Copyright 2013James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Umatilla River Oregon
The Umatilla River is a tributary of the Columbia River
that's approximately 89 miles long. It is located in
northeastern Oregon. The major tributaries of the
Umatilla River are the North and South Forks of the
Umatilla River. The river increases in size along its way
from the water of many tributaries before reaching the

The headwaters of the Umatilla River are in the Blue
Mountains at the confluence of its north and south forks
in the Umatilla National Forest. Lick Creek and Bear
Creek join it above Bingham Springs. It is joined by Rock
Creek as well as Bobsled, Augur, and Ryan creeks
before it enters the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Squaw, Buckaroo, Coonskin, Moonshine, Cottonwood
and Mission Creeks enter the river downstream of

The Umatilla leaves the Indian reservation and reaches
the city of Pendleton where Wildhorse and Patawa
Creeks enter it. It flows under I-84 twice, picking up
more water from McKay, Birch, and Butter Creeks above
Hermiston.  It then passes under I-82 before entering the
Columbia River at the city of Umatilla. The river joins the
Columbia at Lake Umatilla, a reservoir formed by the
John Day Dam on the Columbia.

In its lower reaches, the Umatilla River offers steelhead
and coho and fall Chinook salmon fishing opportunities.
The season on spring Chinook varies from year to year.
For many years, salmon were not present in the Umatilla
River. The water was used for Irrigation and the river's
habitat was damaged. Thanks to tribes of the Umatilla
Indian Reservations, salmon are once again returning to
the river, although there are still problems with the return
numbers of the spring run. The tribes have jurisdiction
over about half of the river.

The upper river has a very decent population of rainbow
trout. There's also lots of whitefish and a few bull trout.
Several of the tributary streams have a population of

The fishing season is species specific. Be sure to check
the current regulations
Steelhead are in the river until May but the season
closes in mid-April. The spring season for Chinook
varies depending on the returns. Late spring starts the
rainbow trout season.
Summertime is the best time for the upper section's
rainbow trout. Chinook Salmon and Coho Salmon enter
the river in August.
Steelhead enter the Umatilla River in late September.
September. October is a prime month for them. Early
Fall is good for rainbow trout. Chinook and Coho are in
the river until December. October is a prime month.
Steelhead are in the river throughout the winter
months.November is a prime month for the Chinook and
Coho and they are in the river until December.
Type of Stream

Chinook Salmon (Spring & Fall)
Rainbow trout
Bull Trout

Small to Large

Northeastern Oregon

Nearest Towns

Varies by species. See current

Limited but good in certain areas

Non-Resident License
State of Oregon

National Weather Service

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies

USGS Stream Flow Data:
Near Umatilla
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Copyright 2015 James Marsh
Umatilla River Fly Fishing Report:
11/28/13 Customers reporting seeing anglers catching
a few steelhead. He has caught two on our Perfect Fly
Giant Black Stonefly nymph. Ordered more. He said
egg flies didn't seem to be working as well as nymphs.
01/03/13 Steelhead fishing has been very slow with
only a few steelhead reported caught. Steelhead
catch and returns have been made up of
approximately 90 percent wild fish. Low, clear water
is the problem.
05/23/15 Updated Fishing Report
(see bottom of page)
02/08/14 Two customers ordering more flies reporting better fishing on the Umatilla River
the past couple of weeks. They are fishing between Pendleton and Nolin and using
indicators and our Perfect Fly
Green Sedge Larva steelhead fly and our Hot Flash Spey and
other Spey patterns,
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $100 are shipped via
Priority Mail.  
12/25/14 Rain has brought lots of steelhead in the river and anglers were catching a few before
the stream levels got so high. They are currently falling, so keep a close check on them.
02/13/15 The past two weeks has produced a good number of steelhead for our customers.
They are using nymphs and swinging flies depending on the levels.
05/23/15 Just a note to tell you the reports will resume when steelhead season returns. Trout
fishing in the upper river is good at this time of the year and into the Summer months.