Crooked River- Amazing Year Round Tailwater

The Crooked River is a wonderful tailwater fishery about 45 minutes east of Bend, Oregon. As a tributary to the Deschutes River, it has native Redband rainbow trout and mountain whitefish, and lots of ‘em! While there has been a population decline caused by extremely high water events the last couple of winters, the Crooked still has a staggering number of fish per mile, and approximately 8 miles of easily accessed river to choose from. Yep, that’s a whole lot of fish! While the reputation that the fish aren’t especially large has been rightfully earned, those of us who have been guiding and fishing the river have seen the average size certainly go up over the years.

The Crooked is definitely one of those rivers that can cause consternation with people who don’t approach it with the proper flies, rigs, and techniques. Here at Fly & Field Outfitters, we have guides out there all year long. The fly patterns and methods with which we use them will often vary in small ways and at other times, the variation can be significant. One thing we do know is that if you are not using the right flies and the right equipment in the right way on the Crooked, none of those thousands of fish are going to play with you. Hence the occasional frustration. Call us at 1-866-800-2812 and we can get you set up for a great day on one of the best Central Oregon fly fishing rivers.

The Inside Scoop

The Crooked River is easily the best “classroom” river we’ve ever known. It is perfect for complete beginners. The wading is demanding but not dangerous. The fish are everywhere. We can use a variety of easily learned techniques on any given day. And if you do what we suggest you do, there’s a better than average chance you will hook a fish, even if you’ve never touched a fly rod.

So let us get you going. Either by booking a half day or a full day walk-in Guided Trip on the Crooked River or by selling you a few flies and giving you a detailed explanation of the rigs and presentations needed, we’ll do what we can to give you more opportunities to fool some fish. We know how lucky we are to have this river so close by and will eagerly share some of the best local secrets for how to approach it.

FAQ’s About Crooked River Fly Fishing

What is the best time of year to fish the Crooked River?
All 365 days of the year! This tailwater is open all year and fishes great through the seasons. There are a couple wacky flow patterns that can put the fish off for a day or two. Otherwise, there really isn’t a bad time to be out there. From mid-summer PMD to winter midging, just about every day offers some potential for dry fly action. We fish and guide out there all year and look forward to every day we get to spend on the little tailwater.
What are the most productive techniques and rigs?
Throughout the summer months, the Crooked will flow around 250cfs and be off-color. We’ve found that wading to your spots close to where you think the fish are is the best way to get good drifts and catch fish. There are tons of unseen boulders to hang up on if you’re nymphing at any distance. A high-stick approach, fishing practically on your boots, will produce better drifts and more fish. Resist the temptation to strip a bunch of line off your reel and cast across the river. Wade to your spots! Once the fish are looking up, try dry-dropper rigs with a fairly bushy dry and a little bead-head Pheasant Tail 18” under it. Again, work as close as you can. The fish are not spooky and where there’s one, there will be several. Another really fun technique on the Crooked River is to swing leeches in the pools or even dead-drift them under a bobber. In the winter months the flows will be under 100cfs and the flies smaller. The fish tend to pool up and key in on hatches or chase leeches. Nymphing isn’t as fun or productive for the most part. The water is too skinny. We look for overcast days with Blue-Winged Olive mayflies predominating accompanied by the ubiquitous midges. Dry-dropper rigs are even more effective in the winter. And a slowly swung leech in the runs can fool some of the larger fish.
What rod and equipment do I need for the Crooked River?
Most of us prefer a nice, medium-action 3 or 4wt rod out there. Even in summer flows the river isn’t big and we are rarely throwing large rigs. For leader and tippet, most of the time a 9’5x leader is good with some 5 and 6x tippet. No need for the fluorocarbon material as the water doesn’t have a lot of clarity. A selection of smallish splitshot comes in handy as does fly floatant. The water is cold all year long and so good waders are important as are studded boots in either rubber or felt. In the summer, the river has healthy algae blooms and can be quite slick.
How far is the Crooked River from Bend, Oregon?
We can get out to the Crooked in under an hour from our shop on the west side of Bend. It’s a cool drive out into the high-desert terrain east of town. You’ll think you’re being sent on a wild goose chase until the road drops into an unseen canyon below the dam at Prineville Reservoir. Then you’re engulfed in a spectacular caldera canyon, winding through the otherwise flat landscape. We have maps at the shop with many of the access points along the road, which follows the river for 8 miles.
What are some of the major hatches and flies to imitate them?
The big hatches are PMD and caddis from late-spring through mid-fall. There are tons of midges all year so even in the middle of summer before the PMD comes off, we’ll nymph with little midge patterns along with a Pheasant Tail. By mid-afternoon on most days, there are both PMD and caddis on the water and fish splashing at them. Into the late fall and winter months, it becomes a BWO and midge game. There is a whitefish spawn that makes the river really “eggy” for a month or so starting in late November. The river also has leeches and sculpin and the fish will go after them, especially in the winter during low-flows when the fish pool up. Our favorite flies include little Pheasant Tail, Winker’s Midge, Zebra Midge, Tailwater Tiny, Split-Wing PMD all in #18-22. For the winter months, we like Olive Sparkle Dun in #20 and Griffith’s Gnat in #20 & 22 for dries. Small black leeches and Skulpzillas fished in the pools can be really fun too.
Do I need a guide to catch fish on the Crooked River?
For an experienced angler the Crooked shouldn’t pose a ton of difficulty. Having said that we’ve seen a lot of folks out there who have obviously invested a lot of time and money into fly fishing and they’re not doing things right for the Crooked, thus not catching nearly as many fish as they should be. It is a river to simplify everything. So if you’ve fished a bunch and you can follow some basic directions, you’ll do fine. For the aspiring angler there really is no better “classroom” river. We’d love to take you on a half-day or full-day trip out there. The idea for that trip would be to both catch some fish and also introduce you to many of the techniques and rigs we’ve developed over the years. For the complete novice, a guide will simply put you on fish you otherwise wouldn’t have a chance at. Call us at 1-866-800-2812 for more information.

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We're Here To Help

If you are interested in fly fishing on the Crooked River, contact the shop for the latest conditions or book a trip with one of our expert Oregon fishing guides. On your guided trip, you will learn the optimal fishing holes, the best flies, and many tips and tricks to bring your fishing up to the next level. For seasonal information and the latest information, check out the Crooked River fishing reports or call us at 1-866-800-2812. You can also email or stop by the store 7 days a week located on the west side of Bend.

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