Steelhead Muddler

Tying A Purple Steelhead Muddler

Steelhead season is in full swing here on the Deschutes river and throughout the Pacific Northwest. A purple and orange muddler will get it done wherever you swing flies for steelhead. Happy tying and fishing.

Steelhead Muddler Recipe 
Hook: Daiichi 2110 Bomber
Floss Body: Glo Brite Fl. Fire Orange floss
Dubbing Body: Angora Goat Purple
Tying Thread: Uni Thread 6/0 Purple
Underwing: Squirrel Tail Hot Purple
Wing: Mottled Oak Turkey Matched Pair
Hackle: Guinea Fowl Hot Orange
Horns: Lady Amherst Center Tail Orange
Head; Deer Body Hair Purple



"Deschutes Angler this is Alex."

"Was calling to see if you think steelhead fishing is going to be worth it, this year."

"I think steelhead fishing is worth it every year."

"Ha. But are numbers good? Is the river in shape?"

"Numbers are in line with the ten year average thus far, and the snow pack is strong. The White river has not been an issue yet. Knock on wood. I do not think we are going to see a repeat of last season."

"I just spent a lot of time fishing dirty water for not a lot of fish last year and I am hesitant to make the trip again."

"I get that, but that is part of steelheading. It is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind. Plus what are you going to do instead? Work everyday?"

"Well I have to think about it, will let you know."

"Sounds good but remember you can not catch one if your boots are not wet!"

I have had this phone conversation on several occasions already this year. I and everyone else at Deschutes Angler understand that the time and money it takes to go fishing can be rare commodities. However, if you wait to hear good reports you have already missed it!

Swinging flies for steelhead is about the process and having faith in the process.. A little violence at the end of the line from time to time is the icing on the cake. Viewing it as such is what enables you to endure poor returns, blown out rivers and whatever else mother nature has to offer.

Confidence in the process comes from time on the water, success and good instruction. And this is were my sales pitch comes in.

If you want the best chance at hooking steelhead and more importantly want to expert instruction on casting and presenting your fly do a guide trip with a guide at Deschutes Angler. Or better yet do a two or three day camp trip. These trips are an immersion program in steelhead fishing and each guide at Deschutes Angler is a certified steelhead junkie and a damn good instructor. If you cut us, we bleed steelhead! Our steelhead calendar is filling up but we still have dates available. Don't forget about August! It has long been one of our favorite months on the Deschutes. The majority of the fish are wild and they are chrome!

If you are unable to do a trip stop by the shop next time you are in town fishing and ask questions. There is a wealth of information to be gleaned from the, sometimes foggy, brains of everyone here at Deschutes Angler. Every staff member truly enjoys talking steelhead behavior and fishing when engaged with smart questions. We are open seven days a week 8am to 5pm. Come in or give us a call at (5410)395-0995. Its time to steelhead fish!



Lift, lift, lift, lift... My voice grows hoarse after a day of spent caddis fishing in the tree lines of the Deschutes River. Did you see that fish sip your fly? Haven't seen my fly today. Okay then. We have to figure out a program so that when I'm not on your shoulder whispering in your ear to lift, you can hook these sippers.

When you are fishing spent insects, primarily caddis in the summer months, it is very important that you can lock on to your fly in a target rich environment. Most trout will give you one shot. You miss him, it's over. In order to even get the fish to look at your fly it has to be matching the source as well as laced up with 6X. That's right, 6X. These fish are laying up in water that has a high surface tension ...glassy. Usually under the cover of shade. I know, I work for a fly shop that sells flies. 6X typically means more flies left in the tree branches. True, but without 6X you are diminishing your chances significantly. These trout have a bit more time to scrutinize your imitation and if we are representing dead caddis, then we need to take into consideration that tippet diameter will be noticed. So, can you use 5X fluorocarbon instead of standard mono? No. Fluorocarbon's advantages are best suited for subsurface fishing. Both will displace the same amount of water and be just as visible to the suspecting eye of the trout. So, what is the answer short of a new prescription where I bring my fly box in to the optometrist to use in place of the standard eye chart? Two flies! Oh great I loose two at a time. Great advise from a fly shop employee. It gets better! Just like a dry-dropper combination, you substitute in that size 20 caddis behind a size 16 para something or another. Don't put that size 20 behind a chubby. At least the size 16 parachute won't offend anyone. Use a shorter tapered leader. This is where a 7 1/2 foot 6X tapered leader works wonderfully. These aren't big open casting situations. A typical cast uses about a rods length in fly line and generates just enough energy to turn over a shorter leader in confined spaces. The rule of thumb on how far back should I hang the second dry fly is the approximate height of the overhanging obstruction. If the branches are two feet then give yourself two feet between them. Any longer and you will be buying more flies. Don't expect that the parachute is going to act like a strike indicator. This is only used to give you an idea where the lil'guy is. If you see a nose tip up...lift.


Its Still Trout Season!

If you took a poll of the employees at Deschutes Angler regarding their favorite month to trout fish the Deschutes, June would be your winner. 

The big bugs are gone but the fishing is just heating up. Hydropsyche, Rhyacophila and Glossosoma caddis species are the all hatching this month. Meaning there are lots of bugs on the water all day long. It is time to sight cast to bankside and back eddy sippers!

Why do we prefer small bugs and light tippets to the heavy handedness of the salmon fly hatch?

1.      Technical—the guides at Deschutes Angler have long been compared to bird dogs. We seek out and point on rising trout. These trout are spooky and selective. Perfect drifts and the perfect imitation are essential. However, they are catchable especially with one of us by your side.

Inspecting a natural 
2.  Consistency—during the salmonfly hatch we hear people lament inconstant fishing and the lack of rising trout.  Stoneflies life history is such that they are not readily available to trout on the surface. Surface attacks are aggressive but inconsistent. You will rarely see trout working with any rhythm while eating stoneflies. This is not the case during caddis season.  In the evenings you will see trout rising in riffle to eat both emerging and egg laying caddis. In the mornings and afternoons large numbers of dead caddis can be seen floating in foam lines. If you stop and look close you will see trout snouts just barley breaking the surface.

3.  Vacant Boat Ramps—on the same float that we might see 27 boats on during the stonefly hatch, it is common that we are one of only a few boats floating and fishing during June. Hard to beat a good day of trout fishing on a “private” stretch of river.

Don’t get us wrong, we enjoy the salmonfly hatch. Who doesn’t love big bugs and explosive rises? But the season is not over when they are gone.  It’s just getting going! Give us a call at Deschutes Angler (541)395-0995 and let one of our Bird Dogs show you the excitement of small bug season. 




I have had the chance to fish 3 days so far this year for steelhead on the Deschutes. I have not touched one yet. But it does not matter. I have been able to fish with three good friends and have had the chance to watch day come to and go from one of the most amazing canyons in the world. It has been a lot of fun. I have enjoyed the process, the fish will come. 

-Alex Gonsiewski
Deschutes Angler Guide Staff


Steelhead Racing Up The Deschutes River

Have you been watching the steelhead numbers flowing over The Dalles dam complex? We have.  Sure, it sucks having restricted fishing hours below Macks Canyon. Big dam deal! With the next tsunami of triple digits, fishing in the evening is a loosing bet anyway. The Moody gauge topped out at 68.5 yesterday and that number will most likely grow over the next week. But wait, all of the water above Macks is business as usual. We have clean cold water with reasonable temps allowing you to fish until your arms fall off. We've had fresh chrome swimming all over Maupin the last two weeks and very few anglers know about it. Remember, we have forty miles of walk-in access opening the river to all...all day!

Wanna float and can't get a boaters pass to save your dying grandmother? No surprise. The BLM has decided, in their infinite wisdom, to turn the town of Maupin into the "new" Shaniko (Eastern Oregon ghost town). So, what do you do to let the BLM know that they suck? Call them 541-416-6700 or email them BLM_OR_PR_Mail@blm.gov ask for Amy Bannon. They could give a shit that the local businesses in town rely on the boating access of the Deschutes River to support the entire economy. Ask any BLM official on the river as to why this is happening and they'll look at you with the "deer in the headlights" look as they stammer to come up with anything sane. Our conversations with the BLM have fallen on deaf ears. Folks are just simply not coming to the Deschutes because it is impossible to float the river for the day unless you know to stay up til midnight, keep your fingers crossed that you beat someone to the punch and score a boaters pass. How do you plan a vacation to the river with your family when you can't even guaranty that you'll get to float? You simply can't. This system does not work for anyone! But whatever you do, don't float without one. Officials are foaming at the mouth to write tickets to violators for a few hundred dollars a crack and with four or six of you in a boat...cha-ching! Who needs to sell boaters passes with this new revenue stream. You all have voices...LET THEM BE HEARD!

-Steve Light
Deschutes Angler Guide Staff



We hear it every single day at the counter here at DAFS:

Dude..."Where do you keep the bead heads?" 
Clerk..."Have you been dry fly fishing?" 
Dude..."Nope, no fish rising." 

Look, this isn't merry old England where gentleman only fish to rising trout. We are capitalistic pigs wanting to capitalize. You know where they hang out...right? If you wait to see fish rising, you had better bring an e-book and a flask cause you might be a while. Dry fly fishing, contrary to popular thought, occurs all day long. Whaaaaat? TROUT MUST EAT TO SURVIVE! Pretty basic logic. So, what do you put on to convince a non-rising trout to rise? Now THAT question beats the hell out of "where do you keep your bead heads?" Here's the short answer, in the early mornings be ready to fish mayfly spinners the moment the sun greets the water. These are quiet moments when the fish yawn and rub the sleep from their eyes. I'm sure you've seen the long tails and delicate flights of mayflies in their final cycle of life. As they die on the water their bodies gently glide across the surface of the river and get washed into the foam lines that flow along the edges of the river. Foam is HOME and exactly where the trout eat breakfast. The rises are subtle...if you think you saw something crease the surface...you did. Now the sun is blanketing the canyon and the breeze is rustling the Alders. Last night there was a blanket hatch of caddis flies, and the ovipositors (egg layers) are now at their final resting places in the trees and bushes along the banks. The breeze moves the branches and the Alders deposit the dead into the river like a giant "Pez" dispenser. Again, if you thought you saw something...you did. If you want to catch a trout on a dry fly then commit to the task! Sure, these fish are in tough spots. Under the lowest of the branches, hiding in the foam lines along the bank, under the outreaching tall grass, the places where most anglers refuse to fish. There's poison oak, blackberries, snakes, and no trail! These places are the home to the largest trout in the river. If it has a trail, well used, move on. 



During the cold months of the year, lake fishing is largely ignored. In large part this is due to most lakes freezing clean over until early spring.  Yet there are years, like this one, when the weather is relatively mild and the lakes are free of ice with happy trout gorging themselves on a variety of aquatic insect life. The fish haven’t been pressured or harassed in months and now freely and non-selectively prowl the waters for their next meal. This presents a great opportunity to wail on big trout outside of prime season but we need to change our tactics to succeed.
 It is important to understand the dynamics of a lake in the winter. With the cold air permeating the surface thermocline the warmer water is pushed to the deeper portions of the lake. Surface temps. can read 2 to 3 degrees colder than 10 to 15 ft. down in the water. This means the majority of the food and fish will typically be found in the warm deep parts of the lake as opposed the shallows where they are found in the Spring and early Summer.  So forget about fishing the shallow ends of the lake unless fish are consistently rising.
 Mornings are going to be the slowest part of the day because the water is at its coldest. The best plan of attack is to string up a full sinking line with a medium to large leech pattern. It is important to make a nice long cast and then wait for the line to sink fairly deep before retrieving the leech back. Most full sinking lines have a specific sink rate to gauge the depth of the line over a period of time. Count the time the line sinks and vary it until you find the depth where the fish are feeding. Also vary the strip from a fast retrieve to a slow retrieve until you find the pace the fly needs to move. Typically in the colder water, a slower retrieve will prove to be more effective.
As the day progresses and midges begin to start hatching, it is usually a good time to start chironomid fishing. Typically in the spring and early summer a 3 to 4 foot spread between the fly and the indicator is all that is needed but in the winter the spread needs to be larger. There is definitely a thermocline that the fish will be gorging themselves on chironomids, so adjusting the depth is important until fish are caught on a consistent basis. Sometimes this means lengthening the leader out to 12 or 15 feet to get the fly down to the feeders. Make sure that the majority of the leader below the indicator is 5x tippet and tie the chironomid on a loop knot to get the most natural presentation.
 From mid-afternoon until 4 p.m. be on the lookout for the water boatmen hatch. The adults lay the eggs by diving into the water and swimming down to the bottom of the lake. These egg layers are an easy target for feeding trout and the fish key into them quickly. Fish a sub-surface water boatmen on a floating line in water 4 to 6 feet deep. It is important to vary the retrieve until you find the speed the fish are after. Water boatmen are erratic swimmers so short strips, 2 to 3 at a time with a pause in between will be the most effective retrieve.

Be adaptable and willing to change flies and lines to adjust to the varying conditions with an emphasis on fishing deeper than usual and success will be had. Remember to be aware of insects and change according to what is occurring at the moment. If all else fails start experimenting with different patterns and presentations. 



Ask any trout angler on the water about “Spey casting” and they will demonstrate the, oh so familiar, two handed figure eight. Right? Then it’s usually followed up with, “but I don’t steelhead fish”. Then there’s the ardent veteran steelheader who’s only solace is swinging a fly with his two hander employing his fine-tuned skill.  When you ask this angler about trout, he’ll exclaim, “I love Spey casting to big fish”. Fair enough. What neither angler realizes is that the Spey rod and its quiver of casts can be effectively used to pursue a huge variety of swimmers. Once exclusively used for searching large waterways for large anadromous species, the conventional Spey rod just got a new lease on life.

You don’t have to wait until the summer brings fresh chrome to your local water way, there’s a whole season of Spey casting out there just waiting for you. You might already be a trout fisher, steelheader…maybe both. You do, however, enjoy the hell out of Spey casting because it’s smooth, effortless, effective, and lots of fun.  Remember those moments when you were swinging your leech through a juicy fall tail out and… WHACK!!  You enthusiastically declare FISH ON!! Line peels off… then it jumps and just like your ice cream scoop plopping to the pavement... trout.  Your buddies let out a roar as you halfheartedly wind ‘em in on your thirteen footer, un pin the leech, think to yourself…”damn, if I would have caught this bad ass during the trout season on my five weight  I would have been squealing like a little girl”.

Guess what? Turns out, you can confidently let out that squeal while catching that giant trout on a spey rod. If you are using the right tool for the job. That tool is coined, “Micro Spey”. These two through five weight rods have lengths stretching from ten to eleven feet or so. Don’t think of this new category of rods as a re-named switch rod category. Switch rods they are not. The most notable difference between the two designs is the taper or flex pattern. Switch designs are fast (firm) through the mid sections with a loose (soft) tip to accommodate the tension casting of giant strike indicators and to mend great lengths of line in order to achieve massive dead drifts. The “Micro Spey” category’s principal taper design is that of a conventional Spey rod. These rods feature full flexing tapers able to precisely place dry flies and soft hackles in precarious lies, like in the middle of the damn river, or send a sculpin on a section of T8 to a cavernous cut bank in search of a meat eating predator.  That mid river hawg rolling up on salmon flies has been out of range. Until now!  You just opened up a fresh can of whoop ass.

Now that you’re all jacked up on Spey casting lets discover some awesome tackle options for you to explore. Most of the major players in the two handed category are providing a small offering of appropriate line weights and lengths for this new endeavor. The most notable in this category would be the RL Winston Rod Company and the Anderson Custom Rod Company. Both rod manufacturers have had a steady stream of top producers in the conventional Spey and switch rod categories.  Termed “Micro Spey” Winston has set the bar pretty high with this series.  Light swing weights and smooth tapers greet the angler with effortless casting and control. Winston’s BIII TH Micro Spey series consists of a 10’6” 3 weight, 11’ 4 weight, and an 11’6” 5 weight, an ample selection for the budding enthusiast. Expect to see more “Micro Speys” from RL Winston in the future. Gary Anderson’s “JHC” series has a little more depth.  This series includes an 11’7” two and three weight, 11’9” four and five weight, and a 12’1 and 12’5” five weight (double duty summer steelhead). Gary has designed these rods with “Spey casting” in mind. These are not your typical chuck-n-duckers. These sticks are built with hyper sensitive graphite for ultra-light tippet protection and delicate presentations to selective trout anywhere in the river. The casting accuracy of these rods for their length is akin to a single hander. These new rods are equipped to handle the largest trout without compromising the fun factor.

Another caveat to these rod sizes is that your current fly reels will feel right at home on a “micro”. Without the need of capacity for large diameter Spey lines, your conventional six weight reel will be typically adequate for most, if not all, of these rods. The line designs are scaled down versions of conventional Spey tapers, so, finding a match is not complicated at all. Lines are currently being designed to handle a great diversity of application without the complication of changing heads for various conditions.

Okay, so there’s the scoop on the “micros”. Now…the how, when, and the where. For our neck of the woods, spring time is a complicated transition time for trout anglers. The hatches are sparse, the river is big, and the trout are, it appears to be, hibernating. You ply the typical waters where you have been finding fish in the past with minimum success. You know the fish are hanging out in their living room waiting for something more than just a BWO to drift by. These fish are hungry. Don’t give them a hand full of peanuts when you can serve them a prime rib on a hook, figuratively speaking of course. That could be construed as bait fishing. Contrary to popular opinion, these oversized rainbow trout do eat fry, smolt, crawfish, sculpin, various leeches, and assorted “off the menu” items. These are the trout that you don’t see milling about the back eddy looking for spent caddis. This adds another element to “matching the hatch”. Rope up a rusty orange bugger or a woolhead sculpin and sink it into the abyss on a chunk of T8, give it a twitch, and hang-on.  You already know how to do the steelhead two-step, so covering the water is automatic for you.  Now that you’ve warmed up to subsurface presentations… what about the behemoth Redside gobbling up salmon flies mid river? You know the fish that can’t be caught?  Grab a Chubby Chernobyl, don’t be shy. Strip a pile of line off the reel. Set up a sweet anchor, rip a 70 foot “snake roll” to the mid river and watch this beast get lit up when you surprise the fins off of em’.  I just got goose bumps!

So, whether you are the trout angler day dreaming about the “un catchable” or the vet scratching his head and thinking…trout? In April, May, and June Deschutes Angler Fly Shop will be conducting one day workshops on trout fishing with “Micro Speys”. We are here to introduce either of you to your new “micro” friend. The class will focus on adapting casts to conditions, an introduction to the tackle, rigging for the right presentation, and most of all applicable fishing techniques. Contact the shop today to register or enquire about a purchase.


April 25th
May 30th
June 13th

SCHOOL PRICE: $195.00 per angler




Written By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski

Premature mending effects 3 out of 4 anglers. No creams, pills or mantras can help those effected by this condition. But the trusty guides at Deschutes Angler can help you.

Rule One:  Don't mend until the line and leader come tight and downstream of you
Rule Two:  When you mend, don't Trout mend i.e. Flick the line. Pick the line up, move the line and set the line down on the water. Everything should remain tight.  
Rule Three:  Keep the tip of the rod on a downstream angle. 30 degress or so. Mend towards the far bank. Not upstream. 
Rule Four:  Leave the rod in that position until you feel tension on the line.
Rule Five:  Follow the line with the rod tip until the rod is pointed downstream.

Following these rules will present your fly in a manner that is irresistible to steelhead. If they are there. They will eat!