Deschutes Steelhead

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Deschutes Steelhead
Dam Counts Added
Top Six #6 Spey Rods
Scandi Shooting Heads
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Deschutes River Steelhead
Deschutes Steelhead


The Deschutes is world famous as a steelhead fly fishing river. This is because its steelhead will actively come to the surface for a fly. Steelhead start entering the river in late June and bright fish can still be caught in late November. The run is made up of three distinct races: the hatchery run, and two distinct wild races called the "A" and "B" runs. The hatchery run can start in late June during high water years and as late as August during low water years. It is comprised of fish which have spent from 22 to 30 months in the Ocean and average 6 to 12 pounds. The "A" run enters the river in July and August and is made up of fish that have spent 14 to 22 months in the Ocean and average from 3 ˝ to 6 pounds. The "B" run enters the river from September through November and is comprised of fish which have spent 24 to 36 months in the Ocean and weigh from 10 to 16 pounds. Larger fish can be encountered any time.  Since this was published july 19th, I have recieved a call from ODFW Biologist Robert Hooton. He gave me a substancial list of reasons why my preception of  Deschutes River steelhead biology needed to be up-dated. These findings will be published in the July 26th "Insider"

During high water years a lot of stray upper Columbia River stocks take up temporary residence in the Deschutes and add to its fishery. Artificial lures and flies are allowed. Barbless hooks are encouraged and all wild fish must be returned to the river.

The Deschutes maintains a unique location being the most southern of mid-Columbia River tributaries. Its water flows and fall temperatures are the most predictable. Its north/south alignment keeps late fall water temperatures in the range that allow steelhead enough energy to rise to the surface for a well presented fly.

The size and topography of the river provide an ideal setting for the traditional greased line angler. Although many diverse angling methods will take Deschutes summer steelhead, floating fly lines and a traditional wet fly swing is accepted as one of the productive approaches. Most floating line techniques work best when the water is shaded by the canyon walls or by cloud cover. The angler usually begins at the head of a long run and fishes all of the way through to the tail-out. Aggressive wading and fly casting may be required to cover the most productive water. The fly is presented down stream across the current and allowed to swing on a tight line toward the angler's shore. A series of mends may be employed to control the speed and depth of the fly. Often two flies are fished on a cast or a single fly may be riffle-hitched. Waking flies are often employed in the same cast with a wet fly. Fly speed is very important, but hard to define.

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Many hair-wing wet fly patterns take Deschutes steelhead. However dark patterns in sizes four or six are proven to be most productive over the widest range of water and light conditions. The favored colors are black or purple with a touch of chartreuse, orange or pink. The following is a list of proven Deschutes steelhead wet fly patterns that will take fish the majority of the time:

During times of very low water or heavy cloud cover a very dark, somber fly may bring more strikes. The following is a list of patterns that are proven for these conditions.

Periods of high cold water or glacial run-off from White River may require that a larger or brighter colored fly be used. The following are a list of patterns which have bailed us out of these situations.

In the late fall, steelhead seek out smooth holding areas and often congregate in tailouts. These are prime conditions to bring a steelhead to the surface with a riffle-hitched fly. The following is a list of proven waking flies.

Most Deschutes steelhead fly anglers concentrate on the early and late hours and rest in the shade during mid-day. This is because they have tried unsuccessfully to raise steelhead to the surface in the bright sunlight. Several years ago we started fishing with sinking tip lines and weighted flies during these bright light hours and found that steelhead will still take a fly if it is presented at their level. In fact about thirty percent of our catch is now caught by this method. If you want to increase your catch, bring a fast sinking tip fly line and the following fly patterns:

Chinook Salmon return to the Deschutes River from mid-September to late October. They are extremely territorial during their spawning cycle and they actively drive the steelhead from the fine gravel sections of the river. The steelhead often seek out areas in the river where the Chinook won't harass them, such as fast water with big boulders. Often these fast water places are downstream of major Chinook spawning grounds. In years of heavy Chinook runs steelhead and resident trout will station so as to intercept drifting Chinook eggs. Don't forget your Glo Bugs and split shot.

Thoughts about Steelhead Tackle


Dam Counts Added
Oregon River Reports Updated Wednesday, July 15.
Oregon River Reports is intended to give anglers the best information on all the best fly fishing waters in Oregon.  Reports come from a wide variety of sources. Oregon River Water Flow and Columbia River Dam Counts are updated daily.  Willamette Falls Counts are up-dated periodically. They can be found under: Oregon Dam Fish Counts
There is a
MultiMap of each river and lake. Just click the link. MultiMap views may be zoomed in or out and are draggable with your cursor to show any area you may want to look at.
MultiMaps are available as drawings or aerials so you can study road access or real details. Rivers and lake names that are underlined are linked to pages with more details. 
 Current water flows are are graphed in blue as: Current Discharge =
Ten year average water flows are are graphed in green as: Median Discharge = 10 year average flow
Current water temperatures are graphed as red =
Weather conditions, weather reports, moon phase are provided for each location by:
Weather Underground

Top Six #6 Spey Rods
No doubt, Spey Rods are getting shorter and lighter in both line weight, and rod weight. The preference for lighter, more compact rods is being driven by improvements in both fly line and rod design. The 30-06 winter rod used to be a 14-foot 9-weight. Now 13.5' to 13' 7/8 weight rods are more popular. The most popular summer steelhead Spey rod size used to be a 13.5' to 13' 7/8-weight. No doubt rods of this size will retain their popularity in the summer game, but rods in the 6/7 and even 5/6 size are being used, even on some fairly large rivers. Six weight rods are handy in a lot of circumstances for summer steelhead.

R.L. Winston B2X 76126

Length: 12' 6"       Line: #6/7     Pieces: 4   

New for 2009! An extraordinary lightweight medium-action two-hand rod that will make effective fly presentations at all distances.
Andre Scholz Scandinavian Shooting Head Recommendation: 420 grains.
Use: 510-540 grain Skagit Compact for sinking tip work.

Rod weight: 5 1/2 Ounces.
Item Series Line Wt Action Handle Price To Top
67126 B2X 6/7 Medium Fast Spey $835 SALE ENDED

Sage 6126-4 Z-AXIS

Length: 12' 6"     Line: 6     Pieces: 4

The lightest of the Euro spey rods is ideal for a multitude of steelhead, light salmon and big trout duty.  Deschutes and Bulkey Steelhead, Tierra Del Fuego Browns and outsized Alaskan Rainbows are all ideal targets for this “small but mighty” performer.  Sink Tip Use: 15’ 109 grain tips in type 3 and 6.  Type 8 in 150 grains.  T-14 in 9’ and 11’ lengths.  Reel Match: Sage 6010, Ross Momentum 5, Tibor Everglade, Nautilus 10

Line Match:
Rio WindCutter 9/10/11 body only with 15’ tip:  Good, ok, doesn’t jump out at ya.
Rio WindCutter 6/7/8:  Solid all around prefomer.  Better on Z Axis version than old 6126-3 version.
Rio Skagit 350 + 15’ Sink tip for a really developed spey caster.  This is a sweet line with “Hidden Speed”.
Rio Skagit 400 + 15’ tip:  Slightly (very slight) better load than Rio Skagit 350.
Rod weight: 6 3/8 Ounces

Line Wt
Action Handle Price To Top
6126-4 Z-AXIS 6 Fast D $770 SALE ENDED

Echo TR 6126

Length: 12' 6"       Sections: 4       Line Weight 6

Grains: 420-540
This is a slightly larger crossover rod that is a good choice for large trout and medium steelhead where delicacy of presentation figures into your strategy. Tim's top picks in Airflo Lines that bring out the best performance with this Echo TR rod model are: Scandi Compact 450-grain, Delta 6/7 and Skagit Compact 480-grain.

Item Series Line Wt. Action Handle Price To Top
ECHO-TR6126 TR 6 medium fast Standard $349.95 SALE ENDED

Echo DH 6126

Length: 12' 6"     Line: 6     Pieces: 4

Dec Hogan designed this model as a tru six-weight rod. Dec's rods have  full length moderate actions that load easy and deep. The Echo 12’6” #6 is the perfect all-around summer steelhead rod. It can handle a broad range of flies and sink tips. The #6 will land Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon with ease.
Try Scandi compact 420-grain.
Line Wt
Price To Top
DH 6126 6 $329.95 SALE ENDED

TFO 5/6 126 4 DC

Length: 12' 6"       Sections: 4       Line Weight in Grains: 350-550

One of the Deer Creek Series. Designed by Mike Kinney & Bob Meiser  for trout or summer steelhead, this rod handles the full range of both floating and sinking tip lines for the angler who enjoys the lightweight touch. A proven summer steelhead rod for both small and large rivers.
Mike  Kinneys's Remarks:
Designed for trout and small steelhead, swinging small wet flies
Mike's Line Recommendations:
400/450 with tips to 150 grains
Rio Skagit 400/450, Airflo Skagit 6/7
Short Belly Spey with tips:
Airflo Delta Spey 6/7, CND GP 5/6 or 6/7 for deep loading, Rio Power Spey 5/6 or 6/7 for deep loading
350 to 400 grains <> Head length 30 to 32 feet

Comes with Cordura covered hard case & sock.
Mark Bachmann's Remarks:
Many experienced anglers like this rod with a 400-grain Scandi shooting head. It will cast lines of many grain weights. I like this rod with a 460-grain Rio AFS because this combination loads easy for beginners, and hits hard in the wind.
Rod Weight: 7.6 ounces  Field Test Report

Item Series Line Wt. Action Handle Price To Top
TF 5/6 126 4 DC Deer Creek 5/6 Med Deer Creek $329.95 SALE ENDED

TFO 06 126 4P Length: 12' 6"       Line: #6/7     Pieces: 4 
Summer steelhead spey rod.  Will throw both floating and sinking tip lines. Does a good job in the wind. 
Try 400-grain AFS
Rod weight: 7.9 Ounces.
Item Series Line Wt Action Handle Price  
TFO-061264P Pro 6/7/8 Med-Fast 2†‡ $299.95 SALE ENDED

Scandi Shooting Heads
Scandi Heads Defined

Scandinavian Shooting Head Spey Line
Airflo Scandi Shooting Head
Designed specifically for the popular Scandinavian style of casting, the shorter "Scandi" head has a longer front taper to extend turnover and help achieve more distance.  These lines work well with shorter, faster action rods.  The new Flexi-loop at both ends means means the head can be used as it is or custom cut to a shorter length if you want to fine tune for length and weight.  Scandi heads require a longer leader to help them anchor.  We recommend either a 14' Airflo Polyleader or 15' mono leader for optimum performance. 

The special 14' Spey Polyleader is very similar to the sinking tips that come with the Delta Spey lines and sinking characteristics are very similar.  The Polyleader adds to the length and weight of the head.  Total lengths and weights are given in the chart below.  The weights are listed with the heaviest Polyleader, which weighs 115-grains.
Item Description Size Price To Top
467333 Airflo Scandinavian Shooting Head 7/8/9
467340 Airflo Scandinavian Shooting Head 8/9/10 $54.95 SALE ENDED
467357 Airflo Scandinavian Shooting Head 9/10/11 $54.95 SALE ENDED
467364 Airflo Scandinavian Shooting Head 10/11/12 $54.95 SALE ENDED
Technical Information About Airflo Scandinavian Shooting Head Spey Lines
Size Floating portion weight Front taper length of floating belly Belly length Rear taper length Length of Floating w/o tip Total line length including Polyleader Total  weight with 14' Polyleader. Average rod length Rod / head length ratio
7/8/9 450 19 17 2 38 52 565 12.3 4.4
8/9/10 500 20 18 2 40 54 615 12.5 4.3
9/10/11 550 21 19 2 42 56 665 13 3.3
10/11/12 600 22 20 2 44 58 715 14 3.1

Rio AFS Scandi Shooting Heads
Rio AFS Shooting Head

AFS Shooting Head   Olive   Orange

AFS OutBound Spey Line

AFS Shooting Head  Buy Now!
Advanced Flight Spey Shooting heads have a very unique taper design that easily loads up a spey rod either for overhead casting, or for spey, or the underhand casting style. I was able to spend a lot of time on the Deschutes River fishing the Rio AFS Shooting head system during August, September and October, 2007.  My clients and I found the AFS Line to be ideal for most of the steelhead fishing we did there.  It works in both calm and windy conditions.  Because the Deschutes is a river where the

riparian zone is allowed to flourish naturally, back-cast room is always a problem.  The short-head configuration of the AFS allows an angler to form very shallow D-loops and still cast remarkable distances.  By and large all the water that needs to be covered, can be covered easily with the AFS. The short body section and long, fine front taper efficiently transfers energy down the length of the head and results in great turnover and a precise presentation of the fly. Incredibly tight loops and effortless casts of easy distance are a result of this unique taper design.
Each AFS floating shooting head is two-colored with the majority of the line being a subtle green color to avoid spooking fish in low and clear water. The rear 15 ft is a visible yellow, allowing the angler to track the line and control how it fishes as it swings through the current.
Both ends of the AFS head feature a small, neat welded loop. Attach a suitable shooting line to the rear loop – either SlickShooter or one of RIO’s Powerflex core shooting lines for the best in performance – and one of RIO’s Powerflex core leaders to the front end for complete depth control. The rear loop is bar-coded for easy recognition.
Essentially this is Rio's version of the popular Vision Ace line.
For rods 13' and shorter in length use AFS with a standard tapered leader or with a PolyLeader 10' or shorter.  For rods longer than 13' a PolyLeader of 10'-15' might be desirable.
AFS Sage Rod Compatibility Chart.

Item  1 Description Size Price To Top
21576 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, OLIVE AND YELLOW, 4/5, 300 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21577 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, OLIVE AND YELLOW 5/6, 340 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21578 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, OLIVE AND YELLOW 6/7, 400 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21579 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, OLIVE AND YELLOW 7/8, 460 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21580 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, OLIVE AND YELLOW 8/9, 520 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21581 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, OLIVE AND YELLOW 9/10, 580 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21582 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, OLIVE AND YELLOW 10/11, 640 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
Item 2 Description Size Price To Top
21553 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, ORANGE 5/6, 340 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21554 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, ORANGE 6/7, 400 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21555 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, ORANGE 7/8, 460 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
21556 Rio Advanced Flight Spey, Full Floating Shooting Head, ORANGE 8/9, 520 gr. $49.95 SALE ENDED
AFS Shooting Head Specifications
Rear Taper
Front Taper
Total Head
4/5 F 1 6 0.077 24.5 0.5 0.044 31.5 300 25
5/6 F 1 6 0.082 26.5 0.5 0.044 33.5 340 25
6/7 F 1 6 0.084 29.5 0.5 0.046 36.5 400 25
7/8 F 1 6 0.088 30.5 0.5 0.047 37.5 460 25
8/9 F 1 6 0.093 31.5 0.5 0.049 38.5 520 25
9/10 F 1 6 0.096 32.5 0.5 0.05 39.5 580 30
10/11 F 1 6 0.1 33.5 0.5 0.051 40.5 640 30

Airflo Scandi Compact Shooting Heads
Airflo Scandi compact Shooting Head
New for 2009, the Scandinavian Compact lines are designed to perform with modern shorter rods or where back cast room limits the available space for your "D" loop. Scandi Compacts come in ten sizes from the scant 270 grain 29' #4/5 to its largest brother, the 540 grain 34' #8/9. These heads have made casting so easy it isn't fair to those who had to learn with a conventional long belly line. Whether it's steep banks or tough winds ripping up the canyon, the Scandi Compact helps anglers of any skill level cast like a pro in no time.

Color: Pale Blue
Item Description Size Price To Top
RS-SCC-270-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 4/5
RS-SCC-300-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 4/5
RS-SCC-330-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 5/6
RS-SCC-360-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 5/6
RS-SCC-390-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 6/7
RS-SCC-420-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 6/7
RS-SCC-450-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 7/8
RS-SCC-480-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 7/8
RS-SCC-510-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 7/8
RS-SCC-540-PB Airflo Scandi Shooting Head 8/9

PolyLeaders and VersiLeaders add to the performance Scandi Heads!

The Fly Fishing Shop HOME. The Fly Fishing Shop, Welches, OR

1(800) 266-3971

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark & Patty