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Fly Fishing the Rogue River Valley

Welcome to the Wild and Scenic Rogue River!  Swinging flies for steelhead practically started here on the Rogue with Zane Grey being one of the first to write about this magical place and fishery.  Now the Rogue River Summer Steelhead Run is famous all over the world and for damn good reason!  We catch Steelhead (and Trout) on the fly 365 days of the year here, with fresh fish moving through different parts of the river(s) at different times.  This is our home water, and some of the best steelhead fishing in the World is found right here from July through November.  Winter steelhead season on the Rogue goes from January through April, with March and April being the peak months.

There are many other great fisheries in our region that should be explored at certain times of the year as well.  The North Umpqua River from Roseburg to Soda Springs is the other world famous steelhead river in southwest Oregon, and once you see the scenery and experience the pull from these wild steelhead you will instantly know why!  There are steelhead moving through the N Umpqua all year too, and they are some of the largest anywhere in the world.  The South Umpqua offers great winter steelhead fishing from January through early April as well.  When at all possible we do our winter/spring guiding on the Umpquas, as the winter steelhead run on those rivers is one of the best in the world and 15 pounders aren't uncommon!

The Applegate River is a nearby tributary of the Rogue, and can be an amazing winter steelhead fishery until closing April 1st.  After re-opening in late May it's a beautiful spot to fish for trout, camp, and explore (Applegate Lake as well).  The Illinois River offers incredible fishing and scenery in both the fall and the winter as well!  Many of the famous Rogue "half pounders" spend their fall near the confluence of the Illinois and Rogue, so you can have a blast with a 3 or 4 weight switch down by Agness in October.  In the winter the Illinois gets many of the biggest steelhead that swim through the Rogue River Watershed. 

All the steelhead in our area are very healthy and strong fish, as they have been swimming up Class IV+ rapids and waterfalls for generations.  Once you feel the grab and your reel starts singing your favorite song you will know why so many fly fishers have come here and never left!

Trout fishing in southern Oregon and northern California is also world class! 

The "Holy Water" at the top of the Rogue is a great stretch of trout water, and especially popular during the Salmonfly hatch in late May and early June.  Trout season on the entire Rogue opens on May 22nd, which is generally towards the beginning of the huge salmonfly hatch.  Some of our best days are during this time of year, as we throw big dries all day, get tons of action, and catch plenty of fish!  The Rogue has some big cutties as well as resident trout, smolt, and the occasional early summer steelhead that eats the big dry fly!

Upper Klamath Lake feeds the Klamath River, which has great trout fishing in the Oregon stretch.  And with the announced removal of Iron Gate and other dams we will once again have steelhead swimming in the Oregon stretch of the Klamath River in the near future.  Feeding into Upper Klamath Lake are the Williamson and Wood, with the Sprague River feeding into the Williamson at Chiloquin.  These rivers are home to some of the largest trout on the West Coast, as some of them are descendents of steelhead that were trapped when the dams went in.  The season here runs from the end of May through the end of October, and trout can be caught every way possible.  During the warmer summer months the rainbows leave the shallow lake and reside in the cooler more oxygenated and bug infested waters of the spring fed rivers listed above, so make sure and bring a 6 weight with you and be ready for a 10 pounder on every cast!  The Upper Sac, Pit, McCloud, etc are all great options for trout fishing nearby in Northern California as well. 

(Updated 4/16/19)


Winter steelhead season on the Rogue basically came to a very abrubt end the first few days in April, with the lake filling up so flows from the dam went from 1000 cfs to 10000+ cfs.  There will still tons of fish spread throughout the river, as it was shaping up to be a good run.  We'll see if these fish tried to race up river and spawn in that high water, or just took cover until the flows started to settle down.  They started dropping the flows out of the dam late last week, so the river will be back to somewhat fishable this weekend and next week.  We won't be running any guided trips though, as it's too close to spawning time for these fish.  If you go out please treat all the fish really well and don't take them out of the water at all, as they need all their energy for spawning and their journey back to the ocean.

The North Umpqua blew out as well and is just coming back down into fishable shape.  It's a late run of fish this year, just make sure and be very respectful handling fish if you do fish this late in the season.

It was another great run of summer steelhead on the Rogue last year, and we're already starting to look forward to our first summer chromers arriving in the upper river in June.  The Huntley Park seine counts were well past double of the 10 year average last year, so as always thanks to all who helped get our dams out as that's what has made our summer run so great!  There were a lot of ~20 inch summers in the river last year, as those were all part of the huge run of half pounders in the lower/middle river in the fall of 2017.  Next summer all those fish will be 24 - 28 inches along with a boatload more 20 inchers as we had another huge run of half pounders this past year, so I certainly expect an even better summer run this year!

Now that we are fully into winter steelhead season I fish bigger flies more often.  More full size intruder type flies instead of hoh bo speys and mini intruders, although I will still downsize at times especially in clear water.  The dirtier the water the bigger and darker the fly.  I as always fish a lot of black, whether it be black/blue, black/red, black/purple, black/chartreuse or whatever, but will also fish some bright pinkish stuff to get some of these bigger fish to think back to delicious ocean food or flesh.  Fish whatever you have confidence in just make sure you cover gravel and cover it well.

The biggest keys to being successful while swinging is the presentation of your fly.  The biggest mistakes I see while out guiding are people not slowing their fly down and getting their rod tip pointed at it near quick enough, and making the same cast over and over (or only moving 18 inches between casts).  They then only cover 4 runs instead of 8 runs throughout the day and catch less fish because of that.  Also showing that fly to the fish too many times before it gets to him/her makes that fish lose interest.  Something about a fish seeing your fly once at 12 feet (doesn't care), once at 8 feet (starting to care but not much), once at 4 feet (starting to get annoyed at the fly), and then once in his face when he eats it.  If you show it to him at 12 feet, then 11, then 10, etc it doesn't seem to work as well.   Same thing if you show it to him 4 times at 3 - 6 feet that fish will lose interest.  Some fish are suicidal and are ready to eat no matter what, but there's plenty of other fish you need to coax into eating your swung fly.  Stop by and chat for more info on this kind of stuff or clarification.

Nymph the usual suspects like Ugly/Otis bugs, copper swans, princess nymphs, steelhead brassies, rubber leg stones etc.  The salmon are done spawning, but the gear guys throwing eggs as bait keeps the egg bite going most of the winter. 

The Holy Water was starting to fish better before the crazy high water, and hopefully will fish good again next week when it gets back down to somewhat reasonable levels.  Generally nymphing and streamers will be your best bet this time of year if the fish aren't rising, but be ready to throw your favorite march brown pattern if the hatch gets going.  There are now boxes to report your catch up there, so please do your part it will help the ODFW know how good the fishing is so they know if they need to stock more fish.

Other Local Fisheries: 

All of our rivers will be blown out this week and many are already closed for steelhead fishing.  We might get a few good days on the North Umpqua, but in reality winter steelhead season is pretty much over here in southern Oregon. 

We'll look forward to the trout opener on May 22nd and the SALMONFLY hatch on the Rogue!  Over the next 6 weeks or so some of the lakes like Klamath will start fishing better and better.  Also bass fishing the lakes should get quite good on flies as the fish will be in shallower water the next few months.  I definitely enjoy getting out there and throwing poppers and big streamer type flies for both smallies and largemouth.  Emigrant is a fun spot that is nice and close as well. 

Trout season is pretty much over on area river until May 22nd except the eastern Oregon rivers like the Owyhee should fish well.  You'll have to fish fairly close to the dam though, as the river will be blown out downstream.

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