East Lake - Our Favorite Stillwater Playground

Of the many Central Oregon fly fishing destinations, few are as well-known and popular as East Lake. There’s a good reason for this. East Lake is about as beautiful as any mountain lake you’ll ever fish. Nestled into one half of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument crater, East Lake covers 1,044 acres and has an average depth of 67 feet. It is half a million years old! This body of water is home to an astonishing number and variety of fish. And it’s only about an hour from Fly & Field Outfitters.

The Inside Scoop

For many years East Lake was known for having brook trout, and there are still some there, but the stocking program has redirected its attention now to rainbow trout, in particular, a strain known as Blackwater Rainbows. This is a fish developed in Canadian hatcheries and is especially adept at corralling and devouring tui chub, an invasive species that had gotten far too established in East Lake. The new ‘bows, several years into the experiment, are doing a great job at eating the nuisance fish, as well as getting big! So far they’ve averaged around 2-3” growth per year. Most are now in the 18” range, super hard-fighting and gorgeous. For obvious reason, the Blackwater fish are a welcomed addition. When caught, they must all be released. As with most wild trout, these are recognized because they have an adipose fin. East also has an incredible brown trout population. These fish grow large. Twenty-inch fish are not uncommon. As with most big browns, these are predominantly meat eaters and will chase big streamers and buggers along rock faces. There are plenty of smaller fish for them to grow large from eating. The lake also has plentiful Kokanee and the occasional Atlantic salmon. The Kokanee are active all season, but get especially voracious late summer in preparation for their spawn. They spend most of the summer in slightly deeper water than the trout, making a favorite method wind drifting with sinking lines. That can produce all season long. For more information on the season and current spawn, check out our East Lake fly fishing reports.

FAQ’s About East Lake Fly Fishing

What is the best time of year for fly fishing at East Lake?
For the last few years East has been a year ‘round fishery. The only restriction being that the road up there closes once it’s buried in snow. As soon as the road is open in the spring it’s time for a mad dash to the lake. Early season is explosive bugger and leech fishing. The fish are hungry. The lake comes to life and the action can be amazing. Into the summer we love the callibaetis fishing. On the right day we fish dries the whole time. Into the fall the browns get really aggressive, especially around the “false spawning” Kokanee.
Are there special regulations for fly fishing in this area?
Only that all wild rainbow trout must be released. East is a popular fishery for catching some Kokanee bound for a smoker or frying pan. Generations of anglers have loved the Kokanee for how plentiful and tasty they are. You may keep 5 per day as part of whatever bag limit you’re taking. Brown trout may now also be kept as part of the limit. But all rainbows with an adipose fin must be released.
What are the best rods and equipment?
Anything from a 4wt to a 6wt can be effective up there. Having a couple rods, one with the dry or dry-dropper and the other with a leech or bugger on an intermediate line is a killer combo. Be ready for all four main periods of mayfly lifecycle. From nymph to spinner, the fish will key in on specific phases and want nothing else. You’ll need nylon and fluoro tippet in 4-6X.
What are the major hatches and best techniques for East Lake?
What East is perhaps best known for is the amazing hatches. The Callibaetis will emerge from the weed beds and silty bottom in astonishing numbers and then blanket the water with duns and spinners for many hours almost every day of the summer. Caddis are present in smaller numbers. Chironomids are a large part of the trout’s diet also. On any given day at East Lake you can slow-twitch retrieve nymph rigs, cast dries to tipping heads, strip or wind-drift streamer patterns or string three chironomids under an indicator. They’ll all work!
Is a boat necessary for fly fishing East Lake?
Nope. There are areas where you can wade out and reach cruising fish. The shoreline near Oak Springs Boat Ramp is perfect for that. It is a wonderful lake for the float tuber or pontoon boat. Having a motor does get you into areas left alone by the others, but there is ample opportunity for shore angling.
Do I need a guide to successfully fish this lake?
East is probably the most user-friendly stillwater around here. If you can cast a little, recognize what the fish are eating and have the right flies you should be fine. However, it is a fishery we are on more days than not during the season, so having one of our guides would be a huge advantage for sure. Our guides typically report double-digit days up there provided the weather cooperates!

We’re Here to Help

Here at Fly & Field Outfitters, we have several expert Oregon fishing guides. So whether you’re looking for the latest intel and a few bugs, or a fully catered day with a guide, we have you covered. Schedule an East Lake guided fly fishing trip today so that you can get ALL of the local tips and info on Fly Fishing the beautiful Cascade Lakes. Call us at 1-866-800-2812 to book now.

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