Best Fishing Rivers in Central Oregon – The Famous Deschutes and More

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Source: Fishing in Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fishing Guide (11th Edition) by Madelynne Diness Sheehan

Also see:
Best Fishing in Oregon’s Central Zone (North Lakes and Reservoirs)
Best Fishing Lakes and Reservoirs in Central Oregon (South of Bend)

The Central Zone includes all waters draining into the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam up to and including the Deschutes River.

The following are among the best fishing rivers in the Central Zone:

Crooked River

This is one of the most productive trout streams in Oregon, carving canyons through the central Oregon desert before joining the Deschutes River at Lake Billy Chinook. The best catches and access are in the first seven miles of stream below Bowman Dam, which forms Prineville Reservoir.

Each river mile of the most popular section holds thousands of rainbow trout. While most trout average just 10 to 12 inches, fish to 20 inches are caught. Fly fishing can be good all year. This river often fishes best from fall through spring, when other fisheries often are limited.

More: Crooked River Fishing.

Deschutes River (Pelton Dam to mouth)

This lower 100 miles of central Oregon’s defining waterway is one of America’s best trout streams and also produces some thrilling steelhead fishing. The lower Deschutes is a mecca that attracts fly anglers from across the U.S. and world.

Although the Deschutes has a year-round rainbow trout fishery, anglers often rate the salmon fly and stonefly hatch of late May and early June the peak time for these native redsides. Trout fishing is generally best above Sherars Falls (downstream from Maupin) up to Pelton Dam near Warm Springs.

Glacial runoff from the White River can cloud the lower Deschutes, but good trout fishing also occurs downriver through Macks Canyon to the mouth. Much of the Deschutes is open year-round, but there is a seasonal closure for trout fishing where it borders the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

While a modest harvest of native trout is allowed on the Deschutes, most anglers practice catch and release on these prized fish. Steelheading on the Deschutes is another of the great fishing experiences in Oregon.

The summer steelhead run includes both hatchery and wild fish, but only the fin-clipped steelhead may be kept. In July, and improving in the next couple months, the steelhead fishing starts where the Deschutes spills into the Columbia River near The Dalles.

The river’s own run is augmented by upriver Columbia fish that turn into the colder Deschutes during late summer. The steelhead spread up the Deschutes as far as Pelton by early fall, and catches peak near Maupin from mid-September through October but can hold up through December.

The Deschutes also has both spring and fall chinook, with seasons allowed when strong runs justify some harvest. While most of the lower river is open only to fishing with artificial flies and lures, bait angling is allowed in a short stretch below Sherars Falls, where most of the river’s salmon are landed.

Overview article: Deschutes River Fishing.

More: Best Fly Fishing Rivers in Oregon and Fly Fishing the Deschutes River Salmon Fly Hatch

Fall River

This spring-fed and idyllic fly-fishing only stream southwest of Bend is a tributary of the Deschutes River.

It boasts wild populations of redband (native rainbow), brook and brown trout, but it also is seasonally stocked with hatchery rainbow trout from Fall River Hatchery (on State Road 42) up to its headwater springs. The river is open year-round.

More: Fall River Fishing.

Metolius River

This river in central Oregon is beautiful and technically challenging – a favorite among fly anglers looking for a quieter and less intimidating alternative to the Deschutes River.

Native redband rainbow trout are the most prevalent fish in the Metolius, which springs from the ground as a fully formed trout stream near Camp Sherman (northwest of Sisters) and flows through Ponderosa pine forest. There also are native bull trout to 20 pounds plus some non-native brown and brook trout.

Recently added fish passage added to Deschutes River dams should bring runs of sockeye and chinook salmon plus steelhead into the river.

Fishing is purely catch and release these days, after stocking ended years ago, but its idyllic setting and many insect hatches attract devoted anglers. Only fly fishing is permitted above Bridge 99, and no bait is allowed anywhere in the river.

More: Metolius River Fishing.

Find more places to fish in all 36 Oregon counties

Oregon Resources

ODFW Weekly Fishing Report
ODFW Trout Stocking Schedule
Oregon Fishing Regulations
National Weather Service

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