Deschutes River, Lower

River Levels

9 am
7 30 year
9 am
3.20/4930 ↑
9 am
2.74/5010 ↓



December Tips


► 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.

► Be prepared for midge hatches in the warmer parts of the day.

► Streamers, such as Woolly Buggers, Morrish Sculpins, Muddlers, can sometimes be productive.

► Trout fishing will be pretty slow for the next two months. You might have some luck if there is a blue-winged olive hatch, and trout will sometimes take drifting roe from spawning whitefish; a peach colored egg fly drifted near the bottom can be effective.


► There are often a few large B-run steelhead in the lower section of the river (below Macks Canyon) at this time of year. Fishing that part of the Deschutes in December is a low-percentage game, but you won't have much competition, and there is the opportunity to tie into a real trophy.

► Put away the floating line and use a sink-tip and standard winter steelhead swinging flies. Or use indicator tactics tactics and standard steelhead nymphing flies. The latter tactic is best when the water temp is in forty or less.

► You can catch fish in December, but be prepared for cold weather. Steelhead will be well-spread out between Sherars Falls and Warm Springs, with a few fish all the way down to Macks Canyon and even at the mouth.


► Expect cool days, occasional rain (or snow) 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.

► Anglers coming to the Maupin area from Portland may find it faster to go through The Dalles and take highway 197 at this time. While it's farther, you seldom encounter snow, and that can make for a faster, safer trip.

► Take special care not to disturb the salmon or walk on their redds (nests; distinguishable by the clean-scraped gravel).

► The major tributaries--Trout Creek, Warm Springs River, White River--can dump muddy water into the Deschutes after a big storm. However, if you fish between Warm Springs and Trout Creek you can usually avoid these problems.

► Remember that the west bank is closed along the Warm Springs Reservation (from Pelton Dam to river mile 69) and trout fishing is not permitted in November and December anywhere in that section (If you happen to be steelheading with a size 18 Pheasant Tail and accidentally hook a trout--don't kill it and take it home; and remember, you were fishing for steelhead).

► Many anglers look down their nose at whitefish, the trout's poor cousin, but whitefish are plentiful and they're more active in cold water than rainbow trout. They like small nymphs, so winter is a great opportunity to hone your subsurface skills. Besides, whitefish are better than no fish. Look for them in slow runs and the inside bends of riffle corners.


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