild cutthroat too, and the bull trout, which tend to stack up off the points where they ambush smaller fish, including those hatchery rainbows.

The same tactics that produce at Badger Lake pay off at Laurance Lake. Try that Kastmaster spoon and a frog-pattern trolling plug, but definitely bring a fly rod. Trolling works great, especially near the creek mouths and the transitions from shallows to deep water. There is good camping at Laurance with 20 sites. Maximum RV length is 16 feet. Plan to bring drinking water.

At 320 surface acres and a depth of 167 feet, Lost Lake is a star attraction on the eastern slope of Mt. Hood. The campground offers 148 sites with spaces with some longer options for RV’ers.

 

       

   

 

   

A person could spend three days here, exploring the lake for large pods of hatchery rainbows or wild cutthroat and brook trout. In addition, Lost Lake is often stocked with brood trout that have outlived their usefulness. These fish can top out at 30 inches or so.

For the angler looking to use bait, this is the best bet on our loop tour, but it is a good fly-fishing destination too. Expect hatches of black mayflies, Hexegenia mayflies and, on windy days, carpenter ants.

There is a lot to do for the Lost Lake camper after catching a limit of trout. A trail goes all the way around the lake. The store is stocked with the kinds of things that the camper often forgets or runs out of. And berry picking is good in late August and September.

 

IZAAK WALTON DREAM WEEKEND

Lava Lake / Hike-in lakes (pick one) / Walton Lake

If Izaak Walton were still alive, he would be 427 this year and he would definitely have his eye on this dream weekend (or week-long ramble). First stop is Lava Lake on the Cascade Lakes Highway. A good paved road leads all the way to this campground and a well-stocked store with boats for rent. Lava Lake rainbows grow fast in this food-rich water. Several strains of rainbows are found in the lake, which tends to scatter fish throughout the lake. Every dedicated Lava angler has their own favorite spots. I like to still-fish near the riprap at the public launch, but there are many, many good spots on this 320-acre lake in the shadow of Mt. Bachelor. Trolling works well at Lava Lake till the weed growth kicks up. Chironomids offer an effective fly technique, but sparse leech patterns are super effective, especially in shades of olive and green and rusty brown.

Next, set your sights on one of the hike-in lakes. Keep base camp at Lava Lake and drive to a nearby trailhead to hike into one of the backcountry lakes.

   

  

A tailgate supper at the lake.

 

Stocked every other year by ODFW, all the hike-in lakes have fish. The list of nearby lakes is long and in the interest of not putting too much attention on one place, it is better to just pick one and go. I caught one of the best rainbows of my life in one of these lakes. The trout can grow to an astounding 20 inches and are remarkably unsophisticated. Which lake did I catch that big one in? I forget. Two things to remember though: Fly-fishing with a spinning rod and an adjustable float is a better play than bringing the long rod. Mosquito repellant.

Last stop is the lake named for Izaak Walton, up in the Ochocos. This requires a move. Walton Lake is a two-hour drive out of the Cascades, down into Bend where you can stop for a micro brew and sushi, and through Prineville, where you can get a burger and another micro brew. Walton is a spring-fed reservoir that covers 18 surface acres and has lots of hatchery trout. Anglers use jar baits here, but this lake is named for Izaak Walton. Bring a fly rod for his sake. A small boat (electric motors are okay) is a great idea. Float tubes work well. Amenities include a gravel boat launch, handicapped access, a beach and swimming area. A trail circles the lake.

 

HIGH DESERT HIGHWAYS

Chickahominy Reservoir / Yellowjacket Lake / Krumbo Reservoir

Head east from Bend and 99 miles later you have arrived at Chickahominy Reservoir, just a couple of hundred yards north of the highway. This high desert impoundment offers long, windswept views and fat rainbows. Chick grows trout fast. There is a good boat launch, when there is sufficient water (never guaranteed). Fly anglers do the best here when using a float tube or a pontoon boat. Chironomids are a great go-to for the fly angler, but leech patterns are productive as well. Bring both a floating line and a slow-sink intermediate. Bait fishermen do very well when fishing from the rocks around the bend.

At full pool, Chick covers 491 surface acres, but you hardly ever see it at full pool. Depth averages 10 feet. Plan a half-day and maybe an overnight, then proceed on the next leg of the journey.

   

   

   

   

Next stop is Yellowjacket Lake, a pretty, shallow lake named for a famous Shoshone warrior. Just inside the city limits of Hines (good place to fuel up), turn north on the Hines Logging Road and go north for 30 miles. Turn right on Forest Service road 37 and then onto FS 3745. Plan to fish flies, troll a small spoon or use bait. This is another good spot for an overnight, with dinner under the stars. If Yellowjacket is crowded (it usually isn’t), Delintment Lake is another good option not too far away (far is a relative term in eastern Oregon). Back down out of Yellowjacket, drive into Hines and turn left. The next stop is Krumbo Reservoir, a shallow still water on the west side of the Steens. Head east out of Burns on Highway 78 then turn right on Highway 205.

Best bet is to bring a float tube, a canoe or a car-topper. But there is bank access. Anglers can fish at the dam or walk from the ramp to one of two rocky points that look out over some of the lake’s deeper water.

The lake averages ten feet deep. Rainbows stack along the weeds and grow fat on callibaetis and chironomids.

Fish a No. 12-14 Callibaetis nymph, or better yet, a pair of them. To tempt with chironomids, employ No. 16-18 zebra, black or red midge larva imitations under an indicator. Leech patterns are effective. Use black, red or olive buggers, weighted at the head.

Covered tables are provided. A rest-room can be found near the dam and at the boat ramp. A handicap-accessible fishing platform is near the boat ramp. The launch is paved with a nice dock. Electric motors are permitted.

Page Springs Campground is a few miles down the road. There is RV camping available in private campgrounds on both sides of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

  

  

 

 

ELKHORN MOUNTAIN BYWAYS

Anthony Lakes / Phillips Reservoir / Willow Creek Reservoir

The first time I fished Anthony Lake in the Elkhorn Mountains, I caught 23 trout in two hours—all hatchery rainbows.

I was in a Caddis float tube and it was early July, which was really good timing. The shoreline shelves produced fast action on rainbows and I was keeping track. My numbers went up when I started fishing a dropper tied to the bend of the hook. Several times I caught two fish on one cast.

Anthony is a 22-acre lake in the shadow of Angel Peak. The launch is suitable for small boats. Canoes are great here, as are float tubes. A person should also plan to fish nearby Mud, Grande Ronde and Black lakes. There are three campgrounds. Bring mosquito repellent. If you forget the mosquito repellent, you will be leaving early.

  

A couple of keepers for Henry Hughes at a lake in the Cascades.

 

Next stop is Phillips Reservoir. To get there from Anthony Lakes, take the Elkhorn Drive National Scenic Byway, stop in Granite for a burger, or on down to Sumpter if the store is closed.

Phillips is in the Sumpter Valley, a 2,200-acre impoundment that, after a battle with an overabundance of yellow perch, has been restored to a good trout fishery. There is a boat launch at Union Creek and three good campgrounds.

I like to save Willow Creek Reservoir for last. It can produce trout or panfish when other waters are stingy. Last time I fished Willow Creek Reservoir, I was with a couple of like-minded sleep-starved friends at the end of a two-day trip. Lee, Lifeson and Peart had punished our eardrums in The Gorge on a windy evening and an amped-up Gandalf in the camp site next to ours kept us up all night long. Willow Creek Reservoir was like an oasis after that.

   

   

  

  

To get there from I-84, turn at Exit 147 and follow State Route 74 south to Heppner. Proceed through town and follow the signs uphill to the reservoir. The best timing for this 110-acre lake is April into early June.

Look for trout water along the rip-rapped south bank and across the lake along the north shore. The water drops off quickly to a maximum depth of 85 feet at the dam.

Good bank fishing access makes this reservoir a safe bet for anglers without a boat. Drive past the boat launch along the south shore and take a gravel road down to a parking lot above a riprap bank. Walk down to the water or fish from the car. A trail along an old roadbed provides plenty of room for fishermen to spread out.

   

   

   

   

Willow Creek Campground is located high on the western shore, overlooking the dam and the lake. Managed by the City of Heppner (541-676-9618), the camp is open from March 1 into November. It has 24 hook-up sites, offering water, electric and sewer. Maximum length is 40 feet.

Pull those trout rods out of the closet and wind new line on the reels. You can afford it. Make campground reservations if you need to, and plot your route. It’s time for a road trip.

Gary Lewis is a co-author and publisher of Fishing Mt. Hood Country and Fishing Central Oregon. To contact Lewis, GaryLewisOutdoors.com

 

 

  

 

 


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