Deschutes River steelhead
Fly fishing for Deschutes River steelhead is a "bucket list" angling experience. 1000 foot deep canyon walls dotted with sagebrush and juniper frame the Deschutes - one of earth's great summer steelhead fly fishing rivers. Ideal for spey fishing with floating lines, Deschutes River steelhead run July through the end of the year, with the most productive fly fishing mid July through November.
River Runner Outfitters provides guided steelhead trips on the Deschutes River near Maupin, Oregon, as well as multi-day steelhead camping trips from Mack's Canyon to the mouth. During the fall steelhead run from Trout Creek to Maupin, considered to be the "upper river". River Runner Outfitters is one of the few guide services that guides both the lower and upper sections of the Deschutes for steelhead. This makes for a versatile steelhead fishing program that keeps our clients on fish.
fly fishing for Deschutes steelhead
Deschutes steelhead are surface oriented fish. Swinging traditional wet flies is a very productive fly fishing technique. Many fly patterns were created and named in honor of the Deschutes River, including the Mack's Canyon, Ferry Canyon, Freight Train, Coal Car, Signal Light, Deschutes Deamon, and more. The ultimate in summer steelhead fly fishing is skating a surface fly and bringing the fish all the way to the top. Often the take is explosive! The Deschutes has a ton of perfect skating water, where steelhead will visibly break the surface when attacking your fly. Fishing with floating lines is best when the sun is off the water, or isn't directly in the steelhead's eyes.
Spey casting with sink tips and modern style flies is extremely effective during the middle of the day, when steelhead are holding in faster water. This is an unconventional approach to fly fishing for Deschutes River steelhead, and provides mid day action while many anglers are waiting for evening shade.
The Lower Deschutes River has some of the most seductive steelhead water in the world, including famous runs such as Signal light, Ferry Canyon, Hot Rocks, Wagonblast, and many more. It is an honor to wade through such storied runs, let alone taking steelhead from them. However, many of our favorite and most productive fishing spots are small, obscure, and were found during exploratory fishing trips. While casting spey rods is undoubtedly the most efficient method of fly fishing for steelhead, anglers have been using single handed fly rods on the Deschutes River for decades.
Deschutes River steelhead season
July: Summer steelhead begin to run in fishable numbers by early July. The lower ten miles of the Deschutes is the first to hold steelhead. We begin our steelhead season by floating to Mack's Canyon to the mouth, where we swing our flies just a few miles upriver from the Deschutes' confluence with the Columbia River. Fly fishing for steelhead early to mid July can be hit or miss. The steelhead we do encounter, often on surface flies, will blow your mind. They are undoubtedly the hottest steelhead in the lower 48. Anglers travel from around the world and fish for days, hoping to get a hold of a few of these sassy early season steelhead. Fishing becomes consistent by mid July. The second half of the month brings a solid wave of steelhead into the Deschutes. Water release from Round Butte/Pelton Dams: 85% top, 15% bottom.
August: A consistent month on the lower river, August is when many anglers begin to fish for steelhead on the Deschutes. There is no doubt there are fish around, and anglers can swing their flies with supreme confidence. Multi day camping float trips are the way to go if time allows, however full and half day float trips become a great option in August. Our day trips are below Sherars Falls, from Pine Tree to Mack's Canyon. Water release from Round Butte/Pelton Dams: 70% top, 30% bottom.
September: Steelhead are spread throughout the lower 50 miles of the Deschutes by September. Early to mid September Mack's to the mouth is still the best float. Day trips in the Maupin area are also productive. By mid to late September steelhead make their way to the upper river, below Trout Creek. A late September float on the upper river will put you amongst fresh aggressive steelhead and few people to compete with. Some years the fishing remains better on the "Mack's to the mouth" float, in which case we keep fishing that stretch into the fall. Water release from Round Butte/Pelton Dams: 60% top, 40% bottom.
October: The most popular month to fish the Deschutes for steelhead has historically been October. Steelhead are well spread out and fishing is productive from Warm Springs to the mouth. October is our busiest month outfitting steelhead fly fishing trips. Day trips in the Warm Springs and Maupin areas, as well as multi day float trips on the upper and lower river are all happening in October. Cool short days provide ideal river and fly fishing conditions and numbers of steelhead are near their peak. Water release from Round Butte/Pelton Dams: 50% top, 50% bottom.
November: When fishing pressure slows down after Halloween steelhead begin to stack up in the best water and become more aggressive. On a typical November float trip one is likely to encounter good numbers of steelhead without seeing too many if any other anglers. We use a 12' x 12' heated canvas wall tent for our camping trips in the fall. Full day trips near Maupin are also a great option as the river bordered by the Indian Reservation closes (upstream near Warm Springs). November is one of the most productive and underrated months to fish steelhead on the Deschutes. Water release from Round Butte/Pelton Dams: 100% top.
Deschutes steelhead fly fishing tackle
Spey rods from 11' - 13' 6" are recommended, 6 to 8 weight. Single handed rods are fine for anglers used to doing things the old fashioned way... hats off to you! 9' to 10' rods and floating lines are all that is necessary. Regarding spey lines, Scandinavian style shooting heads are ideal for floating line applications. Mid and long belly lines work fine also, but may be more difficult to cast in tight quarters. For sink tip fishing, nothing beets Skagit lines. Most useful sink tips are 12' of T11, and 9' of T14. Breathable goretex waders are ideal for fishing the Deschutes. Studded wading boots are a must.
guided steelhead trips
River Runner Outfitters provides guiding services for steelhead in the Maupin area of the Lower Deschutes. Fishing with a guide will increase angler's chances of catching Deschutes River steelhead. Fishing the right type of water, with the correct lines and flies for the current conditions makes all the difference. The intuition as to "where and when" that guides possess will work greatly to your advantage. Read more
multi day steelhead trips
From Mack's Canyon the Deschutes flows 23 miles to the Columbia River. Multi-day camping float trips through this lowermost section of the Deschutes offer the most consistent fly fishing for steelhead. All meals and camping equipment are provided by River Runner Outfitters. This is the ultimate Oregon steelhead spey fishing trip. Read more
Deschutes steelhead video
A short video featuring angler Stephen Warren, filmed during a multi-day float trip in August 2011.