Fly-Fishing the Lower Deschutes River

Added by Jeffrey Green

World class fly-fishing. Spectacular canyon scenery. 8 Miles of river access. 45°09'40" N 121°05'54" W.

Spending a day on the lower Deschutes is as rewarding as it gets for a fly-fisherman. The canyon is incredibly beautiful, and the fish are some of the most colorful and athletic you can catch.

The mighty Deschutes River is a stunning, blue-ribbon river where people come to fly-fish from around the world. The river begins high in the Cascades, flowing out of Little Lava Lake as a small meandering creek, then grows into a powerful river over the course of 252 miles, before joining the Columbia River. While there are many famous and outstanding sections of the Deschutes River to fish, the “Locked Gate” section is exceptional.

The “Locked Gate” section is located slightly upriver of Maupin, Oregon. From Maupin, cross the bridge going south away from town, and take an immediate right turn. Continue about 300 feet, then veer to your right on a paved BLM access road that continues to parallel the river.

From here, you will have outstanding access to 8 miles of Deschutes River before the road ends at a locked gate. At the locked gate, you can travel by foot for many more miles, but please be aware of private properties.

Fly-fishing at the “Locked Gate” section can be done year-round. Summer steelhead are always a popular draw, and have a reputation in the area as an incredibly strong fish to attempt with a traditional fly rod or Spey rod. Popular steelhead flies include Green Butt Skunks, Freight Train, Mack's Canyon, and Purple Peril. Look to swing these flies in typical walking pace steelhead water.

The native Redband Rainbow Trout, affectionately known as "Redsides", can also be fished year-round here. During cold winter months, get a weighted fly, such as a black stonefly, down to depth. Many fly-fisherman will increase their odds by attaching a dropper fly to their set-up. Popular droppers include hare's ear nymph, prince nymph, zebra midge, and pheasant tail nymphs.

There is a special time of year when a special bug hatches that causes the "Redsides" to go silly. It's called the Salmonfly Hatch, and typically appears in late May for roughly 3 weeks. During the Salmonfly Hatch, fly-fisherman commonly concentrate on getting their Salmonfly imitation under low hanging branches, during the day. In the early evening, a popular strategy is to cast into a slow moving eddy or adjacent to a soft seam. Be prepared for some explosive top water strikes!

Fly-fishing supplies and food/drink are available nearby in the town of Maupin. Remember to drink plenty of fluids in this high desert environment.

Please also be aware that this is rattlesnake habitat. Always keep a watchful eye on your surroundings, especially when moving through the tall grass blades at the water's edge.

Finally, check current State fishing regulations prior to heading out, and maintain current fishing licenses/tags.

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Beautiful Water

The Deschutes, especially that stretch, really is something to behold. I have floated this section of the river on a raft, and let me tell you the fishing is great. This post is extremely accurate and helpful to anyone looking to fish the Deschutes. Additionally, amongst beautiful water you may even see herds of wild horses and some solo wild big horn sheep.

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