Deschutes River Steelhead – Best on the Planet?

The lower Deschutes River is perhaps one of the very best steelhead fisheries available to fly fishers in the entire western United States.  Columbia River which cuts a line between Washington and Oregon is the river highway for summer steelies going to eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  Most years over 1/2 million steelhead migrate this passage.  During the warm summer months the Columbia River gets intolerably hot while the Deschutes River often stays relatively cool by comparison.  This creates a cool water magnet that steelhead cannot resist and often a major portion of the entire run will branch off into the comfort zone of the Deschutes waters.  Many of these fish travel the 100 miles up to Pelton Dam before turning back down river and on up the Columbia to their final destination.  This strain of summer steelhead is much different than it’s winter run cousin.  These fish begin entering freshwater in July, August and September and won’t spawn until the following February, March or April.  A long stint in freshwater for sure but puts into perspective how a short 100 mile jaunt up the Deschutes for them is no big deal.  The combination of cooler water, mega amounts of fish, the natural tendency of these fish to attack flies on the surface is the perfect combination for creating one of the best steelhead fisheries around.

The lower Deschutes has many access locations.  Favorite access sites are the mouth of the River at Heritage Landing or the Deschutes River State Park or the Maupin area.  For the traveling angler with a family there is a lot to do in both locations.  White water rafting is a big deal in Maupin with one day floats that have frothy whitewater spray for miles- a sure fire fun way to cool off on a hot August day.  Near the mouth of the Deschutes there is a great campground- called the Deschutes River State Park.  Full hookups here go for $20 per night.  Hiking, biking and swiming  fun are all around.  Of course fishing for steelhead can also be supplemented with some local smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River and the many small ponds along HWY 84. 

The old railroad bed build in 1909 is a great way to see the lower Deschutes River.  From the mouth of the river this grade is perfect for a mountain bike and a great way to access to lower 8 miles of the river. 

The mouth of the Deschutes is a popular trolling zone, just below the bridges where the Deschutes meets the Columbia River, steelhead and salmon alike will stack up.

This area is a historic zone where Lewis and Clark, native Indians and the Oregon Trail come through at the mouth of the Deschutes River. 

An interesting side trip a little over an hour from the mouth of the Deschutes river and about the same from the town of Maupin, OR is the interesting little town of Shaniko.  A listed “Ghost Town” Shaniko has a lot to see and represents a lot of history in the area.

If your wife likes to knit like mine does the Imperial Stock Ranch not far from Shaniko and a scenic drive from Maupin will give her plenty of great material for her next project.  A working ranch since the 1800’s this ranch has some amazing history. 

Scenery on the drive to Imperial Stock Ranch.  The land between the Deschutes River and John Day river are full of scenic views of the Cascade range, rolling hills of wheat and plentiful deer. 

See more info on the Deschutes River including Trout and steelhead fishing- click this link for one of our other articles:

If you come to the state of Oregon, be sure to visit one of the best steelhead fisheries on the planet.  The Deschutes River has steelhead fly fishing from July through November.  Water Time Outfitters offers guided fly fishing trips on the lower 100 miles of the Deschutes River.  Limited BLM permits allow guiding on the river.  Our permit allows us to offer guided float trips, jet boat trips and walk in fishing trips.  Come join us for a Deschutes River fishing adventure! See more at: 

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