Miller Lake sometimes flies below the radar of casual anglers because it’s a bit off the path beaten to better-known lakes in the Cascade Mountains, including Diamond Lake over the summit to the west. But among serious brown trout anglers, Miller’s secret has gotten out. Some of them, Sessions included, believe the next state record brown – now owned by a 28-plus pounder from Paulina Lake – will come from Miller.
The lake is west of the Highway 97 town of Chemult, about halfway between Bend and Klamath Falls.
By the Book – Miller Lake Angling Regulations
Miller Lake, in ODFW’s Southeast Zone, is open all year and, unlike many trout fisheries, also allows 24-hour fishing so anglers can target the browns, which feed at night.
The five-trout daily limit includes any combination of browns and rainbows, all of which must be at least 8 inches long. Not more than one may be over 20 inches, a length regularly attained by Miller browns.
The trout limit doesn’t include an additional 25-fish limit for kokanee, which are so small they make excellent trout food but often get ignored by anglers.
(Sessions jokes that the best way to catch a limit of the little land-locked salmon at Miller is to land a lunker brown and squeeze its belly.)
Know Before You Go
The mosquitoes typically are ferocious at Miller until about July, when there is some relief. Bring a good supply of mosquito repellent with 100 percent DEET … or suffer the consequences. “Anything else they lick off and say, ‘Where’s lunch?’” Sessions said.
Also, be sure your vehicle can handle snow for those spring and fall trips – sudden storms can quickly blanket otherwise passable roads.
Timing Your Trip – Early Season is Best
Heavy snows often block the route for regular vehicles until May or even into June, but browns will be biting as soon as you can get there. Brown trout fishing holds up well through June, slows a bit in the heat of the summer, and then ratchets right back up in September and October as the big trout gather groceries before winter.
If you want to fish with some light, try early mornings and evenings for browns, which also feed at night.
Fish Finder – Fish Over Deep Shelf
Browns can be found throughout the lake, but Sessions has had the most success trolling from Digit Point Campground toward the cliffs in the larger lobe of the lake at the southeast end, traveling over a shelf that sits in about 60 to 70 feet of water.
Secrets to Success – How to Catch Miller Lake Browns
Over several seasons, Sessions honed a method of fishing for Miller browns (and like some of the other methods for browns, it also results in rainbow trout catches).
To a 30-pound braided main line (he uses TUF Line), he ties a No. 3 Bolo Troll, the one with four bolo-shaped silver blades with a red center and black dots, made by Les Davis/Luhr Jensen. Then he uses a 6-foot polycarbon leader in 20-pound test before tying on a No. 4 treble hook with one prong (the welded one) cut off so it’s a double.
With a worm threader, pierce a large nightcrawler one inch from the end and thread the line through the longer end of the bait. Slide it down so the shorter end hangs between the two hook points. Cover the bait with a commercial scent to hide your human smell; Sessions prefers Mike’s Lunker Lotion in the kokanee scent.
Troll this rig slowly; Sessions travels at about 1 mile per hour by his Lowrance.
Sessions also has had good success trolling broken-back style Rapalas (5¼ inch) or similar lures. Good patterns are the rainbow or the silver with either black or blue, to mimic the small rainbow trout and kokanee the browns gobble.
Another trolling lure that some serious Miller Lake anglers use for trophy browns are large swim baits from A.C. Plug, particularly in the Casitas version closely resembling an 8- to 10-inch rainbow trout.
Troll plugs faster than a worm rig – 2 mph, and sometimes faster.
Throwing lures is another good option, especially casting toward the shoreline from a boat. Sessions recommends a Panther Martin spinner, especially in yellow and red or black and yellow patterns in a 1/8-ounce size.
Still-fishing can also be effective. Thread about half of the worm up the hook and then blow up the remaining half with a hypodermic needle so it floats off the bottom. Use 18 to 24 inches of leader (6-8 pound test) and a sliding sinker.
Sessions keeps his catch for the table. Anglers who release fish should note that browns often swallow natural baits, resulting in frequent fatalities. Artificial lures result in better survival rates than natural baits for releasing fish, or try…
If All Else Fails
Troll a large, black or dark-colored wet fly, such as a dragon fly nymph about 1½ inches long, near shore along the sandy cliffs at the southeastern end of the lake. Use a limp line without weight (or occasionally a small split shot ahead of the fly), and slowly troll over depths of 8 to 10 feet well behind the boat.
Clint Sessions is a retiree who lives to the north of Miller Lake in Crescent, where his wife works for Ken’s Sporting Goods. He developed his fishing methods during four seasons as host at the Digit Point Campground.