Oregon Fly Fishing 6 min read

DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Oregon

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

August 8, 2015

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Oregon is a state filled with surprises, recreational opportunities, and scenery that just can’t be found elsewhere.

It’s a state that likes to consider that it has its own list of “wonders” – in fact there are seven of them to be exact. Oregon is known for picturesque Mt. Hood, the Oregon coast, the Painted Hills, Smith Rock, the Wallows, Columbia River Gorge, and Crater Lake.

All of these wonders are true beauties well worth taking in, but so is the fly fishing that you can find throughout this wondrous state.

As an angler you’ll be thrilled to read that there are 363 miles worth of Pacific coastline to be found in Oregon, as well a collection of reservoirs and streams, and some rather massive rivers. You’ll be able to catch panfish, trout, steelhead, and salmon which are plenty of diversity.

So if you’re ready to get started, we’ve got lots to cover from the places worth visiting to the gear you’ll want to take with you.

Oregon Fishing Map

map of places to fish in Oregon

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Spots to Fish in Oregon

Whether you’re in Oregon simply for the fly fishing or you’re there making a vacation out of things and looking to explore the seven wonders, there is no shortage of lakes, rivers, streams, and reservoirs to discover.

There is diversity not just in the fish you’ll be catching but also in the scenery, the water conditions, and the skill level required to fish the waters.

The most common types of trout you’ll find in the streams, lakes, and rivers are cutthroat, brook, rainbow, redband rainbow, and brown. The rainbow and brown trout are the largest of all the different trout that are found here.

Let’s take a look at a few of the standout locations that fly fishers rave about.

Deschutes River

The Deschutes River is mentioned time and time again among fly fishers, so it’s no wonder it made an appearance in the “America’s 100 Best Trout Streams” guidebook.

The closest city to this river is Maupin and this river is open year-round for fly fishing. The skill level given to the river is moderate, which means if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge you’re going to find it here.

As for the trout you’ll be fishing for, there are rainbow, brown, and brook trout to be found. Anglers tend to like the upper waters of the river, whereas the middle section isn’t quite as busy. Move along downstream and you’ll find the conditions improve once again.

Additional fish species include the redside and steelhead.

Owyhee River

Located near the city of Nyssa, the Owyhee River is just 10 miles in length but offers fabulous cold water fishing. It is described as a classic example of tail water trout fishing, and it pretty much stays cold year round thanks to the cold water flowing in from the Owyhee reservoir. This area tends to stay pretty quiet, so if you prefer not to deal with crowds this is a great river. The trout come from a hatchery, and you’ll find that they can get pretty impressive in size, growing up to 30 inches. The river is made up of brown and rainbow trout. If you’re planning a trip to the Owyhee River the season runs from April until the end of October. You’ve got the option of wading or fishing from the shore here.

Eagle Cap Wilderness

If you’re the type who enjoys more of the rugged landscapes, then the Eagle Cap Wilderness will appeal to you. Here you will be surrounded by the famous Wallowa Mountains, which look a whole lot like the Rocky Mountains to many people. You are surrounded by thick and beautiful forests, wildlife, and quiet. The nearest city is LaGrande, and this area is ideal in the summer and fall for fly fishing. You’ll need to hike through the wilderness in order to find the various streams, rivers, and lakes. This is more of an adventure than just a simple day-trip. As for the water conditions, expect cool waters that are perfect for trout that are also crystal clear.

Chewaucan River

Sticking with the idea of getting off the beaten path, there is the Chewaucan River. The nearest city to this river is Paisley, but you’ll find this river isn’t as well known. Don’t let that stop you from checking it out as you can find some decent sized rainbow trout in the river. Up until 1999 the river was stocked by the state and as a result it offers some pretty great fishing opportunities. This river is best fished on shore or by wading. It should be noted that not all areas of the river are open to the public so you’ll want to be sure you’re sticking to the safe areas.

Paulina Lake

Perhaps you prefer a large lake rather than quiet streams and rivers. Paulina Lake can certainly fit that bill as it covers more than 1,500 acres. Add in the fact that it is dubbed one of the deepest lakes in all of Oregon with depths of up to 250 feet, this makes for a fabulous location. The nearest city is Bend, and you can experience the fishing here by shore, float tube, boat, or wading. As for what you’ll be fishing for, it’s brown trout. Now let’s go a little further, it’s not just any brown trout, the largest brown trout in the state has been caught here which was 27 pounds. So you just may find your very own massive brown trout. You can also find kokanee and rainbow trout in the water.

Best Time to Fish in Oregon

As with the majority of locations the best time of year to fish is dependent on the location. If you’re specifically fishing for trout then the fall and spring months are ideal. Trout love the colder water temperatures, as it helps them to be more active. Many lakes in the state are also stocked, which helps the numbers. If you can’t manage a trip during those months, be sure to find a lake, river, stream in the summer that is high up in elevation so that it will be colder.

On the flipside those low elevation ponds and streams that are so warm in the summer will stay that way well into fall and even remain a decent temperature in winter. If you plan on fishing in the winter you’ll find that the trout stick to the calmer waters that aren’t moving too fast. No matter what time of year you choose to fish, be sure to dress appropriately. The winter months typically see cold temperatures and snow, while summer can get quite warm especially if you’re out in the full-sun all day.

Oregon is a state where there are hatches taking place at all times of the year. Those that take place from January to December are midges, mayflies, caddis larva, and stoneflies. The rest of the hatches are seasonal with the majority taking place between May through September or October. There are also beetles, hoppers, and eggs that have hatch seasons, as well. The three of these are later in the year hatching in the fall and winter.

Essential Fishing Gear

Experts suggest that you use a rode that is nine feet in length and has a five weight. Be sure to pick a fly reel that balances and matches up.

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs for trout. For larger nymphs and streamers a 9-foot 6-wt with a sink tip fly line makes life easier. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Best Flies for Fly Fishing in Oregon

Picking your flies is a bit more involved. You want to try to match up to the hatches happening at that time of year. If you’re unsure of which ones are taking place, visit a local fly shop to get information and purchase the correct flies.

With all of that said there are a few that are known as “favorites” among anglers in the Pacific Northwest. These are the possie bugger nymph, yak caddis, leggy stone, lightening bug, goddard caddis, partridge soft hackle, and clark’s stonefly. If you’re going to stock your fly box in advance, these are great for catching trout in the rivers and streams.

Need flies? 

The Fly Crate offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Premium, high quality, hand-tied flies at a great price!

fly fishing flies from The Fly Crate

The Fly Crate Commits 2% of Sales to Aid Disabled Veterans

Oregon Fishing Regulations

Residents and non-residents are able to purchase a fishing license through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. In Oregon anyone age 12 and older must possess a valid fishing license for sport fishing.

Some fish also require a Combined Angling Tag. The fish that require these tags are halibut, sturgeon, steelhead, and salmon. Some areas require special permits and additional tags so it’s wise to plan ahead and be sure you have all the proper items. You can purchase a one-year license or a multi-day license.

Oregon Fly Fishing Trip Planning

Oregon is ready and waiting to welcome anglers from all over the country and impress them with the diversity of fish species, the stunning scenery, and the seemingly endless lakes, rivers, streams, and reservoirs that are ideal for fly fishing.

Choose the timing of your trip wisely, and remember there are still great places to fish even in the winter months throughout the state of Oregon. It’s a state that never stops where opportunity is concerned.

Looking for more places to fish?  Check our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing Destinations in the U.S.