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Oregon Fly Fishing: The Crooked River

In Oregon, fly fishing the Crooked River is a must. It carves scenic canyons through central Oregon and is one of it's best small trout streams, with the average size trout running around 10 inches. 

The easy access and camping seven miles below Bowman Dam make this a great place to fine-tune your fly fishing skills or to teach a novice.

Success is more likely with the fish count at approximately 4000 to 7000 trout per mile.

Sounds like fun, yes?

The Crooked River is a tailwater river, which means the water released from the bottom of the dam has the lower temperature that trout need.  

It has a tint to the water color, but don't let that fool you. The trout can see your fly even if you can't.

Best Time to Fish the Crooked River

You can fish the Crooked River year round. That said, the best fishing conditions will be in the fall or early spring. Winter may also be good with the fish count and size at its highest. Late spring will bring the melting snow and high muddy water levels. 

Wading is safe and easy when the water flows are below 400 cubic feet below the dam. Be careful when wading, the cloudy water makes it hard to see the bottom. 

Crooked River Water Levels

In the summertime be aware that this is rattlesnake country. You will most likely encounter them in the early evening. 

Always remember, the best time to go fishing is when you can! My last trip there was in the summer and I had a great time. 

Where to Go on the Crooked River

Most productive fly fishing on the Crooked River is done on the seven miles below Bowman Dam.

If you feel like exploring you can also try the last ten miles before the Crooked River empties into Lake Billy Chinook.  Be sure to ask for permission if it looks like private land. 

You might also want to check out Smith Rock State Park. Expect a lot of hikers and climbers but very much worth the stop.

Oregon Fly Fishing Patterns for the Crooked River

Scuds seem to be the fly of choice with the locals. The river is loaded with them. Try olive and orange in sizes 12 to 16. 

Year-round the river is fishable with midge patterns and scuds.

  • Griffith's Gnat
  • Serendipity
  • Brassie
  • Zebra Midge (red, green or black)
  • Midge Winkler
  • Olive, tan and orange scuds 

February to March 

  • Flashback Pheasant Tail
  • Sparkle Dun 

April to September

  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Soft Hackle
  • Green Rock Worm
  • Sparkle Pupa

Best Methods for Crooked River Oregon Fly Fishing

When fly fishing Oregon's Crooked River drifting a nymph under an indicator or high-sticking one in pocket water. Focus on getting a good natural drift. Don't overlook the water near the bank.

If you find there is a lot of pressure from other fly fishers try going with a small scud or midge. 

Once you have some success try swinging a streamer. You will catch fewer trout but they will be larger on the average. 

Appropriate Gear for the Crooked River

  • 3 to 6 weight fly rod setup with floating line
  • Waders and wading staff
  • Wide-brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, sunscreen

Campgrounds and Lodging

There are ten campgrounds below the Bowman Dam. Some are small enough that RVs don't usually try them. This is a big plus for me as I don't enjoy the sound of the neighbor's generator. 

There are paths along the river at many campgrounds and plenty of room for your back cast. 

You might also want to check out Smith Rock State Park. The Crooked River runs right through it. 

Prineville, Redmond and Bend are the major towns in the area. All can be reached within an hour's drive.

Oregon Fly Fishing Shops in the Area




In Addition

Always check Oregon Fish and Game Regulations for the latest information.

Whitefish sometimes will outnumber the trout. It is all part of fly fishing Oregon's Crooked River. Release them so they can fight another day. 

Did I already mention the rattlesnakes? I didn't come across any but be careful, especially in the evening.

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