White Horse Rapids

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White Horse Rapids
John Jones & Josh Linn heading into White Horse Rapids on the Deschutes River in an 18' Outcast boat...

RIDE THE WHITE HORSE
J. Morgan Jones

Some parts of the Deschutes River are easy to float, other sections take more experienced rowing skills. For instance you can fish the Warm Springs to Trout Creek with comparative ease. Here the river is a tail-water, much like a giant spring creek with prolific hatches of insects, (the Salmonfly is the best known), blanket caddis, PMDs, Green Drakes and Crane flies to name a few. The early season brings the really big fish out, and there are a lot of them. Of course this also brings out a lot of other anglers.

It is a place known by trout fishers through out the world. The Salmonfly hatch is, I would venture to say, one of the best known hatches on a trout river anywhere in the country. Lots of boats on the river this time of year. The drift itself? Warm Springs to trout Creek is low gradient, wide with lots of slow edge water. It's easy to float with lots of fish, lots of hatches and good fishing water everywhere. The biggest danger on this entire drift might possibly be hooking yourself with your own fly. 

Put in at the Warm Springs boat ramp, fish all day, pull out at Trout Creek. This nine mile stretch provides a full day of usually good fishing. 

What’s below Trout Creek? Two to five days days of good fishing, great water, good camp spots and The infamous White Horse Rapids. While I do not know the exact number of boaters that neogotiate White Horse every season, I would guess that it is in the thousands. If you are an real experienced white water boater, it’s really not a BIG deal to navigate White Horse, but for a good many of us, the trip can be a bit unnerving. 

There are many who say, " it is not really a difficult white water section, I never bother to scout, just bail off in there (head towards the left, and, shoot, you’ll be just fine! )". However, I think that just about everything that I have ever read about this 1/2 mile stretch of the river mentions that you need to pull of the water and SCOUT THE RAPIDS. Wonder why that is? Perhaps it’s because that many boats are lost here every season. Perhaps because  lives are lost here each season as well. Even experienced  fishing guide have lost boats here. Even river guides that have been through this stretch of water many, many times can at times have difficulty. So, my advice to you is buy a river map so you can keep track of where you are on the river and when you get to pull over spot just above White Horse, tie up your boat and hike yourself down to the rapids and spend some time plotting your course. I have met a few folks who have lost a boat and $5000 to $10,000 worth of fishing gear when the boat turned over. And I have spoken with a few people who were there when some one else was lost to the rapids. To myself, I liken it to driving in bumper to bumper rush hour freeway traffic at 60 to 70 miles per hour. It really isn’t a big deal at all. Until you, or perhaps some one else, makes a small mistake, and you either get a real quick momentary rush (and a thankful sigh of relief), or things get out of hand really quick and you are smack in the middle of something that you would rather not have to deal with at all. 

You are going to get a bit anxious when scouting White Horse. I got REAL anxious scouting the rapids and hearing different stories from my buddies. Even thought about changing my mind for a bit. If you have done what you should have been doing prior to “rowing the horse”, you are going to feel this way yourself, but then, once you “drop in” to the entrance, you are too busy to be nervous and you get totally focused on finding your route and keeping to it. I was glad I had a plan, was able to follow it, and I made no mistakes...... this time. I anticipate there will be no problems the next time either, as long as my plan includes respecting the river, realizing what it is capable of and scouting the best route for that time of year.

I have been through White Horse one time rowing my own boat. It was in my new Outcast Trout Hunter 18' pontoon boat. It was an easy trip...not real a big deal...well, sort of...don't kid yourself...there were a few butterflies. I am not a white water guy, by any stretch of the imagination, but have rowed boats a lot in easier water. I don't think that I am ready to row a drift boat through White Horse, but with the big cat-boat, it wasn't too bad.

 I also plan on remembering that I am really just there for a fishing trip. I am not looking to impress anyone with my white water skills or my limited ability to row a boat through white water. I don’t want to throw away my nice rods, and I have no need of mourning the loss of someone I was responsible for because I thought I could be a bit casual going through the White Horse rapids. I will be wearing my life jacket, and if you are in my boat, you will be wearing yours. 

I “rowed (or rode) the horse” an survived.... but it was planned that way.

 

Floatation Vests
General Purpose Floatation Vest Adult Rafting Vest

The law requires that you have one floatation vest of the appropriate size for each person in every boat.  The vests on this page meet the requirements to save save lives.  Needless to say moving water or water with big waves requires vests that will keep your head above water. Be safe.

Floatation vests are only effective if you wear them.

Stearns General Purpose Floatation Vest

One size fits all. Has enough floatation for large adults. For use on still or moderate water. Most state laws demand that an angler have a floatation vest attached to their float tube or pontoon boat while fishing. This vest is meant only for use where the water is non-challenging such as moderate size lakes and slower rivers. Color blue.

 

Stearns General Purpose Floatation Vest

Item Description Size Price To Top
2001BLU Stearns General Purpose Floatation Vest One size fits all. $16.95

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Stearns Adult River Rafting Vest

This vest is Coast Guard approved for serious white water boating.  The 2" thick sealed cell plient foam panels are arranged so that your head stays above water...even in the gnarely stuff.  Adult river rafting vest.  This vest series has saved many lives.

 

Stearns Adult River Rafting Vest

Item Description Size Price To Top
6155ORG-03 Stearns Adult river rafting vest. M $54.95

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6155ORG-05 Stearns Adult river rafting vest. L/XL $54.95

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6155ORG-08 Stearns Adult river rafting vest. XXL/XXXL $60.95

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Pacific Northwest Caddis Hatches

Trout that are fattened on Caddisflies can generate a lot of energy !!!

In the Pacific Northwest, Caddisfly hatches are a major food source for stream trout from spring to late fall.

Elk Caddis Giant Caddis Tied-Down Caddis
(TW)Elk Caddis Smooth Water Caddis X-Caddis
We are told that over 250 different species of caddis inhabit our local streams.  
These can be broken down into manageable categories. Listed by body color, size and frequency, you would probably wind up with something like this:
1. brown body 14 - 16 5. bright green body 14 - 18
2. black body 16 - 20 6. gray body 14 - 18
3. tan body 14 - 16 7. cream body (water moth) 14 - 18
4. olive body 14 - 18 8. orange body 6 - 12

This selection is for rivers that drain both west and east slopes of the Cascade Range. These can be rain forest mountain rivers to the west and desert rivers to the east. Within this region there are a great diversity of habitat types to be encountered. Incredibly, these rivers have very similar caddis species. This does simplify fly selection a bit. Be aware however, that there are more than a few wild cards out there....And that is why our caddis pattern selection is so large.

ADULT CADDIS photo by Jim Schollmeyer. 

If you are a serious fly angler, you can never know enough about the organisms that trout prey on. The easiest way to access this information is through good reference books. We highly recommend The Hatch Guide For Western Streams by Jim Schollmeyer 

…resting caddis adult…

Many of our customers do not have perfect eye sight. Recently we have been experimenting with dry flies that are tied with wings made from highly visible materials. Fluorescent Antron is easiest to see and adds floatation to the fly.

The concept isn't new. Several years ago I read an article by George Harvey which touted the virtues of highly visible dry flies. The better you can see your fly, the better you can fish. You can detect strikes easier. But more importantly you can control drag better. Controlling drag will get you a lot more strikes.

I used my clients as guinea pigs. Even young anglers with good eyesight fished better with the hi-vis flies and often complained when I ran out of them. These are called the Twilight™ and are marked with (TW). The way the flies are tied, the bright wing topping is only visible from the top and the trout aren't even aware it exists. They like 'em. Of course for you non-believers, we still offer the old stand-byes.


12-pound river anchor

Custom River Anchors

When you park you boat in moving water the first and most important item is, "secure the boat". Nothing is worse than seeing your boat floating off "un-manned". Our anchors are designed after traditional drift-boat river anchors, but some are scaled down for smaller, lighter weight pontoon boats and rafts. During the 15-years we have been producing these anchors, there have been many incremental changes in their design and construction to make them fit pontoon boats better, to make them hold more securely and to make them more durable.  There are no sharp edges that will damage your boat or anchor rope during casual contact.

Remember the longer the scope on the anchor rope the more the anchor will hold. Twelve pound anchors are for boats from 8' to 10' in length.  Twenty pound anchors are for boats from 11' to 13' in length.  Thirty pound anchors are for pontoon boats to 18' in length, drift boats and small jet boats.  These anchors are mad from solid steel, which is much more durable and less polluting that lead. Shipping is free in the USA. Remember anchors are heavy to ship. After some deliberation in the area of environmental safeguards with our shop people and our largest supplier of pontoon boats and floating products (Outcast Sporting Goods), we have decided to not supply LEAD anchors to

12-pound river anchor under an Outcast boat...
 the public. We have marketed Steel anchors of our own design for some time, though we have (until recently) used LEAD on our own watercraft. We find that steel holds as well as lead in all conditions, without the environmental risks that are associated with lead. There have been many watersheds in recent years that are no longer allowing lead to be used as weight while fly fishing (though alternatives are allowed). If fisheries officials are thinking a few grams of lead on your leader (X- many fishers) can lead to adverse water conditions, then it is not really a quantum leap to think what a 30-pound anchor might do. While the lead anchor will leave residue on the river bottom during normal use, many of us have seen (or experienced) lost anchors on the river bottom in the past. We wonder what a 30 pound lead anchor might do if left in the river for many years?  We are grateful to Outcast for going this direction also.      We have no desire to point the accusing finger at any boater for using ANY type of anchor at this point. The past is, well, water under the bridge so to speak. As we progress in life (actually fishing), we learn more about what we do. Getting more information causes us to make a higher level of informed decisions.      We enjoy an ongoing discussion about our fisheries at our shop (as you might imagine) and what is best or not for the fish we seek. Regardless of our personal opinions, we try to avoid  any political issues as we are running a business, not an opinion clearing house. We have found that in the past it is always better to lead by example, not by authority. We practice catch and release, we believe in barbless hooks and we pack out what we packed in. Now we no longer use lead anchors.  
Item Description Price To Top
ANCHOR1 Custom 12 lb. River Anchor $46.00

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ANCHOR2 Custom 20 lb. River Anchor $62.00

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ANCHOR3 Custom 30 lb. River Anchor $101.00

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Email From Josh Linn, Sandy River, AK
Hope all is going well. Just thinking about you guys and thought I would give you a little update. We just got our satellite dish up so we have communication with the outside world again.
Today when I was guiding, I was showing this guy how to improve his Snap-T cast. Like  a lot of people he was rushing the lift and not waiting  for the sink tip to come part way out of the water. I took the rod from him to show him how he was doing it, and how I though he could improve it, and  I made a cast, 60' or so, then looked over at him and said, "did you see how
much better that worked?" As soon as I looked over at him the fly got sucked down and the rod was just about jerked out of my hand I didn't do anything hoping the fish wasn't stuck or would not go crazy. The guy hadn't noticed what had happened.  I tried to give him the rod back and told him to try it, he said he wanted to see how to do it again. I said ok, stripped in the line till it came tight and set the hook knowing full well what was about to happen.......... All hell broke loose! I tried to hand him the rod but he didn't want anything to do with it. At that point I didn't have much choice and could see it was a heavy fish, and chrome bright. At that point I decided to show him how to really fight one of these fish and put the wood to it. I clamped down on the line and didn't let him take an inch. We were standing on a gravel bar in the middle of Scotts run.  There was a little gravel bar down below us to land the fish on. The fish was pretty heavy and I didn't know how heavy the tippet was. His rod was a Thomas and Thomas 15'10wt, the weapon of choice on the Sandy.  The rod doubled over like a willow branch. I could hear the line humming under the strain of the fish.  I kept the fish in close to me and under control, trying to get 
him dizzy, by moving his head from left to right and making him do summersaults in the water. I had him on the beach in just a few minutes. It was quite a good fish covered in sea lice, chrome bright, about 44" long and still full of energy. I got him back into the river before he even knew what was going on. I think I was more worn out then he was.

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Mark & Patty


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