Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Deschutes River Oregon
We will start with the steelhead fishing in the Lower Deschutes. It is World renowned for its
steelhead fishing primarily because the fish will eat a fly on the surface of the water. The
steelhead start coming into the Deschutes from the Columbia River as early as July and can be
caught as late as November. There are both wild steelhead and steelhead that have been
stocked. The hatchery raised trout will come into the river from the Ocean anywhere from late
June to August depending on the water levels. The stocked steelhead average about nine
pounds. The wild fish are referred to as "A" run and "B" run fish The "A" run wild steelhead
come into the Deschutes in July and August and will average from four to six pounds. The "B"
run steelhead enter the river from August to September and average about twelve pounds or
better. They stay in the Ocean from two to three years. All wild fish must be returned to the
There are several ways these steelhead can be caught but the most frequently used method,
and one that has been around for years, is the traditional wet fly method of fishing. A floating
fly line is used for this. The presentation is made down and across the runs and the fly allowed
to swing across the run to the downstream position. It usually takes a few mends to control the
drift of the fly. Anglers fish the entire length of a long run from it head to it tail. It is best to fish
early and late, especially when there's a bright, sunny sky. You can catch steelhead up in the
day when the sun is bearing down on the water, but you will need to use a sink tip fly line or a
sinking fly line to get the fly down to them.

Upper Deschutes River Trout:
The trout fishing is good throughout the entire length of the Deschutes River from its Upper
Section all the way to the Columbia River. The trout have a tremendous diversity and quantity
of aquatic insects to choose from. The Upper River is considered the water upstream from
Bend to Lava Lake, a distance of about 80 miles. Public access is easy because most of the
river is in the Deschutes National Forest in the Cascades Mountains.  

Below Wickiup Reservoir down to Benham Falls, the Deschutes River has both wild and
stocked trout. Both rainbows and brown trout are present. The stream in this area is best
fished from a drift boat. Both rainbows and browns move out of Crane Prairie and Wickiup
Reservoirs to spawn and this adds additional big fish to the river. There are rainbows and
brook trout in the uppermost part above Crane Prairie Reservoir. Thee are both brown and
rainbows below Wickiup Reservoir., but it's mostly brown trout down to Benham Falls. Below
the falls, the majority of the trout are rainbows. The brown trout get quite large but the
rainbows only average about ten inches. The brook trout are about four to six inches long.
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Deschutes River, Oregon
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Photo Courtesy of
Dennis McCarthy
Photo Courtesy of
Dennis McCarthy