Fishing in the cold winter months can be challenging on many different levels -- cold hands make for difficult rigging, trout aren't in feeding mode, and it's just plain uncomfortable dealing with gloves, layers, hats, etc... The best part of winter fishing is the lack of other anglers out on the water. There are few other anglers to work around, so the water is your oyster. With the new STRIKE coming out, we decided to take on the Deschutes River with KC Badger, Kayla Lockhart and our photographer Clay for one final photoshoot and test.
You should probably know a little about me and my role at Far Bank. My name's Ethan and I'm the Community Manager for Redington. This means I get to go on all kinds of amazing adventures with our folks in the field. I learned about euro nymphing through by the competition scene during it's formative years. I've been incredibly fortunate to fish with, and learn from some of the best trout anglers in the country, all of which has lead me here! Now, let's get back to the good stuff.
We met Kayla Lockhart and KC Badger at the Deschutes Angler to get our boots studded (which we were glad we did), while grabbing a few last minute items. Amy, the owner, is an absolute legend. She's full of personality, anecdotes, and was extremely helpful with suggestions. After getting geared up, we headed to the first spot, Kayla and KC had fished before.
We would be targeting rainbows and whitefish using the 10'6" 3wt version of the new STRIKE. Paired with the TILT reel, RIO's FIPS line, and a custom micro leader from a formula I learned from the competition scene.
While KC and Kayla were stuck filming (thanks Clay) near the car, I scrambled down to a spot on the bank where I found some walking pace water on the edge of a run. I made my first cast just off the edge of the faster moving water, saw my 4x micro leader do something weird, so I set the hook. Wouldn't you know first cast, first time on the Deschutes, equals my first fish! The new STRIKE performed flawlessly in close casting quarters. It was accurate and handled the smaller fish, no problem. I was stoked and equally concerned I cursed myself for the rest of the day. Luckily, that wasn't the case, as I landed 2 more fish within minutes, then headed back up to check on everyone.
As CEO of the euro-nymphing division at Far Bank, I made the executive decision to move immediately after catching fish. You should never leave fish to find more, but I wanted all of us to be able to wade, and get a good feel for the rod in more open conditions. We headed downstream to a spot that was more wade-able. Kayla and I started to pick apart the water, and KC decided to do KC things and fish a streamer with another prototype rod we had with us. KC was silent when I heard his drag going crazy from upstream, until I heard "guys I got one," Clay and I hustled downstream to find KC hooked up to a summer steelhead. Unfortunately, the fish never turned and broke KC off on the jagged river bottom.
Kayla and I didn't have much success initially. We were fishing a 4x micro leader, RIO's Fluoroflex Strong in 4.5x, with a TB Rubber Legs, and RIO's Rain Drop as our dropper in Purple/Black, and Olive/Silver. I find when fishing in winter it's all about figuring out the correct water type. We didn't catch any fish in shallow runs, or anything faster than walking pace as expected, until we found a large slot alongside a run that averaged 2-3ft deep. That's when it got weird.
I was fishing below the A water in the run, picking my way through some underwater boulders, and immediately started catching fish. I noticed the fish weren't taking aggressively, so started to key on every movement in the sighter, or small bump I felt in the rod. Almost every odd pause or tap was a rainbow or whitefish. I landed several, and 2 in the 15-17" range that put up a phenomenal fight for winter rainbows, then decided to go bring everyone else up as I knew they were stacked, and I hadn't even touched the best parts yet. This little flurry of action gave me the best opportunity to evaluate the rod. It was as accurate as any rod I'd fished in its range, it had the sensitivity necessary to detect subtle eats, and had the backbone, but flexibility to play fish quickly while protecting light tippet. I was super impressed by the balance, overall weight, and after finishing I realized my leader had rarely wrapped around the tip, thanks to the double snake guides. Overall, I knew we had made a competition worthy euro nymphing rod with upgraded features that meant less time rigging, and more time catching fish.
I brought the crew up to the spot, both KC & Kayla were immediately into fish. Kayla ended up landing several including one feisty bow, that kicked ass. We ended the day around 4 so we could drive home in what little light was left in the day. Overall, it was an outstanding day on the water, and the Deschutes is often on my mind. I can't wait to get back there to see what it's like in prime time!