Fly Fishing for Steelhead on the Grande Ronde River - Northeast Oregon and Southeast Washington
Fly Fishing for Steelhead on the Grande Ronde River

The lower Grande Ronde River in Oregon and Washington state is known as one of the finest rivers in the country for dry fly steelheading in the fall, and that is saying quite a bit. Any of the classic skating steelhead patterns work well, as well as some of the newer Wog and stinger patterns. This lower stretch or the river also has a fine summer small mouth bass fishery, while the upper stretches are an excellent rainbow trout fishery with bows up to 16-17”. The aggressive and protected native Bull Trout is also present, and must be released unharmed.

The best time to try for a steelhead on a dry fly is October, at other times the standard down-and-across wet fly swing using reliable standard steelhead patterns like the Purple Peril, Mack's Canyon, or Green Butt Skunk or Intruders and Leeches works well on Grande Ronde steelhead, although some anglers prefer fishing the quartering upstream casting technique with bead head nymphs, egg patterns, woolly buggers and leech patterns, sometimes with a strike indicator or a dropper fly. As with most steelhead fishing, the ability to read and fish a stretch of water properly is more important than the fly pattern you use, as long as the pattern has all the good steelhead attributes of color and action.

In late January or February, depending on water temperature and conditions, steelhead are moving far up the Grande Ronde River system into the upper Oregon tributaries of the Wenaha River, the Wallowa River, and the Minam river, where they spawn in late April and May. The steelhead fishing season here is September 1 through April 15.

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