Oregon Fly Fishing for Trout and Steelhead

Oregon fly fishing can truly be a unique and beautiful experience.There is something for everyone here. There are large rivers like the Deschutes where you can take your Spey rod. Then there are the small mountain creeks and a large number of lakes and ponds.

I will not even try to cover them all (although that does sound like fun). My hope here is to encourage you to go exploring. For me exploring this great state is half the fun. I told a friend of mine that I think I make a better explorer than a fly fisher. (It was one of those days.) 

Below is a list of some waters to discover.

I would like to thank Ken Evoy and the staff at SBI for giving me the tools to build this site. 

Oregon Fly Fishing Regulations and Property Rights

For information on the regulations on each body of water be sure to review the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website. 

Beginning Jan 1, 2014, Oregon has added the Columbia River Basin Endorsement. It is needed when fishing for steelhead, salmon or sturgeon in waters that drain into the Columbia. 

As you go, remember to respect property rights of others. The state has ownership of some waterways but some have not been determined in the courts. If in doubt ask a nearby landowner for permission.

Boating the Rivers

Be careful. If you have never run a particular section it is best to hire a guide first. Here in Oregon it only takes one heavy rain to change the river completely. It is very common for our taller trees to lose their footing, fall across a river and make a section a very dangerous run. Even those with experience running rivers should contact a local shop to learn if anything has changed. Keep in mind they may not know either.

Northwest Zone

The north coast range is known for its steelhead runs. They are an ocean-going rainbow trout that can range in size from 18 to 40 inches. Cutthroat trout is also very common in these waters. Some go to sea and return several pounds heavier. 

Best fishing rivers in this zone:

  • Nehalem
  • Wilson
  • Trask
  • Nestucca
  • Siletz 
  • Alsea 
  • Siuslaw

Oregon Fly Fishing: Willamette Zone

This zone is defined by the Willamette River and its tributaries. Most Oregon anglers live within this zone but there are still many opportunities to find trout and steelhead.

The Willamette zone also has a large number of high lakes that are stocked with brook trout. Mt. Hood and Willamette National Forest maps will show the trails. 

Best fishing rivers in this zone:

  • McKenzie 

  • Sandy
  • Salmon
  • Clackamas
  • North Santiam
  • South Santiam

Best trout fishing lakes in this zone:

  • Detroit
  • Green Peter
  • Harriet
  • Timothy
  • Hills Creek Reservoir
  • Lost lake 

Southwest Zone

The famous Rouge and Umpqua rivers dominate the southwest zone. They drain large sections of land. Extending over 200 miles inland.

The Rouge is well known for its half-pounders. These are immature summer steelhead that return after less than a year in the ocean. 

Best fishing rivers in this zone:

Best fishing lakes in this zone:

  • Howard Prairie
  • Hyatt Reservoirs
  • Applegate Reservoir

Fly Fishing Oregon's Central Zone

The Deschutes River is the premiere Oregon fishery. This area also has some of Oregon's most breathtaking beauty. Some of it's rivers run through rugged volcanic rim rock settings. 

This zone has a large amount of publicly owned land.

Best fishing rivers in this zone:

Best fishing lakes in this zone:

  • Billy Chinook
  • Crane Prairie
  • Davis
  • Hosmer
  • Lava
  • Lost
  • Odell
  • Olallie
  • Paulina
  • And more than 80 high lakes.

Northeast Zone

The waters of the northeast offer some of the coldest and most pristine waters in the state. The long drive for most Oregonians makes this remote area a draw to anglers seeking some distance from their fellow anglers.

Those who do make it here appreciate the spectacular scenery and the abundant trout fishery. 

Best fishing rivers in this zone:

  • John Day
  • Grande Ronde
  • Wallowa
  • Umatilla
  • Imnaha
  • Catherine Creek
  • Wenaha
  • Walla Walla (south fork) 

Best fishing lakes in this zone:

  • Strawberry
  • Wallowa Mountain High Lakes 

Fly Fishing Oregon's Southeast Zone

This zone covers almost a third of the state but is very low in population. One reason is its lack of water. The water that is here grows fish; 18- to 20-inch trout are not unusual in the reservoirs.

Redband trout can withstand drought conditions a little better than their coastal cousins but they still feel the effect.

Watch the state regulations for possible restrictions on fishing if drought conditions exist in this zone. 

Best fishing rivers in this zone:

  • Owyhee

  • Sprague
  • Williamson
  • Wood
  • Malheur 

Best fishing lakes in this zone:

  • Miller
  • Agency
  • Mann

Other Useful Links for Oregon Fly Fishing:

Trout stocking schedules for Oregon 

Save 50% on Fly Assortment Boxes for Trout