The Deschutes on the Rise

The Deschutes on the Rise


As founding board members and huge supporters of the Deschutes River Alliance, John and Amy and our staff will be closing the shop mid-morning on the 24th to head to Portland for the annual DRA auction and fundraiser event. All of our staff will also be attending, so our doors will be closed. We apologize for the inconvenience to visiting anglers, but our fight for the health of our river is of the utmost importance to us. This is the only Saturday in 365 days of the year that we will not be there all day to help you with flies and gear. We will open at 9:00 AM to sell a few flies and leaders to those of you who are in town to fish, but the doors will be closed at 11:00 in order for us to get to the event.

The Deschutes has come up steadily over the course of the week due to a significant amount of snow melting off from the high country. The water is off-color a bit, but I wouldn’t call it brown, more of a greenish shade. I drove down the river to Beavertail yesterday with my mother who is visiting me this week, and it was a beautiful day. All along the river, in every side canyon and along every cliff face there is water coming off from the melting snow. This water has caused the river levels to bump up, but these small streams and trickles are introducing clear cold water and the river is still somewhat fishable if you can find a place to safely wade and fish.


The problem is that the water is over the normal banks of the river and into the riverside vegetation - creating side channels through the trees and grass. High water like this may make it impossible, or awfully unsafe, to wade out far enough to keep your flies out of the debris. In addition to the branches that are still anchored to the banks, there are branches and trees floating down river that may cause you some grief while you are fishing the depths.  

It was very bright and sunny yesterday, so we didn’t see a lot of bug activity, but we did see a decent midge hatch int he mid-day. Tiny little midges were on the wing, but you would have to have a size 28 fly or smaller to match the hatch. Your best bet, and the technique that we saw most anglers using was to get a nymph or two down deep and down quickly under an indicator or tight line. Getting down deep will require heavy nymphs with tungsten beads and/or additional split shot on your leader.

If you are using a traditional tapered leader, the split shot (lead BB shot) will be a must have. If you are using a specialized Euro leader, which is essentially much finer 4X, 5X, or 6X tippet diameter for a great length of the leader, then you may be able to reach the bottom with flies alone. These flies you use with the Euro leader should be weighted with tungsten beads and those beads need to be at least 4 mm in diameter - bigger is better. Don’t be surprised if you lose quite a few flies to the debris in the water.

Just like you don’t want to stress yourself out attempting to brave the fast and turbulent currents while wading, neither do the trout. They tend to tuck in close to shore when the water is high, or they head for the back eddies where they can swirl around the giant recirculating washing machine currents  without having to work hard by constantly swimming up river. So, look for the softer water and places where you would hang out if you were a trout. 

I would caution you while parking along the road to avoid parking under any of the steep cliffs or in any areas that look like there has been significant rockfall in the past. As the snow melts and the water forms rivulets in every crevice of the rock walls, large rocks tend to calve off the sides of the hills and fall from the cliffs. The road crew has certainly done a great job of removing the big rock piles that have come down in the past few weeks, but more rocks are sure to fall and you do not want your vehicle to wind up with a 300 pound chunk of basalt embedded in the hood. 

If the river just seems too high to comfortably fish, make sure that you have a back-up plan for your day on the river. We had a fun drive along the water, spotting lots of great birds (Western Bluebirds were a highlight) as well as a large group of bighorn sheep - all rams - lounging in the sun high up on the hillside between Twin Springs and Oakbrook. Bring a spotting scope, binoculars, or your longest telephoto lens in order to get a good look, they were way up there and difficult to spot with the bare eye.  

Here's my mom looking at the sheep. 

Here's the hillside where they were basking:

The sheep are 1/4 of the way down from the top straight down from the pointy knob on top.

Here they are with a 3000mm digital zoom:


  • SO SO awesome. The sheep seem to like it downriver. I’ve seen them both sids of Maupin but down stream more regularly. Such an amazing site! Thanks Amy!

  • Thank you for the post, Amy, and for your work with the DRA. Awesome pics of the sheep!

  • Great sheep pics! What spotting scope are you using?


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