Oregon Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks
Oregon is one of the best places for fly fishing in the United States. The scenery, everything from spectacular mountain ranges, 363 miles of Pacific Ocean coast line, forests, mountain lakes and rivers, and the near tropical landscape of the redwood forest make this state a must see. When it comes to fly fishing, the different species of fish here make the experience next to none. Oregon offers both saltwater and freshwater fly fishing, so regardless of what type you prefer, you will be covered.
I have been fly fishing lakes, rivers, and streams in Oregon for years and it is by far my most favorite place to fish. If you are into the standard types of fishing, Oregon has the famous Columbia River where you can catch massive sturgeon. This blog will cover fly fishing tips, places to fish, and what you can expect from a Oregon fly fishing adventure.
Let’s jump into it!
3 Best places for fly fishing in Oregon
The best fly fishing river in the state is most likely the McKenzie River. It flows for 90 miles and is home to solid populations of bull trout, rainbows, salmon, and cutthroat trout. My favorite place to fish on this river if the stretch starting at the Lower McKenzie Trail Head. Your standard 5-6 weight fly rod and reel will work perfect for this river. Copper Johns, pheasant tail nymphs, woolly buggers, Adams and Klinkhammers are great fly patterns to land some gorgeous trout in your landing net.
What fly fishing angler doesn’t enjoy targeting wild trout? The Crooked River has an abundance of wild trout because of the year-round cold flows from the dam and huge insect hatches. I would focus on the 10-mile stretch of river below the Bowman Dam. It will be some of the most breathtaking canyon fishing you will ever find. Scuds, prince nymphs, and different midge patterns work like a charm on this river.
Are you targeting steelhead or Oregon’s amazing redband rainbows? Look no further than the Deschutes River. The lower part of the river system in central Oregon is where droves of these fish are. Fly fish upstream from the milky White River to the Pelton Dam which is close to Warm Springs. This river gets fantastic hatches that if you can match, you will be in for the treat of a lifetime. The salmon fly hatch is normally on in late spring and incredible stonefly hatches occur all the way into June. I love streamer fishing in the Deschutes River with clouser minnows and woolly buggers.
Do I need a fishing guide in Oregon?
If you are visiting Oregon or a specific area for your first time, you can’t go wrong with hiring a guide service. Oregon has endless amounts of water bodies, so either do a boat load of research on a specific area or hire a guide.
I have always had good luck when using guide services as they know where the fish are. I find that if I only have a day or two to go fishing, I prefer a guide as they pretty much guarantee me that I’ll catch fish. If I have more time on my fishing trip to explore the area, then I normally opt out of the guide services.
If you are planning on saltwater fishing, I would hire a guide. Saltwater fishing is an entirely different beast then freshwater fishing.
Guides can be great as they give out tips and tricks to catch whatever fish you are targeting. They operate the boat in a manner that also helps you to catch fish and of course they bypass all the areas in the water where the fish don’t like to hang out, thus saving you time.
What fishing gear do I need for fishing in Oregon?
Let’s assume you will be freshwater fly fishing. There are some massive fish that you can target on a fly rod in Oregon, so you should be aware of what you are going after. Then you will be able to decide what rod, reel, line, leaders, etc. that you will need.
For most of the trout fishing, a 5-6 weight rod and reel is ideal.
If you are going after steelhead and salmon, a 7-10 weight rod and reel is best.
The reason that your rod weight will need to go up with the larger fish is because of the poundage of the line and the larger size of hooks that you will need to use.
Types of fish in Oregon and where to target them
- Steelhead – These large beauties can be found throughout the state, depending on the month that you are fishing. The Western part of the state will see the most steelhead for the first few months of the year, then they will move inward and to the eastern part of the state as the year goes on. I always found that the fall is the best time of the year to target the steelhead in Oregon.
- Salmon – Looking to catch a Chinook Salmon weighing up to 60-pounds? The Columbia River is home to these monsters and the salmon run is on in the fall. The spring is also a good time to target salmon in Oregon. Kokanee Salmon are abundant in Oregon, you can find them all over the place, especially in lakes in Central Oregon.
- Sturgeon – If you are in search for North America’s largest freshwater fish, then look no further then the Columbia River. These massive fish can get up to 12 feet long. I would suggest using a guide service if you are sturgeon fishing. Also, keep in mind that most sturgeon fishing is catch and release.
- Bass – Due to the nicer climate that Oregon has to offer, you will be able to target largemouth and smallmouth bass. The largemouth bass will be found more in the lakes, ponds, and river sloughs in Western Oregon. The smallies can be found all over the place in rivers.
- Trout – Oregon is full of trout, from rainbows, redband rainbows, cutties, brookies, bulls, browns, lake trout, and even golden trout. Trout fly fishing has to be right up near the top for me. Mountain streams that are cold seem to produce the most amazing colors on the different trout. I caught a Dolly Varden trout last week from a mountain lake and the colors on it were surreal.
What fly patterns to use for Oregon fly fishing?
Different fly patterns will be required for different rivers or lakes that you are fly fishing. The same goes for the size of the hook. Size #14 hooks are usually my go to for dries when I am targeting trout, but if I am heading out salmon fishing, I may need a size 8 or 10 minimum.
Zinger Fishing offers a few fly fishing assortment kits that have some of the world’s most used flies in them. They are a great place to start if you are building a fly collection that will help you to get more fish in your landing net. The kits were designed for fishing in Oregon waters. If you are planning on river fishing, the nymph kit will be the best option as fish love to eat nymphs.
With big river fly fishing, streamer fishing is my favorite. The bigger the streamer, the bigger the fish! If I am fishing the interior lakes of Oregon, then I like to use dry flies and chironomids. For small to mid sized rivers, nymphs are midges are king.
Make sure to know the local fishing regulations.
Like anywhere else, Oregon has its own fishing regulations that you will need to check out.
Stay safe out there
Oregon has quite a few different extremes that always need to be addressed when planning a fishing trip.
- Time of year – Oregon has great climate year round, but the states gets a boat load of rain. April to August are the rainiest months and June to September are the warmest months. It can get to below temperatures, usually from December to February, 23F or about -5C.
- Terrain – Oregon has a little of everything when it comes to the terrain. Mountainous regions, large valleys, high elevation desert plateaus, very dense evergreen forests, and the beautiful redwood forests that are along the coast. Proper footwear and hiking gear may be required depending on where you are going.
- Wildlife – Unless you are in the city of Portland, don’t be surprised if you see wildlife on your travels. Oregon is home to some pretty dangerous wildlife, such as black bears, cougars, wolves, and many other types of wildlife. Carrying bear spray and other wildlife deterrents is smart, and fishing with a friend instead of alone is best.
- Let a friend know – Before venturing out on your trip, its best practice to let a friend or family member know where you plan on fishing and when you will be back. If you plan on fishing a river, let them know if you are heading upstream or downstream of where you park the truck.
Prepare for all weather conditions
Weather can change in Oregon quite quickly. It may be decently warm when you leave the truck, but that can change in a hurry. If you are fishing in the spring or fall months, freezing temperatures can move in quite quickly.
The water in most of the mountainous places is extremely cold, so you may want to wear warm socks and clothes under your waders. It is always best to have too much clothing than not enough when fishing in Oregon.
Overall experience fly fishing Oregon waters
Every fishing trip that I have been on in Oregon has been amazing, not only because of the fish caught, but because of the amazing scenery. Seeing different nature views that Oregon has to offer makes it an unforgettable experience. That paired with catching a beautiful bull trout or a nice salmon is sure to get you going back again and again.
If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.