Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Camp Deschutes

Steelhead camp on the Deschutes River, OR

H: August 12, 2012: I might have to forego a detailed trip report or crank it out in installments. Frankly, I'm completely and utterly exhausted (in a very good way :). I'll just start writing bits til I'm somehow done...

Arrived back in NYC this morning on the red eye from Portland. Yeap, caught my first steelhead. Whoo hooo! But the only picture I have is a somewhat surreal (Hyun in Wonderland) image of me holding a ginormous net with a 29-inch steelie floating inside. I look like a 12-year old kid :). Photo courtesy of Mark Bachmann.

Flygirl Hyun Kounne with her first steelhead, Deschutes river, OR
That's a freakin' huge net! (or a very small flygirl ;)
As Mark likes to say, I caught my first west coast steelhead in a real "big girl spot" (Crocodile Rock). It was our first morning on the Deschutes, just before sunrise. I entered the water, took 1 step forward and was chest high in the river. I shouted to Mark and Kat who were hanging out in the boat, "Hey, the water is really deep." Mark yelled back, "No, you're really short." I guess it all depends on how you look at it. I laughed and preceded to fish.

It was by far the toughest wading I've ever experienced. You had to maneuver over and around a veritable minefield of rocks, logs, and boulders of every shape and size—some as big as houses (ok, doghouses ;). I was so close to a dunking more times than I care to remember. Try playing a game of 3-dimensional Twister in moving water while attempting to fly fish. Even Kat commented that she wondered what the heck I was doing out there at (or performing a weird ceremonial steelhead dance ;).

Mark Bachmann with steelhead, Deschutes river, OR
Mark with my catch of the day.
My first taste of steel would be a 29-inch, 9 pound, hatchery fish caught on the swing with a green butt skunk. It fought more like a super strong stubborn brown than anything. It hunkered down, took several short but powerful runs and jumped once. After 15 minutes of tug-of-war, it was sufficiently tired out and led into the monster net. Mark asked whether I wanted to keep it. I had no idea that was even an option. I yelled over to Kat and without hesitation she replied, "Hell, yes! We're keeping it!" I've since learned that's what hatchery fish are for—eating. It was mighty good eating, too. Thank you, my lovely steelie for an absolutely delicious feast!

Lord almighty! It was hotter than Hades at Camp Deschutes—107+ degrees during the heat of the day. It just sucked the energy out of you. Every day we were up at 4:30 am and on the water by 5. During the afternoons, it was too hot to nap in our tents, so we would try and cool off with a dip in the river or practice our spey casting. Kat, Michele, George, and I spent one afternoon on the river watching each other cast and offering advice and suggestions. It was great fun! We also had a chance to cast all the different outfits we were fishing with.

Besides catching my first steel, the other highlight of the trip was being present when Kat landed her first. It was our turn to stay home and fish camp waters. A beautiful 31-inch wild steelhead took Kat well into her backing and jumped numerous times. She just brought it in as if she's been doing it for years. I had the pleasure of tailing it for her.

Kat Rollin with her first steelhead on the Deschutes river
Kat's first steelhead–a wild one!
Delicious, free flowing Oregon pinot noirs and lively conversation with George, Michele, Kat, and Mark made the trip thoroughly enjoyable. At Camp Deschutes, Mark was our guide, our host, our cook, ...our everything. That's a lot to ask of 1 man. I can't help chuckling whenever I think about the "Phil O'Dendron" story he told us. Mark had lots of interesting stories to share. He knows a tremendous amount about the history and geology of the region. 

I've fished on rivers with 4 different guides during my 3 years of fly fishing and each one was different from the last. I didn't know what to expect with Bachmann... Well, don't expect a coach who will critique your technique. As a beginner spey caster and first time steelhead flygirl, a bit more advice and feedback would have been welcomed. I mentioned this during brunch the second day. I told him I have no problem with a guide telling me what I'm doing wrong or how I can do something better (as long as they tell me nicely ;).

With Bachmann, you can expect to be taken to the best spots for fishing and he'll point out where the fish are likely holding. He might even step in and fish with you (he did just that with Kat and I on our last night). But generally, once you're in the water, you're pretty much on your own... Until you manage to hook a fish, then he'll be right there beside you, videotaping and offering up some great color commentary with his huge net handy. For the experienced steelhead angler and spey caster, Mark is your man. He probably knows the Deschutes better than just about anyone.

Our last stop on our last night of fishing was Humility Run. You're literally backed up against a wall of dense shrubbery and trees, standing on a rocky ledge about a foot wide, that drops off into much deeper waters. To make matters worse, it really started to blow hard. I jokingly asked Bachmann if he had brought us there to teach us some humility ;). He laughed. Before he could respond, I told him  Kat and I were definitely not wanting for any. We were both humbled by the mighty Deschutes and the challenge that is steelhead fishing—a challenge both of us can't wait to take on again!

George, Michele, Hyun, Kat, Mark on the Deschutes river, OR
The gang: George, Michele, me, Kat, and Mark.
Next stop: Exploring the Columbia River gorge and fishing with 2 PNW flyfishergirls on the Deschutes (again) and the Klickitat river in Washington.


  1. Welcome back Hyun ---- and congrats on that beautiful fish. Sounds like you guys were really roughing it. I'm jealous!

  2. Thanks Shannon. Are you still in Montana? Can't wait to hear about your summer fly fishing adventures!