DESCHUTES RIVER FLY FISHING
The Deschutes River is one of the premier fly fishing rivers in the Pacific Northwest. Where else is a blue ribbon, native-fish-only trout stream and a strong summer steelhead run found in the same place?
The Deschutes River can be broken in to three sections: The Upper, Middle and Lower Deschutes, each with unique characteristics, seasons, geology and fish.
UPPER DESCHUTES RIVER
The Upper Deschutes originates West of Bend in the Cascade Mountains. It begins it’s journey from the spring fed waters of Little Lava Lake and flows South to Crane Prairie Reservoir. This section of river is the quintessential mountain stream. With Snow Capped peaks near by, the river runs through Pine forests and grassy meadows full of wildflowers in the summer. The Upper Deschutes runs clear and cold. Rainbow and Brook Trout as well as healthy populations of Mountain Whitefish call this river home. This is wonderful dry fly water. A small beadhead nymph fished below a dry fly will often account for the most fish. The season runs from June to the end of September. The Fly Fisher’s Place, Inc offers guided walk and wade fly fishing trips to this area.
After it flows from Crane Prairie Reservoir there is a short section of the Upper Deschutesthat runs down to Wickiup Reservoir. This section offers some really good looking water, and you’ll also find healthy populations of Brown Trout here. This has a shortened season. Consult the ODFW regulation book for exact dates.
After Wickiup the river turns and runs North towards Bend. In this stretch you’ll encounter Pringle Falls, Benham Falls, Dillon Falls and Lava Island Falls. Even though there are several major falls in this section you’ll mostly find placid currents with some riffles and rapids.
There are many Parks, Campgrounds, Boat Launches and roads to gain access to this section of the Upper Deschutes. Besides road access and hiking along the river, another great way to fish this portion of river is with a drift boat or raft. There are also places where a motor boat is a good way to fish this section of river.
While fishing here, you’ll enjoy mature Ponderosa Pine forests, jack pine stands & massive lava flows. You will also enjoy very limited developement, mostly found in the Sunriver area. There are rainbow’s and some huge Brown Trout here. Attractor dries and streamers are usually the best bet, but good hatches of mayflies, caddis, stones and midges can occur at any time. Fishing begins in the Spring and is good until October.
MIDDLE DESCHUTES RIVER
Right through the city of Bend you can find several places where riffles hold good numbers of Redside trout. Many summer evenings have been enjoyed just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Bend catching nice trout on Dry Flies. It’s True!
The North end of Bend is the beginning of the Middle Deschutes. This section has the most private property and irrigation water issues. With that being said, there is still outstanding fishing on the Middle Deschutes. From mid-April to the end of October is the best time to fish the middle river. With access around Tumalo, Eagle Crest, Cline Falls, Odin Falls, Lower Bridge, Crooked River Ranch, Steelhead Falls and the confluence of Whychus Creek you can still find plenty of water on the Middle Deschutes.
Fishing begins in the Spring with good hatches of March Brown mayflies. Along with baetisthroughout the season, you’ll see hatches of Pale Morning Dun and Pale Evening Dun mayflies. Also, expect prolific caddis hatches and in some areas good Salmonfly/Goldenstone hatches.
The Middle Deschutes is also perfect “attractor” water. Renegades and Purple Haze are both favorites here.
April, May and June are the best times to fish here. The Fall is a good time to fish the middle river again.
Much of the Middle Deschutes runs through smaller rimrock canyons. Juniper and Sage are the predominate flora but Ponderosa Pines are also prevelant. Deer and Quail call this home, as well as the occasional sighting of a Coyote. Many of these canyons are a birders delight with frequent sightings of raptors and songbirds. The Middle Deschutes ends at Lake Billy Chinook.
LOWER DESCHUTES RIVER
The Lower Deschutes is likely Oregon’s most well known and most sought after spot to fly fish for both Wild Trout and Steelhead. With trout populations running over 3500 trout per mile, the first 50 miles below Pelton Dam offers some of the finest trout opportunities in the state. Add in an excellent yearly return of Summer Steelhead and it is hard to argue that the Lower Deschutes is not only one of Oregon’s finest rivers but also one of the greatest rivers in the West.
The Lower Deschutes is a large ribbon of cold, clean water that runs through an impressive ancient basalt canyon in the arid high desert of Central Oregon. At 100 miles long from the Pelton Dam north to the mouth where it confluences with the Columbia River this “lower” section of river is best described when geographically broken up into 3 sections: (1)we refer to the first section from Warm Springs to Maupin as the “upper” section of the Lower Deschutes (2) from Maupin to Mack’s Canyon is the “middle” section of the Lower Deschutes (3) from Mack’s Canyon to the Columbia is the “lower” section.
For clarification, the Deschutes River itself is over 250 miles long and the Upper Deschutes begins at Little Lava Lake high in the Cascade Mountains and runs down to the city of Bend, Oregon. We then classify the Middle Deschutes from Bend to Lake Billy Chinook where the Metolius River and the Crooked River join the Deschutes. Only the mighty Lower Deschutes marches on to the Columbia 100 miles further North. This page is dedicated to the last 100 miles of the Lower Deschutes.
BEST LOWER DESCHUTES FISHING TRIP
The section from Warm Springs to Trout Creek is our #1 run in the drift boat. We guide here a lot and know the water really well. For trout, the season is open year round as of 2016 which means we have a great opportunity to fish waters that have historically been closed.
Trout season is open all year starting in 2016, and in the spring it is usually met with slightly higher flows (but varies depending on winter snow pack). Hatches can happen at anytime and early season hatches include March Browns and prolific baetis hatches. Water temperatures will determine when the Salmonfly hatch begins, but usually Mid-May is a good time to count on the hatch. The Golden Stone hatch is quick to follow and will last until Mid-June in a normal season.
LOWER DESCHUTES FLIES
Pale Morning Duns and Caddis hatches are the highlights of the summer. Angler’s willing to stay on the water close to dark will be treated with meaty Pale Evening Duns nearly every evening throughout the summer.
As fall arrives, caddis hatches get even better with giant October Caddis and tiny micro-caddis always in the drift.
Most people fish the Warm Springs to Trout Creek section by drifting in a drift boat or raft. The law says there is no fishing from the boat, so all boats must anchor up and anglers wade the riffles and runs to fish here. There are access points for walk and wade anglers at Warm Springs along the highway and at the boat launch, plus at Mecca and Trout Creek campgrounds.
MULTI-DAY LOWER DESCHUTES TRIP
An excellent 3 day drift starts at Trout Creek and ends near the town of Maupin, Oregon. With almost zero public road access in over 30 miles of river, this is truly a wild and scenic trip. Great riverside camp sites are available with fishing right out the front door of the tent. Leave it to us to guide you on this section and enjoy the best trout fishing the entire Deschutes River has to offer. Our Camp Boat guy, Matt will set a beautiful camp and cook all of your meals while the guides attend to every detail of the fishing. We also run this section for Steelhead in October.
The area around Maupin to Mack’s Canyon is open year round for Trout and Steelhead. We have several areas to offer one day guide trips here for both Trout and Steelhead. There is also a good deal of road access and public campgrounds in this section so it is a very good DIY area if you are inclined.
We love the one day drift from Nena to Wapinitia for Trout in the Spring and for Steelhead in the Fall.
In August, September and October we head a little further down river to the Beavertail area for Steelhead. A great day float can be done on the river from Beavertail to Mack’s Canyon. Road access is excellent but a drift boat makes it possible to fish across the river to gain better access to less crowded waters on most days during the heart of the run.
STEELHEAD FISHING ON THE LOWER DESCHUTES
For Steelhead on the Deschutes, the best area is the last 20+ miles from Mack’s Canyon to the Mouth. There is nearly no road access in this section except for one nasty track down the canyon at Kloan that is scary as shit.
Most anglers drift this stretch but Jet Boats are allowed here too.
Some hardy anglers even mountain bike or hike up from the Deschutes State Park several miles to access the good fishing.
The steelhead begin their migration up the Columbia in July, and by mid to late July the lower 10 miles begins to hold fish. The great thing about the lower 15 miles of river is, even fish coming out of the Columbia that are actually headed to other Columbia or Snake River tributaries use the Lower Deschutes for comfort for a few days or even several weeks before heading back out to the Columbia River to continue the migration east. Speculation on why they do this varies, but the cooler and cleaner waters of the Lower Deschutes must be an excellent draw for these fish. So even in years the actual Deschutes run is down, in August and September there are often plenty of fish in the system down low.
Water temperatures are regulated by the dam upstream 100 miles. In early August they begin a bottom draw that flushes colder water through the system. Some times at the end of July, water temps can be lethal to steelhead release so we watch that carefully. Another thing we watch carefully at the end of August through early October is runoff from the White River Glacier on Mt Hood coming in to the Deschutes between Maupin and Mack’s Canyon. Some years that runoff is non-existent and other years it can shut down the fishing for days at a time. It depends on overall summer temperatures and if the glacier gets hit by rain over the softening ice.
In any event, the waters here are amazing with long runs and great secret buckets to explore.
Fishing here is done primarily with 6, 7 & 8 weight spey rods and floating lines. Most of the time we swing flies but there are great nymphing buckets to hit and we are not against that method at all. We say, “it’s all good”, we just want the TUG!
(MIDDLE) DESCHUTES RIVER NEAR CULVER, OR
(LOWER) DESCHUTES RIVER NEAR MADRAS, OR