Apr 16, 2014

Salmon Fly Hatch on the Deschutes River, Oregon


Worth the Wait
Few things in the Northwest get trout fisherman more excited than the Salmonfly hatch on the Deschutes River. Anyone who hasn’t experienced this event is missing out on some of the best dry fly fishing around. The draw is the size of the bugs and the willingness of even the wiliest of fish to crush them on the surface. If you like fishing with big, easy-to-see dry flies while casting to aggressive wild trout than this is the hatch for you!

Hatch timing is pretty consistent, with the hatch beginning in mid-May and continuing into the first week of June. Both Salmonflies and Goldenstones hatch during this time of year along with the occasional Green Drake and PMD mayfly. The warming water temperatures start the hatch which begins down river and works its way up river over the course of a couple of weeks.

Stoneflies spend most of their life underwater in the nymph stage, upwards towards two years. Once they reach maturity the annual migration towards shore begins. Once reaching the safety of shore they begin to molt into their adult form - this is where it gets interesting for angler. Being notoriously clumsy, the bugs fall or are blown into the water from their perches in the grass and bush. The trout have followed the bugs towards the shore, and lie and wait for this windfall. The takes are often explosive, as the Redsides gorge themselves on the short opportunity of the hatch. The hatch is of vital importance to the trout as the protein rich bugs provide them with the necessary calories to recover from the spawning that just occurred in the river. Typically, when you fish the hatch, you work the bank lines, under the alder trees and anywhere you can anticipate Redsides lying in wait. Note, you may not see a lot of rising fish, but as long as there are Stoneflies in the grass the fish know they are around. Fish likely looking water and you will find opportunistic risers.

The best action is found from Pelton Dam to Sherars Falls but there is also good access on the lower access road. For most anglers the Warm Springs Boat ramp off HWY 26 is the first access point. There is also good foot access at Mecca Flats, Trout Creek, South Junction, and up and down the road from Maupin.

The stretches from Warm Springs to Trout Creek (the upper day float section of the river) and down lower near Maupin are easily the most crowded sections of the river during this time. Below Trout Creek the river experiences less pressure and the fishing is better (though it can still get busy as outfitters come from all over the state to fish the hatch!) The float from Trout Creek to Harpham Flat is thirty five miles through the wild and scenic Deschutes River Canyon. There's only one way in and it's downhill in a drift boat or a raft. This section of river is best left to the experienced boater, as the notorious Whitehorse rapids is class III+ and plays gatekeeper, letting only the most experienced boaters through, taking down a boat or two a season! The scenery in this section is breathtaking, and the camping is second to none. If you like expansive, high desert scenery and a little adventure to your fishing this is the place to be and is considered by many as a bucket list trip and on the must do list for many anglers.

Recommended equipment:

I don’t do much indicator fishing this time of year. Basically the bubble rods go away until after the hatch no matter how slow it gets. This is dry fly time. I like a nine foot five weight with a weight forward floating line, six weights have their place as well. My set up is a Winston BIIIX 590/690, Sage Click reels (may require cutting some running line off to fit), Airflow exceed fly lines. It can get windy and we are making dry fly presentations so a heavy leader is going to be needed to turn over the uber large stonefly patterns, I like 1x-3x depending on how windy, so put the 4 and 5x stuff away until the caddis hatch.

Fly Selection:

No one pattern works better than any other but my favorites are the Chubby Chernoble and the Norm Woods Special. Whatever you do bring a wide variety of Salmon fly and golden stone patterns. Make sure your variety includes smaller and bigger. Often a smaller size will get the rise. Speaking of the rise, let them have it for a full count before lifting your rod.

Deschutes River Guided Float Trip Options

Day Trips:

We offer guided trips in the “Day Stretch” from Warm Springs to Trout Creek. This is an all day, 10 mile float that has lots of great water and some of the biggest fish in the river. The pressure is highest in the section but the fishing can be outstanding. A good guide can be invaluable during the hatch on this section, as his or her intimate knowledge will keep you on the fish as the hatch progresses and fish get moved around by the pressure.

Camp Trips

Camp trips are generally 3-4 days from Trout Creek to Harpham Flats. These are mobile camps that move down the river; a camp host or "Bagger" is used to secure, set up and break down the camps. No work is involved for the clients, except for the task of fishing and eating all the food we bring down for you! The accommodations include roomy tents with cots and pads, and a luxurious dining tent where you can enjoy your hors d'oeuvres, meals and after dinner cocktails away from the elements!

We have limited remaining openings this year in May and early June. Call for available dates.

Sam Sickles


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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