Oregon & Washington Fly Fishing in the Pacific Northwest

In the United States, the fly fishing opportunities seem to be endless. Each area of the country offers its own unique landscape and water filled with trophy fish. As anglers head to the Pacific Northwest, however, the fishing seems to get better and better. In fact, Oregon and Washington fly fishing is some of the best in the world. There are thousands of miles of rivers and streams for anglers to visit. It doesn’t take many casts for fishermen to understand how amazing fly fishing in the Pacific Northwest truly is.

Why go Fly Fishing in the Pacific Northwest?

All fly fishing excursions in the Pacific Northwest are easily paired with other outdoor activities. You can spend the morning on the water and the afternoon skiing in the mountains or mountain biking on exceptional trails. Don’t only pack your best fly rods when you visit the Pacific Northwest because you’ll regret missing out on all of the other outdoor adventures you could have done.

Where To Fish in the Pacific Northwest?

The options for fly fishing in this part of the country seem to be endless. Rivers and streams in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana are all full of world-class fish. Fly fishing may have started in Ireland and the UK, but has found its home in the breathtaking Pacific Northwest of the United States. Here are a list of five places you must visit on your next Pacific Northwest excursion.

Washington Fly Fishing

Skagit River WA
Skagit River Washington Fly Fishing

Skagit River, Washington

When anglers think of fishing in the Pacific Northwest, they think of steelhead and salmon. The beauty of the Skagit is it offers both. Plus, there are ample hiking trails along the Skagit and its close proximity to the coast makes it a beautiful place to visit regardless of if the fish are biting. The river flows through North Cascade National Park and you’ll have the chance to explore the beauty of the park when you’re not fishing. You can even spend the day whale watching if you’re craving some time on the ocean! There are so many things to do in Washington, fly fishing is just one.

A Few Fishing Tips

The Skagit is a wide river and is best fished via drift boat. There are a few solid places to wade including Big Ditch Trail in Snohomish County as well as the access off of N Layman Ferry Road. When you’re fishing the Skagit, there are a few things to keep in mind. The salmon run in the fall and the giant steelhead run primarily in March and April. There are also hatchery-raised steelhead that can be caught starting in December.

You can also catch sea-run cutthroat and Dolly Varden. If it’s trout you’re after, the Skagit is a great place to fish from July until October before the larger fish begin to run. It’s an extremely productive river that is filled with impressive fish. Bring your 8 or 9-weight rod along because you’ll need the power to fight these fish coming from the Pacific Ocean. It’s a wide river that is filled with shallow runs and deep pools. Fish the riffles that lead into the pools and wait for a strike as soon as the fly enters. Solid flies to use for Steelhead include Muddler Minnows, Wooly Buggers, Freshwater Clousers, and Mike’s Meal Ticket. For trout, use Elk Hair Caddis, Adam’s Flies as well as baitfish streamer patterns.

Yakima River, Washington

The “Yak” is perhaps the most well-known and successful fishery for Washington State fly fishing. You can cast a line by day, and sip some delicious red by night. This 214-mile long river is filled with beautiful trout and Chinook Salmon. Due to it’s length, there are multiple towns and places for people to visit while fishing.

The Yakima Valley is a hotbed for biking, hiking and rafting. Mountain biking through the White Pass is a must for anyone passionate about the sport. There are also road biking opportunities through the Yakima River Canyon. Doing this will give you some extra time to pick a few fishing spots! Sunnyside is a beautiful community to visit within the valley if you’re looking for a great place to stay. See Also: Wine Tasting Langley, Washington

A Few Fishing Tips

The Yakima is a tailwater fishery so the fish are generally healthy and eager to eat. Most of the fish naturally spawn, but there are some that are stocked as well. You can both wade and float the Yakima, but be sure to wade it when runoff has subsided and the water is lower. A great place to access is at Esign Ranch. The East Cle Elum KOA is another smart place to start your day. If you’re targeting Chinook, be sure to use big streamers. Cluster Minnows, Wooly Buggers, Egg Sucking Leeches and Deceivers are great options. Fish these via swinging or dead drifting techniques with your 8 to 10-weight rod. Be sure to tie on 0x or 1x leader to handle these large fish!

Fly Fishing Oregon

Deschutes River Oregon
Deschutes River Oregon Fly Fishing

McKenzie River, Oregon

Oregon is filled with beautiful places and phenomenal fisheries. Sure, there are many things to do in Portland, but don’t stay in the city too long. Oregon’s charm comes from nature. The McKenzie River is no exception. Many rivers and streams in Oregon flow through private property, but the McKenzie River has stayed relatively undeveloped and access is plentiful.

The McKenzie is filled with Chinook salmon, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and even the occasional bull trout making it a top spot for fly fishing in Oregon. While it’s only a 90-mile river, it holds a large amount of fish and the beauty alone is worth the visit. You can whitewater raft, kayak, hike, and even mountain bike along the McKenzie River Trail. It’s a great place to bring the family and sneak away for a few hours to wet a line. There are various lodges, restaurants and golf courses nearby to keep everyone in your family entertained. The fly fishing in Oregon is the cherry on top!

A Few Fishing Tips

The Lower McKenzie Trail Head is a smart place to start your day. There is no bait fishing allowed and fly anglers often have the river to themselves. You can both wade and float the McKenzie, but floating provides great chances to gain a full experience of the river. You’ll likely catch a few of the stocked rainbow trout, but have plenty of shots at the salmon in the fall. The clear water makes it a must to use a fluorocarbon leader and tippet. These trout and salmon are spooky. The deep pools and riffles truly test your fishing abilities.

You’ll likely be able to sight fish so be sure you read the river before you make your choice on where to cast. Keep your casts a bit shorter. You don’t need to hit spots all the way across the river to find fish. Bring your 5 or 6-weight if you’re planning on targeting trout. If it’s salmon you’re after, use your 8-weight with 0 or 1x leader. Some smart flies to use are Copper Johns and Pheasant Tails along with Wooly Buggers and BWO’s. The more water you can cover with your flies, the better.

Deschutes River, Oregon

The Deschutes is a 250 mile long river flowing through the heart of Oregon. This river is broken up into three sections with the Lower Deschutes being the most productive for fly fishing in Oregon. It’s considered to be a Wild and Scenic River with ample opportunities for other outdoor activities. The canyons spread along the Lower Deschutes are absolutely gorgeous. Hiking, mountain biking, and sightseeing are all doable along the river. The town of Madras is a must-visit for anyone looking to spend some time around north-central Oregon.

A Few Fishing Tips

The Lower Deschutes is home to summer Steelhead runs as well as trout. Fishing for Steelhead in the summer is ideal! You don’t have to brave the cold of the winter and still catch monstrous fish. You’ll also have a chance at Redband trout. These are genetically pure rainbow trout that are extremely rare. To catch the steelhead, use Hohbo Spey’s, Sculpzilla’s, and Wooly Buggers. Also, egg patterns often lead to fish. Use your 8-weight rod with sinking tip line and 0x leader. For the Redbands, use PMDs, Elk Wing Caddis, and Flashback Baetis Nymphs. Nymphing is perhaps the most productive way to catch these Redbands. They’re willing to eat flies lower in the water column as long as you’re using fluorocarbon tippet.

Idaho Fly Fishing

Salmon River, Idaho

The Salmon River happens to be the longest free-flowing river within a state’s borders in the lower 48 states. It also provides access to the second deepest canyon in the United States. The Salmon River is an extremely unique fishery that allows for great backpacking, driving and fishing opportunities. The salmon and steelhead run 800 miles from the Pacific Ocean to reach the waters of the Salmon River. These are the most ambitious fish in the world. On top of the Steelhead and salmon, you have great chances to land trout at all times of the year. The river has wonderful beaches as well as hiking opportunities. You can also take rafting trips and experience class III and IV rapids. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in a variety of outdoor activities.

A Few Fishing Tips

Access the Salmon River at the Deadman Hole Campground. It’s BLM land so feel free to spend a few days there! You can wade or float this portion of the Salmon, but floating is always going to allow for more access. The best time to fish for Steelhead is from January to mid-May. These are when the Steelhead make their long journey. To catch these, swing your egg patterns or streamers. Dead drifting them through pools is also a useful technique. If you’re targeting salmon, fish them from April to June.

Use your Egg Sucking Leeches, Green Butt Skunks and Wooly Buggers. Dead drifting these streamers through eddy’s and at the beginning of pools will lead to strikes. For these larger fish, use your 8-weight rod with 0x tippet. You’ll also want to use weight forward or sinking tip line. These fish like to congregate near the bottom and you need to ensure you’re reaching them with your fly. The Steelhead and salmon are often striking out of reaction rather than hunger so be sure to use flashy flies!


The Pacific Northwest is an area that cannot be conquered in one visit. The vast landscape combined with great family activities are perfect for year-round visits. Bring all of the outdoor gear you have because you can absolutely use it. It’s one of the most unique places in the world and anglers will leave with a plan already forming in their head to make a return trip.

Danny Mooers has been fly fishing for five years. As soon as he went to college, he dove headfirst into his obsession for fly angling. Every spare weekend or long break was dedicated to finding fish. He’s fished all over North America in search of trout, salmon, steelhead and everything in between.