We launched at Pelton Park, dad with his hand on the 40-horse Merc, idling out of the no-wake zone. Life-jacketed up, the kids pulled their hats down and called for turbo boost. But dad couldn’t hear them.
We pointed upstream toward dad’s favorite spot holding to the 10-mph speed limit on the upper lake.
On the map, Central Oregon’s Lake Simtustus is that deep, cold and narrow ribbon of water formed by Pelton Dam, backing up to Round Butte Dam below Lake Billy Chinook.
There was a time when the main fishery was for kokanee, but that has changed in favor of rainbow trout, which are stocked in large numbers by ODFW.
According to the weather forecast and the moon phase, our best timing was this Thursday morning in June.
As we turned the first corner, the canyon walls narrowing ahead of us, I recalled I had forgotten to buy a tribal fishing permit. Okay then, I would just help the kids and run the trolling motor.
When dad moved to Redmond and bought his 16-foot Smokercraft several years ago, he wanted to know where he could take it close to home. I suggested he get to know Lake Simtustus. Every year since he has spent at least half a dozen days on what is becoming some of his favorite water.
By 11am we had our baits in the water. This time we would troll with flies and casting gear.
On the fly rod, dad’s favorite setup is a No. 8 rubber-legged beadhead olive leech with 18 inches of fluorocarbon knotted to the bend of the hook trailing a beadhead Flashback Prince Nymph.
The casting rods were armed with dad’s favorite nickel/pink Arrow flasher trailed by a small pink hoochie on a 10-inch leader. Dad tips the hook with cured corn. I sweetened the scent with Pro-Cure’s garlic night crawler scent.
The kids watched for splashes and pointed them out as I steered the boat with the bow-mounted trolling motor. Dad watched the depth finder and called out whenever we had a school beneath the boat. It was one of those days when I could sense the bites a minute or before they happened.
It’s funny how the trout in some lakes seem to prefer kokanee tactics and a kokanee angler can do well on Simtustus rainbows. Ava caught the first on a hoochie, battling the trout to the boat as if she had practiced on coho at Buoy 10.
Holden’s rod was next to get bit and he caught a ten-incher.
Next, Ava turned her attention to the fly rod. When the rod was in the holder, we missed too many bites. With the rod in hand she was able to get a good hook-set, she landed two trout.
The kids like to measure their fish. Ava’s biggest was 12-1/2 inches, caught on a fly.
Five-year-old Holden netted most of the fish, except when he was holding the rod. Then his sister did the honors.
Netting seems like such a simple thing, but it is so easy to mess it up when the kinder-angler and the kinder-net handler aren’t working in sync. We lost several trout because of errant stabs, but those fish lived to fight another day.
Simtustus is one of those places where a trout angler could be surprised by what is on the other end of the line. Brown trout, bull trout, smallmouth bass and pikeminnow can grow large in this lake. And while Simtustus is best fished from a boat, a bank angler that knows how to read still water can catch fish too.
Trout are stocked throughout the season and spread throughout the reservoir. The best bet is to troll the edges of the banks on either side, but sometimes rainbows can be teased up in the middle of the channel too. Steer for the splashes.
TRIBAL PERMIT REQUIRED
A tribal permit is required to fish Simtustus. Permits are reasonably priced and can be purchased at any outlet for fishing licenses in Central Oregon for the day or the season. The trout limit is 5 per day, with an 8-inch minimum length, and of these no more than 1 over 20 inches. For more information, visit www.tribalpermit.com or call 541-553-2002.
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Gary Lewis is the host of Frontier Unlimited TV and author of Fishing Central Oregon, Fishing Mount Hood Country, Hunting Oregon and other titles. Contact Gary at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com