Mar 3rd, 2016
There is good reason that the Deschutes is Oregon’s best known river. The Deschutes is a desert oasis rife with wild rainbows, hearty steelhead, whitewater and stunning scenery. With day trips and multi-day float trips for both trout and steelhead, the Deschutes is one of the west’s most unique and captivating systems. The quintessential Deschutes trips are deluxe, multi-day float trips on both the upper and lower portions of the river. Best done as a three night, four day float, these trips offer anglers the best shot at the river’s trout and steelhead and represent one of the West’s greatest downriver fly fishing adventures.
Expert Interview with David Kalinowski
Where is the Deschutes River?
The Deschutes River is located in the heart of Oregon. The river originates in the Cascade mountains just outside of Bend and begins its journey north. The “Lower Deschutes”, where the quality rainbow and steelhead fishing occurs, starts about 1 hour north of Bend. From the Pelton Dam complex the river flows undistributed for 100 miles until it reaches its terminus at the Columbia River just upstream of The Dalles, OR.
How do I get there?
Anglers fly into Portland, OR and rent a vehicle. From there its about a 2.5 hour drive to either Maupin or Madras, OR. These are the two towns in which trips originate.
Why should I go?
The Deschutes is a rare gem. The 100 miles of the lower river offer an incomparable combination of fishing, boating and camping in a high desert canyon. The scenery alone is captivating, but add incredibly hard fighting native rainbow trout and steelhead and you have a destination that is unique and truly special.
When should I go?
The prime trout season is late April through October. Steelhead begin entering the lowest portion of the river in July and fishing holds strong through November. I have to say May is my favorite time to target the trout, as the epic stonefly hatch is happening. For Steelhead its hard not to say July, as this is a time for the hardest fighting and most aggressive steelhead of the year, but its not a numbers game. If you are looking for more consistent numbers, September and October are great.
Where do they fish?
The lowest 100 miles of the river are all floated and fished. In the lowest 25 miles jet boats access the river on certain days and this water is a steelheaders dream. My favorite stretches are Trout Creek to the town of Maupin(about 35 miles) and from Macks Canyon to the mouth(about 25 miles), both of these sections are only accessed by boat….or a very long hike.
How do they fish?
Trout fishing offers all the techniques and water types an angler can imagine. The highlight for myself is finding hungry trout in the shade of the overhanging tree branchs where a well presented dry fly will absolutely get eaten. On the other end of the spectrum is the steelhead fishing. Two handed rods, long runs and the traditional tight line swing are employed to target some of the most aggressive steelhead available. Floating lines, skated flies or small traditional patterns swung just under the surface offer some of the hardest takes imaginable. Add epic scenery and comfortable camping and its just a magical place to spend time.
What fish will I catch?
Native “redsides”, which are a sub-species of the rainbow trout. These fish are native to the Deschutes and what they lack in length, they make up in power. Fish in the 14 to 18 inch class are common and resides on the upper end of the size range will absolutely amaze you with their strength, stamina and beauty. Steelhead range from 5 to 10 lbs. On occasion anglers tangle with stray fish in the upper teens. These are typically “B-run” steelhead eventually headed to the Clearwater River, but stop in the cool waters of the Deschutes, taking a break from the warmer Columbia River waters.
How many fish will I catch?
A decent day of trout fishing will have anglers encountering a dozen or so trout. It needs to be noted that there is no fishing from a floating device here, so all fishing is done while wading. For steelhead, 1 or 2 encounters a day is considered good.
Where do we stay?
On multi day float or jet boat trips, guests will stay riverside at a comfortable tent camp. All the needed amenities are provided and guests just need to be prepared with their own sleeping bag. Cots, tents, tables, chairs and all the other gear will be set up each day by your camp host. Meals are fabulous and prepared stream-side.
Is there wade fishing?
All fishing is done while wading. It is illegal to fish from a floating device on the lowest 100 miles of the Deschutes River.
Is there internet and cell service?
I would not count on having reception during your trip through the canyon, but there are moments where you will have limited coverage.
Does the guides provide equipment?
Yes, the outfitters we utilize can provide rods/reels and terminal tackle. All guests will need to provide their own waders/boots and on multi-day camp trips a sleeping bag.
What is your favorite rod(s) for the trip?
For the trout, my trusty 590 Sage XP – a stout and fast action 9 foot 5 weight. For steelhead….just 1? – my 13 foot 7 weight ACR two handed rod(does it all). But I like to have a lighter rod with me as well.
Are there other activities?
Hiking the canyon walls, wildlife viewing and enjoying one of the United States most fabulous rivers.
What is your favorite memory of this trip?
The Deschutes was my “home water” for a dozen years. During those years I amassed a great deal of memories that I cherish greatly. When I set out on my journey across the country to find wild trout and steelhead, I was fortunate to run out of money in Bend and more fortunate that the Deschutes was right there.
What are the physical demands?
Anglers will need to wade all waters and get in and out of the water craft at each stop. Studded boots and a wading staff are suggested. The wading can be challenging, so the trip is best for those that are stable and fairly agile.
Give David a call at 800.552.2729 or email if you have interest in the mighty Deschutes River.