Central Oregon has some fantastic fishing destinations; many are within an hour’s drive of town. Multiple state records have been caught in our local lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.
East Lake is located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, east of its twin, Paulina Lake. The lake occupies the caldera of an ancient volcano. The lake has an average depth of 67 feet. The Fishing here is impressive. The lake contains brown trout and rainbow trout; their populations are in great shape. The lake also sports an excellent kokanee fishery. Fishing is excellent throughout the spring, summer, and fall. We like to use our typical lake flies, balanced leeches and chironomids, out there. Streamers can also be very effective, and there are great callibaetis hatches in the summer. Fishing from a boat is best, but bank fishing is also effective. To get to East Lake, go south on Highway 97 and take a left onto Paulina Lake Road before LaPine. Continue on this road, and you’ll get to East Lake.
Paulina Lake is located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, west of its twin, East Lake. The lake is in the caldera of an ancient volcano, and it has an average depth of 163 feet. Paulina lake holds the state record for brown trout, weighing in at 28 pounds! These monsters still lurk in the waters here. The lake also once held the state record for kokanee. An excellent population of rainbow trout thrives here as well. Balanced leeches, chironomids, and callibaetis are great fly choices for the lake. Streamers are good for searching for brown trout. As with most lakes, a boat is nice to fish from. Bank fishing can also be good, especially in the fall. To get to Paulina Lake, go south on Highway 97 and take a left onto Paulina Lake Road before LaPine. Continue on this road, and you’ll get to East Lake.
Lava Lake and Little Lava Lake are spring-fed lakes located on the Deschutes National Forest. Little Lava Lake’s average depth is slightly less than 8 feet, while Lava Lake has an average depth of 20 feet. The Deschutes River flows out of Little Lava Lake. There are good populations of rainbow trout, brook trout, and whitefish present in both lakes. We target fish with balanced leeches, midges, chironomids, callibaetis, and streamers. The lakes are best fished from a boat, but bank fishing can be effective also. The Lava Lakes are located on the Cascades Lake Highway, after Elk Lake, and before Crane Prairie Reservoir.
Cascade Backcountry Lakes
There are a plethora of small backcountry lakes that can be found on the Deschutes National Forest. Most of these lakes are located around the Cascade Crest. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks these lakes with brook trout. The locations of stocked lakes are kept secret to encourage people to get out and explore. Those who do will be rewarded with large brook trout that are eager to take a fly. We recommend using leeches, streamers, or nymphs to fool these fish. Many of the lakes can be accessed via the Cascades Lake Highway.
Crane Prairie Reservoir was created to manage water for irrigation purposes. The Deschutes feed Crane Prairie along with several other small creeks and springs. The average depth of the reservoir is 11 feet. Rainbow trout, brook trout, and whitefish are all present in good numbers. The reservoir is revered for its rainbow trout, which can grow to immense sizes. Crane Prairie holds the state record for whitefish. Huge brook trout can also be found here. Fishing is good from opening till closing. The fish tend to move into deeper channels during the hot summer months. Balanced leeches, chironomids, midges, and callibaetis are great flies to use here. Stripping leeches, damselflies, and streamers with a sinking line can also be a blast. Crane Prairie can be accessed via the Cascade Lake Highway or through Sunriver on South Century Drive.
Wickiup Reservoir was created to manage water from the Deschutes River for irrigation purposes. The average depth of the reservoir is 20 ft; however, some of the channels can be up to 70 ft deep depending on water levels. Rainbow trout, brown trout, kokanee, and whitefish can all be found here. This body of water is best known for its brown trout, which can grow to mind-boggling sizes. A 26-pound brown trout was caught here, which held the state record for some time. The rainbows can also extend to enormous sizes, and they put up a great fight. Prolonged drought has taken a toll on the water levels in Wickiup. In the past year (2020), the reservoir was entirely drained for the first time. Unfortunately, water levels this year are worse than last year, and the reservoir will likely be drained well before the end of summer. All we can do is hope for drought-breaking winters soon. The best way to get to Wickiup from Bend is South Century drive through Sunriver.
Davis Lake was formed 6,000 years ago when a lava flow blocked Odell Creek from flowing into the Deschutes River. The lake's average depth is 9 feet, and water levels fluctuate drastically from year to year. Bass was illegally introduced to the lake in the 90s, and now they are thriving. Rainbow trout are native to the lake and are mainly around the 2-5 pound range. This is a beautiful location to visit for wildlife viewing as well as fly fishing. We like to use typical lake flies, like chironomids and leeches, for trout and bass will take a well-presented streamer. To get to Davis Lake, take South Century Drive through Sunriver.
Three Creek Lake
This lake is located at the base of Tam McArthur Rim near Broken Top Mountain on the Deschutes National Forest. The namesake of the lake is accurate. Three creeks meet and form the lake. This lake is stocked with rainbow trout, and brook trout are self-sustaining. The average fish is around 12 inches long, with some growing up to 16 inches or larger. Chironomids, midges, and callibaetis are great flies to try out. To get to Three Creek Lake, take Highway 20 to Sisters and then get on South Elm Street, which turns into Three Creek Road; this will bring you the rest of the way.
Lake Billy Chinook
Lake Billy Chinook is a reservoir that collects the water from the Metolius River, the Middle Deschutes River, and the Crooked River. The lake is best known for its incredible bull trout and kokanee fishing. Bull trout are a threatened species in Oregon, and Lake Billy Chinook is one of the few places where they can be targeted. The reservoir also has significant populations of rainbow trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. The lake has an average depth of 102 ft, but we focus on the drop-offs near the bank when targeting fish with fly tackle. Streamer patterns are effective for targeting the bull trout. A boat is beneficial for this location. There are many different boat ramps and access points for Lake Billy Chinook; they can all be accessed by going north on Highway 97.
Rivers & Streams
The Fall River is a spring creek that comes out of the ground a few miles away from Three Rivers in the Deschutes National Forest. Rainbow trout make up most fish in the stream, but there’s also the occasional brown trout that will visit. ODFW regularly stocks the creek with some very sizable trout. The crystal clear water makes this an excellent location for sight fishing. The fish tend to be selective and easy to spook here, so make sure you’re prepared with thin leaders. We like to use small midge and small mayfly nymph patterns for subsurface flies. Blue-winged olives, pale morning duns, and elk hair caddis are good surface flies to try out. To get to the Fall River, take South Century Drive through Sunriver; there are multiple access points off of the highway.
The Upper Deschutes River flows out of Little Lava Lake and travels through the Deschutes National Forest. This river starts as a humble creek loaded with rainbow trout, brook trout, and whitefish. Most fish are around 12 inches long, but there are some big ones mixed in. In the 1980s, a brook trout was caught here that weighed in at 9 pounds, making it the state record. Tiny midges, mayfly nymphs, caddis pupa, and small stoneflies are good subsurface flies. Blue-winged olives, pale morning duns, elk hair caddis, and ant and beetle patterns are effective surface patterns. The Upper Deschutes has many access points located along the Cascade Lake Highway, in between Little Lava Lake and Crane Prairie Reservoir.
The Crooked River begins in the Ochoco Mountains, east of Prineville. The upper section of the river flows into Prineville Reservoir. The best fishing is after the river flows out of the Bowman Dam. Here you can find tons of rainbow trout and whitefish, most of which are 8 - 14 inches long, but some will get bigger. This is an excellent location for beginners to learn the basics of fly fishing. We have great success fishing with midges, small mayfly nymphs, caddis larva, and small stonefly nymph patterns. For dry flies, try out blue-winged olives, pale morning duns, or elk hair caddis. To get to the Crooked River, go east on Alfalfa Market Road. Eventually, you’ll end up on the South Reservoir Road; take a left onto Highway 27, which takes you to the Bowman dam and leads to excellent Crooked River access.
The Metolius springs out of the ground on the northside of Black Butte. The river flows north through Deschutes National Forest land and land owned by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Most people fish the river looking for fantastic wild rainbow trout and large bull trout. Whitefish and brown trout are also present in the system, although brown trout are rare. Ask anyone about the Metolius, and they’ll tell you it’s a highly technical river, and some days even the most experienced flyfisher won’t touch a fish. We like to use mayfly nymphs, caddis pupa, stonefly nymphs, and streamers as our subsurface flies. Many different dry fly hatches occur on the Metolius; the most well-known is the green drake hatch in May, June, September, and October. River access is excellent for the first few miles of the river. Once you get to Bridge 99, there is no more road access, and the river receives fast; access is more demanding here. To get to the Metolius, take Highway 20 past Black Butte and take a right at the junction for Camp Sherman.
Middle Deschutes River
The Middle Deschutes River begins after irrigation diversions above Sawyer Park in Bend. The river runs through the high desert landscape until it feeds into Lake Billy Chinook. There are good numbers of rainbow trout, brown trout, and whitefish in the river. We use lots of general nymph patterns and stonefly nymphs in this section of the river. There’s a diversity of bugs that hatch here, the most notable are the salmon flies and stoneflies, which start hatching around May.
The Lower Deschutes River starts after the Pelton Round Butte Dam complex releases water in Lake Billy Chinook. It meanders its way through a large canyon in the high desert. The river is famous for its fantastic rainbow trout and steelhead runs. At first, the Lower Deschutes is intimidating due to its immense size. There is a myriad of bug hatches that occur here, the most famous is the salmon fly hatch which takes place in May and June. Steelhead fishing is best around September, although the runs can be sparse on specific years. Head down to Warm Springs or Maupin for excellent access to the Lower Deschutes.
Make sure to come into the shop or give us a call, and we can let you know what flies have been working at these locations and more.