One of the most remote regions in Oregon, the Imnaha river runs 73 miles from high up in the Eagle Cap Wilderness until it joins with the Snake River a little down stream of Doug bar. Amazingly, nearly all of this rugged river is accessible by trail and roads of varying condition. The Imnaha canyon is spectacularly scenic in its entirety; from gin clear deep pools high up stream surrounded by mountains, to craggy canyon country surrounding the quaint community of Imnaha and continuing downstream. Home to native Steelhead, Rainbow Trout, Bull-trout, summer Chinook, and plenty of rattle-snakes, elk, deer, big horn sheep, birds of prey, and black bear; a trip down the Imnaha river corridor might be the closest thing there is today to being part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. What ever fishing adventure you are after, the Imnaha is sure to offer an unforgettable experience .
The lower river is a wonderful little steel head fishery. The mid river can be a fair to good trout fishery. The upper river near the FS campgrounds off Hwy 39 is a poor trout fishery because: native trout are not protected; the river is not stocked with trout; the river is glacial fed and does not have many nutrients; and campers tend to “fish-out“ this section of river.
Thanks to the Nature Conservancy and Forest Service, the lower river (the bottom 12 miles from Horse Creek to the Snake) has good public access. There is also a good easement upstream (south) from town for the first three miles. However, the mid river above and below town is mostly private and should not be trespassed. Oregon laws are tough. It is ILLEGAL to hunt or fish on private property without permission – it does not have to be fenced or posted. However, recent information from the Oregon Attorney's Office suggests that if you can float a river in a boat, you can wade and fish it below the high water mark - if you don't trespass when accessing the river.
Some of our favorite Imnaha River Fly Patterns :
Dries: Kaufman Stimulator sz. 8 -14 , Parachute Adams sz. 10- 16 , Purple Haze sz 10 -16, Foamulator sz. 6-12 , Caddis sz 8-16, Hoppers sz 6 - 12 , Yellow Sallies sz. 12 - 16
Nymphs: Princes sz. 6 - 14 , Rubber Leg Squirrel sz. 8 - 14 , Copper John sz. 12 - 18 , Lightning Bug sz. 14 - 18 , Bead Head Hare's Ear sz 8 - 16 , Wooly Bugger sz. 8 - 12, Kaufman Stone Nymph sz. 6 -12 , Copper Swan sz 8 -12 , Bitch Creek sz 8 -12,
Streamers: BH Rubber Leg Black or Olive Woolly Bugger , Sculpin , Muddler Minnows , Leeches
Steelhead: Black and Purple Hobo Spey , Purple Peril , Summer Run , Green Butt Skunk , Gold BH Black Woolly Bugger , Egg Sucking Crystal Leech , Copper Swan , BH Prince , Jumbo John , Egg Patterns , BH Rubber Leg Red Squirrel , Possie Bugger, Starlight Leech
Bass: Chubby Chernobyl , BH Green Woolly Bugger , Poppers , Muddler Minnow
Stream Flow Data: Imnaha River at Imnaha
Current Weather: Forecast
9/19/19: Steelhead! I started fishing about noon with my euro 3 weight, when wham, something hit my bottom fly, an orange and pink thing. I could see the fish, because the water is clear and skinny. Didn’t look too big, but then he jumped. Big fish, but I was thinking big trout. He jumped again full length out of the water, then went on a screaming run, with my little reel humming. At the end of the run, (or perhaps the middle of the run) he broke off. Terminal knot inadequate. So if you catch one with an orange and pink fly in his lip, let me know. It’s still raining, so presumably more steelies coming.
9/13/19: I caught a fifteen inch rainbow on a hopper, the top fly on my Euro-nymph 3 weight rod. Quite a tussle. The whippy rod bent in half, but eventually tired him after three jumps. Net full of fish.
9/7/19: Heavy rain yesterday afternoon in the Imnaha Canyon. River muddy, but clearing nicely today. Maybe enough rain to start the steelhead coming up the river.
8/16/19: Still fishing good trout mid--river, bulls upstream, and bass in the lower river.
8/1/19: Had a great report today of some “really good” trout fishing above town (fish the 2.5 mile easement above town or ask people to fish their private property as you head up river. Also a ton of Chinook in the river (two hundred entered the trap yesterday) but they are out of season. However, a lot of big bull trout have followed the salmon upstream for their eggs (and to spawn) and fishing for bulls was good (do not remove from water for pictures).
7/29/19: Think hoppers, hoppers, or hoppers. Fish the 2.5 mile fishing easement starting a half mile upstream from the town of Imnaha. Or fish the lower river below Horse Creek.
7/10/19: Still pretty high to fish. A second round of stone flies showed-up. Still lots of snow in the mountains.
06/24/19: Finally (!) the Imnaha has dropped enough to allow some trout fishing. Stone flies have pretty much come and gone, but caddis out mid day, and, of course, big stone fly nymphs always produce. We could use some reports.
10/09/18: Sorry, I just do not have a steelhead report for you. ??????
10/5/18. I have reports of a few steelhead being caught in the lower river - but pretty early/pretty slow. See our Grande Ronde River report for more info on the areas overall steelhead prospects. Trout fishing on mid section of the river remains good.
8/20/18: Still getting good reports of trout fishing upstream from the town of Imnaha. Downstream from town bass fishing has also been good.
7/26/18: We have recent reports of good dry fly and hopper fishing "above" (south/upstream) from the town of Imnaha. As you head upstream from town you will pass a set of corrals on the river side of the road. From there, upstream, until you come to to the next wood rail fencing on the river side of the road, is a public fishing easement. Further upstream you need to ask permission to cross private property.
7/12/18: According to Dave at the Imnaha Store and Tavern, trout fishing has been a bit slow. Water levels and temps are still pretty good, so that should change as the hoppers arrive in full force. Some fishers are heading to Cow Creek looking for bass and trout, or the upper river looking for bull trout.
7/4/18. The river has dropped sharply the past few days and it is easier to wade into the river. Hoppers are starting to come out - a particularly easy way to fish for trout (cast across stream then lift and dip the rod to simulate a hopper struggling then giving up then struggling again). There is good access on a fishing easement that starts a half mile above town and extends upstream for approx. 2.5 miles above town.
6/29/18: Still high, but some flyfishers had good bulltrout fishing on the upper river, good fishing on Big Sheep Creek, and fair trout fishing on the Imnaha near town. Still a few stone flies, but hoppers should be out soon. Expect the river to drop soon.
6/6/18: Still pretty high. Should be better in a couple weeks. Salmon flies and golden stone have moved upstream to town, but trout may not feeding on them yet. if nothing is surface feeding, try a bh hare's ear along the bank. Or look for a nice bull trout with a large bh black woolly bugger.