Oregon: The Best Year Round Fly Fishing in the United States

I’ll admit it. I’m an Oregon partisan but I believe that Oregon offers the best year round fishing of any state in the United States. Vacation isn’t even an option because as the plane lifts off and I see what I’m leaving behind, depression sets in. The fact is that there isn’t a month of the year that somewhere in the state of Oregon you can’t catch a sea run salmonid on a fly. Throw in the year round trout fishing, warmwater opportunities  and ocean fishing and you have yourself one seriously underrated fishing destination. Now, I’m not saying that we have the best fishing for any particular species but nowhere beats the combination of high quality fishing, species diversity, spectacular scenery and year round angling opportunities.

January: There is good fishing to be had. I’ve caught plenty of trout on nymphs over the years in January in Cascade Mountain rivers, central Oregon rivers and coastal rivers. More importantly, the winter steelhead run is really beginning to hit its stride on the rivers that drain the west slope of the Coast Range. Sea-run cutthroat are often encountered and incidentally hooked while fishing for steelhead. Finally, there are a couple of rivers that with luck can yield up a late run fall/winter chinook while steelheading.

February: The steelhead run is in full force on the coast. Every one of the couple or so dozen great rivers on the Oregon coast offers good to excellent fishing for steelhead. Here, Matt plays a fly hooked winter steelhead that he landed last February, one of many on that trip:

Matt-Backcountry Steelhead Battle

Oregon winter steelhead fishing

The trout fishing can also be quite good. This nice rainbow ate a Stonefly nymph in mid-February in a Cascade Mountains river:

Upper Willamette Rainbow

March: The biggest, baddest and meanest winter steelhead of the season enter our coastal rivers and fishing for these monsters can be off the charts. This fish ate a deeply drifted weighted egg pattern:

Caddis Fly Steelhead Trip

Also in March, the Mckenzie and Middle Fork Willamette rivers really start to heat up. Prolific hatches of March Brown mayflies get the fish looking up and their nymphs and wet flies also do damage. Additionally, the trout scarf stonefly nymph patterns with abandon. This fish couldn’t resist a sparkle dun:


Incidentally, summer steelhead begin to show in the Mckenzie and Willamette Rivers in March.

April: Here’s a picture from last April, enough said:

Middle Fork Rainbow Trout

May: Trout fishing continues to be excellent. Good catches are made on stonefly nymphs, the March Brown hatch is normally tapering off but typically the Mckenzie River Green Caddis shows and drives the trout absolutely insane. Big trout gobble naturals and imitations with abandon. Check out this bruiser:


Also, there is a good shot of hooking a summer steelhead in Oregon rivers in May:


If weather patterns are favorable you can even catch a spring chinook on a fly in a couple of coastal rivers.

June: Stoneflies and Salmonflies. Salmonflies on the Deschutes. Salmonflies everywhere.  Trout love ’em. Besides stoneflies and salmonflies, by this time, mayflies and caddis are hatching prolifically and trout fishing is excellent. Summer steelhead are running thick in the Willamette and Mckenzie and they and spring chinook are really starting to show in big numbers in rivers such as the Wilson, Trask and Siletz as well.


Trout fishing is off the charts:

Upper McKenzie River Trip 2008

July: Fly fishing for trout remains excellent. This picture from July is of the strain of rainbow indigenous to the Mckenzie River known locally as redsides:

Mckenzie Redside Rainbow

August: The dog days of summer still offer up good fishing. Trout remain active in the morning and evening hours. Summer steelhead are present in good numbers and remain vulnerable to a well presented fly.  Sea run cutthroat begin to show in coastal estuaries, are relatively easy to catch and averaging 14″-20″ are excellent sport on a fly rod:

Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Fall chinook and coho also begin to move in and out of our estuaries.

September: The October Caddis are out in force and big trout go absolutely insane:


Cooling river temperatures and spawning spring chinook salmon have summer steelhead feeling frisky.  A couple of nearby rivers have excellent runs of coho that are not averse to eating flies.

Did somebody say Tuna? On a fly? Sure enough:

Lee Daniel Tuna Trip

October: After the first big rain event, Fall chinook are literally begging for a well presented egg pattern–make it chartreuse and fish it deep.   Trout are eating October caddis and coho will chase down and devour clouser or comet type patterns amongst others:

Upmqua River Coho

November: Fishing remains excellent for fall chinook.  Several south coast river chinook runs are peaking:

King salmon

Trout fishing tapers off somewhat. The first big rain around Thanksgiving brings the first push of early winter steelhead into a couple of smaller coastal rivers.

December: Steelhead runs are beginning to pick up and fish are in many rivers in catchable numbers.  South coast rivers remain a good bet for chinook.

January: Do it all over again. Sweet!

I haven’t even touched on the smallmouth bass fisheries on the Umpqua, John Day and Grande Ronde or the year round bass fisheries on Oregon’s coastal lakes:


No mention has been made of fly fishing near the jetties or nearshore for lingcod and rockfish and greenling:

Oregon Fishing Bottomfish

If striper are your thing we have those too. Walleye? Yep. Brown trout? Kokanee? Lake trout? Landlocked Atlantic Salmon?  Bull trout? Perch? Bluegill?  Shad? We’ve got it all.  I didn’t come close to listing all the fishing opportunities in Oregon.   Basically, Oregon offers an embarrassment of fishing riches.

Situated at the confluence of the Mckenzie and Willamette rivers an hour from the coast and an hour from the Cascade crest, Eugene, Oregon is poised to show you the best year round fishing the United States has to offer.–KM

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8 Responses to Oregon: The Best Year Round Fly Fishing in the United States

  1. Nico says:

    great report! i love oregon.
    sad to say, i´m going back to germany by the end of june.
    hopefully i´ll catch a steelhead or a salmon before i leave. if anyone can give me a recommendation where to fish in june, please send me short email.

  2. Jay Kennedy says:

    He is full of it folks. Those pictures are from Montana and the East coast respectively. There are NO trout or Salmon left in Oregon. California has reported large numbers entering the river systems south of San Fran. All fish caught in these pictures were actually hooked on #2 Woolyworms (accept the small mouth.) There is NO such thing as a McKenzie Redside. They are only a myth and the photos above are photoshopped.
    Jay K.
    p.s. I miss Mom’s Pies and and floating with Ennis Nessel.

  3. Butte Guy says:

    Jay is incorrect, there are no trout left in Montana, the last one caught in 2008. Word on the street is that the spring hatch in the LA basin is terrific, tho..

  4. Davy says:

    i love fishing in oregon, my favorite river is the Wilson!

  5. Bill says:

    My favorite fish: Swedish. I eat them by the bucket!

  6. Jon pina says:

    I am planning a trip to Portland the last week of march and wonder if its worth bringing my fly fishing equipment.

  7. ASN says:

    @Jon pina, I would say of you have something you can fight steelhead with, then definitely bring it! The Sandy river is supposed to have some great winter steelhead fishing through the end of March, and the mouth of the river is literally 20 minutes east of downtown Portland off of I-84, plenty of parks and parking off the river, and you can go all the way up to Mt Hood area if you’re up for a little more driving.

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