Owyhee River, Oregon
Flow Rate: 302 cfs
Air Temp Midday: 92 degrees
Water Temp: Not taken but cold
On Saturday, June 15th at 6:45 AM, we left Eagle, ID, for the Owyhee River. Just an hour and twenty minutes to get to the infamous tunnel on Owyhee Lake Road from my home in Eagle, ID.
Upon the arrival to the river and up to the tunnel, the water was a milky, olive-brown stained color. As we proceeded up river the water started to clear up. It was not until we were within a half mile or less to the Owyhee Dam Park that the water was actually clear. We decided to fish the clear water near the park for the morning and see how things go.
Our first assessment of the water was it looked promising, seeing a few fish just downstream from the bridge and up to the first diversion. A minor midge hatch, small and around a size 20 – 22, was happening but no rising fish. One nice 14” rainbow caught while drop-shot nymphing below the bridge on a beadless Black Top Secret midge, size 20, in the riffle shown below.
We fished for hours hitting as much water up to the first diversion without success. The first PMD seen was around 12:00 PM and there were only a few popping off and no fish to compliment them with a “Hello, I am over here” rise to the occasion. We saw less than a handful of fish rise as of 2:30 PM. Counting the one rainbow mentioned above and what I observed of others fishing around us, only five fish were caught by 5:00 PM.
We decided to head down river to a check a few spots above the tunnel but the water was just too milky. Not seeing anything we felt was remotely interesting, we decided to head back up to clear water and see if we could get a couple more hours in on the water. We saw a few more PMD’s and Caddis on the water and only one fish rise above the diversion near the park.
Again, I went back to the drop-shot nymph setup with a PMD biot nymph size 18 and beadless Hare’s Ear of the same size. I was working the water just below the diversion near the park. I hooked up on one fish to only spit the fly… farm-city on part! The fish were deep in the holes right under the diversion and rarely peaking their heads out around the edges of the seams or tail-outs. With the various little micro currents near the bottom you will need to add some weight to the drop-shot rig to keep the flies in the zone, at least until the water speed has decreased to normal Owyhee cubic feet per second standards.
I moved above the diversion, cruising the shoreline to sight fish. Fish were spotted 25 yards above the diversion. I worked my way into the water, slow and methodically, until I had four fish within nine feet of my rod tip. No takers and clearly interested in something else than what I was offering. Not even a twitch of the head to glance at the fly sliding by them within inches left or right of their nose.
The bite was just shut off for us today. This is a learning lesson not only for me but for my fishing partner, Larry Williams, as well. We looked this trip to the “O” as an experiential challenge to work through the process when the fishing was tough-going. Work the fly you have confidence in and add some variation to your presentation; up, down, swing, etc. There are no bad days for fishing, just days where you might not catch. We all have them and it is good to recognize this is part of the sport.
Take the lessons the river affords you and make use if it the next time you are on the water. This is how we become more dialed in, develop our skillsets, and hopefully share that knowledge with others. Keep it simple and try not to over-analyze the situation. The premise and purpose for our time on the water is our passion for the sport, relaxation, and clear the head from our normal daily life routines. But of course to catch fish when they want to play is the goal, today was not that day.
Look for my next write up in the coming weeks on the Big Wood River above Ketchum, ID, near the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (NRA) headquarters where the North Fork Big Wood River converges with the Big Wood. Also, at the end of July I will be heading to Henry’s Lake area to fish the lake, Henry’s Fork River, and the Madison River from the Three Dollar Bridge stretch up to Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn.
Thanks for reading,