Everyone has their own reasons for liking, or not liking the desert. Enter your happy place and let imagination take over to discover your own personal desert lure.
Here are some examples for like the desert. The colorful sweeping panorama. The presence of fauna and flora, seemingly so exotic from non-desert geographicals. Maybe the simple scent of dryness.
On the dislike side maybe the lack of moisture at first glance everywhere you look. Too hot seems to be a big one. So little green. You add your own items to these lists.
My best like of the central Oregon high desert was the dryness. Living in the Portland area during the fall, winter, and spring requires your feet to always be wet. You get used to it, and go about your business. However some little niggling thought about getting dry encroaches into your thoughts as spring wanes and summer waxes like the cycle of the moon. Being dry (except when in the river) was my trigger to head over the hill to Maupin and the Deschutes. The local Redside rainbow was a perk after I started hooking them.
Now I am telling you my trigger was being dry, but trying to hook some of the fabled Resides was my desert lure, and the lack of angling success made me focus on the dry angle instead of the catching fish angle.
This photo is with permission from photographer Dylan Rose firstname.lastname@example.org, and Emerald Water Anglers. This fish looks exactly like my first!
The section of the Deschutes I was exploring is an “Artificials Only” section of water. Initially I brought my spinning gear, and tried a few lures with no success. I began to just take my fly gear after those first couple of times. What the heck was I supposed to use?
The fly guys I was talking with pretty much all said little bitty flies were the ticket. Heck I had only begun to use nymph patterns, and was far more familiar with dry flies. I couldn’t see the itty bitty things on the water, and had no idea of what the take even looked like on this massive volume of water. I had to find my happy medium.
While examining the fly selection in GI Joes one afternoon, and talking with another shopper about the Deschutes, I saw a crawdad imitation. It was much larger than anything everybody was describing to me but what the heck. I had seen all kinds of crawdads in the river where I had been camping, and knew crawdads were a common food source for most fish. I bought one.
My next trip to Maupin featured the same old swing technique I was familiar with, and the same old results. Fish zero, and angler zero. That evening another angler I was friends with put the bone from his steak in the river right at the shore under some little bankside willow trees. After five minutes, or so, we went over and looked where he had placed the bone. The bone was crawling with crawdads, and fish were dimpling the water only a few feet from shore! I figured now would be a good time to try the crawdad.
My first couple of cast and retrieves featured swarms of smolt pecking at the crawdad imitation. It was too far for me to cast to the seam of faster water from where I was, so I moved upriver a little to present into the area where the smolt were active. A couple of casts here taught me how to make the presentation, and how to duck from casting my first weighted fly! Bap, right in the back of the head. (Dirty word, dirty word)
I can keep going here, but I am remembering this as if it were yesterday instead of 30+ years ago, and this post is getting a little long. So to sum this up, I did learn to cast, swing, and steer a weighted fly. The learning curve for this was pretty easy, and the reward was a voracious strike on the crawdad imitation. I brought to hand my first Deschutes River Redside trout. The way it batted, and stripped line, I thought the fish may have been a whopper. In reality the fish was about 15 inches long, and as pretty a trout as I had ever seen. The moniker Redside was evidenced by the blood red stripe from nose to tail nearly as wide as the fish itself. Spectacular! Yay, I finally had a story to tell about Ketchinnee, and a new Desert Lure.