Fly fishing Oregon's Owyhee River is a dream come true. The cool tailwater section ten miles below the Owyhee Reservoir is a dry fly fisher's paradise.
The bad news is the high bug count on the water will demand a natural drift from the fly fisher.
The Owyhee River runs through a scenic desert canyon and offers year round fly fishing for rainbow and brown trout. The brown trout here can easily reach 20 inches.
Wondering how to pronounce it? Just think about a phonetic spelling of Hawaii. Pronounced "Oh-AH-hee," this region was named after three Hawaiian trappers who disappeared or were killed here in 1819.
From Highway I-80 at Ontario head south on Hwy 201 then watch for signs to Owyhee Reservoir.
The first ten miles of the river below the dam is followed by Owyhee Lake Road and runs through public land, making access easy.
Downstream of Snively Hot Springs there is little public access.
The upper section of the Owyhee River originates in the northern mountains of Nevada. This upper section has some of the most difficult whitewater in the states and draws whitewater enthusiasts from around the country.
The water is also warmer. As a result it is mostly fished for catfish and smallmouth bass.
Since this is a trout website we will focus on the lower section.
The ten miles below the Owyhee Reservoir between the dam and Snively Hot Springs is a well known tailwater trout fishery. This section is known for its big rainbows and browns. Rainbow trout here can grow to 6 pounds with the average trout running about 12 inches. Brown trout on the other hand can average four to six pounds with the largest confirmed catch at twelve pounds.
The lower section of the Owyhee River runs murky and shallow. Two to four feet in depth is common and it has a relatively gentle gradient. You won't find a lot of fast water. Wading is not that difficult but having a wading staff is a good idea so you can probe the cloudy water before your next step.
You can fish the Owyhee River year round but the best time is from spring to mid-summer. During this time there are not a lot of irrigation withdrawals and the water flow is higher.
Later in the summer and fall you will find lower water levels but don't let this stop you. The bug count is still very high and it is also a good time to fish terrestrials like ants and hoppers along the bank.
The low light of early morning and late afternoon are the best times for the Owyhee. Save the bright light of mid-day for your nap and always be careful of rattle snakes in the evening.
Keep in mind that this river has a high density of very small bugs so fish your small flies.
May to September (best surface flies)
Elk Hair Caddis
May to September (best nymphs)
Dry fly (9-foot leader with a 5 or 6x tippet)
Nymphing (7 1/2-foot leader and a 3 or 4x tippet)
Streamers (0-2x tippet)
Remember that these browns not only have been chasing minnows but they have also been feeding on the large bug supply since they were minnows themselves.
The big browns will be found in the pools and slack water. The largest are found near the bottom and at the head of the pools.
Read the Oregon Fish and Game Regulations but at this time the browns should be released.
Bottoroff Guide Service Meridian, ID (208)-860-3662
Idaho Angler Boise, ID (208) 389-9957 or (800) 787-9957
Dreams on the Fly Meridian ID (208)-861-2853
Owyhee Fly Fisher (208)-642-7898
Fly fishing Oregon's Owyhee River can be very memorable. The area is very scenic and would make a great set for a Hollywood western. Bring your camera.
It is a great tailwater trout fishing stream. If you are patient and particularly observant it is your best chance to hook a 20-inch brown trout on a dry fly. Sounds like fun, yes?
It only takes a brief look at the map to see that the Owyhee River is remote. If it were close to a densely populated area you would have a lot of company.
Keep your eyes open for the golden and bald eagles that haunt the cliffs above you.