Sunday, May 10, 2009

South Twin Outing: The weather was changeable, as was the fishing

Spring time high lakes fishing is often a crapshoot. The barometer can drop in an instant and take the fishing with it.

The weather report for our weekend at South Twin Lake was not encouraging. Cold, rain, and wind gusts up to 30 mph. Why the hell would anyone sign up for that kind of misery? Paul Ellis and I asked each other several times on our way over the pass that Saturday morning. For myself, I think it was the hope for big browns across the way at Wickiup. That and the fact that one only gets so many early-season days to fish, and I had a weekend pass from the wife. I dressed for the worst.

Driving from Portland down I-5 to Hwy 58, over the Willamette Pass to the Crescent Cutoff, to Cascade Lakes Hwy, to S. Century Drive to South Twin took only three and a half hours. We pulled into camp and were greeted by Paul Vitello. He gave us the lowdown on who all was there and where the fish were found. According to his fish finder, they were sitting down 20 feet or so. No big fish had been landed yet, but lightning had nearly struck twice for Vito, as he almost had his rod yanked into the lake by a vicious strike while rowing along the south shore. Alas, no hook up. And no great argument for us to forsake Wickiup for the few hatchery fish found so far at South Twin.

As promised there was cold and rain and wind, but not nearly as much wind as we feared. And the rain was just few drops here and there at first. Once Paul and I got into Wickiup and kicked our tubes up into the north end where the Deschutes comes in, we found a few browns running 12-14 inches, and one very chunky rainbow that was all of 20 inches. The fishing was slow, but there was just enough action to keep it interesting. Unfortunately, after over four hours in the water our frozen hands no longer wanted strip that wet line. When we got back to camp we compared notes with everyone else and found that we had the better fishing.

Here's a shot of Paul working Wickiup's Deschutes Channel.

Despite the absence of Andy and the Road Kill Grill, the nine of us put together a pretty decent group smorgasboard. We shared drinks and stories around the raging campfire provided by the downed tree bucked up by the Hollenbecks.

Then the rain came. All night we could hear it pounding the tent fly. Or so we thought. When I poked my head out the tent at 6am, instead of rain I found falling snow. I hunkered back into my sleeping bag to rest up for what I expected would be a frenzied camp-breaking retreat at the first break in the weather.

Here's the view out the front of our tent at 9am.

Three hours later we emerged, ate breakfast and assessed the situation. Ron and Carson donned their gear and headed for the lake. I wished them well. Here's a photo of them set to launch, with Ron extending to me the traditional angler's salute; and another of them on their way to cold futility.

While I didn't have much hope for fishing success, as breakfast settled in and Paul and I broke camp, not only did the weather seem to be fining up, but with everyone else bugging out, the lake seemed very pristine and inviting to me, and the thought of spending a couple hours dragging a line seemed more than reasonable. I know Paul was still thinking about how cold and useless his hands got the day before--when the weather was better. Yet somehow I gently persuaded him to go for it. Maybe it was the offer to let him use my Type V sinking line to get him down that 20 feet or so where the bigger fish were supposed to be.

I hit the water with my Type II and counted it down for a minute and slowly worked an olive seal bugger in 10 inch pulls. I wasn't in the water five minutes before I met Ron and Carson on their luckless way back in. Moments after they relayed their sad report I hooked up and landed the first of 13 9-12 inch hatchery rainbows that slammed that bugger in the 150 minutes it took me to circle the lake. Paul did the same, I think. We found fish further from the edge than what we expected. There were some places where we found more fish congregated, but we never hooked anything big.

Fishing aside, the wildlife viewing was excellent. I saw bald eagles, ospreys, a plunging kingfisher, many ducks, a spectacular wading white heron, and even two otters working their way around the lake in the opposite direction I was heading. We even heard the haunting call of loons.

The weather was interesting, too. While we were on the water we got alternate bursts of rain, sun, hail, and even a little wind. I took this photo of Paul with some blue sky in the background to show all you guys who abandoned the effort early what you missed.

Paul and I agreed, all in all, it was a pretty good time on the lake. We were glad that we gave South Twin a shot. But I couldn't help thinking about the bigger browns we probably missed out on over at Wickiup. D'oh!