Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Owyhee's

May 2019
The annual Owyhee trip was upon us. Our crappie supply in the freezer had dwindled just in time for the hot crappie bite that comes only once a year. In addition to hitting the reservoir, we would camp on the river and fish for brown trout in the mornings and evenings. This year we brought the float tubes, hoping to access the slower stretches of river where wading is difficult. 

The spring weather this year had been dicey at best. Storm after storm had been through the area and temperatures were much colder than normal.
"I bet this cold rainy weather has made crappie fishing tough." I said to the gal at the Owyhee Grocery store as we bought our Oregon license's.
"Nope. They are taking them out by the buckets right now. I'm jealous I'm not up there!" She replied with sincerity.
With a report like that we rushed up the reservoir to partake in hopefully insane crappie fishing. The weather had other plans though. Rain came down in buckets as we tried to ready the boat to launch. Despite the weather, Katie was chomping at the bit to get on the water. Katie LOVES catching crappie.

When the rain subsided slightly we launched the boat, motored over to some nearby rocks and began fishing. On my first cast, the indicator sunk and seconds later I was lipping a 9 inch black crappie. 

We made our way back into a popular cove where many bank anglers had fished. The flooded bushes were decorated like Christmas trees with jigs and bobbers. A kaleidoscope of different colors could be seen dangling here and there. I worked around each bush to "clean up" the litter, gathering all kinds of jigs and bobbers.
We fished that afternoon for several hours and landed nearly 100 crappie and several bass. 
We didn't keep any crappie. This evening had been a recon trip to establish what size crappie we could keep the following day. Nine and half inches would make it on the stringer.

That night the rain came down in buckets again. We chickened out on fishing the river in the evening at camp, and when I woke up in the morning, it was still raining. Regardless, the brown trout were calling my name. While Katie slept, I wadered up and made my way to the river. I started with a nymph rig; a frenchie trailed by an egg pattern. It worked well, and in short order, I was netting a 15 inch brown. 
A few casts later, it produced another nice fish.
I landed 4 fish on 4 different flies by 8 am. No hatches had materialized, so subsurface was the game. 

I came back to camp and Katie and I got ready to fish the reservoir. As soggy as it had been the previous day, Katie and I wore our waders this time. Once on the water, fishing was again excellent!
We ended that day with loads of fish caught, but only 19 crappie were large enough to make it on the stringer.

Back at camp the rain came down in buckets, forcing us to retreat to the safety of the tent. Our gear was being tested in this weather. Everything was beginning to get soggy, including our outlook on the following day of fishing.

I awoke the next morning to clouds, but no rain. I quickly wadered up and readied the float tube to fish the pool at camp.
I fished the famed "Spiller's Diver," with no luck. I then switched to a black cone head wolly bugger. On my first cast, the rod was nearly jerked out of my hands. Slow to the take, I missed several fish before connecting.
Once I found my groove, I began to connect with at least half of the takes I was receiving.
The browns were absolutely crushing my wooly bugger this morning. I couldn't wait to get Katie out in the tube to partake in this action.
I landed 8 browns by 8 am. I woke Katie up to see what she wanted to do.
"Let's catch more crappie!" She said with a smile. "Maybe if it gets sunny later we'll try the river."

Back up to the reservoir we went. As we crested the dam, the image before us looked like a scene from Jurassic Park. The green mountains disappeared into the clouds like those of Isla Nublar. Although not raining at the moment, rain was clearly in the future. 
We launched the boat and took off up the reservoir to some coves we've hit in the past. Although we found crappie nearly everywhere, Katie and I found one rock pile that was loaded with them! Tons of bigger ones too. Almost half of the crappie from this location ended up on the stringer.
We must have caught at least 30 crappie off this one rock pile! 

We fished on, making our way into a nice cove. I knew there would be some bass lurking in the back, so I tied on a Spillers Diver and sent it in. The diver plopped down on the water. As I started chugging the diver toward me, a large shadow materialized behind the fly. I paused the fly for 5 seconds. The shadow slowly crept closer until it sat centimeters away. Then it opened its large mouth, the fly instantly disappearing into a swirl of bubbles. I set the hook hard, momentarily feeling the weight of a large bass. Then my rod went slack as the fly broke off. I cursed my poorly and hastily tied knot; something I rarely do. With barbless hooks, you'll often find the fly floating back up in the area, but no such phenomenon was seen. I tied on another diver and sent it back in. My fly hung up on a piece of stick or weed. I quickly drug it in to find a very unusual surprise: my fly! How I managed to place a blind cast directly onto my broken off fly, which I didn't even see, and bring it in is a miracle. 
It must have been destiny. The next cast back into the cove produced a nice largemouth. Not the whopper from before, but still a really nice bass.
We fished on. Catching many more crappie and bass. Every time we'd reach a "bassy" looking area we'd throw the diver with success. Even the crappie were coming up for the diver!
The weather was highly variable, with sun at moments and more rain mixed in. The fishing however wasn't. It was non-stop action!
The scenery in the Owyhee's is also second to none.
In the early afternoon we could see darker, threatening clouds brewing. A wall of water approached us faster than we could escape. 
We fished through the rain and hail, but we knew it was about time to call it quits. Before we could take off though, a carp decided he needed to be caught.

With well over a hundred and fifty fish caught, and nearly 40 crappie on the stringer, it was time to head home. We filleted our crappie as the rain continued to come down. The heavy rain made our decision to float and fish the river an easy one; some other time. 

The annual Owyhee trip was again a success. It may take several days to completely dry out, but it was worth it!