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Trout Fishing on the Williamson River in Southern Oregon | Outside

The end of June and early July mark one of the great insect events on the Williamson River when the largest mayfly, the Hexegenia, casts its shadow across the water.

If the Hex hatch happens, it happens at dusk.

Until then, we were fishing for streamers.

A line of speech bubbles. A trail of white foam. Jagged rocks on either side of the tail and a ridge of shattered basalt visible below the surface.

“The thing we’re doing here, Gary, is tossed into the fresh water, let the current strain the line, then feed it to the tongue, let 10 feet out, then back out with two pull-ups and a break.”

Craig Schuhmann, a Klamath Falls-based fishing guide and editor of the Flyfishing & Tying Journal, was on the sticks. Larry Zeilstra was in the back seat and I was in the front, my knees stuck in the casting splint.

Craig started telling me about fishing an “old” fiberglass fly rod, but then we remembered he was fishing in a fiberglass drift boat and we all laughed.

A tributary of Upper Klamath Lake, the Williamson River drains approximately 3,000 square miles of southern Oregon. Connected to the food-rich lake, trout migrate to feed and then return to cool off in summer.

I forgot to bring a shipwreck line. Craig disconnected a reel from one of his rods for me and the 5 weight line was well suited for glass.

On the business side, there was a burgundy leech, sparsely knotted in the style of southern Oregon.

Perhaps on the third throw, a fish was pulling at the fly with the line bellied. Downstream in the next hole, a fish caught the fly at the end of the swing. This time the rod loaded with a good fish. He fought hard in the cool water, jumped twice and, long and muscular, showed himself off the gunwale before his last run.

In the net, it was the miniature rainbow trout. Nineteen-inch Williamson’s Rainbow-fed Klamath Lake, a landlocked rainbow trout from the Klamath Basin, moves up the river to escape the heat of the lake.

A breeze blew through the river canyon, cooling us a bit in the 101 degree heat. We drifted down a few runways and pulled a no trespassing sign, started an uphill repair and let the heavy current pull the line tight and through the hole, probably 5 feet away. deep with a basalt ridge behind that broke the surface of the river.

A fish tore off, pulled out 20 inches of shock loop and charged the boat, then exploded under a ledge. Gathering the line into my mouth, stripping it hard to keep it taut, I just had it under control when the whole line again burned through my lips, through my fingers and the fish was back on the reel, the support exposed on the spool.

Instead of jumping, he wallowed deeply and I saw him twice before the hook pulled back, a 6lb at least.

Shaking, I felt the point, cut it to 4 inches, and retie.

After bringing in a 20 inch rainbow, one of my best fish of the year, I lost three other big fish in a row.

Craig tossed us into the water with frogs and we took refuge in the shade of a low ridge. A beautiful place to hesitate. A few of the large yellow mayflies began to appear, then struggling on the surface of the dark water, drying their wings, breaking free and flying.

I switched to a graphite rod that I had attached a 3X leader to and a big yellow imitation Hex parachute on. Craig handed me a Floating Hex Nymph created by the late Klamath tyer Dick Winter.

We threw towards the shores where the trout were starting to come up now that the sun was low in the sky.

A 5 mile float offers time for reflection. We watched the trains, the cars go by on the tracks and reflected in the river. One image in my mind is a 4 pound rainbow 3 feet above the surface, its red striped body reflected in the water it just spouted as the fly emerged from its surface. lip. Trout fishing in central Oregon is an embarrassment of wealth. Taste the Williamson, hold his luminous treasure for a few moments, and let it slip through your fingers.

Boiled trout along each bank. We throw to ride rings. In a hot summer evening punctuated by 21 catches and a dozen fights and five fish brought to my hand, the Hex hatch was a frantic moment where we measured our throws, lost track of our flies and struck sounds. and splash.

We floated the last half mile in total darkness, through narrow tracks carved out of basalt, under a bridge, under bonfires in the mirror of the sky.

Gary Lewis is the host of “Frontier Unlimited TV” and the author of “Fishing Central Oregon”, “Fishing Mount Hood Country” and other titles. Contact Gary at

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