Renew your soul in winter
By Grant Lucas
For the Spokesman
Reed Teuscher will go out as much as he can.
He will head to the Metolius River and enjoy what nature offers. Old-growth ponderosa pines will surround Teuscher. An osprey will glide through the air above, and an otter will playfully emerge from the glassy water flowing from the river’s headwaters near the base of Black Butte.
Teuscher is calmed by the water, and he casts out. It is therapeutic for him, as it is for many other fly-fishermen, and it is a great excuse to escape everyday life — and to bask in nature’s glory.
“It’s how I recharge my batteries and get out,” says Teuscher, general manager of Fin & Fire fly shop in Redmond. -“I maintain that if I didn’t fish, I’d be on somebody’s couch once a week telling him my problems. It’s just my way to kind of step out of my life, which isn’t bad by any stretch, but it’s still kind of that way for me to breathe in deep and relax and bring the blood pressure down.”
And it does not hurt to catch a few fish.
During the winter months, many fishing spots may be closed for the season. They are either snowed in or iced over, for the most part.
Fortunately, close to Redmond are two of the best winter fisheries in Central Oregon, according to Teuscher, and they could not be more different.
There is the Crooked River in Prineville, cutting through desert canyons and appealing to anglers of all experience levels. Northwest of Redmond, the Metolius River weaves through old-growth ponderosa pines and provides an area for fly-fishermen to hone their skills.
Just below Bowman Dam lies the best fishing stretch of the Crooked River, agree Teuscher and Tim Porter, fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Prineville.
Porter says that during the winter months, a constant, stable water flow pours from the reservoir above, preventing the river from freezing over and allowing a healthy population of trout and whitefish to habituate.
“It’s a very popular spot,” Porter says. “I’ve even heard fly-angling groups say they’ve had 100-fish days, catching 100 trout a day fishing down there on the Crooked River. They can only keep two (because of harvest restrictions), but they can catch and release as many as they want.”
Thanks to the reservoir, a stream of cold water pours into the river, maintaining its temperature between 40 and 60 degrees, even during the summer. Open to angling year-round, the Crooked River is one destination anglers can anchor themselves in to get their “fishing fix,” as Teuscher calls it, with average targets ranging from eight to 10 inches.
“Fly-fishing specifically is a puzzle,” says Teuscher, who notes that only two insects, the Blue-Winged Olive mayfly and the midge, thrive in the cold weather in this particular stretch of the Crooked River. “We’re trying to find out the bugs that these fish are feeding on. When there are less options, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what they’re feeding on. … It’s pretty easy to figure it out.”
The Crooked River is easily accessible and user-friendly, according to Porter and Teuscher. It runs along state Highway 27, providing ample access from the road.
Teuscher notes that the Crooked River is a prime location for a family outing. If kids get bored with fishing, a rock-skipping contest is always an option.
For the more experienced fly-fishermen, a more challenging venue awaits along the Metolius River. Teuscher says its consistency is what makes it a great winter fishery, but in general, no matter the season, it is one of the most difficult rivers to fish in Central Oregon.
“We try to throw so many things at them, but ultimately, trout are going to feed on what they’re seeing the most of,” Teuscher says. “Because the Metolius is such a rich ecosystem, it has so many options for the trout to feed on.”
From its headwaters to Wizard Falls Fish hatchery, the Metolius remains narrow — about 30 to 40 feet across, according to Teuscher — and more intimate. That stretch of river is what Teuscher describes as the “finishing school of fly-fishing.”
It takes experience to identify the insects fish are feeding on during a particular day. It takes expertise to locate, among the micro- eddies and pockets of water, where fish like the rainbow trout and bull trout — some in excess of 24 inches — are residing.
But for Teuscher and many other anglers, those fish are not necessarily the goals of the getaway. The payoff is more personal.
“For me and a lot of people I know, because it’s such a difficult fishery, you’re going out there as much to rejuvenate your soul as you are to fish,” Teuscher says. “It’s just a great place to be.”