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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 3/4/19)


We had a pretty good blowout from rain/snow on the Rogue last week, but the river is dropping into really nice shape this week.  We'll get another small push of water from rain on Wednesday, but it shouldn't effect the river too much.  The water is still fairly dirty down in Grants Pass, but the fishing was really good this weekend especially for the conditions.  We should have our best fishing of the winter steelhead season over the next 3 or 4 weeks on most all our area rivers, and the forecast also looks promising where the river should be in pretty good shape for at least the next 10 days! 

As always there will be more winter fish in the middle Rogue below the Applegate, as probably 35% of the winter fish in Grants Pass turn right into the Applegate.  We do quite a bit of our fishing down there in February and March before starting to fish the upper river more as March goes on.  Lots of great swing runs down there and not much pressure at all yet.  We are starting to guide on the Umpquas as well, and the North Umpqua in particular is where we send most of our steelhead trips from late February through early April.  We'll start fishing and guiding the upper Rogue a little more in the next few weeks as we generally see our biggest push of winters from mid March to mid April.

It was another great run of summer steelhead on the Rogue this year.  The Huntley Park seine counts were well past double of the 10 year average, 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 this year, as those were all part of the huge run of half pounders in the lower/middle river last fall.  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 year, so I certainly expect an even better summer run next 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. 

Peak season as always will be March into about mid April for winters in the upper Rogue, with mid February to late March being the best time to fish the middle river below Grants Pass.

The Holy Water has beem fishing ok with some midges and mayflies still hatching.  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 baetis or midge 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 our area rivers have winter steelhead in them, and should continue to get better for another 6 weeks or so at least.  The South Umpqua has probably been fishing the best for the last month, but the crowds have been thick making spey fishing difficult up there.  The North Umpqua will keep getting better, and is where we'll do a lot of our guiding over the next 8 weeks.  The Chetco, Smith (CA), Illinois, Applegate, Elk, SIxes, Coquille, Coos, lower Rogue, mainstem Umpqua are all good bets for that enormous winter fish, just watch the flows and try to fish when the rivers are dropping and clearing after they blow out from big rains.   As always give a call to the shop to get the most up to date info on any of our rivers here in the state of Jefferson.

Trout season is pretty much over until the eastern Oregon rivers get going in March once the weather warms up just a bit.

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