Tag Archives: Fly Fishing Guides

Oregon Winter Steelhead Report

The next six weeks is prime time on many of Oregon’s winter steelhead streams. A lot of our rivers have had good numbers of both wild and hatchery fish show up early, which is a good barometer of things to come. This week’s rains will bring river levels up again, which should bring more fish into the streams. We have had a remarkably mild winter thus far, which has made the on-stream conditions much more pleasant than they usually are in January. Though the light snow pack may lead to low water this summer, it is a rare pleasure to be able to feel one’s fingers and toes all day while chasing winter steelhead. Also, warmer water temperatures generally make the fish more responsive.

Though I spend the overwhelming majority of my time fishing for summer steelhead with a swung fly, it is often necessary to employ some different techniques in the winter time to be successful consistently. Nymphing with various egg patterns and a strike indicator is a very effective technique this time of year. Egg patterns (#4-#10) in various shades of orange, pink, and white, both weighted and unweighted, are a good bet. Here is a selection of eggs I fish regularly:

egg patterns to fish for Winter Steelhead

This perfect specimen fell for a weighted egg pattern fished about six feet below a strike indicator. This fish of 8 or 9 pounds, though not a giant, is about as beautiful as they come.

A perfect specimen:  wild winter steelhead buck

This fish fell for an identical fly on the same morning:

A wild winter steelhead from one of Oregon's small coastal streams

Though nymphing is often an effective way to go this time of year, the winter is not without its swing opportunities. The swing can be an effective way to go in the winter, but it often takes a somewhat different approach then one would employ in the summer or fall. In the winter I use heavier flies, on average, fished on heavier sink tips. I also try to fish my fly more slowly in the winter, as the fish are often more sluggish given the cooler water temperatures. Big intruders, tied in various color schemes, are a good bet. The bold silhouette of the intruder often gets attention even in winter’s colder, swifter flows. Here are a few that have recently come off my vise:

Intruder Patterns to swing for Winter Steelhead

The next six weeks are the prime of Oregon’s winter steelheading. It’s time to wake up early, layer up, and make your way to the river to chase these amazing fish. It will be over soon, so now is the time to get out there and make some memories.
Tight lines, Ethan

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Winter Steelhead Season is Upon Us

With December comes the advent of the Winter Steelhead season. One of the most exciting things about this time of year is that nearly every river and creek along the Oregon coast gets at least some returning adult steelhead. With the arrival of winter rains, a stream that in the drier months is nothing more than a trickle will become big enough to drift boat, with bright fish moving into the system after each high water event.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

Any kind of fishing can be fickle, but winter steelheading with a fly rod can be especially so. The weather and water conditions in the winter can be, to say the least, dynamic. Each river or stream will generally fish best when the water is neither very high, nor very low. Smaller rivers and streams will start to fish well within a couple days of a major rainfall as the water clears from a mocha color to the magical shade of green fishermen dream about. Within another couple days, however, the water on these smaller creeks will become too low for navigations and good fishing. If conditions remain dry, most fishermen and guides will start to fish the larger rivers. Some of the biggest rivers, like the main-stem Umpqua, need as much as two weeks without rain before they will clear enough for good fishing with artificial flies.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

One of the keys to successful winter steelheading is having some familiarity with various rivers in your area of different sizes and paying very close attention to water levels and conditions. As you learn each stream, try to figure out what flows are optimal, then track the water levels and weather on the internet to figure out how to best target your efforts.

The pursuit of winter steelhead can certainly be challenging: the fish may be here one day and gone the next, icy roads may make your morning drive to the river dangerous and the fishing itself unpleasant. It is indisputable, however, that the rewards can be huge.

A Big Winter Steelhead Buck

The winter is the most dynamic and interesting season of the year to be a fisherman in Oregon. There are dozens and dozens of streams and rivers all along the coast range which are worth careful attention. Pick your battles and have fun out there.

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Fall Round-Up: Deschutes and Willamette Steelhead

While I still do a good deal of trout fishing this time of year, the steelhead fishing, for me, is more compelling. The Fall is the most productive time to flyfish for summer steelhead. While low-water conditions persist, the fish chase swung flies better than they do at any other time of year. The Deschutes has had a great return of summer steelhead this year, with a good proportion of wild fish. The fishing there was very good throughout late September and early October. More recently the flow jumped up to 4720 cfs which moved the fish around and made them less willing to bite. As conditions stabillize this week the fishing should rebound. The desert is a magical setting: rim rock canyons, green hillsides, yellowing alders and flaming poplars. Traffic on the Deschutes has been down this year. Blame it on the economy, it might be bad for business, but I don’t miss the crowds. We have done several multi-day trips on the Trout Creek to Maupin section in the last couple of weeks and found very good fishing. On cloudy days and in low-light conditions, I have been doing well on traditional wet flies like a Purple Peril or Silver Hilton (#4-#6). When the sun is on the water, the fish have been responding to leech patterns swung on a type III sink-tip line.


As good as the fishing on the Deschutes has been, I have really enjoyed fishing the rivers around Eugene for steelhead this fall. The Army Corps of Engineers has been manipulating the flows out of Leaburg and Dexter dams, making the fishing somewhat unpredictable. When the water is low and stable for a day or two, however, the steelhead fishing has been as good as it gets. Leech patterns swung on a sink tip have been getting a great response, as have traditional patterns fished on a floater in the shallower spots. With the lower light and cloudy days this time of year, fish will at times hold in very skinny water (less than 18 inches). This fish pounced on a marabou leech on Mr. Koe’s 5th cast of the morning:


Fall is a magical time of year, but we all know it will be over soon. Now is the time to get out and enjoy the mild weather before the rains come for good.

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McKenzie, Willamette and Deschutes Summer Fishing Report

I will be the first to admit that it’s been far too long since I’ve updated this page. I do, however, have a good excuse. I’ve been on the river nearly every day, and it’s been a great summer. I’ve been doing a lot of different things, and I’d like to give some highlights and some current reports.
I’ve been doing a lot of fishing on the Upper McKenzie lately, and have had some great days. In the last few weeks there haven’t been any significant hatches, but we’ve had a lot of nice mild weather and cloudy days. The fish have been responding well to both dry flies and nymphs. I do a lot of fishing throughout the summer and fall on the McKenzie with a two-fly rig; a dropper and dry fly combo. A medium-sized dense nymph like a Possie Bugger or a Prince Nymph (#10-#12) fished under a heavily-dressed Golden Stonefly or October Caddis imitation has been very effective. Lately, I’ve spent most of my time fishing above Blue River, a section that is not planted with hatchery trout. Though you may catch fewer fish over the course of the day up here, you have a much better shot at finding some really nice size wild trout currently than you do down stream. This fish is a prime example:

A Perfect Upper McKenzie wild Rainbow Trout

In the last few days we have had a major weather change, cooler weather and showers ushering in fall; probably the best time of year to get out and go fly fishing in Oregon. In the next couple of weeks hatches on the McKenzie and Willamette should improve. In September and October we get great hatches of October Caddis, Gray Drakes, and various smaller insects. The fish are looking to consume as many calories as possible before the onset of Winter, and the trout fishing is great on both the McKenzie and Middle Fork of the Willamette.

Angler of the Year Jim Becker with a gorgeous Middle Fork Willamette wild Rainbow

The trout fishing generally will hold up nicely through the end of October.

I have been spending a good deal of time of late fishing the summer steelhead run in our local rivers around Eugene. The return of adult summer steelhead to the Willamette River system this year was only average, but pressure has been relatively light, the water temperature is nice and cool, and the levels are good. I have enjoyed some exciting mornings of steelheading lately, with the fish responding well to swung flies.

A Nice Willamette River Steelhead taken on the swing!

As we move into fall, the fishing on the McKenzie and Willamette for steelhead will generally improve. Because the water level on the Willamette is a little high currently, I have been doing best swinging relatively big flies on a sink tip line. Favorite patterns include MOAL leeches, various prawn patterns and intruders.

A Bright Willamette River Steelhead

It was another good summer on the Deschutes as well, with good hatches of small caddises. The dry fly fishing was generally good with fish responding well to small caddis imitations as well as various attractors. We did a number of multi-day Deschutes trips between Trout Creek and Maupin throughout the summer months, and while the fishing varied trip-to-trip, it was relatively good throughout July and August with good numbers of rising fish, and the trout responding well to nymphing tactics as also.

A Nice Deschutes River Redside taken on a dry fly by M.J. Lyons

In the summer months, many of the native Redsides on the Deschutes will move into eddies and slow bank water to feed on prolific hatches of small mayflies and caddises. While this type of fishing isn’t always easy, stalking big rising trout is always entertaining and rewarding.

A Beautiful Deschutes River Redside

While the hot days of summer can make for slow fishing on some rivers, this time of year offers some of the best dry fly fishing of the year on the Deschutes. In general, the hotter the weather, the better the caddis hatch, and the happier the fish. Though daytime air temperatures can sometimes push 100 degrees, we stay comfortable stalking trout while wading wet in the river’s cool flows.

A Deschutes River Wild Rainbow Trout

As we move into fall, the trout fishing should hold up nicely. Soon the annual October caddis hatch will grace the river with its presence, bringing some of its nicest fish near the surface to feed. Blue Winged Olives will also become important, with a good number of duns emerging by late morning most days. The small caddises the fish have been feeding on throughout the summer will also remain important until the end of October.

This is the time of year that we start to get very excited about fishing for steelhead on the Deschutes. With good numbers of fish already in the river and record-setting fish counts on the Columbia, it should be a great fall on the Deschutes. These fish generally respond very well to swung flies fished near the surface. Many of the best flies here are traditional wet flies, sparsely dressed. My favorite is a Silver Hilton (#4).

Deschutes River Steelhead

Though it was still a little early for big numbers of steelhead in the Trout Creek to Maupin stretch, I did a multi-day trip there a couple of weeks ago and my guests hooked a couple steelhead over the course of the trip while fishing for trout. Numbers of steelhead in the Deschutes will only improve throughout the fall.

Deschutes River Steelhead

Though I have most of the rest of the summer and fall season booked, I still have a good deal of availability here and there. If anyone would like to get out on the river and enjoy some of the great fishing that Oregon has to offer, please call or email! The fall is probably the best time of year to fish here for trout and steelhead, and it will be over before we know it.


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McKenzie River Fishing Report

I’ve been back from the Deschutes and guiding the McKenzie all week. This is always a magical time of year: there are always so many great options in our area in the late spring and early summer. Water temperatures have finally warmed into the optimal range throughout the entire McKenzie and Willamette drainage. Trout fishing opportunities abound. This is the time of year when we get the most impressive hatches on our area streams. On both the McKenzie and Willamette we have good numbers of Golden Stones, Green Drakes, and Green Caddises. Some smaller bugs are also out in profusion, but this time of year the big bugs always take center stage.
I had a great day today fishing the extreme upper reaches of the McKenzie. With just one guy in my boat and a good fisherman at that, we pulled a lot of beautiful rainbows from various types of water. We fished a two-fly rig for the bulk of the day, using a big #6 golden stone dry higher on the leader with a slightly smaller nymph suspended below it. The trout responded well to both patterns.
Now is the time to go. Get out on the river and have some fun.

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Deschutes River Trout Fishing Kick-off

Some friends and I made a recreational trip down the Deschutes that weekend. It’s an exciting time: the fishing bonanza that is the salmonfly hatch is only a couple short weeks away. This is the time that we who guide for a living still have some free time to fish for ourselves while anticipating the busy weeks to come and making preparations. It was a good group: Matt and Nate Stansberry came along, my old friend TJ Matteri (he and I worked together on the Deschutes when I started in the mid-90s), as well as Kyle Duke and myself.

We had great conditions: warm weather, a few rain showers, and relatively light traffic on the river. Although there were decent mid-day mayfly hatches, the surface activity was limited mainly to smaller fish, and we caught only a few nice rainbows throughout the trip on dries. The nymphing, however, was good, and the action was fairly steady. All in all, a great trip; a lot of laughs, a lot of good fish. In short, good times. Here are some highlight photos:

Setting up camp on the Deschutes

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

We were all wondering what Nate would look like with a mustache. Unfortunately, the caterpillar wouldn’t sit still.

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Evening light on the Deschutes Canyon walls

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Nate with a beautiful Deschutes Redside

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

Matt with a great Deschutes Rainbow

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

TJ poses with a nice trout, weird wide angle shot

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

More Deschutes Trout Fish porn

Deschutes River Fly Fishing

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