Deschutes River Flyfishing Report: Big Bugs and Big Rainbows


I just finished a multi-day trip on the Warm Springs to Maupin stretch of the Lower Deschutes River. Over the three day duration of the trip the dry fly fishing ranged from good to outstanding. The fish were keyed in on the salmonflies and golden stones, as one would expect this time of year. Cloud cover and some light showers in the afternoon brought some green drakes out to join the buffet.

Golden Stoneflies on the Deschutes River

One of the amazing things about the Deschutes is that it is such a robust fishery that when weather, hatches, water conditions, the moon and stars align correctly there are periods when almost the entire river is a good spot. The afternoon of the first day of the trip was one of these times. A warm afternoon with light winds brought the stoneflies out of the grass and brush and into the air, mating as they fluttered overhead. Light breezes and gusts pushed many of the bugs down onto the water. Violent rise forms were at times visible from bank to bank and the dry fly fishing was so good I began to feel sorry for the trout.

Deschutes River Redside

Hot fly patterns included many of the usual suspects like the Norm Woods’ Special and Clark’s Stone (#6-#8). I also used the Larimer’s Golden, a new pattern on the market from Idlewyld Flies, which slayed the redsides.

Fish On, Deschutes River Salmonfly Hatch

As I predicted earlier this Spring, the stonefly hatch on the Deschutes River this year has come early, and is currently two weeks ahead of schedule. I think it is likely to be a case of early ripe and early rotten. Although cooler weather the last couple of days is likely to make the hatch stall out (the bugs typically remain dormant for a while under these conditions), the stonefly hatch will probably soon be played out. I think the timing of the hatch this year is largely due to the work that the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Army Corps of Engineers recently completed on Pelton Dam. They installed a cooling tower in order to allow them to control the temperature of the water they release downstream. The water coming out of Pelton has been on average 2 or 3 degrees Farenheit warmer this Spring than it has been in years past.

Deschutes River Redside

It will be interesting to see how these changes play out over the coming years and how it influences the timing of all the hatches on the Deschutes River and even the return of its summer steelhead. Guides, outfitters, as well as recreational anglers have always planned their trips down the river based on the timing of these phenomena. In the future, we may have to plan differently. It remains to be seen.

Golden Stone on rods, Deschutes River

The most harrowing moment of the trip came on the second afternoon. As I rounded the corner to head through Whitehorse rapids, some private boaters in a wooden drift boat left the scouting point and headed into the rapids far to the left of the usual line. I hung back a little ways to give them some room and followed through about 100 yards behind them. I watched them careen off two different boat-eating rocks before running into a third rock broadside. Their boat immediately capsized. After all the excitement was over everyone was okay, but I spent over an hour rescuing one of them. Herein lies an important lesson for rookie boatmen: hire a guide or go with experienced friends. Don’t put yourself in the position these three unlucky boaters found themselves in.

Deschutes River Redside, cropped

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