Willamette river Oregon
Willamette River
Copyright 2020 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Willamette River
The Willamette River is a large tributary of the
Columbia River. It flows from its beginning north of
Eugene Oregon for one-hundred, eight-seven miles to
the Columbia River near Portland. This course the
river takes runs between the Coastal Mountain range
and the Cascade Mountain range.

The North Fork Middle Fork (also called North Fork
and North Fork of the Middle Fork) of the Willamette
River starts as a small outlet of Waldo Lake in the
Cascades. It drops 2,400 feet in three miles over
thirty-four waterfalls.  The West Cascades Scenic
Byway offers access to this part of the river.

The Middle Fork of the Willamette River between
Lookout Point Reservoir and Hills Creek Reservoir is a
very good wild rainbow and cutthroat trout stream. It
has great access because it flows through National
Forest Land most its length. The rainbows and
cutthroats probably average about twelve inches but
they get much larger. This section of the Middle Fork
of the Willamette is twelve miles long and is all
designated 'catch and release only' water.

The Coast Fork of the Willamette River starts a few
miles above Cottage Grove Reservoir in the
Calapooya Mountains. There is some decent cutthroat
trout fishing in this area of the stream. Below Cottage
Grove Reservoir the river parallels I-5 all the way to its
confluence with the Middle Fork and the main-stem of
the Willamette. The fishing is limited to stocked trout
and isn't good compared to the many other streams in

The Willamette River has both a Spring and a Fall run
of Chinook Salmon. The Spring run of salmon move
through the Willamette Falls ladder from March to July
to spawn in September and October. The Fall run
moves through the ladder between August and
October to spawn during this period of time. Four
large hatcheries provide additional salmon. The
natural reproduction comprises about 28 percent of
the total according to the state.

Both Summer and Winter runs of steelhead occur in
the Willamette River. The Fall run fish move upstream
from March to October and spawn in January and
February. The Winter run of native steelhead passes
through the Willamette Falls ladder from February
through May. The wild steelhead return in December
and January.
Type of Stream

Rainbow Trout
Cutthroat Trout
Brook Trout
Chinook Salmon


Northcentral Oregon Coast

Nearest Towns

Most of it is open year-round

Fair to great, depending on the

Special Regulations
Yes, species specific, check the
current regulations

Non-Resident License
State of Oregon

National Weather Service

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies
Willamette River Oregon
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Photo Courtesy of
Dennis McCarthy
Photo Courtesy of
Dennis McCarthy
Middle Fork
North Middle Fork
Deschutes river
North Fork of Middle Williamette sign
Williamette River Oregon
Coast Fork Willamette river sign
The season is open year-round in most
places but it is all species specific and
subject to change.
Winter runs of steelhead prime season
There is a Spring run of Chinook salmon.
Great time for trout fishing the headwaters.
Willamette River Fly Fishing Guide:
Fly fishing the Willamette River varies greatly  with
species, areas and seasons. The North Fork of the
Willamette River is a declared Wild and Scenic river.
It flows for forty-three miles from Waldo Lake, which
is located in the Waldo Lake Wilderness, to the
Willamette National Forest boundary. It is a beautiful
stream with clear water. This lies on the West Slope
of the Cascade range. The river is bordered by
Douglas Fir trees. The stream has plenty of brook
trout as well as rainbow and cutthroat trout. Forest
Road #19 borders this section of the river from the
wilderness boundary to Oakridge. There is a
campground and developed trails in the area.

The Middle Fork of the Willamette River between
Lookout Point Reservoir and Hills Creek Reservoir is
an excellent stretch of wild trout water. Highway #58
parallels the stream and provides easy access. It
flows through National Forest land and has 12 miles
of catch and release only. The Middle Fork of the
Willamette starts from several small lakes and
tributaries that are high in the cascades south of
Diamond Peak Wilderness. It passes through three
different reservoirs - Hills Creek, Lookout Point and
The twelve mile long section between Hills
Creek and Lookout Point is managed as a
wild trout stream with cutthroats and
rainbows. It is strictly catch and release.
Highway #58 follows the river on its south
side and the Forest Road #5852 on its
north side all the way to the North Fork of
the Middle Fork of the Willamette River.
There is ample access from roadside
parking areas or the Black Canyon Shady
Dell Campground. You can also access it
at Greenwater and Ferrin Parks.

This section can be fished from a drift boat.
There is one boat ramp at Black Canyon
Campground. There are some other places
where its possible to launch that are not
formal launch areas.

The fishing above the Hills Creek Reservoir
is mostly for stocked rainbow and cutthroat
trout. There are some Bull Trout. Highway
#21 follows this section of water. The
Middle Fork can get low during the
Summer. The best time to fish it is from
March through June prior to the low water

As mentioned in the introduction page, the
Willamette River has both a summer and
winter run of steelhead. The winter run
supports more steelhead than the summer
run because of the cooler water
temperatures. The summer run is
productive but most anglers fish the colder
tributaries where the fish will spawn.

The average Willamette steelhead runs
between eight and twelve pounds but
larger fish are common. The regulations
are always subject to change.

The winter steelhead in the lower
Willamette River (below Willamette Falls)
begins in early December. They should be
available in the lower Willamette through
the early part of the spring chinook
season. Many of the fish will be headed for
the Clackamas River and tributaries above
the falls including the Molalla, Tualatin,
Santiam, and McKenzie rivers. Winter
steelhead are also known to hold in shallow
water below the mouth of the Clackamas
Steelhead in the Willamette are very
lethargic and less prone to taking the bait
during low, cold winter flows. Look for
river flows ranging from 12,500 – 20,000
cfs and water temperature from 42-48
degrees for the best opportunity.

Early season steelhead are in the main
stem of the Willamette River between San
Salvador and the mouth of the Santiam
River. There are greenway access points
and you can fish from a boat launched at
one of the four public ramps in this stretch
of river. Most of the fish ascending
Willamette Falls are destined for the
Santiam River system. Both (North and
South) Santiam rivers are stocked with
summer steelhead smolts that return to
the rivers after spending two or three
years in the ocean. They begin to show
up in the Santiam in mid-April with the run
peaking from May through July.

The Spring chinook salmon run and
Summer steelhead should arrive in good
numbers during May and Early June in
the Middle Fork of the Willamette. The
area from Dexter Dam downstream to
Pengra Boat Landing is a good area.
Chinook are caught during May from
boats out of Pengra Landing downstream
to the Coast Fork Willamette. The
Summer steelhead should be availble
through Fall. There is a "Town Run" of
steelhead on the main stem from Beltline
Bridge to the coast Fork. You can only
take fin-clipped salmon and steelhead in
the Willamette and Middle Fork
Willametter from the McKenzie River to
Dexter Dam.

Willamette, Middle Fork, below
Dexter Dam:
ODFW anticipates spring
chinook and summer steelhead will arrive
in peak numbers during May and early
June, although a few will be caught before
then. Most anglers target the area from
Dexter Dam downstream to Pengra Boat
Landing; however, during May anglers
with boats catch spring chinook from
Pengra Landing downstream to the
confluence with the Coast Fork Willamette.
Willamette River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
Willamette River and in all stages of life
that are applicable to fishing. If you want to
fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call.  We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.

The first mayfly that hatches at the
beginning of a new year on the Upper
Willamette River is the Blue-winged Olives.
These are mostly
baetis species. These
hatches take place in January, February
and March. These mayflies also hatch late
in the year during September, October,
November and December.

January and February also has hatches of
Little Winter Stoneflies. Trout can be taken
on imitations of midges on the Willamette
River throughout the year but are more
popular during the times the water is cold
and few other aquatic insects are hatching.

March Browns hatch during the month of
March starting about the middle of the
month. This hatch usually last about a
month and a half, depending on the area
of the river. Brown stoneflies also begin to
hatch in March. They are present until the
first of second week of April. Little
Short-horned Sedges or caddisflies hatch
from the last of April into the first of
August,depending on the section of the
river your fishing.

Golden stoneflies start showing up in April
on the Upper Willamette River. They are
usually present up until about the first or
second week of July. Little Yellow
Stoneflies also start hatching this month.
You will find different species from April into
the month of August. Many anglers call
these Yellow Sallies.

PMDs or Pale Morning Duns start hatching
around the first of May. These little
mayflies hatch up until August, depending
on the section of the river you are fishing.
Hatches, continued:
Green Sedges or caddisflies will hatch in
April. This hatch last until about the first
of June. The larvae of these caddisflies,
imitated by the Green Rock Worm, will
take trout all year.

Spotted Sedges, or caddisflies, hatch on
the Upper Willamette River from May
through the month of August. These are
the largest of the caddisfly hatches and
consist of several species that are almost

Salmonflies start hatching in late May.
These large stoneflies will continue to
hatch untill about the first of July,
depending on the section of the river you
are fishing. Yellow Quill mayflies hatch
during June and July. Pale Evening Duns
hatch in July.

October Caddis hatch in September and
October. These are rather large

Don't overlook the terrestrial insects.
They can be very important during the
summer and early fall months of the year.
Imitations of grass hoppers, ants, and
beetles all catch trout. The terrestrial
season starts in June and last through
the month of September.

Streamers are very important flies to have
with you anytime of the year fly fishing the
Upper Willamette River. Those that
imitate sculpin are usually very effective.
Others should imitate baitfish and
minnows. These will come in very handy
anytime the water is stained from rain or
melting snow.

Fish eggs are an important form of food.
Salmon eggs are in the river during
November and December. Flies imitating
these eggs are very effective as well as
other traditional steelhead flies.

We recommend our own "Perfect Flies",
of course, but not because they are ours.
Its because they are the best flies you
can buy. They imitate specifics insects at
all the stages of their life trout feed on.
They are highly effective when used
properly. If you haven't already tried
them, we suggest you do. You won't be
There is Summer run of steelhead.
There is a Fall run of Chinook salmon.
Great time for trout fishing in the
Williamette river
Williamette River Oregon
Williamette River
Williamette River
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Photos Courtesy of Dennis McCarthy
Photos Courtesy of Dennis McCarthy
Willamette River Fishing Report - 01/09/21
The stream levels are currently very high. Trout fishing  and Winter steelhead are being
when the levels are okay.

Stream Conditions:

7 Day Weather Forecast:
Click the box below for more detailed weather information.

Recommended Trout Flies:
Rate: 81,100 cfs
Level: 70.62 ft
Afternoon Water Temperature: 45
Clarity: stained
USGS Real-Time Stream Flow Data At Newberg
Rate: 32100 cfs
Level: 20.00 ft
Afternoon Water Temperature: 45
Clarity:   stained
USGS Real-Time Stream Flow Data At Corvallis
Fishing Report Updated 01/09/2021
(Bottom Of Page)
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (sales@perfectflystore.com)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (sales@perfectflystore.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $100 are shipped via
Priority Mail.  
Recommended Steelhead/Salmon Flies:
Strategies, Techniques and Tips:
Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin, Articulated/Non-Articulated Streamers size 6/4
Blue-winged Olives, size 20 and 18, nymphs, emergers, duns and spinners
Scuds, size 14
Sowbugs, size 16
Aquatic Worms, size 12, pink, red, and others.
Winter stoneflies, size 16/18, nymphs and adults
Midges: Blood (Red), sizes 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Cream, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Light Green, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults