Metolius can be magic for anglers, even in the winter

March 4, 2022
Metolius can be magic for anglers, even in the winter

By Mark Morical

The Metolius River is perhaps best known for its superb dry-fly fishing in the summertime. But many anglers find it difficult to stay away during the offseason, and the hardiest of them make their way to the Metolius throughout the wintertime.

Even when the fishing is challenging, some time spent on this picturesque river formed by springs under Black Butte can offer rejuvenation from winter doldrums. Also, anglers can expect to find many fishing holes to themselves this time year on the river just northwest of Sisters.

The Metolius, restricted to catch-and-release fly-fishing, is closed upstream of Allingham Bridge until late May. But until then, that leaves about 20 miles of river available for fishing, some of the best of which is located on the stretch between Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery and Bridge 99.Parking at the hatchery and walking downstream to various fishing holes is a good option for anglers.

The river is home to native rainbow trout, bull trout, kokanee and whitefish. The rainbows on the Metolius average about 14 to 15 inches long, while the bull trout average 6 to 7 pounds. Both species will be mostly located in deeper pools from now through the winter. Rainbow trout can be found in the back eddies year-round on the Metolius.

For those fishing for hefty bull trout, finding water that is about 8 or 9 feet deep, with logs or boulders nearby, is the best approach. Streamers and nymphs tend to work well for catching bull trout on the Metolius throughout the winter.

For dry-fly fishing on the Metolius in the winter, a blue-wing olive pattern usually works best. Those hatch during the warmest part of the day, from noon to 3 p.m. during the winter.

The Metolius is viewed as a significant fishing challenge, even by longtime locals who have fished it for years. Many consider landing just one or two fish a good day on the river. The Metolius is so daunting to anglers because of the high water flows and the low fish population compared with other Central Oregon waters.

The Crooked River near Prineville and the Fall River near Sunriver can often provide more fish action for anglers during the winter, but the Metolius stands alone when it comes to wintertime beauty and solitude.

And the Metolius is not necessarily any harder to fish in the winter than it is in the summer. For one thing, anglers have fewer bug hatches to identify. But hatches are less intense in the wintertime, so they may not bring as many fish to the water’s surface as they would in the summertime.But no matter how many fish you catch, having a day to yourself on the Metolius can soothe the soul, even in the depths of winter.

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