Deschutes River, Lower

River Levels

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7 30 year
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1.34/321 ⇑
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Recent Reports


The river has stayed cool--and will get cooler as we enter fall--and that is good for both trout and steelhead. Lately, the smoke has been clearing out, and the White River has been well-behaved. Threats of smoke and rumors of poor steelheading have the river almost deserted. Notice the choice of words: "threats" and "rumors"; facts are actually different. The good news for intrepid anglers is that you will have the river to yourself, and the fishing isn't nearly as bad as the conventional wisdom suggests.

Deschutes Angler Fly Shop reports, "Steelhead fishing has been steadily good, not great, but better than last year." Smoke is not as much of an issue in the Deschutes canyon as in other locales, which is good news.

Caddis and blue-winged olive hatches have been decent, and trout anglers can expect good fishing as the temperatures drop and we move into fall. Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop says, "Dry flies have been working well in the mornings and evenings in those classic runs and riffles we all love to fish in late summer. For your midday efforts, it would be best to fish Nymphs and Wet flies in fast deep runs with lots of structure. You will need to add weight to get your flies deep enough to help your odds." Looking forward, this is a good time to start nymphing with October caddis pupa patterns, such as the Morrish October Caddis Pupa. Team it with a smaller fly such as a Deep Sparkle Pupa or a Pheasant Tail.


Steelhead counts over The Dalles Dam are very low. Extremely low. Despressingly low. Last year was a poor return, and this year is running about 10% of last year at this time. Things may improve as the Columbia cools. Despite the gloomy predictions, Amy at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop reports better steelheading than we have a right to expect.

Trout fishing is typical for this time of year: morning and evening hatches of caddis and midges. BTW: "morning" means crack-o-dawn, not 9:00. And "evening" means almost too dark to see. Look for the caddis in backeddies and slower water. A few pale evening duns and blue-winged olives are hatching and may catch the interest of trout; look for the duns near or in riffly water as well as backeddies, says Fly and Field Outfitters. If you insist on fishing midday, keep your nymphs deep. John at Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop says that if you fish midday, look for fast, deep water with structure; you will need lots of weight to stay down deep, and yes you will lose flies.


Major Hatches for September

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 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

► Look for hatches beginning around mid-month in the late morning to evening hours.

► These mayflies hatch in the slow margins, so don't blind cast--you'll put the trout down if you do. Pick a rising trout and cast to it with a downstream presentation.


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

► When adults are active, a size-8 dry fly with a pale-orange body (smaller and less gaudy than a salmonfly imitation) can produce when cast near the bank over water that's 2-4 feet deep and flowing at a moderate pace, especially if the bottom is rocky. Cloudy days seem to be best. While a drag-free drift can take trout, you acan also entice trout with a skating presentation.

► These big guys don't hatch like other caddis. The pupa crawls out of the water at night, then the adult emerges on dry land, like a stonefly. And like stonefly nymphs, the pupa are active prior to the hatch season. So drift a pupa pattern near the bottom in September.


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

► Take along some gray-bodied Soft Hackles in sizes 16 and 18. These can be excellent producers during afternoon caddis hatches.


Size 12-18 Soft Hackle, , Deep Sparkle Pupa. Body: tan, green; Shroud: tan

Riffles, runs, just below riffles: surface swing, shallow nymph


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


Size 12-18 Diving Caddis, Soft Hackle. Body: brown; Wing: black

Riffles, current seams, backeddies below riffles: surface swing, shallow nymph, rising nymph


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

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


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

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


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

► A midge pupa pattern is usually the best choice during a midge hatch.

► Expect evening hatches.

► You'll need to match the size and color of the natural insect. Carry a seine so you can examine whatever is drifting down the river.

► 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.


September Tips


► As the water cools and the nights grow longer, trout fishing should keep getting better all month.


► There are seven prime types of steelhead water on the Deschutes; see below. Most anglers only fish the first two or three. If you want to find water that's unmolested by other anglers, expand your vision to include other types of steelhead holding water.
--Transition water
--Current breaks (places where a line of rocks breaks the current)
--Structure water (ledges and big rock gardens)
--Current sandwiches (slow water between two faster currents)
--Pocket water (small, one-fish holding areas near a single boulder or depression in the bottom)
--Bankside troughs (deep water of the right speed that is near the bank and overhung with alder branches).

Traditional tactics with standard summer steelhead swinging flies are appropriate most of the time.

► Early in the month, most steelhead will be between Sherars Falls and the mouth. By the end of the month, it should be good in the Maupin area, too, with a few fish all the way up to Warm Springs.


► The White River can be an occasional problem on the lower Deschutes. Warm weather or heavy rain causes this river to spew glacial silt into the Deschutes. When it's bad, it's really bad, and you can't fish from the confluence (between Maupin and Sherars Falls) and the mouth of the Deschutes. Baring heavy rain falls on Mt. Hood (possible) or a heat wave (not likely) it probably won't affect your September fishing. If you're concerned, check with a local source, such as Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop or Deschutes Angler Fly Shop; both stores are in Maupin.


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