558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
It’s time for winter fly fishing
Three unique rivers can offer some rewarding winter fishing
An angler tries his luck on the Metolius River.
December 10, 2012
The mesmerizing Metolius
No matter what time of year, anglers can always rely on the Metolius River to run clear and cold and maintain a constant level. This is due to the fact that it bubbles out from the base of Black Butte as a full-flowing river, one of the largest spring-fed rivers in the U.S.
Winter is a great time to fish the Metolius. There aren’t as many anglers on the river plus there’s a better chance of catching a nice bull trout since more are in the system this time of year. However, the redbands also put up a good fight for their size. The average bull trout in the river is going to be 20 inches up to 10 pounds. The average redband is in the 12- to 15-inch range, but there are fish close to 20 inches in the river.
One technique for bull trout is swinging almost like you would for steelhead. Anglers need to use more minnow-like flies in white and olive. Adding flash in your fly can also be beneficial. Another way to fish for bulls is nymphing like you would for rainbow trout. Try a big stonefly nymph or something with a tungsten bead.
This time of year, you can see up to seven or eight different insects flying around, including at least three caddis, two mayflies, and lots of midges. With that spectrum of surface activity going on, if you can pick a general all-purpose nymph such as a Prince Nymph that can imitate about 10 things, and effectively cover the water, that’s your best bet for trout.
It’s important to make sure you’re on the bottom. Since you can’t use split-shots, fishing a heavy fly with a dropper is key. Without a heavy fly, a lot of anglers are over the fish and not getting down to them.
Many experienced anglers fish a 9-foot leader, 3X tippet, and 15 inches of 3x fluorocarbon. Then, tie the big fly on, then 12 to 15 inches of 4X fluorocarbon and fish a small beadhead fly. That way, if you do hook into a bull trout of 20 to 24 inches, you’ll have a pretty good chance of landing it because of the 6-weight rod and the 3X tippet. Most 3X tippet equals about 8-pound test line.
Anglers heading for the Metolius River need to check the regulations. For those looking for a unique and rewarding late winter outing, the natural beauty of the Metolius makes it a great angling experience.
The fun Fall
Fall River can provide a unique and memorable winter fly fishing experience for anglers. The 10-mile long river is born from crystal clear springs and flows at a fairly constant temperature and level most of the year. The clear water can provide for challenging fly-fishing. You can see the fish, but they can also see you.
Access to the river is usually good all winter. South Century Drive is plowed up past the headwaters, where there is parking opposite a Forest Service cabin. The best place to start is at the Fall River Hatchery. Between the hatchery and the springs there are a few places to pull off the roads next to the river.
This time of year there are usually always midges on the river. Small black stoneflies can also be present. A good set-up for Fall River is a 3-to 4-weight rod with a 7 1/2 foot leader and 6X tippet. Anglers have luck on nymphs and dry flies. Any small dark pattern in size 18 to 20 will work. Other options include dark midge patterns in size 18 or 20, little black stoneflies in 18 or 20, black caddis size 16, scuds about size 12 or 14, egg patterns and leeches.
The average size rainbow in the section by the hatchery is about 10 to 12 inches. Some larger trout can be found near the headwaters. The upper section of river can be more challenging as there are more down logs in the river and more trees on the banks.
Rainbows and brook trout can be found throughout the entire river, browns can be caught from the hatchery downstream and whitefish and occasional kokanee can be found below the falls. Browns up to 30 inches are possible and rainbows in the five- to six-pound range have also been caught.
The fish don’t eat as much in winter and will be a bit picky on what is presented to them. Fish only rise for a couple of hours a day and the best fishing is usually from 11 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m.
The river near the hatchery is more open for casting, plus there’s so many fish you don’t have to be real accurate by trying for individual fish. You don’t fish Fall River to catch big fish. Most people fish it for the challenge and to improve their style of fishing.
The entire river is fly-fishing only with barbless hooks with a limit of two trout per day. Upstream of the falls is open the entire year. The river downstream of the falls is closed until spring.
The incredible Crooked
Central Oregon’s Crooked River offers some of the best fly fishing for native redband trout anywhere in the state. The scenic volcanic canyon and its variety of wildlife often make it hard for anglers to keep their eyes glued to the water. The 8-mile section below Bowman Dam was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System in 1988 and provides some of the best fishing on the river.
One of the secrets to success on the Crooked River is to focus on the edges. Don’t automatically wade into the river up to your knees or thighs and start casting. Many of the fish are within a foot of the banks. Start from the bank, making your first few casts directly upstream and let your fly drift along the shoreline. Make those casts about 6 inches to a foot off the bank. You can end up in the middle, hitting a hole or a seam, but it’s not the place to begin.
Most redbands average 8 to 12 inches with reports of some up to 20 inches. The former runner-up state record redband came from this section of river in 1984, weighing in at 4 pounds, 9 ounces. A few years ago, ODFW netted a mountain whitefish that weighed around 4 pounds and measured at least 20 inches long. The current record is 4 pounds 14 ounces caught in Crane Prairie Reservoir.
As for hatches, the river contains caddis, midges, BWOs and PMDs (midges and BWOs just about year round). Anything orangish, such as scuds, used as an attractor is important due to the murky water. Top flies include Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymph, Serendipity, Case Caddis, Scud in orange or olive, Olive Comparadun, Renegade, Royal Wullf, X-Caddis, Elk Hair Caddis and Palomino Midge. Most of the caddis in sizes 14 to 18, 16 to 20 on the comparaduns, pheasant tails and serendipity. Sizes 12 to 16 on the scuds.
For best action, try 2 to 4 weight rods in 7 1/2 to 9-foot long lengths. For leaders, 7 1/2 to 12-feet long is best. Tippets from 4X to 7X work best, with 5X and 6X most popular. Floater line is all that’s needed. Anglers can fish nymphs, streamers and dry flies with floating line.
The canyon, with a mix of basalt rock, ponderosa pine, juniper, sage, wildlife and beautiful blue sky makes it a spectacular place to cast a fly. And you’ll have a fly fishing experience not soon forgotten.