Places to Fly Fish in Oregon. By Season

Oregon offers spectacular fishing. Fresh or salt, a lifetime is barely enough to scratch the surface of all the possibilities.

The picturesque North-western state offers all the abundance of the Pacific while boasting countless miles of rivers and lakes for the fresh-minded angler. 

Today we’ll pay homage to fresh and identify great locations to cast a fly all year round.

While there’s action to be had for the salty fly angler, today it’s all about the browns, rainbows, bulls, and salmon. 

Moreover, it’s about using the most ancient and celebrated technique, fly fishing.

Oregon locals may well be very familiar with the information below. Nonetheless, read-on. 

You can revisit that which you may have taken for granted – something many of us do when blessed with such abundance.

This article is more for the visitor to Oregon. We want to highlight a few places visitors can cast a fly with a likelihood of a scaly return, regardless of the season.

Note:

Before we get started, it’s important to mention that like everywhere else in the US, fishing regulations apply. Make sure you are fully versed in the local rules before you fish.

Visitors to Oregon are well-advised to check local regional regulations as an integral part of their trip planning.

Keep in mind, the rules you faced on your last visit may have changed, so it pays to check up every time.

Fly Fishing Oregon in the Fall and Winter

Things might be beginning to cool down following the summer frenzy, but this is no time to prep your fly kit for hibernation.

If you fish in the fall you can still utilize many kinds of fishing rods without freezing. 

Winter is a different story…winter kit is essential.

Visitors and locals alike are often content simply soaking up the spectacular fall color, caring less about the action on their 5 weight. 

Oregon’s rivers are genuinely a sight to behold in fall and right through the winter.

Who am I kidding? It’s about fishing, right?

Salmon and steelhead are highly sought when things turn chilly. The trout get pretty lazy, but they still devour well-placed nymphs, and monster trout are definitely on the cards.

The Sandy River

Portland is a thriving center for commerce and a popular destination for visitors to Oregon – both business and leisure travelers.

A 40-minute drive from the city will bring you to the Oxbow Regional Park and the Sandy River.

In terms of fishing, there are more prolific offerings, however, proximity to the city, ease of fishing, and the natural beauty so close to the metropolitan hustle and bustle make the Sandy worth a shot.

Coho and chinook are on offer this time of year, with the latter only occasional, and runs tend to vary year to year.

The Sandy earns its mention for proximity. It’s ideal for downtime whilst on a business trip. Hire a car and get amongst it.

The Sandy is a great place with kids in tow, as the river is easily fished, regardless of competency.

The Salmon River. Keeping it Closer to Town

The Salmon River is a Sandy river tributary. The small river looks untouched by human intervention, defying the impacts of its proximity to a well-used highway that runs alongside a significant portion of it.

It’s the highway location that, like the Sandy River into which it runs, makes it convenient for time-poor traveling anglers to get in a day trip.

Chinook is available in numbers from mid-fall through to the end. Come the winter, it’s the Steelhead that will take top billing.

Chinook is, of course, arguably the most sought-after freshwater fish in Oregon. A fall trip to the Salmon is a sure bet for the most famous of our salmon, and the sport on fly gear is breathtaking.

The scenery is also breathtaking, ensuring that even though your time there may be limited, you can still get immersed in the Oregon wilderness, and dreams of a PB chinook.

Chinook and Steelhead from the Main Umpqua River

The Main Umpqua is formed by the joining of the North and South Umpqua rivers. From here it travels a touch over a hundred miles to the Pacific.

This is one heck of a location for fishing all year round, from the tidal influence all the way upstream to where the two Umpqua rivers become one.

The traveling fly angler can have a ball here. With time on your hands, you can visit the numerous historic towns, share fishing tales over a social drink, having just created your own “one that got away” adventure.

The Main Umpqua will deliver steelhead all year round but come end July through October, the chinook will offer spectacular sport. 

November brings an end to the big chinook numbers, but they’ll still be about until the cold sets in for winter.

Where Will You Find Oregon Trout in Winter and Fall?

Don’t let the cool weather turn you off an Oregon trout hunt. Of course, you’re not going to get thrill a minute trout action. Come the winter and fall, it’s not about quantity.

It’s at this time of year you need to change your strategy and recognize that one to three fish in a session is a great day out.

In the cooler months, it’s all about fishing nymphs. Makes sure you’re prepared with dry flies.

When you choose a river, get some local advice about where to find the slower moving stretches of the river. 

The trout have slowed for winter and are lethargic at best. Energy conservation is important for them, as they’re eating far less.

Make sure you have a plan to cover as much territory as thoroughly as possible. 

The sluggish winter trout couldn’t care less about your nymph, unless, of course, it’s dropped right in front of its nose.

Drop it in its face, and you’re sure to inspire an attack. After all, they’ve still got to eat.

Sessions will be short come the depths of winter. You will only have a window of a few hours per day. Fish efficiently and deliberately.

However, the fishing is unlikely to be fish on fish, so you’ll have time to absorb the beauty around you as you cast methodically.

Use small flies and as light a tippet as you dare. This is a tough balancing act. While the time of year necessitates lighter rigs, there’s still big trout taking little flies; being underpowered can be heartbreaking.

Go to a tackle store and get some local advice before you head out to your chosen spot. 

Local knowledge is everything here, particularly in winter and fall. Get an idea of what you’re likely to encounter so you can pack and rig appropriately.

Remember safety. It’s can get cold…to say the least. Let people know where you’re going and your return time.

Take a change of warm clothes and keep them in a dry bag. People fall in, particularly around the slippery icy areas. 

Hypothermia sets in quickly, and I guarantee you, it’ll wreck a perfect day out.

There are plenty of stunning locations to find cold-weather trout in Oregon. For the dedicated, you will be rewarded by the opportunity to fish a river in solitude, without another angler for miles.

Here’s a list of likely locations for winter and fall trout in Oregon.

  • Owyhee River
  • Deschutes River (lower)
  • Klamath River
  • Crooked River
  • Metolius River


Fly Fishing Oregon in the Spring and Summer

If you’re a fly angler, and not from Oregon, you must put Oregon on your bucket list. The summer offers a huge number of fly fishing choices throughout.

Of course, the trout come on the chew…big time. So, unlike the winter, you can catch your limit via non-stop action.

Steelhead are still available in the warmer months, and despite their ordinary flavor, few fish can match their sporting attraction.

Kokanee are also a must for visitors to Oregon. Records are available, and there’s nothing better than taking a record from a local.

For me, the big drawcard is the trout. While many locations offer big bulls (watch regulations), and big browns, I’m astonished at the reports of average rainbow sizes.

If you’re looking for a rainbow PB, Oregon has a few places that demand a visit. 

While it’s recommended you get some local advice, all experienced fly anglers will be able to make their way to the productive areas.

Whitefish are abundant and will possibly annoy fly anglers looking for a genuine trout experience.

However, their “trash fish” reputation is undeserved. They are in fact very important to the health of the river systems and act as an important litmus test for river health. 

What’s more, they’re great fun to catch and great to eat.

Fly Fishing Wallowa Lake

The Department of Wildlife stock the Wallowa annually. With the release of thousands of catchable fish, the Wallowa remains a hot-spot for rainbows, as they’re there in great numbers.

There’s plenty for all, which is great because the Wallowa is popular come the warmer months.

For those wanting a larger class of rainbow, the Wallowa is a must, with rainbows to 20 inches being common. Land-based, or afloat, there’s plenty of options for the lake’s best fish

Kokanee is available too. They offer outstanding sport, and it’s a likely location to bag yourself a record with a little dedication and targeting. Get some local tips.

Steelhead can be caught in the summer, but it’s October to March that brings on the best steelhead experience.

The city of Joseph is well located for accessing the best spots. There’s plenty of accommodation, with camping and vacation rentals readily available.

Fly Fishing Wickiup Reservoir

Kokanee, browns, and rainbows are the order of the day at Wickiup. The reservoir is an important irrigation supply, and water levels can vary significantly depending on rainfall.

Despite the frequent water level variations, there are always plenty of summer opportunities for the fly angler, with huge trout being the target for most.

Rainbows and browns frequent the 5 to 8-pound mark. It’s the browns, however, that inspire the dreams of record breakers, with browns reaching over 20 pounds; a true catch of a lifetime. 

In fact, the Wickiup is often billed as the state’s best brown trout location.

This title is very debatable, however. Locals will certainly argue that Paulina lake is best as it holds the current record of a  28-pound, 5-ounce fish. Pauline Lake, like Wickiup, is a short drive from Bend.

Wickiup is the state’s second-largest reservoir, so there’s plenty of water for anglers to explore, and you can certainly find your own space when angler numbers are up.

There are 6 campgrounds for anglers to base themselves, all of which have boat ramps for convenient launching.

The Wickiup is also renowned for its stunning wildlife, delivering a stunning attraction while fishing or during downtime.

Wickiup is a leisurely 60-minute drive, northwest of Bend. A day trip from Bend is certainly on the cards for the early riser.

Fly Fishing the Crooked River

The famous Crooked River is a 125-mile trout bonanza that flows into the Deschutes River. 

The river is easily accessed from Prineville, Oregon’s oldest city. This is high desert land, offering magnificent vistas of the surrounding mountains.

The riverside geography lends to easy casting, making this an ideal place for the beginner to hone their skills.

Locals will tell you that nymph fishing is the local preference, but dry flies are on when the hatch is on.

The Crooked is all about trout numbers. There’s plenty of them. So if non-stop trout action is your thing, the Crooked is the place to be.

Estimates put trout numbers at several thousand trout per mile. This is great news because following the 2015-16 drought the river’s trout were all but wiped out.

While the numbers are certainly as good as you’d get anywhere, fly anglers will have to suffice with average fish sizes of 8 to 12 inches.

There are some samples reaching the 16-inch mark, but those looking for trophy trout will have to wait a few years for the post-drought fish to reach maturity.

While the Crooked is at its absolute best in the summer, it will also produce good numbers of fish trout in the cold months. 

The weather is also usually agreeable in the cooler months, with frequent sunny days.

The Oregon Fly Fishing Wrap

Clearly, this article barely scratches the surface, but if nothing else, it provides visiting fly anglers with a starting point.

Locals will agree that volumes could be written about each river, stream, lake and tiny tributary throughout Oregon, such is the depth and variety of Oregon’s fisheries.

Oregon offers spectacular fly fishing all year round. Whether it’s rainbows, browns or the elusive bulls that are your thing. 

Or perhaps you’re after the intense sport of mega salmon and steelhead. Oregon has it all. With over 300 miles of Pacific coastline, there’s no shortage of salty options in Oregon. 

But the fresh stuff is where it’s at in Oregon. It’s a 365 days per year fly anglers paradise from border to border, from the mountains to the sea.

Oregon delivers with day trips, weekend adventures, and holiday fly fishing expeditions. They understand fly fishing, so they’ll understand you.

Most importantly, Oregon has a waterway to suit your fly skills, your budget, and your time restraints. Here’s a detailed map so you can start planning your next Organ fly fishing trip