September 9, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Catch and relief

Sep 10, 2010

September 9, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Catch and relief

Catch and relief

Wet day at Fall River Fish Hatchery didn't put a damper on family fishing trip

By Betsy Q. Cliff / The Bulletin
Last modified: September 09. 2010 11:17AM PST

When we planned the fishing trip, it was 95 degrees in Bend. When we arrived, on a Saturday a few weeks ago, it was 47.

And raining.

My hopes were not high when we pulled into the parking lot at the Fall River Fish Hatchery. In the car, we had discussed that I would likely be taking our 11-month-old son back to a warm bookstore or coffee shop in nearby Sunriver while my husband fished with our friends.

The baby, we figured, wouldn't last more than a few minutes in the rain. I worried that neither would I.

We were, fortunately, wrong. The entire family had a wonderful time fishing, walking or looking around the river.

That's worth keeping in mind as we head away from the summer, when nice weather is nearly a guarantee, into more meteorologically inconsistent seasons.

Fall River Fish Hatchery is a 40-acre site with a sprawling lawn that surrounds fish ponds and several private residences. It grows primarily rainbow trout; the stock came originally from the nearby Crane Prairie Reservoir.

“It's about as native a fish for this area as we have available,” said Phil McKee, manager of the hatchery. For years, he said, hatchery staff trapped fish in Crane Prairie, though now they breed them from the fish already living at the hatchery.

These fish are stocked in the Fall River, though McKee said some of the fish in the river are native.

The river is open to fly-fishing only, and you can keep two fish per day; both must be 8 inches or longer, and only one can be larger than 20 inches. As with other Oregon rivers, you must have a license to fish. Licenses can be purchased at many fishing or sporting goods stores.

The Fall River emerges from the ground as a full-size spring and runs about eight miles before emptying into the Deschutes River.

Along most of the shore, it's beautiful. The dry coniferous forest surrounding the river gives way to meadow and wildflower-lined banks while the river plays over small falls and around bends.

The water is incredibly clear. Even from the shore, it was easy to spot fish in the river.
Downstream from the hatchery, private ownership of the land restricts access. But, there's plenty of good fishing to be had near the hatchery and upstream. We spent our afternoon within easy walking distance of the hatchery. The river is wadable, though that certainly is not necessary as plenty of good water can be reached from the banks.
In fact, as we found, you don't even need to leave the lawn on the fishery grounds to land a fish.

(Full disclosure: I did not actually fish the river. I agreed to watch the baby through the afternoon, instead. Fortunately the river is small enough and the trail is good enough that we could get close to the action.)

The rain continued on and off through the afternoon, and we found there are a few advantages to fishing in foul weather. First, the rain knocks down the crowd.
The Fall River hatchery can get crowded on summer weekends, McKee said, with both visitors and anglers. We saw a few people there, but most came and left quickly, on to drier and warmer places.

Second, fish can sometimes be more active in foul weather. “They are very wary when the sun's brilliant,” McKee said. “When it's windy or overcast, they have a lot more cover.”
And last, it can be easier to sneak around the river. There's no shadow on the river to betray the fisherman's presence.

Late in the afternoon, as the rain abated, the fish began to feed like crazy.
From the shore, I watched one particular rainbow as it came up over and over again. It waited patiently near the bottom of the river, letting mayfly after mayfly float over its head. Then, at some moment, the fish came up for a strike, causing a small ripple and retreating quickly back to the bottom of the river.

My husband and friends caught several rainbows, most about 10 inches or so in length, though we did not keep any of them.

For me, especially once the rain stopped, entertaining the baby was easy. There was plenty of lawn for him to play on, an easy trail to walk and, best of all, the car was in easy reach when we needed a snack or another toy.

At the beginning of the week, I had pictured lounging in the sun next to the stream. Instead, it was a blow-on-your-hands, wear-all-your-layers, turn-the-car-heat-on-full-blast kind of trip.

And, at least on that day, that made it fun.

Betsy Q. Cliff can be reached at 541-383-0375 or

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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