When those hot spots that were churning out trout in May and June start slowing down in July, it’s time to head up to scenic Three Creek Lake near Sisters.
The 28-acre lake fishes best in summer, especially in July, when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife typically stocks this high-mountain beauty with hatchery rainbow trout.
The lake sits at 6,550 feet in elevation east of snow-capped South Sister and in view of all Three Sisters peaks in the Deschutes National Forest. At that elevation, winter often keeps a tight hold far into spring. In typical years, the roads are often impassable into May or June (occasionally early July).
So wait this one out until the heat of summer truly arrives, and this spot will become a pleasant respite for heat waves at lower elevations. In mid-summer, this is a popular fishing hole, so don’t expect to be all alone here.
Not to mention, you’ll catch more fish if you wait for the stocking truck to visit ahead of you. A recent check showed the first (and largest) planting scheduled the first week of July, with some more fish added a couple weeks later. Use the link at the bottom of this page to pinpoint those plantings.
ODFW also often stocks hundreds of its larger trophy trout to go along with the thousands of pan-sized legals it dumps here. There are enough of the bigger ones that a five-fish limit has decent odds of containing one or two trophies.
Besides the stocked rainbows, Three Creek Lake has a self-sustaining population of non-native brook trout that fairly often show in the catch.
Brookies are even more common in some lesser-known Cascade Mountain lakes, including nearby Little Three Creek Lake, which you can hike to from Three Creek Lake.
Consult a print copy of Fishing in Oregon for lots of info about various high-mountain lakes where you can get away from crowds if you’re adventurous and in hiking shape.
Bank access is good at Three Creek Lake, and you can expect fair to good results casting out with bait, lures or flies. Waders could help but aren’t deal-breakers.
Boat and float tube anglers do much better, as a general rule, as they are able to reach more fish and also troll for trout, which is very effective.
Know that you can’t legally use motors here, so be prepared to paddle or row or kick your way to trout limits. But it’s a small lake, so getting places isn’t hard. Float-tubers often cast flies here.
Read our article Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips if you need to brush up on methods before heading up to Three Creek Lake.
There is lots of camping at and near Three Creek Lake, including Driftwood Campground on the north side and the smaller Three Creek Lake Campground on the south end of the lake. Both have excellent lake access.
One naming note: You might notice that this lake is commonly referred to as Three Creeks Lake, plurally. The lake is named for one creek, named Three Creek because it brings together tributaries, and therefore the lake doesn’t technically have the “s”. There also are those that call the main lake Big Three Creek Lake.
Getting there might be easier (and definitely more important) than getting the name right. Simply head south from Sisters on Elm Street, which becomes Forest Road 16 (aka Three Creek Road). It’s about 16 miles on a decent mountain road, and it will take a little more than a half hour driving there from downtown Sisters.
There is a rougher and more confusing route heading west from Bend via Tumalo Creek Road and Forest Service roads, but the Sisters route is likely your safer bet.