I have been avoiding fishing in the Klamath Basin this summer due to the drought and fires but decided I had waited as long as I could and spent 5 days over the past two weekends on some of my favorite bodies of water in that area. There were days with some smoke and it was hot at times, but the fishing was surprisingly good. The places I visited needed more water, but there was enough to support fish and the water quality was excellent.
The added bonus is that in those five days I saw a total of five other anglers. Five! Plus two kayakers. You need to know where to go, but that sort of experience is long gone in Central Oregon. Osprey, goose, and beavers were everywhere. Pelicans, herons, and many other birds as well. Sand hill cranes and coyotes called to each other in the morning.
My fishing companion on one day is from the area and it was great to hear his perspective on local issues. Among other things, Karl opined that water quality in many places is actually better in low than in high water years due to dramatically reduced agricultural runoff. That makes a lot of sense to me. The water in the rivers flowing into Agency Lake is from springs. I was taking water temperatures and the highest I found was 56 degrees in Agency Lake. Of course, if the water gets too low then another set of problems will surface. The water was very skinny moving between the Wood River and the lake.
Lower water levels did make the fishing more challenging, requiring even longer, more delicate casts than normal, but the reward was fish that looked very healthy, and fought exceptionally well, even in Agency Lake. Agency was the real surprise for me. We were surrounded by good-sized fish taking both mayfly emergers and spinners in pretty shallow water close to the edges. They were everywhere and it was a blast to sight cast to them.
If you know your way around the area it’s worth a trip.
8/3 UPDATE: Re-reading this post I realized I need to add the disclaimer that while the water in the spring fed portions of the upper basin are cold and clean, the low water levels absolutely mean that the lower parts of the basin are in terrible shape. Klamath Lake itself is so low as to prevent spanning of suckers and it is even worse below the lake. Farmers and ranchers have had their water shut off. The national wildlife refuge is dry in many places and you can see more dust devils than birds. See this post for more. All that being said, some good fishing remains if you know where to go.