Fly fishing Oregon’s small streams

Our good pal David Vázquez has spent some time lately fly fishing Oregon’s small streams and wrote up this post for the blog.

Our local small creeks can provide some wonderful fishing for wild rainbows and cutthroats this time of year. Fishing small creeks isn’t necessarily about catching big fish–although large fish are often present. Instead, I like to fish small creeks–and this place in particular–because they force you to slow down. Many of them are pretty rugged, so you have to do a fair amount of boulder hopping to find fishy lies. But even better is the fact that you’re not likely to see another angler all day. So there’s no rush or fuss. It’s simple fishing–just a light rod and a single box of dries.

Dave Vazquez Small Streams Post

This particular stream is one of my favorite places in the world. Not only is it gorgeous, but it has a very unique character–plunge pools, fast pockets, and crystal clear water. It’s not as blue as the Mac, nor as productive as other small creeks, but it’s a special place to me. It was the first place I ever fished in Oregon. I’ve never caught anything huge there, but it’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon casting dry flies on my three weight.

I pulled up to my favorite hole at about 1:30 pm. It’s a fairly popular stream among the college set, so you will often find swimmers and sunbathers this time of year. I decided that I would stop if there were no cars at the turnout. Lucky for me, no one was there. This particular hole is a deep plunge pool that has high rocky banks along it–kind of like a mini-gorge. So, I didn’t even wader up. I just tied on a royal PMX and went down to the hole. After a few casts the dry didn’t produce, so I switched to an olive bugger. On the first cast a 10-inch cutthroat just annihilated it. Uncharacteristically, this little cuttie took to the air about five times. In fact, I didn’t think it was a cutthroat until I got it to hand. Pretty cool way to start the day.

After that, I drove upstream a bit. I found a nice, semi-shaded bouldery run and spent the next three hours fishing a 1/4 mile stretch. There were fish everywhere they should have been: behind rocks, along foam lines, in back eddies, and in the seams. Everywhere. Usually a cast to a good spot would produce. After about six fish, my PMX came unwound. So I switched to a Royal Wulff. That worked too.

Most of the fish were in the 6-8 inch class, but I did take a few “slabs” of about 10 inches. They were a mix of beautifully colored resident cutts, silvery fluvial cutts, and rainbows. It was probably 70 percent bows. This guy was perhaps the prettiest cutt I’ve ever caught.

Dave Vazquez Small Streams Post

The fish of the day was a 12-inch bow that came out of a long, bouldery run. I had previously worked it downstream, but made a long upstream cast from the bottom of the pool. The take was one of those slow rolls, where a fish casually swims up to your fly and very subtly sucks it under. For such a small fish, this guy put up quite a fight. He actually took line a couple of times and generally gave me a fit on the three weight. He flipped off when I got him to hand, so no picture was in the offing.

I also caught a nice little rainbow of about 10 inches. He didn’t fight like the others, but when I got him to hand I figured out why. He had a semi-digested sculpin that was about 4 inches long sticking out of his craw. How he even got my fly in his mouth (or why) is a total mystery. I helped him out by disgorging his oversized meal, and he was on his way. Suicidal fish can be fun.
I probably took 30-40 fish in about four hours of fishing–typical for some of the creeks in our area. The best part was that they were all on dries. If you’re interested in slowing down and trying something different, get out your map, a copy of the regs, and some attractor dries and hit one of our local creeks. There are a ton of them from Detroit Lake to Cottage Grove.


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13 Responses to Fly fishing Oregon’s small streams

  1. Rob R says:

    Watching a trout come up to a dry fly on a sunny day is among the most pleasurable, beautiful things a person can do in this world. Thanks for reminding me…

  2. Erock says:

    I probably took 30-40 fish in about four hours of fishing–

    So how many fish-per-hour does that equal, Professor?

    Watch out for warm water, especially in the Coast Fork drainage.

  3. M00n says:

    That’s sweet … Thanks for sharing bro. – If you can’t enjoy some wild trout on small streams, then you’ve missed the point if not at the least, lost the spirit of fly-fishing.

    Again, thank you for sharing…

  4. Anthony says:

    I did somewhat of the same thing today. Like you, I found very quickly that my dries weren’t working. I switched to a small bead headed pheasant tail and fish on first cast. They were small rainbows and a few carp. Fun stuff! I didn’t catch anything greater than about 9 inches but it was certainly fun. I can almost always count on my favorite spot to be absent of people and just take my time fishing the run.

  5. Randy says:

    Great post Professor…there really is something pure about fishing those small streams when there’s no one else around and it’s full of native fish.

  6. I learned to fly fish for trout while stalking small fish in skinny water…thanks for the reminder. Great post.

  7. Dan Nash says:

    I grew up fishing small streams in Oregon during the 50’s and 60’s. My fly rod was purchased with green stamps, an automatic fly reel was a gift from an uncle. I don’t know if the line matched the rod, but with a 25 cent box of Danielson’s flies I could catch a trout every time I managed to land a fly in the little creeks I would fish. I still enjoy a day spent working up a small creek with dry flies.

  8. john quinn says:

    Awesome story–reminds me of small stream fishing in northern New Mexico back in high school 80’s. Time to dust off the rod and reel and have some fun again with my son’s.

  9. I live in Grants Pass and it seems all of the small streams are closed to fishing . So, where is the closest place I can go to fish the small streams here ? It is silly they close them as it is apparent they DO contain rainbow etc and not all smelts etc as they claim . It is so frustrating for me as we moved here thinking the small stream fishing would abound . Thanks. email me at . I fish with a traditional bamboo Tenkara fly rod and do not care so much about trout size as just being able to catch and release fish with barbles hooks . Thank you .

  10. Tony Hohl says:

    I am coming to Eugene Oregon in July for a family reunion and would like to do a little fly fishing in your area. I like small streams but would like to catch medium sized fish around 12 inches or so. Any suggestions?


  11. Wayne Hanshue says:

    I will be traveling to Brookings Oregon mid September staying in a cabin on the Chetco River. I am a catch and release fly-fisherman. Just wondering about small streams open during that time of year and what successful patterns I should use.

    Would appreciate any information and tips you could offer.


  12. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    In the month of September I would suggest that you consider fishing the Lower Rogue in the vicinity of Agness. This is BIG water but has very long riffles of several hundred yards to cast and swing. Steelhead anywhere from 12″ to 12 pounds are your target and I suggest rather small wet flies in a variety of soft hackle variations. Burlap, Red Ant, Juicy Bug, Royal Coachman, Silvey’s Pool Cleaner, and so forth. Pattern makes less effect than size and I prefer #8, #10, and #6 in that order. Chinook will be in the Rogue als and small comets and clousers are on their menu. The Chetco may be too low for Chinook when you are there in September. Hope this helps, JN

  13. Joseph says:

    Thanks for the post, but what creek is this?

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