Deschutes River – Oregon

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. During the steelhead fly fishing season the Deschutes becomes a “Temple of Spey.” This is one of the first rivers in the U.S. where the guides regularly employed the use of spey rods to cover water for these anadromous jewels. As such, all of our guides are proficient in two-handed casting instruction. Due to the dam-controlled nature of the Deschutes most of the steelhead season provides ideal conditions for fly fishing a floating line. If you’ve ever yearned to see a powerful, ocean-fed fish rise to the rivers’ surface for a fly, then this is the place!

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 down river fly fishing adventures. At Fly Water Travel we pride ourselves on our relationships with the guides who know the Deschutes best.

Expert Q&A with David Kalinowski

For more information please contact David at 800.552.2729 or email.

Top reasons to go
1. A truly unique and rare system that offers hard fighting wild trout and aggressive summer steelhead.
2. Over 100 miles of public water accessible by boat or hiking.
3. Offering several packages including overnight jet boat camps, multi-day float trips or simple day trips, there is a trip for everyone.
4. The central Oregon location allows for easy travels, stable weather and water with several months of great angling opportunities.
5. With amazing high desert scenery, comfortable camping and adventurous boating, the experience is more than just great fishing.

Where is the river?
The Deschutes originates high in the cascade mountains of central Oregon. It flows north 252 miles to its terminus at the Columbia river just east of The Dalles, Oregon. For all intents and purposes the angling focus is confined to the final 100 miles below the Pelton Dam complex, this is where the best of the rainbow trout and all steelhead fishing occurs.

How do I get there?
Guests fly into Portland, OR where they rent a car and drive the remaining distance to the river. Depending on which stretch of the 100 miles you are focusing on, the drive times are 2.5 hours to Madras, OR (the upper most portion) or 2 hours to Maupin, OR (the middle portion) or 1.5 hours to the mouth of the river(the lowest portion).

When should I go?
Trout season is from late April through October and Steelhead season occurs August – November. Highlights for trout are the stonefly hatch of May, followed by great caddis hatches in the best weather of the year. Guests interested in steelhead follow the migration upriver with September and October offering the most consistent fishing.

Where do they fish?
All  of our outfitters work on the 100 miles below the Pelton Dam complex. This is what is referred to as the “Lower Deschutes” and where anglers target the anadramous species and the best of the wild rainbow trout called “redsides”.

What are the accommodations like?
Trips can be simple day excursions, where guests can stay at nearby hotels and have guided days. The most intriguing trips are the overnight camp trips where guests stay at stream-side camps each evening. Camps include spacious tents with cots, dining tents and shelters for shade. Guests do need to bring their own sleeping bags.

What are the meals like?
The overnight camp trips provide fantastic and well thought out riverside meals. Depending on the target species and trip timing breakfast can be a simple and quick affair getting you out fishing in the prime early morning time. Lunch will be served  stream-side by your guide, typically a BBQ style with sides. Appetizers are available upon arrival in camp each evening and dinner is the highlight where the camp host creates incredible dishes in the riverside kitchen.

How would you describe the general vibe and atmosphere?
This is a very scenic trip where guests can fish long hours. There is no fishing from the boat, so relaxing while you float and watching the canyon walls for wildlife and soaking up the sun is a part of your journey.

Is there an on-site manager, owner or point person on the river?
The services on camp trips include a guide for each two anglers and a camp host that will set camp each day and cook your breakfast and dinners. All of the outfitters we work with have many years of knowledge under their belts and have a great grasp on how to provide a comfortable trip for guests.

Is there internet and cell service?
There is no internet, and cell service is spotty at best while on the river.

How do they fish?
While targeting trout both dry fly and nymph tactics are employed. Many days guests can focus entirely on surface presentations. Dry fly fishing on the Deschutes will involve some deep wades along the shore and under the canopy of overhanging shade trees. While focusing on the back eddies, many times guests are casting from the banks. Nymph tactics can be employed in the many riffles and moving seams on the river. While targeting steelhead, mostly the down and across traditional swing tactics are employed. Most of the season floating lines can be used and small traditional hairwing patterns are productive. When the sun is high or when water temperatures drop, sink tips become more involved in the fishing.

How many fish will I catch?
Trout days can be very productive when hatches are strong and conditions line up. With that said double digits would be considered a good day. As is the case in most steelhead systems, a fish a day is considered good fishing.

What are the guides like?
The guides we work with are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and have a passion for the Deschutes. All are very committed to showing guests the best of the river.

Will we see other anglers?
Yes, there will be others enjoying the river. All the fishing is done while wading and with 100 miles of river, there is plenty of space for all.

Is there wade fishing?
All fishing is done while wading.

Does the outfitter provide equipment?
Rods/reels, flies and terminal tackle are provided. Guests will need to provide their own waders and boots. We can suggest places to rent waders/boots, but its best to have your own.

What is your favorite rod(s) for the trip?
Trout – a sturdy 9ft 5wt. Steelhead – single handed 8wt and the best overall two handed rod would be in the 7wt class, mostly to deal with the wind when it picks up.

What are the top flies?
Trout flies will need to follow the hatches. Having a good variety of stonefly, caddis and mayflies will cover the basics. Relying on your guide to have the right flies for the right time is best. We are happy to suggest a fly list for your specific trip dates. Steelhead anglers who want to tie or bring along their own selections should have traditional hairwing patterns in size 4 to 8. Muddler minnows in the 4 to 6 size are great and even some skated patterns will get attention. When fishing sink tips, marabou tube flies or leech patterns work well.

Are there other activities?
There are some great hikes to the top of the canyon where the views can be spectacular. Many times, big horn sheep, deer, eagles, osprey and other wild critters can be seen while floating.

What are the physical demands?
The Deschutes requires its anglers to wade while fishing. While there are no long hikes, I would consider the wading moderate to difficult. The guides we work with know the water well and will have you in the spots that offer good fishing and match your ability.

Dangers and annoyances?
There is poison ivy along the river banks…leaves of three, let it be. In the warmer months, it must be said that there are rattlesnakes in the area. They are typically very docile and will typically let you know they are there.



Deschutes steelhead begin arriving in July and the fishing continues through October


The trout fishing waters are diverse with even riffles, back eddies, shaded tree lined banks and pocket water all producing.


Following the hatches of each month, even day can have anglers fishing many different surface patterns to willing trout.


The wild steelhead of the Deschutes are surface oriented and hard grabs and blistering runs are common.


The scenery of this high desert river captivates many who have floated through its wonderful canyon setting.