1007-The Deschutes River Fishery
The Deschutes Fishery starts at Pelton Dam (L/L N44.69427 W121.23194) off Hwy26 and runs to the mouth at the Columbia at Hwy 206 and I-84 ((L/L N45.63036 W120.90106). This is not a river you can drive along side. There are four main points of access, the mouth, Hwy 26,Hwy 197, and Hwy 218.While the fishery runs about 100 miles in length, the drive to the access point is much longer and not likely covered in a day because of the route needed to reach the points. But&it is definitely worth the trip.
Ending at the Columbia River, the Deschutes starts its journey down from the Cascades drainage on the East side. From there to the Columbia is about 300 miles. However, The Deschutes Fishery stretches about 100 miles starting at the Pelton Dam (L/L N44.69427 W121.23194) near Madras and Warm Springs.
The Deschutes is home to Steelhead coming up the Columbia on the return from the sea. During the run from September through December, the chrome beauties can run to fifteen pounds. September through October is the best period to fish the big guys. Trout are in the heavy in the River May through October and run generally from 12 to 14 inches. The Trout while technically Rainbows are a sub-species known as Redsides and are stunning. Were talking thrills and chills fishing in this country between what you see, the adventure of the River and usually great fishing. When they hit the fly, there just aint nothing like being on the this water.
Access can be rough going as there is little to nothing in the way of roads on the Deschutes. This is part of what makes it fun and makes for better odds. It is mostly hiking or boats once you get much beyond the town areas and a few BLM campsites. Boats can only be used for transportation to a fishing spot as fishing from a boat is not allowed. Amazingly, the Oregon Trunk Railway runs next to the river from its mouth at the Columbia almost all the way to Warm Springs before breaking off towards the town Madras.
The River make-up is diverse with several deep channel areas of very swift water and a good number of wide spots with riffles and eddies that let you fish the seams. The River is swift and caution is advised all the time. There are lots of holes that are over your head. The Deschutes is also very popular with rafters and kayakers. It has several class three rapids and some fours and fives on it. They can make for good fishing as well.
The Deschutes Fishery starts at the Pelton Dam below Lake Simtustus which lies just below Lake Billy Chinook. From its start it passes through Warm Springs on Hwy26, Maupin on Hwy 197 and Fargher on Hwy 216. These are the places to start to fish and the only points of general access. The country is rough and rocky with scrub trees and brush but beautiful nevertheless. It is possessed of canyons, mountains and breathtaking vistas. Its cowboy country and you almost expect to see a cattle drive moving by.
Entry off Hwy 26 in the Warm Springs area is limited with the boat launch area being just above the bridge. The best place to get to is the Mecca Flats(L/L N44.77775 W121.19234) area or boat down to Trout Creek which is a great spot. Trout Creek (N44.80247 W121.06219) can actually be reached by road via Gateway Village(L/L N44.77538 W121.08277) and going down to Trout Creek campground. The road is gravel but OK. Fishing must be above the campground because it is private property below that point.
In this same area is the stretch from Dry Creek(L/L N44.50510 W122.27561) down to the area across from Trout Creek campground, a distance of about six miles. This is tribal land and requires a tribal license. The area is reachable by off the road leading to Kahneeta Hot Springs Resort.
South Junction, another work for it but great spot can be reached from the intersection of Hwy 97 and 197. Head down to the River and there is about a mile of access.
Maupin is a very popular town to go to for fishing as well as river running. It is easy to reach and River access is quite good. Above the town is a good stretch of dirt road running about seven miles with BLM camp areas and parking. At the end is a very popular put in for rafts and kayaks. Fishing and rafting co-exist just fine. Just dont put a fly into them. Theyre hard to land. Also, please be mindful and respectful of private land in the area.
Going downstream from the bridge is eight miles of paved road and the River is pretty accessible along all of it. Again, lots of rafts. Early on the River and evenings are pretty quiet and good times to fish is solitude.
Hwy 216 crosses Sherar's Bridge(L/L N45.25889 W121.03585) above Sherars Falls. Just beyond the bridge is the start of a gravel road that runs along the river for 17 miles to Macks Canyon (L/L N45.38679 W12087093). This is very good Steelhead and Trout water. There is lots of access and several BLM camp sites. As a side note, Sherars Falls is a location where the Indians still fish using nets across the River strung from towers erected on both sides of the water. It is very interesting to observe.
The Deschutes reaches it final outpouring at the confluence with the Colombia River (L/L N45.63036 W120.90106) This is easy access at I-84 and Hwy 206. The Deschutes River Recreation campground is located here and a very nice facility. There is access from both sides of the River. Again, caution when wading. The water runs very swiftly here. This is not so great for trout fishing but certainly is good in Steelhead time. This is where they come in.
Pack your back, make your reservations. This one is on the Must Fish list!
The Deschutes Fishery is about 100 miles long. The river is fairly wide running from wide shallow riffles to deep rushing channels. Edges are generally rocky and working up or down the water can be hard going.
The Deschutes River runs through high desert and as a result is open all year round. The weather at the lower end is somewhat milder that that of the Pelton Dam area come winter and thus we would be inclined to work downriver in late November, December and January. This is not a snow area but it can bring cold and winter rains. Summer on the other hand finds mostly clear days. Spring and fall are generally shirtsleeve days.
As always when traveling, bring a raincoat, you just never know.
This is fly fishing country and while you can use spinning gear you dont see much of it. The river and the fish are naturals for chasing with the long rod. Regulations require artificials. This is a wading river. No fishing from any floating device is allowed.
For rod choices, 5,6, and 7 weights are on the money. Your choice for fast or medium actions.
Throughout the year the hatch and the weather cycle do change. Early in the year in the January March time frame, most likely flies to succeed are Baetis, Pheasant tail nymphs, Glo bugs, and Caddis. Usually sizes in 14 to 18 will work well.
Late March, April and May will still see the Caddis patterns and now Duns, BWOs along with Stone Fly nymphs. Wooly Buggers are starting to work as well. Moving through late May, June, July and August, ads Hares Ears, Caddis Pupa, Elk Hair Caddis, and the Salmon Fly. Size 6 for the buggers and Stone Flys.
September and October bring out the Steelheads and large Wooly Buggers are good choice.
We strongly suggest that if it is your first time on the Deschutes that you spend time in one of the fly shops getting information and buying their recommended flies. They know what works best in a particular week. Also consider hiring a guide for at least one day. It really makes a difference and the results are worth the price.
While you can fish year around, there are better times to plan your trip to be on the water. Steelhead run from September through December but the good fishing pretty well end with October or early November. Trout on the other hand are good May through October with June and July being the best months especially for dry fly fishing.