Take It on the Fly in the Old Mill District

November 6, 2016 (Updated December 6, 2016)
Practicing fly fishing in Bend's Old Mill District
Fly fishers can practice skills and test equipment on the 12-hole Old Mill DIstrict Fly Casting Course, the first of its kind in North America.

Fall is a time of change in the high desert. We have beautiful blue sky and sunny days mixed with the crisp cool air of fall — and the weather isn’t the only thing that’s changing. Our local Deschutes River fills up with runs of fall steelhead, which means I have a 50/50 chance of ever seeing my husband. He loves to fish these migrators on a spey rod during multi-day floats on the lower Deschutes.

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While I’m not at liberty to divulge any specific family fishing secrets, there’s one local expert who has a few things to share about the fall fishing in the region. Tye Krueger, owner of Confluence Fly Shop in the heart of Bend’s Old Mill District, says Central Oregon fly fisherman are a pretty lucky bunch.

“When other excellent fishing destinations around the United States are experiencing extremely low air temperatures and/or seasonal water closures, Central Oregon continues to offer up world-class angling,” Krueger says. “The autumn and early winter fishery of the Deschutes River Basin is nearly as diverse, challenging and wide-ranging as that of the region’s more highly regarded spring and summer months.”

Tye’s store is not only a centrally located retail shop with knowledgeable staff, but fly fishers can try out the equipment on North America’s first permanent fly casting course right on property. The Old Mill District Fly Casting Course was specially designed by fishing experts to help practice casting skills. It is a 12-hole course that is filled with unique challenges for casters of all levels. Visitors can also use their own equipment and the course is open daily from dawn to dusk — which in fall is roughly 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. There is a guide for the course available at the Old Mill District Ticket Mill station.

As I said earlier, my spouse enjoys fishing the lower Deschutes this time of year. Tye agrees, saying that this water is “undoubtedly the most sought out by anglers visiting Central Oregon.” This part of the river runs downstream from the town of Warm Springs, part of the Native American reservation, and most people fish this stretch on an overnight float in a drift boat or raft. We’ve seen many boats flip here, so hiring a guide isn’t a bad idea. Fortunately most fly shops in the region, including Deep Canyon Outfitters in Bend, can match you up with a guide.

There are plenty of rivers (and a few lakes, weather permitting) available to the fall and wintertime angler. You can fish right in Bend for several species of trout in the Middle Deschutes. In fall and early winter the section from Benham Falls to Bend is your best bet, due to irrigation draws farther downstream. One of our family’s favorite places to visit is Fall River, a tributary of the Deschutes that runs south of Bend beyond Sunriver. Not only is this area absolutely spectacular but there is a special fish hatchery that’s fun for kids and nice riverside trails to hike with your dogs. Another close-by fall fishing spot is the Crooked River downstream from Prineville Reservoir, east of Bend.

And we can’t forget the “Met,” as locals lovingly call the Metolius River near Sisters. This crystal-clear river can be a hard one to fish for even the most experienced fly fisherman, but is definitely a favorite. Stop by The Fly Fisher’s Place in Sisters for expert advice if you choose to brave these waters for trout and whitefish in the winter months. The scenery alone is worth the visit.

It’s important to get the latest updated Oregon State Fishing Regulations (and a license) before fishing in the area. Some of our waters do close for the winter and most fly shops are up-to-date on all the latest information.

So while we’re all waiting to hit the slopes on Mt. Bachelor this winter, there’s still time to enjoy the great outdoors with a little fall fly fishing. Happy angling!

About The
Author

Marie Melsheimer
Marie is a 6th-generation Oregonian who traces her roots back to the Oregon Trail. When she’s not obsessing over grammar and the English language in general, she enjoys Central Oregon’s seasons with her husband, son and three dogs by embarking on a variety of outdoor activities.