Deschutes River, Lower

River Levels

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7 30 year
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Recent Reports


John Smeraglio at Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop says this about steelheading on the Deschutes: "Okay, so the fishing is a little tough, but remember, it’s fall, and it is splendid! Cool nights, warm days, and the peacefulness of being in a beautiful place." But remember, "tough" is not "impossible." There are both wild and hatchery steelhead around, and people are catching them from the Columbia through Maupin--and probably a few fish all the way to Warm Springs.

John adds that trout fishing is best from 3-6 p.m., with hatches of blue-winged olives and pale evening duns. Caddis are an afternoon event as well. Look carefully at the water because many rises are very subtle and hard to spot. When you see those soft, sippy rise rings, it means the trout are probably taking either emerging insects or egg-laying insects. In either case a size 14-16 Soft Hackle may be the answer.

Fly and Field Outfitters says trout fishing has been good from Warm Springs to Trout Creek, and adds, "We are seeing more and more adult October caddis fluttering around and a few fish have been tricked into eating dries." Give it a try in rocky stretches near the bank; it will be the last large bug you see for another five months!


Steelhead counts over Sherars Falls have been very poor this year, but last week they started shooting up. From July 1 through September 18 there were only 48 fish counted over Sherars, including both wild and hatchery. But from September 18-September 30 there were 243; 84 on September 27 alone. Steelhead counts over The Dalles Dam have also shot up dramatically. Moral of the story: steelhead fishing is improving but most anglers have given up; so more for the rest of us! And you can fish between Sherars Falls and the Locked Gate with confidence.


While the White River has had some color, it has not affected fishing. However, many steelhead anglers have been (needlessly) concerned about it and have focused their fishing above the White River. That's too bad because most of the steelhead are downstream from White River! Counts of steelhead over The Dalles Dam have improved, and many of those fish will stick their noses into the Deschutes. However, counts over Sherars Falls have been low. Moral: focus your efforts below Sherars Falls for a bit longer. The catch rate has been improving.

John Smeraglio at Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop says trout fihsing has been good. Expect hatches of blue-winged olives in the mornings, pale evening duns after 3:00 in the afternoon, and spotted caddis after 5:00. October caddis adults are starting to show, but the action is still subsurface on pupa patterns. Otherwise, you subsurface active will be on small, size 18 nymphs.


Major Hatches for October

Importance by half-month
 Super    Major    Minor    Slight    None

Hatches are matched from Westfly's database of "standard" fly patterns.


Size 16-20 Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear. Brown, brown-olive

Moderate runs, just below riffles: indicator, tight line, rising nymph


Size 16-20 Sprout Midge, Film Critic, Hackle Stacker. Olive-brown body, gray wing

Flats, runs, backeddies: standard dry fly


Size 16-20 Sparkle Dun, Comparadun, Hairwing Dun. Olive-brown body, gray wing

Flats, runs, backeddies: standard dry fly

► Two types of blue-winged olives are present: size 18 and size 20 (the latter is the genus Acentrella). Be prepared for both and carry some olive size-18 and size-20 imitations. Similar sized Pheasant Tails are always a good choice at this time of year.

► Emergers, duns, and spinners tend to collect in backeddies and slow margins, and trout often just wait there for them to arrive.

► Hatches can be heavy at times.

► Cloudy, drippy weather stimulates the ubiquitous blue-winged olives. If it's sunny, look for them in areas where shadows fall on the water.

► Nymphs can be productive before, during, and after a blue-wing hatch, and even when there is no hatch that day. The key is to make sure your imitation is drifting near the bottom. To achieve that goal, you may want to team your nymph with a heavy fly such as a Kaufmanns Stonefly or beadhead Prince. You might want to look at Jeff Morgan's article on Tiny Flies for thoughts on these small nymphs.


Size 12-16 Quigley Cripple, Film Critic, Hackle Stacker. Red-brown body, gray wing

Bankwater, backeddies, slow runs: standard dry fly


Size 12-16 Comparadun, Sparkle Dun, Hairwing Dun. Red-brown body, gray wing

Bankwater, backeddies, slow runs: standard dry fly

► These mayflies migrate to slow water before emerging, and hatches usually take place in the slow margins of the river. Trout are in no hurry to sip the duns, and rises are usually lazy, head-and-tail affairs. Because the action is in quiet water, your approach and casts need to be stealthy. The best strategy is to wait until you see a rise, then cast to that trout. Blind casting usually just puts the fish down. Let your cast settle gently on the water and avoid lining the trout. You may need a downstream presentation.


Size 6-8 Morrish October Caddis Pupa. Body: orange-brown; Shroud: tan

► Often, the best plan for the October Caddis hatch is to dead-drift a pupa imitation along the bottom.

► When casting October caddis dry flies, look for water that is 2-4 feet deep and flows at a moderate pace; a rocky bottom is a real plus.

► Adults can be matched with a size 8 Stimulator, but the traditional orange pattern is a bit bright. If you're tying, try a browner body and a darker wing. Another option is a Madam X with an orange-brown body. (On the other hand, I've used a yellow-bodies Madam X on small streams and did just fine.)

► If your dead-drift adult generates no rises, try a little twitch. If that doesn't work, try skating your fly across the surface. This can be deadly in riffles, just below riffles, and along current seams.


Size 16-18 , Deep Sparkle Pupa, Soft Hackle. Body: tan, green

Riffles, fast runs; just below these: indicator, tight line, shallow nymph


Bankwater near foilage: standard dry fly

► These size 16-18 caddis are usually dark gray as adults. Adult patterns can be effective, but sometimes the most effective approach is a dark Soft Hackle presented on a surface swing, especially if you see concentrations of these caddis clinging just above the surface on the downstream side of rocks.


Size 12-18 Goddard Caddis, X Caddis, Parachute Caddis, Elk Hair Caddis. Body: brown, green, dark gray; Wing: tan, brown

Soft Hackles or other emerging/egg-laying imitations in sizes 14-18 should be in your fly box, too; use flies with brown or gray bodies.

► Some green caddis (Rhyacophila) are still around in October. Size 14 Elk Hair Caddis with either tan or olive bodies are good fly choices.


Size 6-8 Kaufmanns Stonefly, Rubber Legs. Tan, yellow-tan

Riffles, moderate-fast runs; just below these: indicator, tight line

► Nymphs, which are never totally off the menu for trout, will become more important this month. Two-nymph rigs, with a salmonfly nymph on the point, will be very productive when no hatches are in progress.


Size 6-10 Kaufmanns Stonefly, Rubber Legs. Black, chocolate brown

Riffles, moderate-fast runs; just below these: indicator, tight line

► Nymphs, which are never totally off the menu for trout, will become more important this month. Two-nymph rigs--salmonfly nymph on the point and a smaller nymph on a dropper--can be very productive when no hatches are in progress.


Size 10-22 Chans Chironomid Pupa, Zebra Midge. Black, gray, olive, red, creams, browns

► Midge fishing is best in quiet runs, in backeddies, and near rocky banks that create mini-eddies. You'll find whitefish feeding in the slackwater areas, and trout where there's more current; sometimes only a couple of feet will separate the two species of fish.

► Trout can be very picky about size and color of the pupa. You may need to swap flies several times to find the right combination. You can speed up this process by fishing two pupa at once and noting which one the trout show more interest in.

► Be prepared for midge hatches in the early morning hours and at dusk.

► When trout are midging, a Sprout Midge or Griffiths Gnat can work well, but a pupa pattern is always a good choice.



Size 6-10 Egg Fly. Pink, peach, white, purple, many others

► Something that a lot of anglers ignore is salmon roe. This can be very important between Sherars Falls and the mouth. Trout (and sometimes steelhead) take spilled roe from spawning salmon. So look for a place with salmon, then cast an Egg Fly below it. Take special care not to disturb the salmon or walk on their redds (nests; distinguishable by the clean-scraped gravel).


October Tips


► White River can still be ill-behaved during October. A major rainstorm on Mt. Hood can cause major murkiness below this river's confluence with the Deschutes. If you're concerned, call a local shop such as Deschutes Angler Fly Shop or Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop.

► The best trout fishing should be in the late afternoons and evenings.

► If the river suddenly rises, such as following an intense rainstorm, fishing will be poor until the extra water subsides or stabilizes at a consistent level for a few days.

► This time of year you will find more trout in backeddies and in slower water near the bank than you will in faster water.

► It's a good month to cast a two-nymph rig with a big stonefly, such as Rubber Legs or Kaufmanns Stonefly, on the point and a size 18 Hares Ear or Pheasant Tail on a dropper or trailer. Cast into slightly riffly water or runs of moderate speed.


► Steelhead should be well-spread out between Sherars Falls and Warm Springs, and there will still be a few fish between Sherars and the mouth.

► Some anglers feel that by this time of year the fish are more receptive to drab patterns and smaller sized flies--probably because the fish are seeing lots of anglers.

► Proper line choice--sink-tip or floater--is very important this month. The choice is not always simple. See Sink-Tip or Floating Line? for some advice on the subject.


► Keep in mind that it's October. Expect cool days and sometimes bitter winds. Bring extra clothes in case you slip and get wet. If you're headed over here from the Willamette Valley, be careful on the roads. I had a narrow escape a few years ago when an isolated shower of freezing rain coated Hwy 26 with ice. I hit the ice at 60 mph while towing my boat and left the road. It's not an experience I wish to have again, and I hope you avoid it too.


Other Months

What to expect in 



Other Rivers or Lakes


Map (enlarge)



The Dalles
Government Camp


Other Info Sources

The Caddis Fly Angling Shop 541-342-7005

Confluence Fly Shop 541-678-5351

Deschutes Angler Fly Shop 541-395-0995

Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop 541-395-2565

Fin and Fire 541/548-1503

Fly and Field Outfitters 541-318-1616

The Fly Fisher's Place 541-549-3474

The Fly Fishing Shop 503-622-4607

Gorge Fly Shop 541-386-6977

The Hook 541-593-2358

Northwest Fly Fishing Outfitters 503-252-1529

The Patient Angler 541-389-6208

River City Fly Shop 503-579-5176

Royal Treatment Fly Shop 503/850-4397