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I just returned from a short stay on the Lower Deschutes with Dillon Renton of All Star at their Jet Boat Camp. It was a pleasure to spend time with Dillon, who literally grew up on the Deschutes. His family has been guiding guests here for three decades. His strong work ethic, knowledge of the river, even demeanor and skills as an angler and boatman are truly impressive. As many know, the Deschutes had a large wildfire blow through the canyon early this summer. All of the lower 24 miles of the river was effected to some degree. While it was a different scene than what I am used to, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Yes, much of the canyon walls were scorched and more black than the normal brown. With that said, a lot of the stream-side vegetation survived. Many trees along the river were spared, along with the green grasses right along the banks. Of course some trees were singed and their leaves brown, but I have hopes many of those will be green again next summer. There were some instances where the trees were burned beyond survival but less than was passed through the rumor mill. The best news in my opinion is the loads of thorny blackberries are gone, along with the poison ivy and thick underbrush that was so overgrown in places you could not pass through prior to the fire. Now you are free to walk wherever you’d like and at a pace that was refreshing. No more watching for snakes as you try to plant your foot through the thick grass to the canyon floor. While this was an unfortunate event, wildfires are a natural occurrence in the Deschutes canyon and the vegetation will quickly rebound. Already, green grasses are poking through the charred grounds and the wildlife is still present. We witnessed several bighorn sheep above camp grazing, we saw turkey taking advantage of the exposed bug life and the deer were along the river banks drinking and seemingly fine with their new setting.

The river was also the least crowded I have ever experienced. Even with the holiday, there was only a few recreational boaters and even fewer anglers in the area we focused on. Our group was not overly concerned with numbers of fish , so we enjoyed the freedom to fish the plentiful shaded runs early and late with floating lines and waking or traditional flies. We were rewarded with several encounters and all got an opportunity to feel the electric grab of of a summer steelhead. Fact is, not all can be landed. While the overall numbers are certainly below normal, the peaceful quiet of the canyon and the ability to fish unmolested water each session was pleasing. The Deschutes is such a special place, it’s where I encountered my first steelhead and the overall experience it offers will always have me wanting to return. Having 100 miles of public waters to float, camp and fish is in itself unique. Add the chance at a wild summer steelhead or native redband trout and the Deschutes still shines as one of the finest places to get your boots wet in the lower 48. Below are a few more images of our adventure.


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Notice the charred canyon walls but the green riverside treeline, the canyon is ripe for a quick rebound.

I think we were a bit over loaded…I fished one rod the entire time but it’s fun to have spares if needed.

Jake getting ready….the Deschutes offers a stunning backdrop while swinging flies.

This little screamer ate the waker well in the morning session.

Dana is all smiles while fighting her steelhead.

Dillon pointed where and Dana was able to land her second steelhead ever…happy river moment!

The ride through the canyon is scenic and exciting, but going out is never as easy as going in.