The Fall River in Central Oregon is a favorite among fly anglers and a great spot to hone your craft.
The stream, a tributary of the Deschutes located south of Bend, is a pretty spring creek flowing through bucolic pine forests and mountain meadows.
But don’t show up with a white styrofoam carton of nightcrawlers or jar of PowerBait: Fall River is strictly open to fly fishing only with barbless hooks.
But given that it’s both stocked with hatchery reared rainbows, which tend to start out less sophisticated than their wild cousins, as well as stream-reared trout of several species, the stream has something for everyone.
We are so confident recommending the Fall River that we have it listed on our popular run-down of Best Fly Fishing Rivers in Oregon and also on our more localized list of Best Fishing Rivers in Central Oregon.
The river from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fall River Hatchery upstream to its origin springs, running through the Deschutes National Forest, is planted with a fair number of those locally raised rainbows every few weeks starting in the spring and continuing well into summer.
The cold, crystalline river is roughly 10 miles in length before entering the Deschutes River, but also supports naturally reproducing rainbow, brown and brook trout that may be retained, with the bag limit applying to the rainbows.
At this time, the entire stream is open all year, and thanks to its consistent temperatures as a spring creek, it can be fished even in the winter, although catches are sometimes better spring through fall.
Access is best on that upper section in the pine-shaded areas of national forest above the hatchery.
South Century Drive (Highway 42) follows it pretty closely, and there also are good trails in the vicinity.
Lower sections of the stream pass through more private property, but you might find more brown trout in the reaches below Fall River Falls (near Deschutes River Road).
Those lower Fall River brown trout intermingle with the Deschutes River’s brown trout population, as do the native redside rainbows.
There are even whitefish, located primarily below the falls area, although those get little attention with the prized trout species around. Some trout can reach very nice sizes.
How to Catch Fall River Trout
Local fly fishing legend Harry Teel, in his Fly Fishing Central & Southeastern Oregon, recommends that anglers use lightweight presentations and keep a low personal profile due to the extremely clear water conditions. Trout can be wary.
While most fish here are pan-sized, Teel said that larger trout might be found lurking under a fair amount of downed timber in the stream.
Teel said of Fall River trout in general: “These fish are usually dining on midges and mayflies. Caddis and small stoneflies are also productive patterns. Weights are not permitted so use Woolly Buggers and Beadhead Nymphs in a dropper setup.”
The local experts at Fly & Field Outfitters in Bend emphasize that caution is the name of the game here.
The gin-like waters may allow you to see the trout take your fly, but they also allow the trout to see you first and avoid anything you have to offer.
Lighter-weight approaches are going to serve you well.
Fly & Field suggests anglers fish with a three- or four-weight rod, as you won’t need to cast for distance.
Small flies and 6x and 7x tippets are usually going to work best around spooky trout.
The fly and guide shop reports that pale morning duns (PMDs) are the primary hatches in late spring and early summer, when the heaviest fishing pressure is likely to be found.
Caddis hatches also come onto the summertime trout menu, while blue-winged olives (BWOs) and midges are what trout expect during the winter.
In fact, Fall River is one of the top spots along with the Crooked River for fly anglers during the winter months in Central Oregon, because many other waters are either closed or simply don’t produce as well.
We’re impressed with Fly & Field’s Fall River fishing reports, which are frequently updated and include current hatch information.
We recommend reading the latest report when planning a trip, and their shop is one of several that could easily outfit you with anything you need to fish Fall River.
Also, make sure to carefully review not only ODFW’s latest regulations for Fall River but also the agency’s very definition of fly fishing before angling here.
Hint: Fishing a fly under a casting bubble with that spinning rod won’t cut it when the fish and game trooper shows up.
Planning Your Trip
There is a Fall River Campground where you can stay on the river, although you’ll have to spread out from there to find the best fishing.
You also can stay in the Fall River Guard Station right next to the headwaters.
Those spots as well as The Tubes offer some of the more popular access points, but poke around and be willing to set off on foot and you’ll find more.
While you’re there, the Fall River Hatchery raises several kinds of trout used in stocking programs, including trout that are air-lifted into the region’s high mountain lakes.
Some of the grounds are open to visitors, and you can have access to fish the river here … although this spot might be too crowded for many anglers’ tastes.
Where is Fall River?
The hatchery section of Fall River is only 15-20 minutes driving southwest from Sunriver.
It’s only about a half hour driving from Bend to the north and even closer to La Pine if you’re heading up Highway 97 from the south.
It’s a little over two hours to reach it from Eugene and about three and a half hours from the Portland area.