The Metolius River- The Grand Dame of Spring Creeks

SThe Metolius River, an hour or so north of Bend in Central Oregon, is easily one of the most beautiful rivers in the world. Few would dispute that. Anyone who has roamed her banks, whether in search of a large trout or just some solitude, would attest to this being a special place filled with all the dimensions that a pristine riparian habitat should have. It’s just that the Metolius has more of them. From the crystal clear, turquoise blue swirls of water. To lush, forested banks, towering pine-covered mountains, and miles and miles to explore. If you’re feeling adventuresome, you can get to stretches of this river that see few footsteps. All of these elements conspire to create an epic river to fish.

The Metolius is perhaps best known for the run of bull trout that migrate from Lake Billy Chinook every winter. These fish follow Kokanee salmon and eat both them and their eggs. The bull trout are voracious meat eaters. Leave the 5wt home for this fishing. You’ll want a 7 or 8wt that can throw massive streamers sometimes on a sinking line. The bull trout grow to tremendous size, up to double digits in pounds. This is thrilling fishing best done with a buddy who can spot while you cast and vice versa.

There is no professional guiding allowed on the Metolius. But here at Fly and Field Outfitters we have our thumb on the pulse of the river and will help you select flies and discuss perspective techniques for approaching this spectacular and difficult fishery.

The Inside Scoop

This is a “Fly Fishing Only” river. In Oregon that regulation has several facets that are meant to purify the practice to a few essential rudiments. We can now use external weight (splitshot) out there, which has been a big help when nymphing under an indicator. Fish the Metolius with a nymph rig for five minutes and you’ll begin to understand how this regulation change has assisted. The fish hold in channels, deep undercuts, deeper pools, way out in the middle behind lava outcrops. You will have to look at things a little differently to fool fish sub-surface in the Metolius. Long tension/roll casts and really good, advanced mending techniques will be your best friend out there. Or you can just sit on the bank and wait for the fish to start rising!

There are miles of trail on both sides of the river, so explore to your heart’s content. Find a stretch of water that fits your eye and get after it! Whether trying for Redbands or bull trout, just spending a day on the banks of the Metolius is a day well spent.

FAQ’s About Metolius Fly Fishing

What is the best time of the year for fly fishing on the Metolius?
The Metolius is open to fly fishing year ‘round. We’ve had amazing sessions out there in the dead of winter, casting #16 BWO dries for Redbands casually tipping up to eat. The bull trout migrate up from Lake Billy Chinook in the fall, eating the stray Kokanee, and then settle in for the winter. They spawn sporadically until the late-winter when they head back to the lake. They are a particularly wily quarry, often requiring many trips until contact is made. The river fishes good throughout the year. Summer is cool and beautiful. We look for PMD and caddis most days. There are plenty of runs and riffles that are productive for nymph fishing when there’s nothing happening on the surface. Spring and fall are shoulder seasons with occasional hatch days but lots of streamer possibilities when nothing else is happening.
Is there anything else I need to know about fly fishing here?
This is a big spring creek with a steep gradient. It was way heavier flows than you’d expect so wade with extreme caution. We lost an angler out there a few years ago. Spend any amount of time out there and you’ll see how easy a bad situation could arise. The water is also very cold, so even on a warm day, you’ll want to wear some good waders with proper underlayers. Also, there is no guiding allowed on the Met, so once you’ve decided you want to fish it, you’ll be on your own!
What kind of rod should I have to properly fish the Metolius?
For trout fishing a good 4-6wt is fine. No super long casting or particularly heavy rigs are required. For bull trout, we prefer a stout 7 or 8wt. Or better yet, a two-handed rod for moving the super heavy tips and flies we like to swing with. We use tungsten leaders to get the flies down as quickly as possible, especially in the deep slot water. Anything from 10-12.5 feet of T-11 or heavier will help.
How far is the Metolius River from Bend, Oregon?
We can get out there in an hour or so most days from the shop on the west side of Bend. On weekends it can be really hard getting through the town of Sisters, making the trip much longer. There are camp grounds all along the river so we recommend spending a couple days out there if possible. It is a cool place to hang out during the summer months and a couple days will give you a better chance of unlocking some secrets.
Are there big hatches on the Metolius River?
The Met is known for many things, prolific hatches is not one of them. There are days when the bugs come off thickly. And then the next day you’d swear there wasn’t a bug in the river. There are stoneflies, mayflies, and caddis in good numbers. In the cold, swift currents we don’t see a ton of midges. There are lots of eggs in the system too. Trout, Kokanee and bull trout all spawn throughout the entire system. We generally go out there with an assortment of attractor nymphs and dries. Way more important than the perfect fly is perfect presentation and knowing where the fish are. We will always try to provide the most up-to-date intel to anyone venturing out there, just ask.
Are bull trout endangered on the Metolius River?
There are bull trout that live in the Metolius and also some that migrate up only to spawn. While none of these fish are technically endangered, they all must be released unharmed. In fact ALL TROUT MUST BE RELEASED ON THE METOLIUS RIVER. So we don’t go to the Met to bring home dinner. All fish are landed, admired and released unharmed.

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The Metolius has been fishing well. Dry fly opportunities have been increasing and should continue to with the warm w...

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The Metolius River in Central Oregon is a truly special place and never disappoints for a good day of fly fishing. For more information on the Metolius River, check out the latest Metolius fishing reports. You can also call us at 1-866-800-2812, or email

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