September 26, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Fall's the time to cast a local line

September 26, 2011
September 26, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Fall's the time to cast a local line

Fall’s the time to cast a local line

By Lily Raff McCaulou / The Bulletin
Published: September 26. 2011 4:00AM PST

Several years ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend fly-fishing in southeastern Oregon. For three solid days, we flogged three different rivers.

Cast after cast after cast and not a single bite.

On the way home, we drove past Drake Park and watched a man pull a trophy brown trout out of Mirror Pond. He carried it by the gills, its tail almost scraping the sidewalk.

“See?” I said. “We should have stayed home.”

It’s no secret that Central Oregon is a fisherman’s paradise. The lower Deschutes River — north of the Pelton and Round Butte dams — is famous for summer steelhead and rainbow trout. The Metolius is also renowned for its big, aggressive bull trout.

But not all of the places worth exploring are wild or remote.

Almost every day, I see at least a handful of people fishing in downtown Bend and the Old Mill District.

They represent the entire spectrum of the sport, using everything from hand-tied flies to metal lures to cubes of Velveeta cheese speared on a hook.

These anglers seem to represent all of Central Oregon, too. Some are decked in waterproof waders, wielding expensive fly rods. Others wear jeans and cast beat-up bait rods.

Sometimes I see a fisherman carry his catch to a nearby encampment, where I assume he cooks it for dinner.

There are children just learning to fish, as well as teenagers, baby boomers and seniors.
If their collective knowledge could be compiled somehow, it would make quite a fishing guide. That’s another thing about Bend’s urban fishing: It’s a pretty well-kept secret.

You can find up-to-the-week reports on the Metolius and Lower Deschutes at outdoor supply stores, on fishing blogs or from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Guidebooks offer page after page of advice for fishing these relatively pristine bodies of water.

Good luck finding a report for Mirror Pond, though. Or for any stretch of water within the city limits.

I bring this up because Saturday was National Hunting and Fishing Day. The holiday was established by Congress in 1972 to thank hunters and anglers for spending billions of dollars a year in license and tag fees. That money funds habitat restoration and wildlife studies.

Sportsmen contribute another $280 million a year to conservation organizations. And they pump billions more into private businesses by buying gear, fuel and lodging.

But an even better reason to fish has nothing to do with economics.

When I started seven years ago, I began to look at rivers in a new way.

Where I once saw a generic stream, I now noticed deep pools and fast-moving riffles. I learned to predict where fish were lurking.

And I learned to identify native plants on the banks, which offer shade and hiding places for fry. Soon I recognized invasive plants, erosion and other problems, too.

Rivers were coming alive, and I was learning their language.

I suddenly had the tools to explore this complex world that winds under our bridges and through our parks.

If you haven’t experienced it yourself, early fall is a great time to string up a line. You don’t have to go far.

Most streams in Central Oregon are open for trout fishing at least through Oct. 31. Mirror Pond is open year-round. Anglers 14 and older must have a valid Oregon fishing license.

For details, visit or call ODFW at 541-388-6363.

My favorite fishing-obsessed author, Ian Frazier, writes: “People like to live near water, so they and fish are natural neighbors.

“If a city or town has shoreline but no fishing of any kind,” he continues, “something’s wrong. How can you trust a place like that?”

And why would you want to?

Lily Raff McCaulou can be reached at 541-617-7836 or

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

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An aerial view of a body of water.