Northwest Fly Fishing

By Don Roberts

You can count on two things at East Lake: people, lots of them, and wind. Despite the ruggedness of the terrain and the heaps of pyroclastic rubble, Newberry National Volcanic Monument—where both East Lake and its big sister, Paulina Lake, lie cradled in the slumped crater—is all too easy to get to. The apex of the monument, an enormous coliseum-like escarpment, is located less than an hour from Bend on a paved road that goes right to the top. The place is also all too beautiful.
   Perhaps a responsible writer’s scruples should forbid generating any more publicity. Too late: East Lake is already over-popular. Not to mention that this sublime tract of pseudo-wilderness also happens to be dogged by a laissez-faire philosophy: anything goes, both onshore and on the water—from teeming Bedouin-like campgrounds to convoys of smoke-belching RVs, from Onassis-size motor yachts to muscle-powered millennials on paddle boards. And then, as if the buzz of humanity weren’t enough to contend with, there’s the wind.
   Owing to the caldera’s location—a geologic punchbowl poised between mountains and high desert—it makes its own weather, i.e., wind, often punctuated with hair-raising thunderstorms. Whether you deem the site accursed or blessed depends upon your point of view. What is certain is that the wind will blow at varying strengths, from almost benign to banshee, every day from around 2 p.m., when the caldera warms, until sundown, when the caldera cools. But during the predictably calm periods, at the waxing light of morning and the waning light of evening, the lake belongs indisputably to the most patient of patrons, the fly anglers. For they know that both the crowds and the wind are mitigated by one more thing that can be counted on at East Lake: Callibaetis mayflies.
   If East Lake is not famous for its Callibaetis hatches, it should be. Throughout the season, at midmorning you can expect to witness the ’baetis bounce—the distinctive sight of loose-knit flocks of speckled-winged mayflies frenetically yo-yoing above the water. Though the Callibaetis hatch might occur anywhere at any time on East, the assured presence of afternoon wind tends to buffet the flow of insects from the northwest side of the lake to the southeast side, sometimes depositing windrows of mayflies in various stages of development. That aspect, coupled with the fact that Callibaetis favor the algae- and diatom-rich habitat of weedbeds, means most anglers concentrate their efforts along the perimeter of the shallow shelf at the south end of the lake. As can be expected, the majority of anglers prefer to pursue rising fish, or the promise of rising fish, under the burgeoning glow of morning in the illuminated, Swarovski-clear depths just beyond the weedbeds. A smaller subset of more intrepid anglers however waits until sunset to kick their float tubes or pontoon boats farther out into the lake spooky pre-pitch-black slicks where largest and most wary trout come play precisely prey despite aid headlamps bloom in gloom night closes action including one tactics must switch from visually to the aurally orchestrated.
   Of course, since Callibaetis are multi-brooded, the adept nymph angler may employ the countdown system to probe the weedy shelves at East Lake virtually around the clock, all season long. A number of other anglers appear quite content to constantly rove, dragging a Woolly Bugger behind on a sinking line. Without question, both methods work. That said, for many the main reason (hell, the only reason —to tolerate the madding crowd and maddening wind, is the promise—indeed, the spectacle—of hefty trout very purposefully porpoising from one emergent mayfly to the next. At East Lake it all comes down to a matter of dun and done.

 

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