JOHN DAY STEELHEAD
As of the date of this writing (08.27.2021), the 2021 John Day Steelhead season is closed per ODFW rules and regulations. Please visit the ODFW website for more information.
The John Day River is the longest free-flowing undammed river west of the continental divide. This river is wild and remote, boasting the longest stretch of designated Wild & Scenic River in the nation. Over 150 miles of the John Day River are roadless and there are only a handful of places to launch boats.
Located about 30 miles due east of the Deschutes River, the John Day River flows north through a desert canyon to its confluence with the Columbia River. The land along the river is majority owned by large private wheat and cattle ranches, most of which are measured in the tens of thousands of acres. There are no towns or houses or roads along the river for mile after mile after mile. Motorized boats are not allowed, nor is there any way to access the river with any sort of vehicle, including aircraft. The only way to see vast stretches of the John Day is to float the river and this float is about as remote as you can get in North America.
WHAT DESCHUTES ANGLER OFFERS
From mid-October to early December we offer multi-day camp float trips on the John Day River for fly anglers to target the migratory wild steelhead. This 40-mile four-day/ three-night float is one of the most remote trips possible for steelhead fishing in Oregon. We use a private ranch as a launching spot and rarely see other boaters during our trips.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR JOHN DAY RIVER CAMP TRIP
The majesty of the John Day River canyon is breathtaking. Golden eagles, bighorn sheep, deer, bobcats, peregrine falcons, great blue herons, mink, and otters are just a few of the animals that we see often in the steep and rocky canyon walls. It is difficult to find a place anywhere in the world with great steelhead fishing that is as secluded and wild as the canyon country of the John Day River.
Getting boats and gear down this stretch of water in the late fall is a formidable undertaking. Rowing from spot to spot takes incredible endurance and every half mile we have to drag our boats over shallow gravel bars. Our trips accommodate six clients with two anglers in each guide boat. For the ultimate in camping comfort, we bring a large wall tent, sleeping tents, cots, tables, chairs, and a full camp kitchen. To move this much gear down river each day, we employ two additional guides who work diligently as camp hosts to make your John Day experience top notch.
YOUR DAILY ROUNDUP ON YOUR JOHN DAY CAMP TRIP
Each day will cover 10 miles of river. The guide boats will stop at broad beautiful runs to fish while the gear boat pushes ahead to find a great camp down river. While the clients are guided into steelhead, the camp hosts set up a massive wall tent, a camp kitchen, a camp fire surrounded by chairs, sleeping tents, cots, and a dining table inside the wall tent. When the days fishing is done, clients will relax around the fire, enjoy a huge meal at the dining table in the heated wall tent, and will sleep soundly on a padded cot in a roomy tent.
ALL ABOUT THE JOHN DAY NATIVE WINTER STEELHEAD
The quality of the steelhead fishing always depends on the availability of migratory fish – which will fluctuate from year to year, from week to week within any year, and from day to day within any week. The best thing about John Day River steelhead is the fact that they are 100% wild native steelhead. They are aggressive to a swinging fly and will stay aggressive to a swinging fly even as water temperatures drop into the mid to low 40s. Tease your fly through a run on the John Day and, if a steelhead is holding there, you can feel confident that your swinging fly will get a reaction.
Our preferred method of presenting the fly is to make a very long cast out across a broad pool, allow a belly to form in the line, and let that fly swing down and across. Longer casts are rewarded with more water covered per swing, and more water covered means more steelhead to the fly. Anglers on our trips prefer to use Spey rods to get that extra distance on the cast. Though we can accommodate novice anglers on this trip, experienced Spey anglers with the ability to make a long cast and control the fly will have the greatest opportunity to hook John Day River wild steelhead.