The Cascade Mountain range is really the spine of Oregon, supporting the state in so many ways, not the least of which is abundant water from winter snow pack. The mountains run north to south, and a quick look on a map of the Pacific Northwest will show you the Cascades actually begin in southern British Columbia and run down through Washington and Oregon and finally end in Northern California.
We are going to focus on the Central Oregon lakes found in the Cascade Range and talk about all the incredible places you can fish if you are living here or just visiting the area.
While there are many lakes in the Oregon Cascade’s, the region called Central Oregon is likely the area that most people will associate with when it comes to fishing. Places like Crane Prairie, Davis Lake and Hosmer may sound familiar or resonate with you from past experiences. Stories of State record Brown trout from Paulina Lake and Wickiup Reservoir will get the excitement level high for certain anglers, while others may love the peaceful solitude of Three Creeks Lake or Todd Lake nestled on each side of Broken Top Mountain and the Tam MacArthur Rim.
When it comes to stillwaters, Oregon has some of the best in the country and during the season you can move around to many different lakes and reservoirs. By doing so, you may explore different elevations to chase hatches,temperatures, types of fish, and the kinds of fishing that simply turns you on!
In a normal winter, the jet stream delivers several powerful storms that hit the Cascade Range from October to April. With most of the mountains in Central Oregon ranging from 6500 feet, up to nearly 11,000 feet in elevation they get buried in snow all winter.
Our mountains are primarily made up of porous lava rock that soaks up rains and slow melting snow which trickles down and is stored in deep aquifers. Thousands of springs are born from the Cascades, and they hide ends up popping up all over, especially in or near our beautiful mountain lakes. All of our Cascade Lakes have a connection to this cycle of snowpack and each of them is connected somehow to ancient water sources that bubble up to create life in the mountains.
I want to share with you the top lakes in the area to fly fish. These are listed in a general north to south orientation and not by ranking.
Three Creeks is our highest elevation drive to lake in the region. At about 6500 feet it usually is accessible by car about mid-June. We find June, July, and August to offer the best fishing of the year.
Paulina is every bit and more the angling experience of any of the local lakes. Paulina has strong action using terrestrials and attractors on the shoreline and little nymphs and leeches in the drop off zones.
Once known as Oregon’s only Atlantic Salmon fishery, Hosmer Lake is now a spot where anglers can count on good catches of Brook Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Crane Prairie stock Rainbow Trout growing to over 25 inches.
I always think Lava and Little Lava in the early season fishing them myself in April, May, and June when leeches fished deep on a type 3 or clear camo line take the majority of fish for me.
First dammed in the 20’s, holding water back as the Deschutes and other small tributaries filled the old forest and meadow area with clean, cold water. Immediately Crane Prairie was on the map as perhaps Oregon’s finest Stillwater.
Wickiup is Brown Town. No other lake or reservoir in Oregon compares and no other lake spits out the big Brown Trout like Wickiup can. It is our largest reservoir, but because it is so shallow by summers end there is very little “lake” left and mostly a meandering river channel is present.
Davis Lake: Davis is our third Fly-Fishing Only lake in the region. Davis was at one time our best trophy rainbow fishery, and while not stunningly beautiful like Hosmer and Sparks but the fish at Davis could be the fish of a lifetime and you won’t find that at the other two fly only lakes.
I refer to East Lake as Central Oregon’s most consistent fishing lake. So much so, I spend the majority of my guide days and many of my days off fishing here.