Fly Fishing The Crooked River
Our first stop was the Crooked River, south of Prineville. The Crooked flows out of the Bowman Dam through rugged canyons dotted with sage, juniper and pine. State Highway 27 parallels the river for much of its route, offering anglers easy access. Thanks to its modest size and flow, the Crooked is an easy river to wade. This, combined with plentiful numbers of native rainbows and mountain whitefish, makes it a great spot for beginning anglers.
Fly Fishing The Crooked River
In the winter, the Crooked draws seasoned anglers from points near and far—mainly because of prolific blue-winged olive hatches that occur with almost clocklike regularity. These members of the mayfly family tend to appear on the river's surface in the early afternoon, and the trout are generally not far behind. The day of our visit, the hatch began just before noon and lasted until nearly 3:00, and there were enough bugs to keep the trout slurping.
In the course of the afternoon, Hamilton and I hooked and released a number of the Crooked's wild rainbows—a strain of fish indigenous to the region, called redband. The fish we found were not particularly large—a specimen of 12 inches was the lunker of the day—but they were beautiful, with lovely muted spots and a blush of pink across the gill plates. Knowing that these fish and their ancestors have called the Crooked home for countless eons made our brief encounter with them all the more satisfying.
Downtown Bend
Once a sleepy lumber town, Bend has become a magnet for outdoors-oriented vacationers and big city émigrés from up and down the West Coast. While it may be the region's sunny climate, trout streams, ski slopes, mountain bike trails and other outdoor opportunities that first draw visitors to Bend, the city's urban amenities—celebrated eateries, award-winning breweries like Bend Brewing Company and a vibrant nightlife scene with more than a dozen venues featuring live music—will keep them coming back.
900 Wall Restaurant
For dinner our first, night we took advice from a local and went to 900 Wall. The restaurant's open floor plan, with exposed brick walls, polished wood floors and an open kitchen with a brick oven front and center, set the tone for the meal. Although 900 Wall has an extensive wine and cocktail list, we opted for local ales: a Sinister Black Ale from 10 Barrel Brewery for me, and a Deschutes Brewery Jubelale (conditioned in oak pinot noir barrels for added depth and complexity) for Hamilton. The menu that evening ranged from vegetable tart to flat iron steak with piquillo peppers, but it changes according to the season and what's fresh that day.
Bar at McMenamins Old St. Francis School.
Our home for the night was McMenamin's Old St. Francis School. The hotel was once a Catholic school, originally built in 1936. The property was renovated in 2004 with luxe additions, including a Turkish-style soaking pool, a movie theater, a restaurant, three pubs (including the Old St. Francis Pub shown here) and music venues. The night of our stay, we heard local up-and-comer Eric Tollefson and his band, the World's Greatest Lovers, in a packed room at one of the hotel's music venues, Father Luke's Room.
McMenamins Old St. Francis School
At the Old St. Francis School, the McMenamins took great pains to maintain the integrity of the original structure. Whimsical paintings of former staff and students decorate rooms and hallways, along with historical photos of the school in its first heyday. The 19 guest rooms in the main building are comfortable, if somewhat Spartan; you won't find a TV in your room. We stayed in the Art House, one of the four adjoining cottages. With three separate bedrooms, each with a comfy bed, we went to sleep dreaming of the fish we'd catch on the Fall River.
Fly Fishing the Fall River
After a hearty breakfast at the Old St. Francis School, we headed 25 miles south to the beautiful Fall River. The Fall bubbles up from the ground southeast of Sunriver, and flows gin-clear through lodgepole and ponderosa pine forests. Anglers here will find a mix of hatchery and native rainbows ranging from 10–12 inches, with the occasional 'bow pushing 20 inches. Thanks to its incredible clarity, you can often sight-cast to feeding fish; the bad news is, the fish can often see you too, which made for a challenging day. We were blessed by a few willing takers, including a 16-inch rainbow that Hamilton took on a small emerger pattern.
The Boathouse Restaurant at Suttle Lake
While Bend offers sojourners a burst of cosmopolitanism, Camp Sherman, just northwest of Sisters, is every bit the idyllic mountain retreat. Dining options are a bit more limited here, but quality is not sacrificed. We headed a few miles west to The Boathouse at Suttle Lake Lodge for dinner. The sweeping views of the lake from the restaurant's floor-to-ceiling windows were the perfect backdrop to the restaurant's rustic décor. We gave in to the temptation of the charbroiled Sterling Silver New York steak (shown here); however, the menu's mouth-watering choices also included mustard seed seared lamb chops and seared scallops.
Lake Creek Lodge
That evening we stayed at the Lake Creek Lodge, a 40-acre property in the larch, pine and fir forests of Camp Sherman. The property is dotted with 20 quaint cabins. Our abode was once inhabited by the resort's resident wrangler and boasts elaborate stonework on the exterior, knotty pine paneling on the interior and a full kitchen. Lake Creek is a popular family destination in the summer, with amenities that include a heated pool, basketball and tennis courts, a rec room and a recently added trout pond. In retrospect, we might have done well to visit the pond.

In many parts of the world trout fishing season doesn’t open until May. Not in Oregon. The Beaver State is blessed with an abundance of year-round angling and in March, there are winter steelhead on coastal streams, giant sturgeon in the Columbia and trophy brown trout on the Owyhee River near the Idaho border. If you like to fly-fish for trout, it’s pretty hard to beat the rich diversity that Central Oregon affords. From intimate spring creeks to high desert tailwaters to private lakes stocked with bruiser rainbows, the options are astounding. Better yet, you don’t have to sit in your motel room watching your waders dry once you’re off the stream. In early March, my fishing buddy Hamilton Byerly and I headed over the mountains from Portland to see what the trout streams of Central Oregon had to offer. We found a few nice fish, for sure—but in Bend there’s also a thriving restaurant scene, seven brewpubs (not bad for a city of 80,000!) and live music every night. And in the surrounding smaller towns we also found dazzling scenery, eclectic accommodations and some haute cuisine you wouldn’t expect in fishing country.

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