Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Deschutes River, June 1 1966

I was on the Deschutes last week, not fishing really, and I spent some time reading excerpts from a Deschutes river Journal; June 20, 1950 – March 1 1981; by  Thomas Burgess Malarky.

More than one passage was intriguing.  This one I’ll comment on today.

(Quote) June 1, 1966.  Perhaps trout fishing’s basic fascination is this; no certainty; no sure thing.  Motivations of these native rainbows are often mysterious,  Wy they chose t rise; why they don’t.; why they suddenly go wild in 50 degree water; why , when the situation is ideal, you can’t move a fin – – -why, why? (End Quote)

Thomas was writing about the Deschutes near Dant.  1966 marked the summer between my Junior and Senior year at Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon.  Most likely, I was fishing the Metolius, in the Canyon upstream from the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery.  I would have been fishing Green Drake and Red Coachman Special Parachutes.

My Junior year at OSU was complete, or nearly so.  I would also have been getting ready to report for My ROTC Midshipman assignment, aboard an LST home-ported in Yokosuka, Japan.

June dry fly fishing on the Metolius was glorious. Many of the trout I caught were hatchery fish.  Some, I believe, were wild.  I never thought much about the differences between hatchery fish and wild fish then.

A small but dependable number of giant rainbow and brown trout would taunt me once in a while; just often enough that I remembered their usual lairs and had a sense of hope that I might catch one.  For all intents and purposes, I never did, although in precise fact I did hook one monstrous rainbow and nearly hooked a big brown, both on dry flies, over the years I fished there.  The rainbow was a fish of steelhead proportions, and quickly spooled me in heavy water.  The brown was 24″ and deep bodied.  I know this because the fish succumbed to my friend, James (Jim) Beggs, a week after rejecting my dragging parachute fly.  Jim went back to the pool after hearing my story, waded out to the very same rock I had fished from, hooked the fish, and took it home in his wicker creel, as was our custom in those days.

June on the Metolius was, of course, Green Drake time.  June was also the time to fish a giant maroon-bodied Mayfly,tied on a size #8, 2-XL Mustad 9672 forged-wire hook.  The body of the fly was a red/maroon Peacock herl, with a small gold oval tinsel rib; the hackle was full and large, grizzly and fiery brown.  The tail and wing post were white calf tail, tied in a continuous piece from tail tips to the clipped wing post.  I have seen these huge red mayflies bring the largest trout of the season to the surface in the pools between the hatchery and the mouth of Canyon Creek.  I do not remember ever seeing this insect in the Metolius in the upper river, say, in the vicinity around Camp Sherman  or the Campgrounds before the river descends to the House on the Metolius waters.

I learned about this giant dry fly from Jim Beggs.  Jim, like many Metolius River regulars in those times, purchased many of his flies from Audrey Joy, a full-time professional fly tyer who worked several days each week in the sporting goods section of the Portland  Meier and Frank Department Store.  I remember days and days, upstairs in the Sporting Goods Department, talking to Audrey while she tied flies on a rotating vise her husband had fashioned from a treadle sewing machine.

Much of this diversion into historical reminiscence is just a way of noting that a trifle forty-something years has not diminished the fascination Mr. Mularkey and the rest of us anglers hold have with fish and our obsessions with fishing.  It is possible, perhaps likely, that Thomas Malarky fished with some of the parachute flies I tied for Norm Thompson’s.  He and I knew some of the same people.  Although I never had access or knowledge of the Deschutes Club waters, we shared much.  Perhaps he fished he Metolius on occasion.

Forty some years from now, and another forty, and so on, I hope that men and women are still wading the waters of the Deschutes and the Metolius in June, waving fly rods in the air, hoping to entice trout to rise, wondering why they often will not, and leaping with joy when they do.

3 thoughts on “Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Deschutes River, June 1 1966

  1. Very cool story and fly. Nice of you to share. Can you tell a little bit about the variation? Is that just the egg laying version? What is the green on on the front then?
    Thanks, Mitch

    1. Hey Mitch. The fly you enquire about is what we called a Female Adams, as if the Adams was an actual bug. Tied on a Mustad 94840 in sixes 10 – 14, the yellow butt was intended to portray an egg sac, and we were quite serious about the effectiveness of this fly when the “Adamses” were laying eggs. Oh-my-gosh, how silly is that? The Olive head is an addition I applied in the 1980s. I remembered a tri-colored Bucktail pattern tied by Audrey Joy in the 1960s for one of her customers. The angler’s thinking went something like this: trout may be keying in on a certain color or on the shape/size of the insect, but why not give them a choice of several colors on one fly? So instead of simply finishing the head of the female Adams with grey Nymo, i dubbed in an olive-green head so as to give the trout a hint of Green Drake impression. Never had a trout tell me if this is all loon-talk, but the fly continues to float high and catch fish well. The Giant Red Coachman Special Parachute is really a distinctive fly and the bug is even more so. It has been so long since I have fished the Metolius in June that I don’t even know if the insects are still a major component of the hatch these days. JN

  2. Fun to think of where your flies ended up, where they were fished, how they were lost, and where they might still be hidden…all good stuff to occupy the mind of a salmon fisher while he’s waiting for September.

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