American Fly Fishing

The Forgotten Forest
By Gary Weber

Crane Prairie Reservoir, OR

Colloquially called “Cranebows,” native rainbow trout from the upper Deschutes River inhabit the reservoir and routinely reach 20 or more inches. The fishery is bolstered by robust allotments of hatchery-produced rainbows. Photo by Gary Weber

People forget. We’re all guilty of it. Anniversaries, birthdays, names, phone numbers, even where we left our car keys—lapses in memory happen all the time. But don’t be too alarmed. According to German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, father of the “forgetting curve,” much of what we forget is lost soon after we learn it. In fact, our short-term memories can retain information for only about 15 to 30 seconds unless it’s frequently rehearsed. Maybe that explains why a fly angler fighting a 4-pound rainbow trout on central Oregon’s Crane Prairie Reservoir can easily forget that this lake, lined with hundreds of spindly ghost trees, was once a forest.

Crane Prairie Reservoir was created in 1922 with the construction of a rock-filled dam that impounded the upper Deschutes River about 8.5 miles south of its source at Little Lava Lake. The new impoundment flooded a fertile forested meadow known as Crane Prairie, named for the prodigious numbers of sandhill cranes that flocked to the area to feed. Leakage through the original dam rendered it unsafe, forcing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to replace it in 1940 with an earth-filled structure.