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Wine With Your Fish by Gene Trump

The lake is located about 45 minutes southeast of Portland and 30 minutes north of Salem. The streams that feed this lake originate in the grape-land Red Hills of Dundee. Archery Summit vineyard drapes the north slope of the fishery. Owners Larry and Dot Hays did not opt for the way of the grape but instead, built a lake as a trout fishery in 1980. In 1982, they opened the facility for general catch-and-keep and charged per fish. Along the way, they experimented with seeding the lake with catfish (and a few remain there today). In 1998 they switched to catch-and-release fly-fishing only. Due to the mild temperatures of the Willamette Valley, the lake provides the fly angler the opportunity to catch trout most of the year. So even during the coldest months, instead of tossing the heavy stuff for winter steelhead, Red Hills gives you the trout option for your fly-fishing endeavors. Red Hills is stocked with Kamloop and Donaldson steelhead trout.

They range from 14 to 25-inches with the average around 17-inches. Spawning Channel, Wild Fish With the addition of a spawning channel in 2005, the trout in the lake are self-reproducing. There is no need to plant the fishery or feed the trout because the trout reproduce as they would in the wild. The fishery is unique as it is self-sustaining and not artificially created with pellet-fed planters as are most pay-to-fish facilities. The trout you catch are not planted but were born and bred in the fishery. The result of the spawning channel so the trout can reproduce is not only the wild aspect but the fact that the adults will grow much, much larger. Larry is a student of the science of lake fisheries. He's learned adult trout must spawn to survive. If they can't spawn, they die. For this reason, he built the spawning channel of pools and waterfalls that zigzags down the hillside of the lake. His knowledge has paid off big time. As in nature, you may catch some of the smaller wild off-spring, but their parents have grown exceptionally large. Steelhead size. His wild trout approach affords the fly angler access to naturally reproducing trout that are not only healthy and strong and fight like the dickens, but grow to bragging size. You don't want to leave your camera at home when you fish Red Hills.

The Menu Current entomology research of Red Hills indicates the primary bugs that the trout are most willing to eat are firstly: Chironomidges and secondarily: Damselflies. There's also good numbers of water boatmen and beetles present plus a smattering of caddis and mayflies. The later are toggle-switch targets : the fish are either on or off these bugs. You shouldn't ignore the insects and carry imitations just in case, but you wouldn't want to bet your lunch on the effectiveness of the patterns. Small bait fish skitter in the shallows but after unsuccessfully trying many different streamer patterns, I'm not sure if the trout today (this may change as the trout increase in size) are foraging for the little guys. However, Woolly Buggers and leech patterns do work extremely well when fished toward and along the shoreline so perhaps the trout are taking these flies as baitfish. The jury is still out on the use of streamers.

flyfishingTackle and Tactics A four or five weight system (including a reel with adjustable drag) will easily handle most the trout you'll catch. A larger system isn't needed and an ultra-lightweight rod will cause undo stress on the fish when fighting the big boys into the net. I've found three fly lines will cover all the presentation bases: A dry line, an intermediate sinking (I prefer the clear style) and a full fast-sinking line. At a maximum depth of 14 feet, you could get away with using nothing but a dry line, long leaders, weighted patterns and/or the addition of split-shot to enter the feeding zone. But experience has beaten me into submission so I know exact presentation of the pattern is sometimes a must if you plan to catch trout. Therefore, I stand by my guns and recommend three different lines. Use the full fast-sinking line during the very cold days of winter and the very hot days of summer. In both cases, the trout will hug the bottom so a deep presentation is essential. The intermediate and dry lines can be used just about any time the fish are feeding in the upper water column, on the surface or in the shallows around the weed beds. Frequently, a dry line with an indicator is the only system that will hook fish when the trout are keying on emerging midges. Considering the trout take dry flies, you may want to use an adult midge or an attractor dry fly as the indicator. But don't be surprised if you end up with two fish on at once. Of course, the use of a dry line with a weighted nymph and/or the addition of split shot to the leader will also catch fish. Many regulars at the lake get away with using nothing but a dry line system but they also use leaders ranging from 10 to 20 feet and a fly pattern to match the conditions.

Flies These are the patterns that work consistently for those I know who frequently fish the lake during all times of the year. The patterns are just a starting point. As with all lake fly angling, you may need to experiment with some of your own favorite stillwater flies to dial-in on the feeding trout. I will only suggest a few specific patterns because it rarely makes much difference in your catch rate. If the trout are taking red-colored, size 16, emerger, proper depth and presentation are more important than the nuance of the tie of the pattern. As a catch and release facility, barbless hooks are required.

Midges: Use a size 12-14 red or burgundy-colored leech pattern to represent the larva stage (blood worm). These are best fished close to the bottom, regardless of any evidence of a hatch. For emergers, use sizes 14-18 red, black, olive and rootbeer-colored patterns. Use these during a hatch and just after a hatch comes off. You'll have to experiment on the proper depth for presentation. And of course, if the fish are taking the adults, you can tie on a size 14-18 red or black hanging Chironomidge pattern or perhaps a size 14-18 parachute or traditional style Adams. Royal Coachman and Griffith's Gnats in the same sizes are also effective during midge hatches.

Damselflies: We've had little success with dry damselflies but a lot of success with olive, dark olive and tan-colored damselfly nymphs fished around the weed beds. Sizes 12-14 are the ticket here.

Mayflies: As mentioned, we haven't sampled much in the way of mayfly nymphs or adults, but we do know the fish will take universal mayfly nymphs in sizes 12-14. Like a bead-head Gold-Ribbed Hares Ear in natural or olive colors. Also, Pheasant Tail nymphs with and without a bead-head have proven deadly from time to time. I'd recommend mayfly dun patterns but none have worked consistently enough for me to suggest - other than the small Adams but I believe the fish see that one as a midge.

Leeches And The Like: While we've never found a leech in the lake or in the stomachs of the trout, it doesn't seem to keep the fish from attacking leech patterns and Woolly Buggers more often than anything else. Like I mentioned, perhaps the fish take the patterns for baitfish, or maybe swimming damsels, I don't know. What I do know is you would not want to fish the lake without Woolly Buggers in sizes 10-6; in colors black, brown, medium olive and variegated black/green -- with and without gold bead-heads. The same goes for leech patterns: sizes 14- 8. In colors: black, brown, medium olive and again, with or without a bead-head -- black or gold. Fish these patterns at any depth and along the shoreline and weed beds. If no hatch or rising fish are observed, tie on a Woolly Bugger or Leech pattern.

Bottom Line If you frequently fish trout lakes, you will have no trouble mastering Red Hills. If you're new to lake fishing with a fly, Red Hills is a perfect lake to hone your skills. If you don't own a floating device, Larry rents float tubes and fins. There's also a plan in the works to build casting stations from shore so a floating device will not be required. This is a fee-fishing fishery and reservations are required so you need to call ahead for current daily rates and directions to the lake. Larry and Dot are also building a Bed and Breakfast at the lake so if you plan wisely, you could include a tour of Oregon wineries -- taste a little wine, and fly fish for some very large, wild trout. Enjoy. Gene Trump is a part-time outdoor writer, photographer, illustrator and cartoonist making his living with his wife, Virginia, in Corvallis, Oregon. His award-winning articles and/or cartoons and illustrations appear in magazines such as Fly Fisherman, Salmon Trout Steelheader, Northwest Fly Fishing, Southwest Fly Fishing, Eastern Fly Fishing, Field & Stream and other worldwide publications and web sites. He can be reached at: trumpg3@comcast.net