The Wallowa River is our "bread and butter" water. It begins as snow melt high in the Wallowa mountains and its flows through the upper and lower Wallowa valleys. From an incredible June golden-stone hatch, through October caddis madness, to solid winter and spring steelhead numbers this river does it all. The best part? The most productive water is all public access! Back down highway 82, approximately 30 miles (40 min) from Joseph is the stretch of water we lovingly call "The Canyon", and it is here where 18+ inch natives and 30+ fish days can be found stalking the boulder runs. In the canyon the river bank drops steeply and lends itself to great riffle and run fishing. Find a pull-out, start fishing.
New this year the Wallowa River is open for trout fishing "year-round!" This means no more hanging up your boots for the end of May to roll around. Also the Wallowa can be great fishing for larger than normal rainbows during the spring and early summer. Fishing will be best in the "structured" water with boulders - avoid the long shallow sections unless there is a slot or something near the bank. Try dead drifting stonefly, caddis, hare'sear, and prince nymph. We often use two flies (more like a Euro nymph set up ) with a smaller bead-head dropper such as a copper john, soft hackle, or phesant tail. Local fisherman and USA fly-fishing team member Devon Olson has written some great stuff about nymphing, and euro-nymphing in particularwhich you can check out on his blog The Tactical Fly Fisher.
Some of our favorite Wallowa 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
Current Weather: Forecast
Wallowa River Reports:
9/23/17: Pretty decent fall trout fishing - still catching some of those 16"+ trout from the deeper holes.
This past week rains bumped the stream flow from 240 cfs to 340 cfs - where it currently stands. The weather will warm this week and should offer some fun fishing. Farm irrigation has finished for the year, so fish will start working their way from the upper Valley creeks and ditches down to the Lower Wallowa River.
The only difference this year is that the "residual steelhead smolt" were pushed out of the Wallowa River system. Normally these smolt would be 8" to 13" this time of year. Instead, we are catching 100% native trout - many of which are small. So expect to catch fewer fish, but look for the big guys.
Try fishing dries, unless the sun is on the water. Not much in the way of hatches, but a few October Caddis are showing up. Try medium to large stimulators with grasshopper or small nymph droppers. Other possibilities include large streamers, small to medium royal wulffs, or typical stonefly nymphs with size 14/16 droppers. Use minimum 7.5' 4x tippets - or 3x if you are working deeper water for the big boys.
9/10/17: Ah shucks - seems like the quality of fishing depends, in part, on the skill of the fisher. Reports range from "very good" to "slow". Time of day may not make a huge difference - but, of course, evening (or cloudy weather) is probably best. Big fish 16" ++ are still being hook with fair regularity.
Flies: hopper dropper; double nymph (green Pats' rubber legs, under a stone fly nymph) or big fly/small fly combo; or dries - stimies med to large, royal wulffs, purple hazes, red humpies - or whatever you have faith in. Not many hatches - mayflies in the morning, a few caddis in the evening, and a few fall caddis. Trout will hit dries, even with scarce hatches. Big fish in 3+ feet water.
9/4/17: Good trout fishing reported over Labor Day weekend. More med size trout being caught: dries, standard nymphs and black stonefly buggers and nymphs.
Last week of August - SPECIAL REPORT:
I couldn't stand it any longer ..... a few friends/customers continued to report catching 17" - 20"+ fish on the Wallowa - on dry flies. So last week I went fishing for the first time this summer.
Both days were predicting clouds and rain, so I left the shop around 3:00. As it turned out, both afternoons cleared and were sunny. The big boys do not like light. But I had been told to wait until 7:15.
At 7:30 PM I cast a a medium sz stimulator into a deep, heavy run and saw a nice fish grab the fly. A few seconds later a 19" slab of a trout shot straight up - head shaking like a tarpon. Now - get this: he than made SEVEN more similar leaps - CLEARING the water 6" to 12" each time! I have never had a steelhead CLEAR the water that many times.
So, several days later I went back - looking for deep "steelhead" size pockets or runs. But, nothing big ...................... until the "witching half hour." At, 7:05 I landed my first 18" plus trout. By 7:35 I had hooked two similar size, crazy trout - both of which, after good fights, I failed to land. One simply broke my 4X tippet and the other "sawed me off" on boulders as he ran upstream and down. Consider 3X tippet and a large fly.
PS: The Wallowa is extremely slippery. While wading aggressively in thigh deep water I went down three times! So prior to the next trip, I grabbed a new pair of FELT boots and added about 13 sharp, car stud type, cleats (Grip Studs" to each sole. Perfect.
The flows were good and the water fairly cool. I predict a great September/October trout fishery on the Wallowa.
8/23/17: ALERT: Drop everything. I have seen three pictures of trout over 20" caught on the Wallowa in the past 48 hrs - all on dry flies or hoppers. The largest a 22" hog with a little bitty head and a slab of a body. You will catch lots of smaller trout, but watch for the big boys to "flash" or show themselves. They will come up from deep holes if conditions are right. But, unless you can come during tonight's, or tomorrow's, rain showers, plan on fishing in the evening - until dark. Best flies: Kaufman's royal stimulator, a large hopper, or perhaps a large yellow stimulator
8/16/17: It's been a strange summer: Big snow melt and high water thru early July; then several weeks of decent fishing; then a sharp drop in water levels combined with very hot weather - poor fishing; and now good water levels and lower stream temps - but finicky fish (especially the big ones). BUT I spoke with a very good local flyfisher today that has had some success. He told me the normal nymphing techniques just weren't working. After seeing some larger fish "flashing" in the current he tried almost a dozen dry flies before finding just the right one: a "skwala" pattern (not a insect that hatches in our area, and not a fly we carry in the shop). The result - half a dozen fish over 16", including a 22" fish. He also reported that 90% of all the fish he has caught over the past few weeks have been "native" trout (we assume the residual steelhead smolt washed-out in the high water). He also reported seeing more small hoppers, and hopes fish will start moving back to the banks to feed on them. Dry flies only for now(?) - a strange year indeed.
8/5/17: CFS 328 - not bad, but difficult to float even with a pontoon boat. Water temps - not too bad, but I needa recent report from someone. Fishing is only fair. You can catch lots of small trout/smolt 6"- 7", but fish over 10" have been hard to find (they are there somewhere). Most are using small nymphs in the riffles (oxygenated water).
7/25/17 (PM): Oops - stop the presses. We just got two new reports in of good - very good fishing on the Wallowa yesterday. A great local guide, Paul Pagano of Fly Side Angling, got his client into 50 or so fish on dry/dropper combinations - approx. 50% on each fly. He is sending me a picture of one "monster" trout. A second report came in from a couple who also had a great day fishing from the shore, mid-day, with dry/dropper combinations (a sz 12 Royal Wulff on top - go figure). They also got into nice fish, numerous in the 14' range.
7/25/17: CFS down 50% since last week - now 350. Perfect. EXCEPT, THE FISH AREN'T BITING VERY WELL. I have heard a number of other rivers in the west are experiencing a similar phenomena. We believe the fish and bugs are still acclimating to the drop in water flows from the extremely high flows earlier. Some rivers like the Yakima were slow to turn on, but are now fishing well. We still expect a great August/September fishery.
7/17/17: The latest cfs is 674 - still too high to wade out far. However, the river is very clear and continues to drop. Some nice bows were caught last week on big streamers and stone fly nymphs. Lots of olive caddis in the afternoon/evening. Will be the best August fishing in years.
7/13/17: The river is dropping like a rock (30% in the last week). Although still relatively high at 1000 cfs, the guides are reporting fair to good fishing along the banks with well presented, drag-free strike indicators. And we have the flies guaranteed to please the most guarded trout. Sure, fishing in August will be great, but beat the crowds by sneaking over in July.
7/5/17: All of our river flows have dropped over the last two days despite the very hot days (the Wallowa another 100 cfs). The "easy" snow must be gone. Should be a great summer/fall for fishing.
7/3/17: Good news! Although still very high (1575 cfs), the flows have dropped 25% in the past week and appear to be leveling off - despite the hot weather. Snow melt may be leveling off since the Minam River, and Bear Creek flows remain level this week.
BETTER YET, two fly fishers have rephirnobleorted fair trout action on dry flies in soft water along the banks in the past couple of days. Both used large stone fly patterns, one a large stimulator and one a chubby chernobl. Nymph fishing was slow.
6/25/2017: Still high and colored - blown-out.
6/15/2017: Big, big snow pack - so it's still difficult to predict when the Wallowa River will offer good flyfishing along the banks. Virtually nobody is fishing it at this time, so we get few reports. At some point it will clear enough to fish small pockets of slack water (I did just that on Memorial Day, but had trouble landing fish on small flies in the heavy current). Most of the time the river is too colored to even try. Should be a great summer and fall. Stay tuned.
** THE FOLLOWING REPORTS ARE FROM 2016 - TO GIVE YOU A FEEL FOR HOW THE WALLOWA RIVER FISHES OVER THE COURSE OF A SEASON.
The 11/18 report will probably be our last report until next May. We close the shop from 1/1 thru most of May. Happy Thanksgiving/New Year. You are welcome to email me or call me at the shop before mid May with questions. Thank you for your support this past year. Rob
11/18: Nothing really new to report - but trout fishing has slowed due to cold weather and water temps. Steelhead will continue to move into the Wallowa from now thru April. As of this year, you can continue to fish the Wallowa "year -round."
11/5: Still fishing great for large trout. Put on a big leech on to catch the big boys and avoid the smaller trout. Want to fish dries, trout are still hitting a few October Caddis.
10/21: Since the big rains of last week, and much cooler temps, we are getting limited trout fishing reports for the Wallowa. However, several fishers have reported decent trout fishing. Not the 20+ fish days of September, but 5+ fish afternoons.
10/18: This past month we have had some of the best trout fishing on the Wallowa in recent memory - lots of trout, big trout and a good October caddis hatch. I do not have a report since the recent storms rose the river, dropped water temps and put down the hatches. I assume the fishing has/will slow trout fishing. I will report if I get info.
10/3: Great trout fishing going on! Lots of fish, big fish. Starting mid day the hatches start - October caddis everywhere, three different may flies hatches. Try big stimulators (a bit of orange helps). Fish will definitely come to the surface in the afternoons. Of course nymphs will also work. Try a sz 10 red rubber legged squirrel, or possie bugger with a sz 18 lighting bug dropper, The fish are thick and feisty. I was told Grant Richie at Minam caught a 27" steelhead the other day, and the people catching 20"-22" residual smolt think they are catching steelhead.
9/25: Hey now kids - trout fishing has really picked up on the Wallowa these past several weeks. River levels have come up 30% this past week (to 280 cfs - mid canyon) as a result of rain and less irrigation use. Bigger trout that were hiding upstream are now working their way down into the main stem of the Wallowa. The fall bite is also on as fish store-up for winter. October caddis are plentiful, as well as some large gray drakes. Fishers have reported success on both dries and nymphs. Try using larger stimulators (size 8 - 12) in both tan or yellow shades. Some orange on the fly seems to help. Standard attractor mayfly and caddis dries will also work. For nymphs use large October caddis patterns (sz 10 red rubber leg squirrels/possie buggers/hare's ears) with a small dropper like a size 16 lightening bug or prince nymph.
8/23: Cooler days and colder nights have lowered temps. Trout are now hitting smaller (sz 16/14) caddis, stimulators, and hoppers in the mornings and evenings - and at times mid-day. Water levels are still low so look for deeper oxygenated water. We need rain, but irrigation has slowed as grain is being harvested and second cutting hay is finished. As irrigation canals begin to drop, trout will migrate from the upper Valley down into the lower Wallowa. Remember, the Wallowa River ABOVE/SOUTH OF WALLOWA LAKE closes Sept 1 for the spawning Kokanee. Starting this year the Wallowa River is now open for hatchery trout year-round.
8/17: Still very low and warm. Water temps in the upper sixties. Mostly smaller bows being caught. Best action in the evening. We need rain and cooler weather, and/or irrigators to slow down as fall approaches.
August 11: Fishing on the up and up. Recently we had a small weather front that came threw and did two things for us. One, It raised the river too (179cfs) a lot more pockets for the fish to sit, and It lowered the water temp dramatically. Because of these things fishing has vastly picked up. Anglers are having the best luck on Nymphs such as: Possie Buggers, and Prince Nymphs. However, there still is a late summer Caddis hatch happening in the evenings. During the heat of the day you might try a dry dropper with a Hopper on top and 18-24 inchs below a Prince Nymph. At this point we do not recommend floating the upper Wallowa, it is low enough you will be fine wet wadding. Good luck out there!
August 5: New report came in, Stimulators worked from 6-9 in the early morning. See last report for deeper reports.
August 1: Fishing has picked back up some. Anglers are reportedly having luck in the early morning and late afternoons. The river has dropped too (147cfs) low enough we do not recommend rafting or floating it. The water is low enough that you can easily wet wade across. Because of this low water if you want the best chance of fishing you need to beat the heat. What I mean by this is, like I have talked about in previous reports fish do not like hot water. So the fresh cool water in the mornings or late evenings is when the hatches are going off and the fish are biting. Around 7 in the evenings there has been a small Caddis hatch happening so Caddis patterns are a great way to go. In the morning the fish seem to be sipping so flys like Prince Nymphs and Possie Buggers are a great choice. Feel free to stop by the store for additional information.
July 24: Fishing reports have started coming threw the door with reports of top water drys slowing down. Anglers have found more success in deeper runs with nymphs as of the last few days. The river has continued with its lowering water to a low (243cfs). For most rafts this late in this summer your going to be walking more than floating. With that being said, the summer Caddis hatch is in full swing. The best time to hit the river right now is early morning or evenings when the water is cooler, allowing the fish to sit in shallower pockets. There are Hoppers starting to get up and about during the day; so as it heats up running a Hopper with a medium Guides Choice (Possie Bugger) (10 or 12) underneath would not be a bad option. Small soft hackles run behind larger nymphs in the deep pools is a good pattern to try. The best dry patterns right now are Improved Sofa Pillows and Elk Haired Caddis sizes range from 10-14. Good luck out there, feel free to share your reports with us here at the shop so we can get next weeks update put together.
July 16: The river has raised a little to (340cfs). This change in the water has inspired a cadis like hatch. Anglers have had great success on drys such as Improved sofa pillows and orange crystal stimulators. For nymph report see last weeks report.
July 9: Rain isn't always a good thing. The last few days we have gotten our fair share of rain; this has caused the Wallowa to murk up some. Anglers have had more resent success with nymphs such as: Red Squirrels, Posie Buggers, and Prince nymphs 10,12, and 14s. The Stone fly hatch's are starting to come to an end. In a few days when the river clears up it is expected to hold some late summer caddis hatches. Right now the river has decreased to about (310cfs), the river is expected to rise with the weather. There is still reports coming in of 14"-16" fish with a few 18+ out there. Feel free to look at our anglers page to see reports from fellow fishermen. Good fishing to you!
July 4: Crazy, or as the guides are calling it "Best week of the year to be a fly fisher". Late hatches of Golden Stones and caddis are dominating the river. Anglers have had success throwing out size 8"-12" Stones in the early morning and late afternoon. Stone hatches expected to die down in the following weeks; however the fish will remember them threw July. Still a little early for Hoppers to hit the water but occasional fish have been landed on them. Over the summer the Wallowa is primarily a caddis river - orange stimulators are head to beat. Nymphing with a stone fly like the possie bugger, red squirrel, hare's ear or prince nymph (size 8-12) with a size 16 dropper is bread and butter on the Wallowa. Reports of heavy 12"-16" rainbows continue to come in with a few 17+" to be had.
June 26: The guides tell me if I want to ride my motorcycle through the Wallowa River canyon in the afternoon or evening I will need a bottle of windex - to clean my visor. Thick golden stone, caddis, and even some large drake mayflies cover the river. Fish are starting to spread out and look up - but big stonefly nymphs still rule the day. Customers continue to bring phone pictures with a smattering of heavy 13" - 16" fish - a few larger.
June 23/16, Sunny + 65: Hey fishers, sorry we were late getting our reports posted this year - long story. The good news is the Wallowa is fishing great in the "canyon" between Minam and Wallowa.
The river is too high to wade (850cfs), but is clear and fishing well along the bank, or with a guide from a boat. Golden stones and a few salmon flies are thick during the heart of the day, followed by green drakes and caddis in late afternoon. Best action is coming from big (sz 6-8) stone fly nymphs fished along the banks - bh possie buggers, red squirrels, black bh woolly, girdle bugs, flashback prince nymphs, etc. (by the way we sell these big flies for $1.35 a piece - half what you will you pay where you live - so wait to buy your flies until you get to Joseph). Consider dropping a smaller nymph (sz 14-18) - for the heck of it. We are getting repeated reports of heavy 15"-18" bows being caught along with the standard 9" - 12" fish. Two days ago a guide client caught a 22" -24" trout waking a dry salmon fly pattern.
The Wallowa River should start dropping to levels you can wade as we head into July. Wallowa Lake is full and it looks to be a good water year. The ODFW, local guides, and I are not sure why trout are getting bigger in the Wallowa, but we will take it.