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Oregon Fly Fishing the Metolius River

In Oregon fly fishing the Metolius River will give you a chance to test your skills. The river runs cold and crystal clear year round and has what sometimes seems like a constantly changing hatch of insects. The trout are not easily fooled.  

Thinking of going elsewhere? How do rainbow and brown trout over 24 inches and bull trout that can go over 10 pounds sound? 

I thought so!

The Metolius River (pronounced muh TOLL ee us) begins as two springs about 300 feet apart at the base of Black Butte in central Oregon. These are not your everyday springs. They maintain a constant rate of 50,000 gallons per minute and a water temperature of approximately 45 degrees.

The Metolius is a Wild and Scenic River that runs through the Deschutes National Forest. It is now managed for wild trout, as stocking was discontinued in 1996. 

Where to Fly Fish Oregon's Metolius River 

There are really three different sections to the Metolius River. The first 11 miles below the springs is a popular Oregon fly fishing area and is the easiest to access. 

Headwaters to Allingham Bridge

  • The water is flat through this section and gets a fair amount of fishing pressure.
  • There is no fishing within 100 feet of the Camp Sherman Bridge where large trout cruise looking for bread and other goodies tossed by the tourists.
  • This section can offer some excellent stonefly fishing. 

Allingham Bridge to Lower Bridge 99

  • This section is know as the Canyon Creek Gorge.
  • The water starts to pick up speed through this section.
  • There is easy access on both sides of the river.
  • There is good fishing here but it also gets a fair amount of pressure so make your presentations concise.

Bridge 99 to Lake Billy Chinook

  • Some of the largest trout are downstream of the gorge.
  • The river here is big and the terrain is steep and physically demanding.
  • Access is by hiking the forest service road and undeveloped trails, neither of which is close to the river.
  • Please be careful, wading can be very difficult here.

Fly Patterns and the Best Time to Fish Them 

Keep in mind that the insect hatches will vary in different sections of the Metolius River.

March through October is the best time to fly fish for rainbows and browns.

November through February is best time for bull trout.

May to October: 

Pale Morning Duns & Caddis: #16-18 

  • Beadhead Pheasant Tail
  • Thorax PMD
  • Olive & Rust Spinner
  • Soft Hackle
  • Sparkle Pupa
  • Elk Hair Caddis

July to October:

Stonefly and Salmon fly patterns: #8-10

  • Stimulator
  • Clark's Stone
  • Little Olive Stone
  • Beldar's Stone
  • Norm wood Special
  • Sofa Pillow #4-6

May to July:

Green Drake patterns:  #8-12

  • Perrin's Green Drake
  • Green Drake nymph

Sept to March:

Small mayfly and caddis fly patterns

  • Cased Caddis
  • October Caddis Pupa
  • Stimulator

Year Round:

Blue Winged Olive patterns

(#16-22, and midges)

  • Captive Dun
  • Knockdown Dun
  • Sparkle Dun 
  • Comparadun
  • BWO Thorax
  • A.P. Nymph

Big Streamers for Bull Trout:

  • Double Bunny
  • Bunker Fly
  • Bunny Leech (white)
  • Sculpin patterns

Best Methods

When fly fishing Oregon's Metolius River drifting a nymph is the most consistent method. Focus on getting a good natural drift. Don't overlook the water near the bank. 

Dry fly fishing is also very successful in the first 11 miles below the springs. The upper river above Allingham Bridge can have some good stonefly action. 

Remember there is a fair amount of fishing pressure on this river and these are wild trout. Approach low, carefully and keep your false casts to a minimum. 

The river upstream of Bridge 99 is restricted to catch and release fly fishing with barbless hooks. Fishing from a floating device is prohibited. 

Always check Oregon Fish and Game Regulations for the latest regulations and more information on "Fly Angling Only" waters.

Appropriate Gear for the Metolius River

  • 4 to 6 weight fly rod setup with floating line
  • 9- to 15-foot leaders, with 3-foot-long 5x to 7x tippets
  • Barbless hooks
  • Waders and wading staff
  • Wide-brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, sunscreen
  • Also see our page on fly fishing supplies.

Campgrounds and Lodging Near the Metolius River

There is a number of campgrounds along the banks of the river. See this link for Forest Service Campgrounds. Most campgrounds are on the east side of the river.

The Metolius River Association has a good list of cabins and lodges along the river.  

The town of Sisters is also close and has some good lodging available.

Oregon Fly Fishing Shops Near the Metolius River

Camp Sherman Store and Fly Shop (541)-595-6711  

The Fly Fisher's Place, Sisters (541)-549-3474 

There is no commercial guiding allowed on the Metolius River.

Oregon Fly Fishing to Challenge the Best

The Metolius River is one of Oregon's fly fishing treasures. It is one of the most beautiful and challenging rivers in the state. Success here is not guaranteed but effort is amply rewarded. 

Treat these trout like the wild and wary fish they are. Your persistence and flawless casts will be required even during the best of insect hatches. 

The days of high numbers of hatchery trout are gone. The trade off is that once you hook a wild trout you see the tenacity and fight that will come from a wild Metolius trout.   

While you are there be sure to make the hike to the springs at the head of the river.

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