It starts high in the Cascade Mountains, by Lava Lake, then flows north through Maupin, OR, reaching its destination at the mouth of the Columbia River. The Deschutes River consists of three different sections, all featuring their own fishing styles and species.
The upper and middle Deschutes River are the sections closest to, and flowing through Bend, Oregon. This is the heart of Bend, Oregon's fly fishing community. If you are on vacation around Central Oregon, you don't want to miss out on this section of the river.
The lower Deschutes River is the last 100 miles leading to the Columbia River. This section is what makes Deschutes River such a sought after fly fishing destination. All 100 miles are home to native Redband Trout, and annual Steelhead and Salmon runs. Anglers from all over the world travel to this section of the river. Some just to have their hand at the infamous dry and stone-fly hatches, and others to swing a Spey rod a returning summer Steelhead.
Here at Direct Adventures, we are the connection between you and the river.
Direct Adventures offers one day to multiple day camp trips on the lower sections of The Deschutes from Warm Springs to the Columbia River. Come experience this fishery either by drift boat or jet boat. Either way, our professional and experienced staff will ensure that you have the guided fly fishing adventure that you are looking for. Book your trip today!
Duration: Single day to multi-day guided fly fishing packages
Season: All year
Trips: Multiple trip options available for booking not online please call us at 541-633-3120 for trip options
Salmon Fly: April-June
Trout Anytime: April-October
Species: Rainbow Trout, Steelhead, Salmon
Lodging: Camp on multi-day packages, or various motels around Central Oregon
Pricing: pricing starts at $250 per person then up depending on the style of trip
Included: Guides, meals, and camp (multi-day packages)
Not Included: Fishing license, tribal permit, BLM boaters passes, client vehicle shuttles, alcohol, gear and guide gratuity
The Lower Deschutes has so much more to offer than just a stonefly hatch and a summer steelhead fishery. Yet those are the times that see the most angler pressure. Quality opportunities exist in the canyon throughout the year. The intent of this brief article is to summarize the seasons of the Deschutes and hopefully generate some interest in fishing the “other” seasons in the canyon.
Spring fishing in the weeks, even months, prior to the stonefly hatch can be phenomenal. March and April are simply a great time to be on the river. The canyon is usually a bright emerald green from spring rains—a stark contrast to the usual shades of brown that we see for most of the year. Although nymphing a stonefly nymph/dropper setup will keep a bend in the rod throughout the day, mid-day hatches of March Brown mayflies and BWOs can offer some fast and furious dry fly fishing on overcast days. Oh yeah, the river is usually deserted this time of year. Choice campsites and fishing spots are easy to come by. Depending on water temps, we usually see adult salmonflies and golden stones by the first or second week in May. Explosive dry fly action on the big bugs will be consistent through the end of the month. This is also the busiest time of the year on the river.
June can sometimes have a spring-like feel to it. If temps stay cool in June, we can see some good action on stoneflies early in the month. However, other aquatic bugs become increasingly important as the water and air temperatures continue to rise. Mayflies, caddis, and smaller stones are all important menu items for trout as we progress through the season. In my opinion, some of the best dry fly fishing of the year occurs during the first few heat waves of the season. Usually this occurs in late June or early July and results in massive caddis hatches. The trout take notice and, for a short window, they will feed recklessly on the bugs even during the heat of the day. Regardless of if you luck out on the mid-day feeding frenzy, the evening caddis fishing stays consistent throughout most of the summer, but hitting a little bit of a lull in August. Nymphing with very tiny flies has been a good tactic in recent years for finding trout during the dog days of August. The first summer steelhead arrive in July and August. Although a little tricky to find sometimes, these are the hottest and most aggressive fish of the year. It is well worth the effort to hook into one of these fish. The lowest stretches of river offer your best opportunity. This is the only time of year when you have a chance on the Deschutes to hook a truly “chrome” fish.
Longer, cooler nights help to kick-start the trout fishing out of the summer doldrums. Caddis, including the big October caddis, gain momentum in September and continue until the freeze. BWO hatches can be excellent in October and November. Nymphing with stonefly nymphs is an effective way to target trout and steelhead simultaneously (if that’s your thing). By the first of October, steelhead are distributed from the Mouth up to Warm Springs. Steelhead fishing in the upper river (Warm Springs-Maupin) gets better and better as fall progresses. I feel like steelheading in the upper section is best in November and December, if the weather cooperates. It is not well publicized, but the run of hatchery steelhead headed to Round Butte Hatchery does not usually peak until January. Late fall trips mean fewer anglers to share the river with and more steelhead in the runs.
Things slow down in the canyon and it can be miserably cold or surprisingly pleasant. If things stay nice, trout fishing in December-February can offer some very good opportunities. Fish move into slower pools and glides where they don’t have to work as hard. Midges, BWOs, and stonefly nymphs are the name of the game. Brief windows of dry fly activity can be had on warm, overcast days. Generally speaking, we quit targeting steelhead after the New Year. Also, the river is closed from Pelton Dam to the reservation boundary January 1 until late April.
A final thought:
We are one of the few outfitters that regularly fish the river’s upper and lower sections. Both stretches of river offer fantastic opportunities, but keep in mind the floats around Maupin and to the Mouth are open year round, have hardly any private property, and do not border reservation (you can fish both sides). Contrary to popular belief, there is a very healthy trout population all the way to the Columbia and very few anglers target these fish.
Steelhead fishing on the Deschutes is primarily done with two-handed (Spey) rods. These rods excel in covering large pieces of water in windy conditions. We are patient instructors with many years of experience and we love sharing our knowledge of Spey casting. However, a little practice before your trip will pay off in dividends on the water! The Jack-of-All-Trades rod for the Deschutes (and just about the entire PNW) is a 12.5’ to 13.5’ 7 weight. These rods are a perfect combination of power while also allowing the angler to enjoy the fight of a 5-10 pound fish. 5 and 6 weight Speys in the 11.5’ to 12.5’ range are an awful lot of fun and certainly have their place in the quiver, but can be a challenge to cast if the wind picks up. Single hand rods (7 and 8 wt.) are still a great option and with the new line options (OPST Commando, etc.) they are efficient tools, especially in the “small water.” Your reel should be able to hold 150+ yards of backing, plus your running line and head. A reel that balances out your two-handed rod is very important and will make your fishing far more enjoyable. Throughout most of our season, floating lines and leaders see the most use. Scandinavian (Scandi) style heads are ideal for this application. These lines, paired with an appropriate poly leader, allow for an immaculate presentation of unweighted flies at or near the surface. This type of fishing lends itself to the shade sessions. When the sun is on the water, Skagit style heads and matching sink tips (type 3 and 6) will increase your odds of a hookup. Flies fished on sink tips tend to be weighted and have a larger profile than traditional summer steelhead flies. Think Intruder or leech patterns. At the end of your poly leader or sink tip, we recommend Maxima Ultragreen as tippet material. Spools of 8,10 and 12 pound are all you need.