August 6th, 2016
When Kelly (my wife) said, “I want to visit my cousin Cindi in Bend.” I immediately said, “Done!” and she said, “What? Is there a river or something there?” I did two short morning sessions on the Deschutes River “in town” and did well. Mostly dry fly fishing with the infamous size 12 bullet head skwalla. And now I have checked off Red Band Rainbows off my bucket list.
Ted and Cindi built their dream house for retirement on a piece of land in the hills above Bend they purchased 20 years ago. After staring at their address on the satellite images I could see the Deschutes was just ¾ of a mile away from their house. What I could not figure out from a computer was how to get through the private property and how big the canyon was that I needed to hike into. Oregon, like Colorado, is one of those states with tons of private property on the rivers and very little public river access.
But, I could see a trail from the satellite images that at the very least made it legal to get to the canyon. It is called the Archie Briggs trail. And you can catch that trail just yards from Ted and Cindi’s house. Unfortunately, I did not realize that and even though I knew where the trail was, I discovered another marked public access trail right at the end of their street that seemed more direct and seemed to cut right through private property. Big Mistake because it did not. I should have stayed with my original plan. Unfortunately, that was a 2-hour mistake on a day where I only had 3 hours for a fly fishing adventure. When I finally did get to the canyon I was staring down a 500-foot cliff and scratching my head on how to get down. So, discouraged, I continued walking up river on the Deschutes river trail on the top of the canyon hoping to find access. And I finally did; right where I should have started….uggh.
But it was still quite a bushwhack without a formal trail to lose the 500 feet down into the canyon to the river. And I was all alone. When I got all the way down it was pretty intimidating. Very deep pools with little or no casting or wading access. The river seemed to have just enough water to make it impossible to cross too. At least I was smart enough this time not to try to cross alone. Well, I made a few casts in the area with no action so I bushwhacked my way a couple hundred feet up the river. And that is when I started catching redbands. I hooked 5; landed 2 of them in just a 20 minute stretch. That is when my time allotment for the day was done. My walk back to the house was only 30 minutes, all up hill. Actually, I didn’t even make it back to the house. Kelly, Cindi and her husband ted picked me up on the way for our day’s hiking adventure at Smith Rock State Park which is, ironically on the Crooked river. I didn’t get the opportunity to fish there because I was with the 3 of them hiking, but, I sure wanted to.
The next morning my long time fly fishing buddy, “Big Will Garratt” met me on the trail on the way to the river. Big Will just moved to Bend and he had not fished the Deschutes yet. I gladly showed him the access point I had found. We fished for an hour mostly together working our way about ½ mile up the river. And we were both doing well fishing on top with our size 12 bullethead skwallas. The Deschutes in the canyon is pretty rugged and accessing the river frequently requires backtracking up the cliffs to get around the overgrown trees and brush in the river. In the process of doing just that I scared the hell out of a deer that was resting under the trees. Actually he scared me more than I scared him.
But, alas my short time was up. Interestingly enough I had cell signal down there and Kelly called. She said, “I think I see you guys. We are on the Deschutes trail and I can see a fly fisherman way down below and a half mile up.” “Is that you?”, she said. It was Big Will she saw. She was ready to go on the next adventure of the day: brew pub hopping. But, our dilemma was a 20-minute rock climb and bush whack back up to the entry point of the canyon. I told Big Will we might as well get as much altitude we can before working our way back down stream to where we entered the canyon. So we did. Within 10 minutes we saw a number of deer trails. And we made the decision to try to save 30 minutes by hiking straight up the canyon on the deer trails. Crazy…because at points we were climbing with our hands. When we did pop out up top it was only a 200 yard walk to where Ted, Cindy and Kelly were waiting for us on the trail.