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Speywater Lodge – Grande Ronde River, Oregon

If the name of this lodge seems biased, wait until you meet the guides! Located on the Grande Ronde River, near Troy, Oregon, this low key, high value operation is where some of the Northwest’s finest steelheaders and spey casters congregate for guiding and instruction. Renowned spey instructor Scott O’Donnell, heads a crew of diehard steelhead guides who love the Ronde and the steelhead it sustains. As much a spey casting and fishing school as a hard-charging guiding operation, this is the best place we know of to learn the art of spey casting and improve your swing fishing skills. Speywater Lodge continues to improve and impress by offering distinct options on different sections of river.

Expert Q&A with Charles Gehr

Top reasons to go?
Fine tune your spey casting and swing fishing with some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest instructors.
Camp trips ensure you can have the fullest fishing day possible.
October trips typically offer great floating line and skater fishing.

Where is the lodge?
Speywater Lodge sits on the banks of the Grande Ronde River near Troy, OR.

How do I get there?
Anglers can either drive to the lodge or fly into Pullman, WA and rent a car for the 2 1/4 hour drive to the lodge.

When should I go?
Late September, October and November for the best of the steelhead fishery.

Where do they fish?
Float trips access the lower 30 miles of river. Lodge trips focus on the water around Troy, OR.

Who is best suited to this destination?
Any angler that wants to improve their spey casting and/or swing fishing skills. Any steelheader that hasn’t swung a skater through Grande Ronde water owes it to themselves to visit.

What are the accommodations and meals like?
On camp trips anglers stay in tents with cots. Meals on the river are hearty and delicious. At the lodge guests stay in double occupancy rooms. Meals at the lodge are always creative and tasty. It seems like Stefanie is always perfecting a new dish or technique in the kitchen.

Describe the atmosphere and style of the lodge.
The lodge is a very fun and casual environment. Guides will usually hang out with the guests during cocktail hour and appetizers and are quick to swap stories about the days’ events. It’s like a family atmosphere if your family includes hard-charging steelhead guides.

Is the owner on-site?
Scott O’Donnell lives at Speywater Lodge and is also the head guide. His wife Stefanie runs the lodge and kitchen. They are both dedicated professionals with many years of experience in fly fishing lodges.

Is there internet and cell service?
There is cell reception and wi-fi at the lodge. The lodge also has a land line phone in case of emergency.

How do they fish?
They swing flies while wading, either with single hand rods or spey rods.

What fish will I catch?
Steelhead. Generally a mix of wild and hatchery fish.

How many fish will I catch?
Given the fluctuations of steelhead, an angler should consider an average of 1-2 fish per day a good trip.

Will we see other anglers?
There is more traffic around the lodge than on the lower river. That said, all of the guides know the river like the back of their hands and they will make sure you’re always fishing productive water.

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

How long does it take to reach the fishing grounds?
The longest morning drive to the put-in is around 35 minutes.

What are the guides like?
The guides are all passionate steelhead instructors. Most have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of these fish, usually with spey rods. They have a deep well of knowledge when it comes to the intricacies of spey casting and swinging a fly but can also stand back to give you quiet time to soak it all in.

Does the lodge provide equipment?
The lodge and guides are prepared with rods/reels and flies for guests’ use. Guests should come prepared with waders and boots.

What is your favorite rod for the trip?
First and foremost, I am a spey nerd that travels with at least two more rods than I’ll need. Also, I have a personal preference for light line-weight spey rods. That said, I fish a 12’7″ 5-weight spey rod with a floating shooting head and a 12’9″ 6-weight rod with a Skagit head for sink-tip fishing.

Are there other activities?

What is your favorite memory of this trip?
Spending the last 45 minutes of the day repeatedly rising a steelhead to my skater while Scott O’Donnell and my fishing partner watched from the boat 30 feet away.

What are the physical demands?
Guests should be prepared to do all of their fishing while wading. The wading is not very difficult.

Dangers and annoyances?
There are a few rattlesnakes in the Grande Ronde canyon.

The Grande Ronde offers a variety of seductive swing water.

Grande Ronde steelhead can be highly surface oriented.

The beauty of the Grande Ronde canyon cannot be overstated.

Camps are designed for comfort and always sit on productive water.