The Crooked River is a tributary of the Deschutes River. It’s fed mainly by snowmelt from the Ochoco Mountains to the East of Prineville. The river then flows 125 miles until it flows into Lake Billy Chinook, where it mixes with the waters of the Metolius and Deschutes Rivers. Once, the Crooked River supported an abundant amount of anadromous fish, specifically chinook salmon and steelhead. Relatively large bull trout and redband trout also were plentiful throughout the river. Irrigation withdrawals and river blockages degraded the anadromous fish runs until they were extirpated. Resident fish populations were also affected by the habitat alterations. Work is being done to reconnect the Crooked River with its former floodplain and provide dam passage for anadromous fish. In the meantime, the river still supports an abundance of redband trout and mountain whitefish. Most of the best fishing can be found a couple of miles below the Bowman Dam.
One of the most productive fishing methods on the Crooked River is subsurface nymphing. We typically use smaller nymphs out there. Midges are an excellent option for year-round fish catching. Zebra midges are a classic, but other midges can work great as well. Small mayfly nymphs are also a perfect option, like Baetis nymphs. We like using tailwater tiny’s, two-bit hookers, and other mayfly nymph patterns 16 - 22. Caddis pupa is productive from mid-April until late September. These are mainly size 16 - 18. There aren’t many stonefly nymphs in the river, but they can fish well in the early spring. Scuds, worms, and leeches are also good flies to try out, especially when there isn’t a predominant hatch. Larger nymphs are productive during periods where the water is higher and more turbid than usual. Frequently you’ll need to sort through some whitefish before you find a nice redband trout. Fishing faster water can be an excellent tactic to try and see where the trout are feeding.
Dry flies are usually less productive than nymphs; however, you’ll rarely catch whitefish on dry flies. Midges fished on the surface are the best during the winter months and in the mornings and evenings of spring, summer, and fall. Blue wing olives, the adult stage of the Baetis nymphs, are a predominant hatch during the winter, spring and fall. Most of these are size 16 - 22. On days in late spring, summer, and early fall, you can run into good pale morning dun hatches, a small yellow mayfly. The pale morning duns are usually around size 14 - 20. Caddis hatches get going best in warm weather. There is a significant emergence of caddis that is locally known as the “mothers day caddis.” These caddises start hatching around Mothers day and continue into June. They are mainly size 14 - 18. Caddis will continue to hatch throughout the summer and early fall while it’s warm. A small skwala stonefly hatch in March can produce some opportunities for larger dry fly fishing. Like ants, beetles, and grasshoppers, terrestrial patterns are an excellent thing to try out in the spring and summer.
These are our top picks for flies to use on the Crooked. Small streamer patterns have some potential, but we typically use these on larger rivers. Swing into the shop and make sure to check out our fishing reports to get the latest information regarding Crooked River fly fishing.