Looking East

 By Brad Stout

 This spring, I had the pleasure of making a trip to fish East Lake with my buddy, West. We normally fish for brown trout in the lakes of Northern California and for cutthroat trout in the lakes of Nevada but we were both ready to fish new waters so we decided to give Oregon as try. As we investigated which lakes would provide us with the best opportunity to catch both size and numbers of brown trout, we narrowed our picks down to three lakes: (1) Wickiup; (2) Paulina; and (3) East Lake. 

Brown Trout from one of my favorite Oregon lakes



The three lakes are located within a few miles of one another near the little town of La Pine.  Wickiup has always been one of my favorite lakes in Oregon and in the past, that lake has produced several double digit brown trouts for me , but West and I really wanted to fish somewhere that neither one of us had been to. Since East Lake and Paulina are within five miles of each other, we decided to fish them.


I am blessed to have a large network of friends who were able to give me some advice on both of these lakes. The reoccurring theme among my friends was that if you want to catch a large number of fish, East Lake was the place to go and you still have a chance stick a 10 plus pound brown trout.  However, if you are looking for a trophy size brown trout, then Paulina was your best bet but the lake is very stingy on the numbers.  West and I were still undecided at that point, when we received some incredible news that swayed our decision to pick East Lake.  Bruce at the East Lake Resort was going to let us stay in a small cabin during off-season when the Resort is closed.  I thought to myself, “What?  Are you kidding me?  We get the whole place to ourselves?  Right on!  Thank you, Bruce!”

East Lake is located roughly 40 miles south of Bend, Oregon.  Travel 23.5 miles south on Highway 97, then travel 16.6 miles east on County Road 21. Along this route you will pass the sister lake of Paulina then shortly thereafter you will arrive at East Lake.  East Lake offers two main camping grounds along the lake shore as well as the East Lake Resort. There are also four boat ramps.

East Lake was formed over 500,000 years ago from volcanic activity. The lake's water comes from rain fall, snow melt, and fresh water springs. The springs have a distinct sulfur odor and can be seen bubbling to the surface on calm conditions. The average depth is 65 feet, 175 feet is the deepest point and covers an area of two square miles.  Normally, waters that have accrued in lakes eventually flow out through rivers or streams but this is not the case with East Lake.  At East Lake, the outflow happens underground by diffusion through permeable rock which water ultimately ends up in Paulina.

Since we picked springtime to plan our trip, the outdoor elements were going to be the biggest inconvenience for us. Snow, snow, and more snow!  Luckily, we were prepared and wore lots of layers of clothing to help keep us warm.
The only thing that bothers me now days is my hands. They were frozen during the entire trip! None of this would have been a concern during the summer months, but you make the best of it with the cards that you are dealt, so popsicles for fingers would have to get the job done. 
We got the lucky Brown cabin
Nothing like a warm cabin 
West and I were just happy to be out on the lake and happy to have a warm dry place to sleep during our stay at the East Lake Resort.
Cold view from the beach
View of the cabins
West and I started out right in front of the marina and trolling counter clockwise around the lake. The bait was stacked everywhere. The sonar looked like it was in demo mode.  You know what I’m talking about?  It’s the picture of perfect arches and bait balls that appear and fill the screen of the new depth finder that you are researching out on the showroom floor and then disappears when you finally get to use your new purchase out on the lake.
  The shore line of East Lake was unrecognizable now that it was covered with snow compared to my summertime Google Earth images that I spent so many hours researching online.  Before West and I could finish our first trip around the lake, the rods started to dance and they never really stopped the entire time that we were on the lake. Trolling 3" to 4" stick baits were the ticket.  As the day went on, I fell in love with this little gem of a lake.

Although our trip consisted of some very bad weather, fishing made up for it. West and I ended up catching 67 fish in just two days of fishing. We caught one kokanee, one chub, a couple of red band strain of rainbows, and the rest were browns. There were three small browns in the bunch 18" to 20".  The average browns were nice four pounders.  We ended up with ten browns weighing between 5 to 7 pounds in two days of fishing. We missed out on a few line screamers too.  Our target weight was always 10 pounds or better and even though we didn't come close to that weight I would consider this to be one of my most memorable fishing trips.  I can't wait to return in the warmer summer months.
My Friend Brian W. with a huge summertime brown
from East Lake