Wild trout add color to the landscape.

by Scott Sadil

We were over on the Wind River, below the falls, poking around in Madrina, my little beach yawl, looking for steelhead that might have nosed up into cooler, oxygenated currents above the vast pool of slack water created by Bonneville Dam.

Beached on a gravel bar, we swung flies through the lowest run and – surprise – failed to find a fish.

Out of the dense stand of trees on the far bank, a fellow appeared – the look of a guy who might know something. He complimented Madrina. We reported our luck. He said he wasn’t surprised.

“You’re too early.”

So when’s the right time? we asked.

“When the blackberries are ripe.”

A man after my own heart. I love that kind of thing. Of course, the sport of fly fishing, especially trout fishing, is all about timing: When the bugs hatch, the fish feed.

Find the bait, find the fish. But there’s more to it than that.

Roses, for instance. Where I live, you see those dainty pink wild roses blooming roadside and you better have plans to get over to the Deschutes, or else you’ll miss the big salmonflies and golden stones – and your shot at the green drakes.

Pretty trout live in pretty places.

Birds can tell you a lot, too – and not just the swallows or even seagulls going nuts above the river when the bugs start sailing. The first serious trout float I did this year with Joe Kelly, we spotted a tanager, a Bullock’s oriole, a Bewick’s wren, and a lazuli bunting — species that show up only after a good portion of the native rainbows have finished spawning.

Mallard ducklings, a mother merganser herding a raft of little ones, or a pair of geese standing watch over goslings, will also tell you your timing is just about perfect. You were right to ignore the dandelions in the lawn this weekend and, instead, gather together your trout gear and get on the water.

It all sort of fits.  One of my favorite stops, early in the season, is a little creek filled with little trout that’s best fished about the same time you find – or hope to find – morels in the woods. Even if the mushrooms are scarce, you’ll know the time’s right when the wild dogwoods are in bloom, when out of the duff you see the nodding heads of the exquisite calypso or fairy slipper orchids, reminiscent somehow of the tiny jewel-like trout themselves that end up dangling from your bushy fly.

Now’s the time: Native orchids fade quickly.

The trout, like the orchids, are part of the same picture: the scene a nondescript brook tumbling through the forest, the fishing itself absurdly fun, sometimes silly, despite the diminutive dimensions of even the best fish you might find.

A worthwhile outing? Certainly not if your focus these days is the ceaseless list of ten thousand chores clamoring for your constant attention. How’s a trout or an orchid going to help you whittle down that unending list?

Besides, most of us already know the best time to go fishing: whenever you can.


Gray’s angling editor Scott Sadil knows it’s time for caddisflies when his front lawn turns brown, no longer in need of mowing.