Fishing isn't confined to fair weather months in the Bend area. It takes a little more grit, but the rewards of winter solitude and communing with nature often result in some great fishing. For those who want to chase Bull Trout or Rainbow, winter presents some of the best fly-fishing options available in Central Oregon – without the heavy pressure that better weather brings to local rivers.
Gabe Parr is one of those hardcore fishermen who doesn't care how hot or cold it may be when he goes fishing. He just goes fishing. He's a founding member of the Bend Casting Club and a board member of the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited. He also founded the "Trout Bus" which travels through the area promoting conservation values and, yes, our cold water fishery in Central Oregon. He's one of those fishermen who aspire to fish 100 days or more each year. As a hardcore fisherman, Parr has wise words for those who participate in winter fishing. He says that winter fishing requires much more careful planning. He strongly advises winter fishers to have a dedicated line of communication in case of emergency and to buddy up when fishing. He freely admits that winter fishing can be more dangerous, requires more planning, warm clothing, and often a four-wheeler equipped for snow and ice.
Among the many fly-fishing stores in the Bend area, the Confluence Fly Shop -- located in the Old Mill District -- distributes a fly-fishing report once each quarter. The shop's winter report touts the Metolius River as its favorite winter fishery. Large Bull Trout have been legendary in the Metolius for generations, and winter is a great time to target these big fish. As the Kokanee leave Lake Billy Chinook and head up the Metolius, the big Bulls are usually right behind them looking for an easy meal. For these big fish, streamers such as Dolly Llama, Hawkins Triple Double, and Clark's Rat are some of the Confluence's favorites. The Rainbow catch can also be rewarding on the Metolius during the winter months, and many fly-fishermen will tell you that nymphing below the surface is usually the most productive way to catch them. Right now, Confluence reports that the Silver Stripe Sedge presents almost identical to the popular October Caddis. The shop suggests nymphing with an October Caddis pattern rigged with a Blue Wing Olive nymph following it.
In the winter months, many fishing experts will suggest targeting deeper and slower water. Like anything else, cold weather can take a toll. Fish will conserve as much energy as possible in the winter and tend to congregate in this type of water. Parr says that winter fishing requires a different mind-set and approach than spring, summer, and fall fishing.
Although the Metolius is a favorite winter fishery, there are other opportunities in the Bend area. Flows on the Crooked River drop during the winter as water is stored above Bowman Dam for summer irrigation, so it's a bit easier to wade. Bright glow bugs seem to work well in the winter months.
The nearby Deschutes River is always a popular mainstay among winter fly-fishermen, and many will fish it from Meadow Camp to Benham Falls, especially if they only have a few hours to invest. Experts such as the fishermen at Confluence say the fish are pretty lethargic in this cold water and that dry fly-fishing is generally unproductive. Nymphing and streamer fishing is recommended. Streamers paired with a sinking polyleader can often tempt a big Brown Trout to strike. Again, try to target the deeper, slower water when fishing the Deschutes close to town.
Often overlooked is the Ana River near Summer Lake. Take Highway 31, southeast of La Pine, drive past Fort Rock and Silver Lake to the Ana reservoir just north of Summer Lake. The Ana is easily accessed from both sides of the river as it flows from the reservoir where there is parking available. About seven miles later, it enters Summer Lake. There isn't a lot of pressure due to the high desert location about 90 miles southeast of Bend, so the Ana may present an intriguing option for winter and early spring fishermen.