Metolius River During Fall, Quigley's Sparkle Flag, PMD Dun, Jim Teeny Landing Hand

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Metolius River During Fall

The Metolius River in Central Oregon is a tributary of the Deschutes drainage. It emerges from under Black Butte as a fairly large spring creek, but this is only the start. Many other springs feed this river from an underground aquifer for the next ten miles. At Bridge 99 (8-miles downstream from the source) it is a full blown river. By the time it merges with Lake Billy Chinook 28.6 miles from the headwater source it has passed through a steep rugged canyon, and is a raging torrent of aqua blue water turned to white water. At Lake Billy Chinook, the Metolius (about 1,500 cfs) or about one third of the average summer flow of the Lower Deschutes River. The Metolius averages between 47 and 45 degrees in water temperature, and is nearly the same year around. For this reason it is the perfect trout habitat for the entire year around fishing season. All of the trout are wild. Redband Trout and Bull Trout are native. There is also a self-sustaining population of Brown trout which were introduced in the early 1900's. All of the river is regulated as catch and release with barbless hooks. About a third of the river is fly fishing only. On the last trip, Patty and I took a number of rod/reel combos with us, and we use several, but we both settled on our Sage 590-4 ONE rods and Abel Creek Reels. They were the best for fishing for Redband Trout with both wet or dry flies.

The Metolius is famous for dry fly fishing. Hatches are seasonal, but because of the stable water flows and temperature some hatches are nearly year around. Baetis and Pale Morning Dun type mayflies are available nearly every day. So are many sizes of caddis and stoneflies. The coldest days of winter may be an exception, but even then there are often rises to tiny mayflies and midges. The fall months bring many hatches nearly every day during banker’s hours. No reason to be on the water before nine in the morning. Hatches for many parts of the year are over by five in the afternoon. Sizes of insects vary greatly from giant two inch stoneflies to tiny mayflies, caddis and midges. Key hatches are Salmonflies, golden stones, olive stones, yellow sallies, winter blacks, caddis run the whole gambit from giant orange fall caddis, cinnamon caddis, speckled wing caddis. The Metolius is the best mayfly river we have fished in Oregon, with green drakes taking the show in May, followed by pale morning duns, pale evening duns, and baetis mayflies nearly year around. You better come with well stocked fly boxes. These wild trout can be maddenly selective, leader shy, and can spot less than perfect presentations.

During October and into November masses of Kokanee Salmon (land locked Sockeye) migrate upstream from Lake Billy Chinook to spawn in the Metolius and its larger tributaries. Literally the whole river bottom where smaller gravel is allowed to collect gets plowed by myriads of pairs of spawning kokanee. This makes the bottom of the river loose so that aquatic insects have many places to hide and prosper. This fact has to contribute to proliferation of the afore mentioned hatches. These spawning fish also contribute directly to the trout food as well, because of the millions of drifting eggs that emanate from the spawn. We fished Glo Bugs to many trout that were stationed downstream from the spawning salmon. Every one bit the fly the first time it approached them in a natural fashion. We also found that they could often spit out the fake egg so quickly that there was never a chance to set the hook. Only one of the larger egg eating trout was fooled more than once. I watched it eject my glo bug twice before I was able to time the set correctly. Then he simply ran under a submerged log and broke my leader.

A few kokanee still had enough life to also take the Glo Bugs. Most ignored everything except each other. When hooked there wasn't much wiggle left in the kokanee, and we left them alone. Kokanee die after they spawn and there is little doubt the kokanee carcasses fertilize with nutrients that fuel hatches and help grow lots of healthy trout.

The part of the Metolius that we fished is regulated as Fly Fishing Only. That means that external weight, such as split-shot on your leader is not allowed. However a weighted fly on a dropper above your Glo Bug is allowed. We tried various dropper flies, such as stonefly nymphs, weighted caddis pupas and so-on. A few fish fell for our dropper flies, but most of them were whitefish. The trout that were feeding near the bottom were pretty much locked in on the drifting kokanee eggs. The yellow belly mayflies that hatched during the early afternoon provided the best trout fishing. These flies are of the genus Cinygmula, and they are available most calm days during the fall.

 
Quigley's Sparkle Flag, PMD Dun
Bob Quiggly (1950-2012) was one of the most insightful trout anglers of all time.

It had been over ten years since I had fished this place, but the scene was well imprinted in a memory of frustration, and refusals. This was the famous "Idiot Hole" a couple of hundred yards upstream from the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery on the Metolius River. The Idiot Hole is well known as a place of dispare for many fly anglers who have felt completely drainded of confidence after being made into idiots by the well educated trout. Here the gin clear river funnels swiftly through a bedrock cut. The surface currents are continually shifting, one minute calm and smooth, then pulsing with upwellings, and then boiling like a caldren in many different directions with dozens of invisible leader dragging seams. The large, active, visible trout see anglers for hours nearly every day. They often feed continually and refuse hundreds of artificial-fly offerings as they sometimes sip, but often slash real insects from the surface. They are some of the most preceptive, and picky trout that have ever taunted flyfishers.
When I arrived two dozen large Redbands were gliding around, greedlily plucking hapless pale yellow duns from the greasy slick surface. The trout were easily visible with help from my polarized glasses, which were shaded by the dark-underside of bill on my ball cap. I dropped into the knee deep water at the edge of the pool and leaned against a low bedrock wall. This gave me a narrow window behind for unimpeaded back casts. After careful study it was apparent the the fish were taking the flies as emergers and cripples, but were ignoring the healthy duns with upright wings. I chose an emerger pattern, and presented it to the water surface, which was littered with real insects. Watching the fly land and tracking it relentlesly, I watched it disappear into the mouth of a hungry trout on the first cast. But when I set the hook my fly was no where near the feeding fish, and I was fooled completley. For the next fifty casts fish fed all around my fly, or at least what I thought was my fly. Often the fly was invisible, or had been pulled under the surface and was totally useless. Finally that fly was cut from the leaders and the next selection was a Quiggly Sparkle Flag Dun. The hook and body matched the fly size, but the wing-flag made the fly look huge on the water. A trout came and looked at the fly on the first cast, but refused it. The fly had started to drag across the surface just as the trout made its approach. This happend several more times, but now that the fly was so visible, so it was easy to tell when it was dragging. Often the leader had been pulled under several feet from the fly. I shortened my cast to only a couple of feet of line plus the nine foot long 6X leader. this way much of the leader could be held off the water and the rest could be steered down the slicks between the conflicting currents. I picked out a trout that was feeding steadily slightly downstream from me, and steered the fly through his feeding lane, then watched the fly disapear into his white mouth. When I lifted the rod, the trout dove straight to the bottom and went under a submerged limb and the hook came free. It was over in seconds, but the lessons were huge. These fish could be had, and I had the correct tools to catch them.
My Sage 590-4 ONE rod was perfect for this style of fishing. Short, quick casting strokes produced perfect loops, even with only a coule of feet of line and the fine leader. The next fifty casts produced a dozen rises, and several beautiful trout to the hand, incuding one small Bull Trout, a rare dry fly acquisition.
The Sparkle Flag Dun was a big part of the success, because it was so easy to see. That enabled me to place the fly perfectly on the water then steer the fly for drag-free drifts.

Born out of the Hackle Stacker and Sparkle Stacker, Bob Quigley’s Flag Duns are the next best thing to hit spring creek fishing since polarized sunglasses.  The Flag Duns use the “stacker” style wing to float the bugs and insure light delicate presentations without spooking wary fish. The Flag Dun series is constructed with a thread body to create a slim profile that mimics the natural mayfly.  The addition of the flag on the front of the fly gives a wing like silhouette to the fish while providing extra visibility to the angler.
Advantages of Design
1. The Flag gives the angler added visibility while fishing size 16 and 18 flies.  The hackle fibers spread over the top where they catch and reflect light already making the fly easy to see.
2. A very slim body mimics the natural mayfly allowing the fly to fool extremely picky fish
3. The Flag gives the fly a mayfly wing silhouette
4. The Hackle is on top of the fly letting the body sits in the film closely mimicking the natural mayfly.
5. Using a minimal amount of material in the fly and the spread out “stacked” hackle allows the fly to be land lightly which in turn lets anglers effectively fish this family of flies to pickiest trout without spooking them when the fly lands.
6.The Hackle Stacker design is a very durable fly in a category where many of the flies are quite delicate in construction.  This is important during short hatch periods or fading light, when fly changes cost you lost opportunities.
7.The stiff dry fly hackles are easy to dry out with a couple of false casts to keep you fishing rather than changing flies or using desiccants to dry out your fly.
When & Where
The Flag Duns were originally designed to catch picky fish in spring creek conditions.  The beauty of the Flag Duns is its versatility.   This series of flies will fish just as well in free-stone rivers, tail waters and lakes. The angler needs every advantage he/she can get. Apply floatant to the flag and hackle only, being careful not to treat the body or hook. Getting floatant on the hook will often make hook float, and tip the fly over on its side for an un-natural silhouette.
Item Description Price To Top
SIG0921 Quigley's Sparkle Flag, PMD Dun, SIZE-16 Quigley's Sparkle Flag, PMD Dun, SIZE-16$6.75
SIG0922 Quigley's Sparkle Flag, PMD Dun, SIZE-18 3 for $6.75
This young Bull Trout was caught with a Sparkle Flag Dun fished dry.
Below is a video about tying Hackle Stacker Flies from 2010. Sparkle Flags evolved from the Hackle Stackers.

 
Teeny Landing Hand

By Frank Day

The Jim Teeny Landing Hand is exactly as it sounds; a landing hand. It is a mesh hand covering on a retractor clip that allows you a better hold when tailing fish, thus ensuring their proper handling. Studies have shown that steelhead in particular have very vulnerable soft heads, and often times when they are landed in shallow water their bucking results in them hitting their heads against the bottom and surrounding rocks. This causes their post release mortality rate to go up tremendously, but can be avoided by proper handling of a fish that is under the full control of The Jim Teeny landing hand. The landing hand allows you a much better grip on the tail of the fish. When combined with a light grip underneath the pectoral fin, you have complete control of the fish. I recently had an experience where I can say for a fact I would not have successfully tailed a particularly spirited female steelhead without the help of my landing hand. She turned and saw me as I came up behind her hand open, and immediately bolted towards the middle of the river. I lunged in a desperate attempt to grab her. I just got ahold of the lower lobe of her tail, but with the landing hand it was enough fish to hang onto. The landing hand is also large enough for two hands allowing transfer of the landing hand from person to person while handing off a fish. It is as good as a net and infinitely more portable and belongs in the kit of every serious fly fisherman.

Item Description Price To Top
721013 Teeny Landing Hand $21.95
 

 

 

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