The Aspen Ridge Ranch Newsletter
Spring, 2007
In this issue:
- When Average Is Great--The Winter Weather Report
- Finding Magic
- New Dining Hall
- Big Fish Predictions
- Coffe Mugs and T-shirts

When Average Is Great - The Winter Weather Report
In north Klamath County winter started out cold but dry. By Thanksgiving there was still no snow to speak of and we began to worry that another drought year was upon us. We barely had a white Christmas then bam, it dumped snow for a week. Early January and the mountain snow monitors indicated an above average snow pack for the Yamsi valley. Then it got cold and those crisp blue-sky days came one after another. The upper Williamson river froze over, the chill deepened, new snow was scarce but the two to three feet that had fallen earlier remained as the thermometer never rose above freezing. In mid February it seemed like spring had gotten confused when temperatures often reached the 60's and much of the snow melted. What a see-saw. We went from below average snow pack, which is not good for the fishing at Aspen Ridge Ranch, to above average, which is good for the fish but invites storms of black drakes (not to mention mosquitos) and can make the fishing harder if it stays too wet late into spring. Then we dropped just below normal by March but several weeks of lion-like weather brought the snow pack back up a bit above average. As late April rolls around it seems that winter has been kind to anyone planning to visit Klamath County to fish this season. We've ended the wet season with perfectly average snow pack. A few late spring rains are keeping the dust down and as we move into May we are predicting that the black drake hatch will be, well, average. Not as heavy as 2006, not non-existent like 2004. In other words, just right for a wonderful fly fishing season at Aspen Ridge Ranch.

Finding Magic

When certain elements all come together at just the right time in just the right way--and this convergence is rare--the results might be considered magical. Such is the case at Aspen Ridge Ranch during the black drake hatch. As many of you know, fishing for Upper Williamson Redbands is always a treat. Experiencing the black drake hatch in May and June is even better. However, the magic happens when you hit the drake hatch at exactly the right time. The problem is, no one can predict exactly when that time might be.

The elements that guarantee the most thrilling fly fishing experience imaginable are when there are lots of big hungry fish, just enough black drakes to get the fish keyed in on them, and not too many drakes competing with your artificial fly. Sometimes the non-resident fish migrate to our stretch of water for the big hatch but the flies are still snuggled in the mud where they've spent the winter. The fish know this plentiful food source will be waking soon so they seldom bother spending their energy chasing down other food. Later in the season the flies have hatched, the fish are feeding frantically, but the temperature and other mysterious factors gel and the resultant clouds of millions of black drakes make the fishing especially challenging. Getting your artificial fly into the mouth of a trout when there are millions of natural flies on the water, in the air, and covering your body takes immense talent and even greater good luck.

There are two periods of time during the 4 to 8 week black drake season when the fishing experience is nothing short of magical. In the early part of the season the drakes are just beginning to emerge or haven't become too thick, the water is cool, and the fish are plentiful. At this time anyone who can wet their fly will catch a fish, and probably lots of fish. In the middle part of the season, usually for about a one week stretch, the hatch can get so thick that only the most expert fisherman can hook into a few fish. Toward the end of the season the hatch wanes but if the water temperatures stay cool the non-resident fish stick around and feed until the last drake has dropped her eggs and fallen spent upon the water. This late season experience is often as good as, or better than, the earliest weeks because the fish have been gorging for a month or more, they've gained weight, girth and strength, and the athletic displays these satisfied fish put on can be phenomenal.

Here's the rub: We never know when the drake hatch is going to begin, when it is going to peak, or when it is going to end. At Aspen Ridge Ranch we've been keeping records of the first day of the hatch, the best time periods for catching fish, the day the hatch is pretty much finished, and the average size and weight of fish caught. Our records go back 15 years so we can make good guesses, but still there are occasional years when the hatch begins two weeks earlier than the long-term average. We generally see the hatch fade and the water temps rise to levels that send many of the trout back upstream in early July. However, in 2006 the fishing was at its best during the first week and a half of July and we still saw the occasional black drake in early August. Additionally, we had a decent Hexegenia hatch for several weeks in August, yet I've never seen a Hex on our bit of water in the past. The '06 drake hatch began on May 14 and the fishing was phenomenal for two weeks. It remained good through early June but due to heavy snowfalls there was a bumper crop of black drakes and by June 8 it was getting challenging to entice a fish to take an artificial fly. It remained that way until near the end of the month.

During the first four seasons that we operated our fish camp at Aspen Ridge Ranch we began the season in mid-May and it ran through the first weekend in July. However, some years it was snowing in mid-May and too hot by the end of June so the fishing was far from magical. Because we don't like disgruntled fishermen, and fishermen don't like to be disgruntled, we eventually cut back to a four-weekend season during what is typically the heart of the black drake hatch. However, it was quite frustrating for us last season when three weekends of magical fishing came and went and Bob and I were the only ones to enjoy it. Likewise, he and I had several wonderful fishing evenings in early July, catching some of the largest fish of our lives. Again, two people with two miles of river to fish for nearly two weeks seemed like a bit of a waste, though we certainly appreciated the fun and excitement of it all.

Ever since the '06 season we've been tossing around ideas that would create an opportunity that would allow others to experience the potential magic of fishing the Upper Williamson during the best part of the black drake season. We've settled on a plan that we think will be really exciting to fly fishers throughout the Northwest.

We have only scheduled three regular pre-booked weekend fishing trips this June. We have left the weekend of June 20 - 22 open because based on our historical records this is most often the peak of the black drake hatch and the fishing can be pretty challenging. In addition we have created a registry for those who are able to make it to south central Oregon with little advanced notice. The way this system works is you sign up for the late-notice registry and as soon as the first black drake appears (it could be as early as May 1) everyone on the registry will be notified via email that the hatch is on. The opportunity to fish during this non-scheduled season will be on a first-come, first-served basis. You will pay by the day ($200), we will not provide meals, you can spend the night in the tipis at no extra charge, you can prepare your own meals using the mess hall and dining hall. You can fish for as many days as you like but you must commit to a certain number of days prior to your arrival. You can fish any day of the week, not just weekends. The number of fishers per day will be limited to 8. We do not know how many, if any, fishers will avail themselves of this unique opportunity but if the program is a huge hit and lots of fishers participate, we may set limits on the number of rods per day and per week depending on the impact on the fishery. As soon as you commit to a certain day, or days, you must pay via the Internet using Pay Pal or a credit card. From June 1 onward, there will be no last minute fishing opportunities so that the fishery has plenty of time to rest prior to the beginning of our regularly scheduled, full-service 3-day/2-night trips. If the magic doesn't happen until May 31 there still will not be any day trip or non-scheduled fishing allowed.

If you are interested in being on our late notice registry please email us at and we'll let you know. We prefer to contact you via email to let you know of any early season opportunities but if you do not have an email address send us your phone number and we'll try to call you. We will be at Aspen Ridge Ranch every day in May. We will be available to give you a brief orientation about the facilities, the fishing and so on. However, we will not be providing meals and you will need to clean up after yourself should you decide to spend the night. If you stay for more than two nights we might consider a discount.

You can sign up for the registry without any obligation to come. Since we don't know when the magic period will fall we realize you won't know if your schedule allows you to participate. Obviously, this system works best for fishers living within a 2 to 6 hour drive of Aspen Ridge Ranch and for those with flexible schedules. Also, keep in mind that this magic period we allude to may not happen until June 1 (which is often the case) therefore the late notice system won't take effect. The first two weekends in June are already filled for the 2007 season. There are still a few openings for the final weekend of the season, which this year is June 30, 31 and July 1. If the drakes are still around after that (which is typical) and if the water isn't too warm, we may consider extending late notice fishing into the first part of July as this can often be a magical time as well.

We have no idea how this system will work but we're happy to give it a try and see if we can't share some of the best potential fishing with others. As always we invite your comments and questions.

Dining Hall

After seemingly endless mishaps and disasters in the construction of the new dining hall at Aspen Ridge Ranch, we did manage to complete it…just in time for the final fish camp weekend of 2006. However, it was worth the wait and the Alpine Flyfishers found it to be a most welcoming place to hang out. We shared many good meals. The IPod that the club set up, complete with solar charger, played wonderful tunes from the 1960's '70's (my favorites) and on through the 21st century. Wine flowed. Fly tying equipment was set up and used often. Insects and other pests were kept out while a gentle breeze from the river a mere 25 feet away kept things sweet and cool inside the 16 x 24 foot structure.

We've already cleared out the winter-stored lawn chairs and such, cleaned things top to bottom, and this lovely new addition to the fish camp experience awaits your visit.

Big Fish

With nearly 20 years in the Yamsi Valley I've realized that all things in nature are cyclical: the seasons, the droughts and floods, and the fishery. In 1990, when I first fished the Upper Williamson, the fish were good-sized with lots of 12 to 16 inchers and a few upwards of 20 inches. After two winters of deep snow in '92 and '93, which spawned plentiful food sources and cold waters, the average size fish had grown considerably. In 1995, the first year of the fish camp at Aspen Ridge Ranch, it was not unheard of to catch a dozen fish each weekend that were 20+ inches. That year and the next, record-sized fish were brought to hand. One was 29.5 inches, another topped out at 30 inches. Then we had two years of low snow and the big fish seemed to disappear. A few above average snow years and they got bigger again. In 2001 we were catching plenty of 25 inch Redbands. Then the drought hit and many of the largest fish seemed to disappear. In 2004, after an average year of precipitation, we had a lot of fish but most were in the 8 to 15 inch range. Another good year of snow and the fish were bigger in 2005, and last year everyone seemed to hook into 16 to 22 inch Redbands. We had a huge drake hatch and the fish seemed to grow two inches from the first of June to the end of June. With this past winter of average snowfall we can expect the fish to be even larger than last year. In fact, I'm predicting that some of those 30 inchers will be sulking in the deep shadows of the cutbanks and that many fishing guests visiting Aspen Ridge Ranch will be thrilled when they bring any number of 24+ inch trout to hand. This is only my best guess but it is based on first-hand experience watching the consistent cycles of nature come round, and around.

T-shirts and Mugs

Get your Aspen Ridge T-shirts and thermal mugs now, or pick them up when you come to fish. That's right, we now offer awesome stainless-steel mugs that hold 16 oz of your favorite drink. Be it a cup of our famous Aspen Ridge coffee made from organic, shade-grown Ethiopian beans, a soothing cup of tea, or cold beer on a hot afternoon, you'll love sipping from your Aspen Ridge mug replete with a strikingly handsome Redband trout gracing the side of the cup. (photo of mug)

Additionally, we have both long- and short-sleeved T-shirts for sale with the Aspen Ridge logo silk-screened on the front. They are available in slate-blue or sage green in sizes from medium to XXL.

Coffee mugs cost $18 each.

Short-sleeved T-shirts are $15.
Long-sleeved T's cost $20 each.

Well that's it for now. The return of the drakes and the big redbands is just around the corner. We're looking forward to sharing the experience with our fun-loving guests. See you soon!

Dawn & Bob