Spring kicks off with the arrival of the March Brown mayfly hatches. These large tan mayflies with oversized speckled wings float down the river like a regatta of sailboats. Pre-spawn rainbow trout feast on these mayflies with wild abandon. Water conditions are sometimes high and off color in the month of April, so anglers should be armed with big heavy nymphs in addition to March Brown dry flies.
The biggest hatch of the year kicks off in the early part of May, and by the middle of the month the bushes and trees along the river are dripping with stoneflies. Known by many anglers as Salmonflies, giant stoneflies and golden stoneflies make up the bulk of the trout’s post spawn diet. The right fly pattern fished tight to the banks and under the trees will bring explosive splashy rises from the trout.
June is the most consistent and dependable month for dry fly fishing the Deschutes. As the large stoneflies start to become scarce, the trout still eagerly grab the odd big dry fished tight to the bank. Bright yellow and high floating little yellow sally patterns will continue to excite trout into the month of July. Any warm cloudy day in June will bring an onslaught of mayflies to the buffet. Trout can choose from Pale Evening Duns, Pale Morning Duns, Green Drakes, and Pink Alberts in addition to multitudes of caddis.
The hottest days of summer will require fly anglers to rise with the sun in order to take advantage of fishing cool shaded water. The caddis hatches are thick, as are aquatic moths and craneflies, but the intensity of the sun during the mid-day will require a well thought-out plan for finding trout on the dry fly. If you aren’t fishing shaded water in the mid-day you may as well go deep with searching nymphs until the sun dips behind the canyon walls in the late afternoon. The rafting traffic can be quite busy on the weekends in Maupin, but there is always a way to find solitude if that is what you seek.
As the sun becomes less intense and the canyon cools down, trout happily feed on the surface through the mid-day. Blankets of caddis continue to provide evening feasts for the trout. Small Blue Wing Olive mayflies hatch strongly during the mid-day and the flat slow stretches of the Deschutes will be dimpled with rising trout. By the end of September and all through October the evening emergence of the October Caddis offers anglers great opportunity to hook trout on salmonfly-sized dry flies. The majority of anglers on the water are in pursuit of steelhead, so the trout water goes untouched on most days.
As water temperatures cool down drastically, trout feel the pressure to bulk up before winter, and they feed with little concern or wariness. With colder water temperatures, the trout will migrate from fast highly oxygenated water to the slower pools and back eddies where they will spend the winter in concentrated groups. The dry fly fishing requires the use of smaller and smaller flies such as blue winged olives and midge. Nymph fishing continues to be good through this cold month.
Cold winter months narrow the window for dry fly fishing, though anglers will sporadically experience banner blue wing olive hatches during these months. We receive most of our precipitation in the winter, so high water events do occur during the winter at which time the river will be unfishable. Check with the fly shop before venturing out in the winter months.
The first steelhead begin to nose into the Deschutes in late June and early July. By mid-July we find decent numbers of steelhead in the lower 40 miles of the river. The early season steelhead are nearly all wild native fish, chrome-bright and super aggressive towards the swinging fly. The fishing pressure is light during this time of year, which makes it an excellent time to float and camp in the lower river. Floating lines and non-weighted swinging flies are the weapons of choice for fly anglers on the Deschutes from the beginning of the season through to December.
August days are long and hot but steelhead numbers continue to grow throughout the month. The rocky canyon heats up significantly during the day, and so too does the water. With cooler water in the morning and early afternoon, anglers will find the greatest success fishing for steelhead on the front half of the day.
It is during this month that the greatest number of steelhead will enter the Deschutes. Peak numbers of fish often bring peak numbers of fishermen, but anglers will find that there are plenty of fishing spots for everyone. The bulk of the hatchery fish enter the river during this month, so you can rest assured that your fly will pass by plenty of steelhead during the course of the day. If they are in the mood to bite, you will have good action on your fly in September.
As the water temperatures cool in October and the angle of the sun is lower in the sky, the Deschutes steelhead fishing is at its finest. Though the numbers of fish entering the river start to dwindle in October, all of the steelhead that migrated into the river in July, August and September are spread throughout the system and fishing is good everywhere in the 100 miles of the Lower Deschutes. By the second half of October the angling pressure begins to subside due to colder weather, the beginning of hunting season, and the greater numbers of Oregon rivers getting steelhead returns.
The cold windy month drives many anglers away from the Deschutes, but the steelhead are stacked in the system and are still eager to grab swinging flies. Very few steelhead are entering the river this late in the year, so anglers should concentrate their efforts in the upper 60 miles of river to find the greatest numbers of fish.
The river sees almost no pressure during the month of December, though there are still bright steelhead looking for flies to grab. Water temperatures start to drop significantly as winter sets in, so anglers will find greater success with a sink tip and weighted fly at this time of year. Snow and rain mixtures can cause the river to become muddy in December, so it helps to be prepared with large dark flies.
The river is often high and mighty during these months and the tributaries are running strong. Steelhead are hanging on to their last bit of fat reserves in order to make it into the tributaries to spawn. Some steelhead will choose to spawn in the mainstem of the Deschutes. Since we do not have any fresh fish migrating into the Deschutes in the winter, the steelhead that have survived their journey thus far are now dark and somewhat skinny. We do not target steelhead during these months because we want them to reserve their energy to spawn and return to the ocean.