Deschutes River - Trout Fishing Profile

Fishery in Oregon
Map of Oregon
Excerpted from Trout Fishing Sourcebook by Mark D. Williams

The Deschutes is a special river, destined to become firmly set in the minds of destination anglers. It has a variety of water types, thick insect hatches, and a healthy population of trout set in a beautiful part of the world.

The Deschutes is one of the best trout streams in the nation. The river is equally known, maybe even better known, for its steelhead fishing. Set in central and north central Oregon, the accessible Deschutes River flows north after beginning its trek from Little Lava Lake in the High Cascades. The headwaters of the river belie the great size of the river below it, and there is quiet, shallow water for angling for rainbow and brown trout.

The river has many regulations over its 150-mile course, and different stretches hold combinations of rainbow, brown, brook trout, kokanee salmon, and whitefish. This is a long complex river, a river of many moods and many personalities, impounded several times, popular with anglers and recreationists such as whitewater enthusiasts. It flows over waterfalls and through pine forest, meadow, desert, and canyon. Much of it lies within the Deschutes National Forest, including the officially designated Wild and Scenic portion.

The most celebrated trout water on the river is that section from below Pelton Dam 50 miles to Sherar's Falls, a powerful, cascading stretch of water holding excellent if unpredictable hatches of caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, and midges. One of the best hatches is the salmonfly hatch, which takes place amid the throngs of fishermen in late May and early June. The golden stoneflies follow this hatch, followed still by hatches of pale morning dun, tan caddis, pale evening dun, trico and blue winged olive.

Overall, the caddisfly is the staple hatch on the river. But the summer months usually find anglers nymphing likely lies with weighted nymphs, and this kind of technique can be deadly at times. Dry fly fishing can be good at times, and at other times it pays to try emergers or small nymphs. Wet flies can be effective, too. Spin fishermen have success casting Rooster Tails and Panther Martins around the large rocks and into the glides.

The trout of this river have to struggle against the constant power of the river and are strong fighters. Known to any angler who has ever tied into a Deschutes trout is the redside trout, a native fish with extra oomph when on the end of a line. The trout grow to impressive sizes, with the average brown trout running about 15 inches and the average native rainbow about 16 inches or thereabouts. Many brown trout weigh over 10 pounds, and the redsides top 20 inches every so often.

Because the river is rough and the fish are smart, it is a good idea to hire a fishing guide if you are not familiar with the Deschutes. Many stretches of the river can be floated, and in fact, the river suffers from the numerous rafters. Limits on the number of boats might be a good idea.

An easy float is between Sunriver and Bend, where the river slows down at times and calmly moves along its course. Many areas require great care when floating, and this is why a guide is best for first-timers. Wading in the upper reaches is easy, but below Pelton Dam wading in the fast current is difficult, and sometimes dangerous.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press and Mark D. Williams. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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