Oregon’s Deschutes River is a scenic waterway that cuts a nearly 300 mile long path through the heart of Central Oregon’s high desert. The river has humble beginnings in the mountains south of Bend, but as it flows northward the Deschutes grows larger and larger thanks to many tributaries and boiling desert springs. The most famous stretch of this magnificent river, known as the Lower Deschutes, starts just North of the town of Madras and flows 100 miles north to the confluence with the Columbia River. It is the Lower Deschutes River that draws fly anglers from around the world in pursuit of wild trout and summer-run steelhead. The Lower Deschutes River is spectacular to float, with many roadless miles and riverside camping spots along its banks. Where there are roads that parallel the river, they are mostly primitive gravel roads or hiking trails. The Deschutes River is in the 1% of our nation’s rivers to be federally designated as a wild & scenic river. This designation has protected the land along the river from development. On a few of our floats you will see a couple of cabins along the river, but the majority of what you will experience is pure wilderness.
Visitors can count on the high desert setting of the Deschutes to be warm, dry, and sunny from spring through late fall. The golden grasses on the hillsides surrounding the river are blanketed with sweet smelling sage and juniper. Big horn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, ospreys, golden eagles, bobcats, otter, mink, and wild horses are frequently seen while floating the river. For more than 80 years, the law on the lower 100 miles of the Deschutes has prohibited fishing from any floating device. This is just one of the unique aspects that sets the Deschutes apart from most other western rivers. This unusual regulation has given thousands of native trout sanctuary habitat, and has maintained the quality of the fishing experience for both trout and steelhead. Whether you float the river by boat or access it from a gravel road, everyone who fishes this river must do so while wading on the edges.
Maupin, Oregon is the only town located on the entire 100 mile stretch of the Lower Deschutes River. The access roads that parallel the river run north and south out of Maupin, which makes it the perfect oasis for the visiting angler. Maupin is a quaint riverside village with a population of 400 and a handful of lodging options and restaurants. Known as The Gateway to the Deschutes, Maupin is located 90 miles north of Bend and roughly 100 miles southeast of Portland.
Our fly shop, Deschutes Angler, is located in the heart of Maupin. Fly anglers flock to the shop daily for great hatch information, and to pick up the hot fly patterns. We have an incredible selection of rods, reels, lines, and gear to outfit visiting anglers. When you make it to Maupin, stop into Deschutes Angler for the best advice on where to fish, or to arrange a float trip with one of our friendly guides.
STEELHEAD DAY FLOAT TRIP
$ 650.00 for 1 or 2 anglers
A typical steelhead trip starts before dawn and finishes after dusk. This might mean a pickup time as early as 4:00 AM in August and a finish time as late as 9:30 PM. Steelhead fishing is most productive when the sun is off the water, so we start early and often stay late. In the mid-day when the sun is shining brightly, we have lunch and rest in the shade along the river’s edge. During the best fishing hours, the guides float the river and stop on either bank to spread our guests out in great steelhead water. Deschutes steelhead are aggressive towards swinging flies, so we spend our days swimming flies, trying to cover as much water as possible during the day. When the steelhead are on the bite and your fly swings past them, they charge the fly with wild abandon. Before you know what has happened, your line is flying out through the guides, your reel is screaming, and your rod is bucking under the surging power of the fish on your fly. Most of our guests use a Spey (two-handed) rod to launch their flies across the river without need for a back cast. Spey rods are easy to use and so much fun that most anglers become instantly enamored with the technique. If you want to give two-handed casting a try, you will have the best instruction and finest equipment at your fingertips on one of our guided trips.
STEELHEAD MULTI-DAY CAMP TRIPS
No matter your group size, we can customize a multi-day camp trip for you to take advantage of the best steelhead fishing the Deschutes has to offer. If you are alone or you have only two anglers in your group, you have the choice between a Safari-style camp trip and a Traditional Camp trip. Any group larger than two anglers will always be on a Safari-style camp trip.
SAFARI STYLE CAMP TRIPS
$ 550.00 per person per day for groups of even numbered anglers (ex. 2, 4 or 6)
$ 660.00 per person per day for 2 anglers
Prices will vary for odd number of anglers (ex. 3 or 5)
On a Safari-style camp float we employ one guide to serve as the full-time camp host, chef, and gear boat captain. His role during the Safari-style camp trip is to row several miles ahead of the guide boats to establish a top quality camp located on prime steelhead water. While our guests enjoy a day of fishing, the camp host will convert a primitive campsite into a comfortable living space complete with a wall tent, guest sleeping tents, cots, tables, chairs, sunshades, a washing station, a kitchen, and a privy. One advantage of doing a safari-style trip is that the camp host will have all day to find the very best campsite with high quality steelhead water right out in front of it. The unwritten rule on the Deschutes is that the camp water belongs to those who are camping on it that night. It will be the first piece of water that our guests will fish in the morning before heading off to float for the rest of the day. Every pair of anglers will share a large walk-in tent with plenty of headroom for standing, two cots, sleeping pads, and a lantern. The tents are provided in case of rain and for those who need some privacy, but many choose to carry their cot out of the tent to sleep under the starry desert sky. We do not have mosquitos or gnats or other pesky insects on the Deschutes, so you can truly enjoy the outdoor experience in comfort.
Safari-style camp meals are served at the dining table inside the wall tent. The walls of the tent offer protection from the afternoon winds that blow on the Deschutes as well as some needed shade on hot days and wind protection on cool days. After dinner, the dining table is often the center of festivities for guests who wish to stay up late enjoying the company of their buddies, the sound of the river and the brilliant night sky. Safari-style steelhead camp floats can accommodate groups as large as six anglers or as small as one angler. The minimum duration of a Safari-style camp float is two nights/three days and as long as four nights/five days. Pricing is based on even numbers of anglers – with two anglers per guide boat. If you have an odd number of anglers you will be charged the rate of the next highest even number of anglers.
TRADITIONAL STYLE CAMP FLOAT TRIPS
$550.00 per person per day for 2 anglers
This type of float trip is available for groups of one or two anglers. We offer the traditional-style trip as a cost effective way for two fishing buddies to have their own private camp trip. On a traditional-style trip, the guide is a jack-of-all-trades. He guides the anglers for steelhead from dawn to dusk, and sets up the camp in the evening as our guests fish the camp water. The guide is the chef, the clean up crew, and the schlepper of all gear. Traditional-style camps are not quite as elaborate as safari-style camps but they offer the same excellent guided fishing, fantastic hearty meals and a comfortable camping experience. The self-supported traditional-style camp trips can be as short as one night/two days or as long as two nights/three days.
One advantage of a traditional-style camp trip is that you can move down river at a pace that suits the guide with no pressure to be at any certain spot by the end of the day. Steelhead have been known to migrate in large pods, especially early in the season. Encountering a pod of steelhead can mean multiple hook-ups for each angler in a short stretch of water. Since the trip is self-contained, the guide has flexibility.
The majority of our steelhead camp trips will begin just north of Maupin and will float 28-46 miles of the Deschutes to the confluence with the Columbia River. Steelhead are sensitive to light and tend to be far more aggressive to the fly when the sun is off the water or at an angle which allows them to see the fly. The key to hooking steelhead is to cover lots of water efficiently throughout the portions of the day with favorable light conditions and water temperatures. Very experienced steelhead anglers will find their honed wading and casting skills to be a huge advantage to covering a lot of water on the Deschutes. However, anglers of any skill level have a good opportunity to hook a steelhead on a guided trip.
If you are new to steelhead fishing, the Deschutes River is one of the best possible places to be introduced to the sport. The fish are eager and aggressive to small surface flies, so anglers using floating line and light Spey rods will be able to cover the water effectively. All of our guides are excellent and patient Spey instructors, as well as enthusiastic coaches who will see to it that novice anglers are in the water that offers them the best chance at hooking a steelhead. On all of our guided steelhead trips, anglers will be expected to rise before dawn in order for their guide to see to it that they are standing in the best spot when the day’s fishing begins. Your guide or camp host will have coffee ready the moment you wake, and will also have a to-go breakfast ready for you to take with you in the boat.
You will stop at various steelhead runs during the course of the day, where you will use a two-handed, or Spey, rod to cast out over great swaths of water with a floating line and small swinging fly pattern. By the mid-day when we settle into the shade for lunch, many anglers are ready to take a short catnap. The middle of the day is a fine time to rest, as the sun is usually too bright for steelhead to show much aggression. In the evening, anglers and steelhead both are ready for more action, and fly anglers will have the greatest opportunity to hook steelhead just before dark when the water temperature drops a degree or two. When the fishing hours are over, the riverside fun hours kick off with appetizers and beverages in a comfortable camp setting. Laughter echoes off the canyon walls as anglers spin tales of the day’s fishing, and friendships grow as strong and deep as the Deschutes River.