There’s a nice little lake just south of Bend Oregon, two awesome lakes actually, East Lake and Paulina Lake. They are both crater lakes in the Newberry Caldera within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Paulina Lake is at just over 6,300 feet elevation while East Lake is slightly higher at just under 6,400 feet. Give or take on each of those measurements. Not trying to Wiki it here, just trying to give the general idea. The caldera was formed by an eruption over 500,000 years ago. The main inflow for the lakes are rain, snow and some hot springs. The hot springs are what gives the cautionary warning on consuming too many fish from them – natural occurring mercury. I’m not for fishing stillwater fisheries all that much, so no worries on over exposure and consumption and turning into some sort of mutant super fisher with a fly rod for an arm and a net for a sac. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful place to hike, camp and sometimes fish.
I prefer East Lake myself, it covers slightly less area and is much smaller in depth and volume, which gives a feeling of intimacy with the water and fish. It’s not too massive and deep where you loose yourself or targets, i.e. fish. Not to mention the weed bed that pretty much encompasses the lake allowing for copious amounts of said targets. One of the big reasons to head there is the Callibeatis hatch. Massive amounts of bugs and fish feeding on them. Another good reason is the lakes elevation.
We’ve been getting some unusual, or maybe it’s the new norm – global warming and what not, high temps for this time of year around here. Just last weekend it got near a 100, they’re still hovering around that gnarly three digit number. That’s above 15 more degrees than the years past averages. So when a buddy offered to take his canoe up there for us to fish it I said… “Sure why not. I guess we could.” Like I said before, I’m not much of a stillwater fly fisher which is why my enthusiasm for the proposition seemed less than optimal.
However, the more I thought about it as I readied my gear for the next day the more I thought about the predicted temps and the elevation of East Lake. Temps up above would be cooler than down below. Fishing this stillwater started sounding better. Especially when compared to my original plan of battling the massive swarms of black blood sucking clouds of mosquitoes in the heat on the Upper Deschutes for brookies. The next morning we loaded his boat and were off to slightly lower temps and swarms of friendly grayish Callibeatis. Upon arrival my mood swung around again – “Holy crowded ramp / lake / bank / campground Batman!” People everywhere. With motors going and diesel and gas smoke rolling. Dang! I knew it would be crowed but… dang.
Nevertheless, we put in and started paddling. Another friend met us at the lake and was going to join us with his float tube. We where heading towards his “spot” as he called it. He was up at East the weekend before and said he did really well/ I noticed there where fewer people over in “the spot” which made me sort of skeptical. Given this crowd, and If it was a sweet spot, why wouldn’t there be a line and a ticket dispenser to fish it? But I shrugged off the skepticism in hopes of shaving the cynicism. At least we were paddling away from everyone.
As we paddled over some deeper water I looked down into clear glacier blue water. I felt bad for the fish’s volubility from overhead predators but took great joy in the ability to view such a beautiful underwater world. The crowd was dwindling in view, sound and mind. We were engulfed by swarms of delicately fluttering Callibeatis. I spotted a riser, then another. I heard a take behind me. I looked down and spot fish cruising. I started taking line off my reel and wondered if I’ll be able to connect to the electricity of my current surroundings.
I missed a handful of takes. Remembering stillwater ain’t my game. I had a talk with myself and actually listened. Setting the hook stillwater fishing has a subtle difference to it than doing so river fishing. Everything has a slightly slower rhythmic feel. The fish are methodically cruising in search of food, rather than a rushing trough of water conveying food to them. You have to give a split second more for the fish to take the fly. Their lurking towards it not darting out of a lie to nab it. Hook up!
I might try to fish stillwater a bit more, but it would take a more comfortable flotation device. Like a drift boat. Not that there’s anything wrong with a canoe.