Fishing at Crane Prairie… and Other Thoughts

So it doesn’t always have to be about politics, as I often say. Those of you that are just Facebook friends or Twitter followers probably get the other impression, but please understand this: the reason I care so much about politics is because it affects us all–and in particular, if we don’t solve some of the problems on our table soon, like student debt, wealth and wage inequality, climate change, education, infrastructure, etc., those things are going to catch up with us… and then going fishing, kicking back with a few drinks, posting incessant pictures of your children on social media (I kid, I kid–and don’t worry, I’ll have one soon)–that stuff won’t be as easy to do. I can’t make that point emphatically enough: this party we’re all on is going to end–badly–if we don’t come together as a nation to solve our problems…

But anyhow, onto the fishing.

Crane Prairie is a reservoir just a little southwest of Bend, OR, and it is an awesome fishery. Before you head up there, understand: it’s one hell of a challenging place to catch fish as well. This past trip was some of the best fishing I’ve had there, preceded by one or two skunkings and a lot more days where you catch a couple, but never really get into any hot action. Of course, just one fish like this will get you coming back.

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A nice 22-inch toad! Anyway, I caught all my fish on flies–most were on chironomids (red and brown) under a strike indicator. I did manage to get a few on dry Callebaetis too.

So here’s the basic deal with fishing at Crane during the summer: you’ve got to find deep holes/old river channels and work those areas hard. The best tip I can give anyone for lake fishing in general is that if you aren’t catching fish, you’re either in the wrong spot or using the wrong stuff. Or both. If you can find the fish on a lake like Crane, you’ll probably catch some fish. Heck, a lot of guys on Crane do really well with powerbait. In terms of flies, a chironomid, or several chironomids fished under a strike indicator is a really solid choice. Wooly buggers, damsel nymphs, Callebaetis nymphs and dries all have their place too.

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On this trip, I fished mainly in the Deschutes channel, which is easy to access from the resort. That channel is really tough to find and it winds all over the place–the main thing to do is find the deep holes and anchor far enough away from them so you don’t spook the fish, but close enough to cast in.

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So I had two pretty good days. On Friday, I got out on the lake about 9 am and had to paddle around to get my bearings. I hooked and lost a couple of really nice fish on the flats using Callebaetis nymphs and dries–if you can find fish that are rising, a good move is to do a dry/dropper–it’s a really fun way to fish.

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After that, the wind came up, so I set about finding the channel. I put on a chironomid under a strike indicator and kept moving until I finally found a really nice deep spot. Then is was game on. Now, it’s not as if I was catching fish every five minutes, but I’d get a strike about every fifteen. I ended up hooking about 10 and landing 6, which may not seem like that amazing of a day–until you consider the size and quality of these fish. Of the 6 I landed, 3 were in the 15-18 inch range, and the other 3 were right around 20 inches–the biggest one was about 22. Of the 4 I lost, at least one was 5 pounds, and two others were in that 16 to 20 inch range. These fish are absolutely hot! Several took me into my backing and all of them made the reel scream.

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Now on Crane you can usually go with a 2x, 3x, or a 4x leader and be just fine, but if you know you’re around fish and still having trouble getting them to bite, go light. I fished 5x flourocarbon leaders–no, the big guys I lost didn’t break me off–but that really seemed to make a difference. On Saturday, the second day, I caught 8 fish, the biggest was that 5 pounder I was looking for–about 24 inches! Sorry I don’t have a picture–he decided to say goodbye while I was trying to get a grip on his tail (it’s surprisingly difficult to take pictures of your fish when fishing alone). Anyway, while I was catching fish after fish, everyone around me was struggling. Yes, it does take more patience to land the fish with a lighter leader, but I played them as quickly as possible, never took them out of the water for more than a few seconds, and was very careful to revive them before releasing. Most blew out of my hand like rockets, so it’s pretty safe to say they were just fine.

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A word on that: when releasing fish, make sure to handle them as gently as possible–I recommend a soft rubber net–and take them out of the water only for a quick second to snap a pic. And if you can tell a fish is struggling, don’t take a picture: I didn’t on several of the trout I caught because I wanted to get them back in the water ASAP.

So over two days (fishing from about 9am-4pm), I caught 14 fish and hooked over 20, averaging around 18 inches. Pretty freaking awesome…

Anyway, I had a few thoughts as I watched the sun set over the Cascades:

1) It’s probably really difficult for people that live in rural areas–who’re surrounded by that kind of raw, natural beauty–to get their heads around climate change, and the pressure we’re putting on the environment through consumption and overpopulation. On top of that, rural life is fueled by gasoline: tractors, trucks, boat motors, generators, etc. When one lives 40 miles away from the nearest store, that fuel is a lifeline. Gas is portable, can be used in multiple ways, and is easy to store.

That isn’t to say that urban life isn’t fueled by gasoline–it is–in reality, probably more so than rural life. But our use of gas is less conspicuous, less apparent than it is out in the sticks. So anyhow, conservatives tend to live in more rural areas, and my guess is that the reason they don’t mind the Republican stance on climate change–which is barbaric–is: A) because they live in places that are incredibly wild and beautiful, seemingly beyond reach of human interference, and B) because they use oil and gas in so many different capacities in their day to day life.

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My hope is that people who live in rural areas start to realize that we can’t hide from climate change–they just instituted “hoot owl” restrictions on almost all Oregon streams, which means you can’t fish from 2pm til the next morning, because the water’s just too warm for the fish. I can’t remember that ever happening before in Oregon. They’ve put similar rules in place in Washington and parts of Montana.

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Yes, when you’re up on Crane Prairie, it’s hard to imagine how human beings and our activities could possibly touch a place that beautiful–but we are. That’s just not up for debate anymore.

The good news is that we can do something about it. So let’s get to it, rather than arguing about if it’s even a problem.

2) Ironically, that’s the problem. We have one party, the Democrats, that while sometimes compromised by money (which I point out often on this blog), are at least aware of and talking about real problems that affect ordinary Americans, and the planet at large. Republicans, on the other hand, aren’t focused on solving problems; indeed, they often deny their existence or ignore them. In this sense, voting for a Republican is basically a vote against solving the problems we face.

Wage and wealth inequality, student debt, climate change, investing in infrastructure, money in politics, reasonable gun restrictions… Republicans don’t care about these issues. Instead, they’ve got the conservative base focused on illegal immigrants, Ebola, Iran, or whatever other red-meat issue that will make people mad and afraid.

We need both parties focused on our problems–real problems. So I hope conservatives remember that for all of their fear and anger, voting for someone that’s screaming about Iran, Obama, or illegal immigration isn’t going to help them in anyway, shape, or form. Rather, it just perpetuates our state of political paralysis.

3) I’m sad for humanity in its present state.

Sorry to be such a bummer, but we, as a people, kind of suck. I mean, there’s just a real lack of courage out there–a lack of willingness on the part of way too many Americans to do anything that is the least bit risky. To this day, most of my friends and family won’t share my blog on Facebook. They’ll read it–and I know for the most part they agree with me, but they won’t share it. They won’t even like it. Even that is a bridge too far, an ask too big, a prospect too scary.

Now look, if I was out there saying that the Holocaust never happened, or that we should become communists, or that white men should pay a tax for their privilege, then I could understand. If what I was saying was so outrageous, offensive, or unreasonable, then I could understand. But it’s not. ChuckingRocks is about stating the truth and standing up for the interests of ordinary Americans. Is this sometimes uncomfortable? Sure. But Democracy isn’t about what’s comfortable–it’s about coming to a consensus as citizens about how to solve our problems–especially those that are uncomfortable and difficult.

And that’s the way it is with so many things. It’s not just about me, or the blog, but the lazy, apathetic, cowardly zeitgeist that exists in modern America. We’re trapped, especially those in the middle and upper class–but perhaps also as a society–by a benign sort of hedonism. It’s not cool to talk politics. It’s not cool to care too much about anything, for that matter.

And meanwhile, everyone’s out doing awesome things and bragging about it on social media. And it’s fantastic–everyone should enjoy their life to the fullest extent–heck, that’s why I love to get out and fish as often as possible and forget about anything but the present moment and what fly the fish want to bite.

But not everything is awesome–and not acknowledging that–indeed, lacking the courage to say something about it, because we’re concerned what someone might think about us for a small moment, or worse, because we’re just not aware of what’s going on through a purposeful choice to stick our heads in the sand… that’s just sad.

Imagine how much better our lives could be if everyone had the courage to speak their mind, to acknowledge the problems we face, and to attack them head on, instead of papering over everything with photos on social media?

I guess, it occurred to me, sitting alone in a boat on a lake, surrounded by the stunning Cascade Range, that to a large extent we’ve become drones pressing buttons on digital idols, as mindless as Pavlov’s dog, drooling when the bell rings. And when it’s coupled with the kind of apathy that exists in regard to the state of this country, the lack of interest in participating in our Democracy, the sheer cowardice and selfishness that’s intricately woven into the core of modern America, it’s sad.

And it’s sad, because it doesn’t have to be so… Human beings are capable of incredible acts of courage, intelligence, problem solving, art, athleticism, and beauty. And to reach that apex of human accomplishment requires time, deep thought, reflection, and purposeful action. Most of all, it requires courage.

Let’s hope our society remembers that.

About The Author: Jay Scott

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