The Deschutes River


The Deschutes and it's Fish

The Deschutes:
The Deschutes River's 252 mile journey begins as snowmelt trickling down the eastern flanks of the Cascade range. From it's official birthplace at the outflow of Little Lava Lake, it's flows through several well know destination fisheries such as Crane Prairie Reservoir and Wickiup Reservoir before turning north and cutting right through the heart of the town of Bend.  The river continues on it's northward journey and in Lake Billy Chinook the Deschutes absorbs the waters of both the Crooked and Metolius Rivers. It is here that it gathers itself and emerges bigger and stronger to form the Lower Deschutes. This lower portion of the river flows through a deep, basalt lined rimrock canyon dominated by juniper and sagebrush dotted hillsides, and white alder covered, grass lined riparian zones. The Pelton-Round Butte dam complex provides stability and clarity to this great tailwater fishery that spans the roughly 100 miles of the lower river. Due to the stabilizing influence of the dam complex we almost never lose a day of fishing due to clarity issues. And as tailwater fishermen know, the stable flows and temperatures allow for a rich biomass of trout food and often prolific hatches.  Guided fishing trips range from single day floats that cover 8-15 miles of river, up to five day adventures covering up to 50 river miles, with three and four day trips being our most popular. We concentrate on getting away from all the hustle and bustle of the more tame stretches and experiencing the floats between Trout Creek and the small riverside community of Maupin, or the float from either Beavertail or Mack's Canyon on down to the Columbia River for steelhead during the fall months. We are one of the few outfitters that know all 100 miles of this fishery. A big desert river, the Deschutes averages better than 4000CFS out of the dam complex, but remains very approachable with an abundance of prime fly water. Trout here tend to hug the banks as most of the food they prefer either emerges here or gravitates to the shade and refuge of the riparian cover. Most casts remain short and accuracy is much more important than distance.  Steelhead too will often travel and hold in the shallow lies and lanes avoiding the heavy currents and deeper water. If you are wading over waist deep, you are often standing ON the fish here on the Deschutes. As fishing is not allowed from floating devices i.e. boats, our guides utilize McKenzie style drift boats to access the best water in which to stop and wade to within casting distance of the fish. 

Steelhead:
The Deschutes is famous for its aggressive, surface oriented Steelhead, returning most years in prodigious numbers to this river so well suited to fly fishing. These fish average four to six pounds as single-salt fish. The two-salt fish can reach the teens, and three salt fish, well not a large portion of the run, have been landed approaching twenty pounds. Dry line tactics produce for the majority of our Steelhead season with dry flies often an effective approach. Sink tips see use during mid-day periods and late in the year as water temperatures start to cool off. The fish start to show by mid-July and the numbers build all the way through the end of the calendar year. September and October are prime months, and November, though less predictable, can produce great fishing. Steelheading with a fly rod, simply put, is really a numbers game. Cover enough known holding water with a wet fly swing and you will find a player. On a guided trip, rest assured that you will be fishing known and productive holding water. With the sheer numbers of fish returning to the Deschutes, and the fact that most of it is well suited to fly fishing, the odds of good steelhead fishing with a fly rod are better here than  any other river we can think of. And with the predominance of one salt fish, and the fact that they have spent 75% more time in fresh water than salt water, these fish tend to revert quickly to their "trouty" nature and are very receptive to flies. It all adds up to our favorite summer run steelhead fishery, at least within the US.


Trout:
The Deschutes Native Redsides are also well know, and for good reason. These Rainbow trout have adapted to the warmer temperatures and alkaline nature of Oregon's desert rivers. They grow stout and strong in the currents of this river, well renowned for whitewater excitement. While not attaining monstrous length, they are girthy and strong, surface oriented and hungry, and have a distinct appearance and a brawler's temperament. We love the strength and tenacity of these fish and feel, pound for pound, there aren't stronger trout anywhere. Being a classic tailwater fishery, the densities of trout per mile range from over 800 trout per mile below the White River to well over 3000 trout per mile nearer the dam. We prefer to fish upstream of Maupin, but below Trout Creek due to the greater densities of fish, more consistent hatches, and lighter angling pressure. A good portion of the year we are able to temp these fish into taking dry flies, with the salmonfly  and caddis hatches being some of the best times to fish this river. We also see good hatches of Blue winged olives, pale morning and evening duns, green drakes, october caddis, and march browns at various times of the year. And when we can't get them to look up, typical indicator nymphing tactics are consistently productive. Depending on the angler's skill set we can pursue picky trout in the back eddies, where a perfect choice of pattern and perfect presentation may still occasionally receive a luke-warm response, or nymph a two fly rig in the fast riffles for the actively feeding and discretionally challenged trout. Leave it to us to set the stage according to your skills and goals. That's what were here for.

Wildlife:
On the Deschutes, we see a wide variety of wildlife. Birds are highly migratory in the desert canyons so sightings vary quite a bit depending on the current season. Osprey, golden eagles, blue heron, chukar, various swallow species and numerous waterfowl are present much of the season. Lewis' woodpeckers, nighthawks, canyon wrens, and western screech owls are other regular residents of the canyon as well. Bullock's orioles, red-winged blackbirds and western meadowlarks are numerous in the spring. Wild turkey, sharp shinned hawks, widgeon, teal and a few bald eagles make appearances in the fall.  Mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, and otters are common along with raccoons and mink. Occasional sightings of beaver, skunk, bobcat, black bear, elk and cougar are reason enough to keep binoculars handy. We may not be able to recall the scientific names for all these critters, but we've got stories for days about most of them. Quite a few of them are actually true.
Stream Flows
  • DESCHUTES RIVER - Madras
  • Flow (cfs): 4460
    Temperature (°F): 51.98
  • DESCHUTES RIVER - Moody
  • Flow (cfs): 5490
    Temperature (°F): 52.34
  • JOHN DAY RIVER AT SERVICE CREEK, OR
  • Flow (cfs): 393
  • OWYHEE RIVER NR ROME OR
  • Flow (cfs): 175
  • Blog Recent Posts
  • We just returned from one of the most spectacular and remote river trips anywhere in the US. If you are like most people, you have never seen or even heard of the Owyhee River canyon....

  • This has been a long standing description of hooking steelhead on the fly, especially winter steelhead. I admit to having that coming close to the truth when I started chasing steelhead...

  • View all posts