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Metolius River Fly Fishing

The Best Fly Fishing on the Metolius River

The Metolius River, or The Met, is a shoo-in to be one of the most scenic rivers in all of the United States. Though it is a shorter tributary arm of the Deschutes River, the Metolius is quite unique from the adjacent streams in central Oregon. While the fly fishing at the Deschutes River is much more popular for many local and visiting fly anglers of the area, with its renowned runs of steelhead, the selective redband rainbow trout and predatory bull trout of the scenic Metolius River make it a tough fishery to pass by. The headwaters begin just south of the small town of Camp Sherman on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. The gin clear water carries an emerald green and turquoise shade that adds to the natural beauty of the area. Through each season the river presents different angling opportunities for each species in the river.

Metolius River Redband Rainbow Trout Fishing

The Redband trout of the Metolius have some of the most vivid coloration of any of the redband rainbow subspecies. These trout can be incredibly selective eaters and are a major reason The Met is seen as a difficult trout fishery. The crystal clear waters here give the trout a major advantage and require visiting anglers to downsize their tippet and dial in their fly selection. Hatches on the river are sporadic and less dependable, but can be significant if your timing is good. Late winter and early spring see modest hatches of blue wing olives which can bring the redbands to the surface. Later in the spring and into summer, hatches of pale morning dun and caddis become more common with the occasional stonefly showing up. Nymphing is the most productive tactic on the river with a euro style being the most productive as the steep drops and swift water make indicator nymphing near impossible in some places. Redbands will often congregate along the  submerged bedrock bluffs adjacent to current seams when insect activity is low. Using densely weighted and slim profiled flies such as a double beaded stonefly imitation will allow anglers to get deeper in the water column to where the fish are faster. Pair these with smaller mayfly nymph imitations such as an RS2 or perdigon for the best results. Some days, depth can be critical, so make constant adjustments until you can find something that works. As fall approaches, eggs will make their way onto the menu and remain there through the winter months. 

Fly Fishing for Metolius River Bull Trout

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The Metolius River comes alive in the fall. Bull Trout and Kokanee salmon ascend the river from Lake Billy Chinook and fire up the food chain. These runs begin around the last week in September and climax around mid-late October as the thousands of kokanee expire by Halloween. Larger bull trout will find easy meals by targeting stray and weakened kokanee, while smaller bull trout and redband trout feed on the plentiful eggs that tumble away from the redds and roll downstream. Look for the kokanee to target small side channels and protected shoals along the river while spawning. If you can find areas where they are congregating and actively spawning, the redbands and bull trout will not be far behind. Throwing anything besides egg patterns can seem futile anytime past mid October, especially in areas with plentiful kokanee. Towards the end of October, anglers can see the piles of expired salmon pile up in the eddies and deeper holes in the river. This will coincidently be where the larger bull trout congregate as well. Dead drifting heavy streamers along the bottom can receive some attention from these giants but fly fishing for them can be difficult as they have been inundated with easy meal opportunities for the past month. The autumn foliage is truly amazing this time of year and the fishing is just about at it's very best. If you're looking to teach kids about fly fishing the kokanee run is a great opportunity.

In winter and early spring larger bull trout can become more opportunistic. On brighter days, heavy sculpin patterns bounced along the bottom can be a productive method when it seams like there is little activity. On overcast and low light periods, fast moving streams fished along cover and steeper current seams can trigger the true aggression of these predators. This tactic can be excellent in the early spring as the bull trout head back down river toward the reservoir. The most valuable piece of advice is to cover as much water as possible while streamer fishing. It is much easier to find a hungry bull trout than to get an inactive one to eat. The entirety of the river is accessible via the Metolius River Road (NF 1499) and Hwy 64. Several walking trails parallel the river connecting the adjacent campgrounds. 

Best Flies for the Metolius River

Adams Variations - sizes 18-22 for BWOs, and sizes 14-18 for PMDs

Elk Hair Caddis/ X-Caddis - sizes 14-18 

Caddis Nymphs - Heavier walts worm and caddis pupa in sizes 14-18

Mayfly Nymphs - Heavier perdigons, quilldigons, and frenchies for anchor flies with RS2s and Barrs emergers on tags

Stonefly Nymphs - Double beaded stonefly nymphs in size 10 and 12

Egg Patterns - Y2Ks and Glow Bugs in size 12 and 14 with light weight and dense varieties

Streamers - Head banger sculpins, other helmet head sculpin patterns, and rabbit strip zonkers for dead drifting and bottom hopping deep holes.  Hollow Points, the Drunk and Disorderly, Double Deceiver, and Boogeyman

Fly Fishing Gear for the Metolius

For the redbands and kokanee, a standard 9' 5 wt will do well, with a euro setup being more effective if you want to focus on solely nymphing. For bull trout and streamers, a 7 or 8 wt is best for a long day of making long casts with heavier streamers. You can even find some anglers using spey setups to reach the deeper holes. 

Metolius River Fishing Regulations

The Metolius is designated fly fishing only above Bridge 99 ( SW Resorts Rd) below the Pioneer Campground.

The section of river above NF 1217 (Allingham Bridge) is open from May 22nd to October 31st. Below the bridge fly fishing is open year round. 

All redband and bull trout are catch and release only

For for information about fly fishing opportunities in the area, checkout our articles on Fly Fishing Oregon, Fly Fishing Washington, Fly Fishing California, and Fly Fishing the Owyhee River. 

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