Sadly one of the world's best summer steelhead fisheries has been pretty much destroyed by the PGE change. Similarly the trout fishing which was fabulous is way down and the river now tricky to wade due to the slime. A friend mentioned the likely impact of the dam changes to me the year the new flow arrangements went into play and that the river as we knew and loved it was going to be gone. He spotted this way sooner than the rest of us. An outstanding resource is gone to us. I still fish the river in late Fall, in perfect conditions (wet and overcast) on runs that once were best on the river and I am lucky to get a grab. The impact on Oregon, overseas visitors and the local village of Maurine has been immeasurably bad. I still meet people who come because of the Deschutes reputation, but they are usually very disappointed. Prior to this it was a world class experience and the guiding from the Hazel's team quite exceptional.
The other less talked about issue is that many fish, probably bound for Idaho, now stay in the main stem of the Colombia, rather than take a cold water rest bite in the cool Deschutes water during the summer. This has a lethal and tragic consequence for the fish headed for Idaho and the Snake and Clearwater too; and is less talked about. They are now victims for longer to the nets in the Colombia. Salmon netting has a very nasty impact on the Steelhead in the Colombia. You will see steelhead sold quietly, or even discarded, if you watch very carefully, which is wasteful and terribly sad. In smaller run years the impact of this likely makes the fishing even tougher. In Europe the nets have been bought off and it has been amazing to see the rebound in salmon runs and the impact on the local economy. It is so tough to see hatchery steelhead and wild fish being netted and just discarded here on the West coast.
The case against PGE is key for the Deschutes and even for improved fishing in Idaho. The only chance is for PGE and for the tribes to support going back to the former dam arrangements; it is hopeful that they might since the experiment designed to increase the salmon numbers has clearly not worked. The reduction in invertebrates in the lower river likely makes the salmon fishing poorer over time since the food available to parr will be much diminished. The complete opposite of the original plan. Hopefully common sense and recognition that the traditional salmon netting has been diminished, or threatened at places like Shearer's Falls, will also play its part. A few local tribes fishermen at the Falls have mentioned this last summer and this may ultimately lead to changes. The fact that they too are now noticing the dimunition to their salmon fishery there is oddly encouraging and a cause for optimism. It is very special to see this truly traditional net fishery in operation at the Falls and the ecological changes that may longer term negatively impact this specialist fishery, using traditional nets, may ultimately be an important factor in the case against PGE. As the salmon fishing is negatively impacted it could play its part in reverting to arrangements that kept the Deschutes such a wonderful place for all fishing groups: fly fishermen, lure fishermen and traditional nets at the Falls. Without the change, less and less people will come and the salmon fishing too will be damaged badly over time. The negative impact on the salmon fishing will take longer to show than on the steelhead fishing, but will occur. As this happens, there will be a feedback cycle to PGE by all groups and this will put further pressure for the return to the former dam arrangements, which make more sense today with global warming, than they may have made when initiated originally.