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:
9/30/19: The rain has brought the water level up, but still easy to wade. I caught two dinks and then hooked a 18 to 20 incher, and employed my famous long release technique. Raining again today, but hopefully it will clear into Indian summer. October caddis hatching, some stretches heavy hatch.
9/13/19: More reports of big rainbows. Cool nights are evidently making the trout feel like eating. October caddis cases in the rivers, so it won’t be long until they hatch.
9/8/19: Soaking rain today. Fishing has been good, and the rain might bring the steelhead up from the Snake, if there are some waiting to come up to spawn.
9/5/19: Two reports of 20 inch plus rainbows in the canyon section. Smaller fish in the Minam. All caught on hoppers. Cooler nights having an effect.
8/29/19: Cooler nights are helping the fishing. Steelhead smolt are growing up a little, to nine inches. Wading is easy. As he weather cools fishing should pick up.
8/16/19: The Wallowa remains pretty low and warm. Some caddis and mayflies in the evenings, but fishers are still working pretty hard for mostly smaller fish.
8/1/19: Remains fair to poor for med - larger trout. But consider the Imnaha River (“good” for trout and bull trout) - see Imnaha Report.
7/29/19: Several more reports have come in regarding the fishing yesterday. Two experienced fishers reported working fairly hard for there fish on Sunday.
The weather was hot and there was a breeze in the evening. Water levels were perfect. One fished in the morning and one in the evening. Both reported virtually no hatches - a few #14/16 tan caddis in the evening; a couple small mayflies #18; and a few large hoppers. Several techniques were tried: swinging minnow patterns on sink tips; standard nymphing under strike indicators; and dry flies when shade was on the water. each technique produced at least one fish in the 8” - 12” range (four in all), and perhaps 10 or more fish in the 6” - 7” range.
7/29/19: The river has dropped dramatically in the last two weeks. It can be waded across in many places, BUT IT IS VERY SLIPPERY AND CLEATED BOOTS AND/OR A STAFF IS RECOMMENDED. Stone flies have given way to caddis, a variety of may flies, and hoppers. Try dries if fish are rising, or go straight to nymphs (with or without a strike indicator, Euro nymphed, or strip streamers). Fishing has been generally good - especially in the evening.
7/10/19: Fishing remains fair to good. The river is too high to wade across, but fishers with cleats and/or wading staffs are making it to a few islands, and wading along the bank. Salmon flies are starting to wane, but still plenty of caddis, green drakes, etc. Fish both pockets and riffles. A prince nymph with a small dropper will generally produce fish.
6/29/19: Some crazy big fish being caught on the Wallowa - salmon/golden stones/yellow sallys. Check out the comments below.
6/29/19: copy email: saw green and yellow Sallies, I think. Green were bigger than what I had with me, maybe a 12 or 14. Yellows more like 16. I had more fish on the sally on Tuesday. Monday was all Goldens, all dry, mostly in heavy water close to the bank. The biggest fish would have been big in Missoula and really big in Maupin. I wish I’d taken pics. It’s a first-class stream.
06/29/19: copy email: Cought these this morning all along the hwy. Lots of golden stones and a few salmonflies around. The biggest one is 27" and probably 7 lbs. What a fantastic morning. I lost a few real big ones also and landed several between 12" and 19".
06/24/19: copy email: Ive enjoyed your reports for a long time, and thought I’d share: definitely some golden stones on the Wallowa, along the road. Sallies, too. Fish were tuned into both bugs, yesterday and today, during the hottest part of the day. Monday was crazy. I can’t believe how good the river is. I can’t believe it took so long for me to get there. Outstanding!
06/26/19: Things are happening quickly now. Just had a report of approx 6 boats on the Wallowa Sunday. Stone flies were active and plentiful during the day and, according to one angler, big fish were being caught and were seen rolling on naturals. Each year we catch some of our biggest trout out of the high water. AND, just in: this morning a flyfisher caught two 17”-18” bows fishing a somewhat shallow rifle using a black Kaufman stone (or use a pat’s rubber leg or large prince). He was fishing 7:00 - 10:00 am and the stones weren’t hatching that early.
06/24/19: Finally, some trout are being caught on Wallowa! The following is an email I got this morning re the evening of 6/24: “Fished the canyon 4-6 pm windy 70 degrees. Water conditions - green color but clearing, fast and cold. The fish are hungry, aggressive takes if you can find the right seam. Standard dry/dropper summer rig. I caught 8 or 10 and broke off a quality 12”+ fish trying to land it without a net (when will I learn).
There should salmon flies and/or golden stones on the bank. We have had numerous reports of then on the Ronde not far from the Wallowa. Would like a report to confirm this.
06/01/19: Hola, Hola. Yes we are still in business - just a little late getting our fishing reports online. But it really doesn’t matter - we had a 140% snow pack and the rivers will be blown-out for some time. A few stone flies are starting to show-up, so I will let you know when the river is clear enough to walk the bank casting big foam patterns. I caught some of the biggest rainbows of the year last year (16” - 20”) doing just that in June.
Otherwise Kinney and Wallowa Lake are fishing well if the wind isn’t blowing.
I will be gone 6/1 - 6/9. You can call the shop, but the next report will be made when get back. Thanks, Rob
10/09/18: The Wallowa River in the canyon has continued to fish good this past week - dries if you prefer. It rained all night last night and is snowing in Joseph today. So, we will have to watch water levels this week.
10/5/18: Finally - got back from my motorcycle trip over the Himalayas. The good news is the Wallowa is fishing well - and there are very few fishers. Oct caddis are out in full force. Try dry droppers, double nymph set-ups, or streamers. Look for the big bows (is that a big Wallowa trout or an early steelhead ????).
9/5/18: DURING SEPTEMBER CALL THE SHOP FOR CURRENT REPORT: 541-432-4343
9/1/18: Good fall fishing!
8/29/18: Cool nights, a few rains to raise and cool the rive, seventy degree temps, October
8/20/18: Some nice cool rains the last couple of days has only improved the fishing. Fish rapids, riffles, and shaded holes under trees. Biggest fish being caught on small nymphs on the bottom. However, dry fly fishing has also been good throughout the day - both mayfly and caddis hatches (just look around when you reach the river). Hopper droppers also good.
8/8/18: Actually ---- the Wallowa is fishing pretty well. I caught four trout on a dry fly yesterday in about half an hour - riding down the river and fishing from my horse. Trout are concentrated in riffles, rapids and shady areas under trees.
8/1/18: NEW REPORT! Cooler temps and an effort to divert more water into the Wallowa River has helped cool water temps. So, feel free to fish early morning, or late evening, or if water temps stay below 70 degrees during the day, fish all day. Fish are confined to deeper, oxygenated water. Make sure to land and release fish quickly - to avoid stress.
7/26/18: Awfully low - about as low as we have seen for this time of year. We do not have a water temp, but has to be pushing 70 mid day. We recommend fishing only in the morning and evening to avoid stress on the trout. Trout are in the riffles and fast water looking for oxygen. They seem reluctant to take dries, so bh prince nymphs, etc seem to be working best. ODFW says it is doubtful they will close the river due to temps - thanks to most fishers being mindful of daytime water temps.
7/21/18 Wait a minute. Have had a couple good reports of trout fishing on the Wallowa last two days. Need someone to take the the water temperature late afternoon. Perhaps our cool night time temps (upper forties) and reasonable daily highs (upper seventies/lower eighties are holding water temps for now. Will report when river temps near seventies. Best to fish early AM, late PM.
7/20/18: ALERT. The river has dropped about two feet since the last report. I would rate fishing during the day as poor. The deepest pools are mostly less than three feet deep - where do the fish go (?) - upstream, downstream, hide under trees and don't feed. Best fishing is early morning and late evening. Still plenty of caddis and mayfly hatches, and hoppers coming on. We will start having to monitor stream temps to see if the river is too warm - will stress the fish too much. Come in and we will try to send you to some mountain streams where you can target small bows and brook trout.
7/12/18: The Wallowa continues to drop and is at perfect levels for fishing AND careful wadding (it's a very slippery river - use cleats and a wadding staff). The trout success rate seems to depend partly on the skill of the flyfisher. Everyone seems to be catching the smaller fish (6" - 9"), some are catching a few more over 10", and the best are still finding some of the big boys (15"+). Try a dry fly (foam ?) with a sz 16 dropper. Lots of caddis (swarms at times), BWO and other mayflies, and, strangely, still some golden stones.
7/4/18: The Wallowa has dropped sharply the last few days. A flyfisher reported crossing the river a number of times in the canyon. He also had pictures of two thick fish in the 18" range - nymphing with a big stone and a size 16 dropper. He claims to have lost a trout over 20".
6/29/18: Speaking with a guide today, he said that the warm weather yesterday afternoon resulted in bugs everywhere: golden stones, caddis, BWO and other smaller mayflies. As the weather continues to warm this week expect good fishing. The surprise is that the river remains so high - too high to wade except along the bank. Expect it to drop soon, followed by great July fishing
6/27/18 Went fishing yesterday evening - it was slow and nobody was fishing. Water is as high as two weeks ago and the only wading is right along bank. Stone flies are gone, replaced with a good mid-afternoon dark brown sz 12 caddis hatch. The trout showed little interest in them. We caught a variety of small trout in the 6" - 11" range, but had to work for them even with dropper nymphs. A couple guides floating the river also reported slow fishing - none of the big fish we caught on salmon flies a couple weeks ago. Watch for a drop in cfs. We will try to report any improvements.
6/19/18: Another good afternoon on the water: four fish 14" - 18" on salmon flies plus 8" - 12" fish. Storm moved in and I didn't see salmon flies on the water/bushes. It seemed pretty slow after 4:30, but another angler said he did pretty good on a 14 prince to 6:30. Hope the river continues to drop and day temps warm to encourage more hatches. Could be a good weekend.
6/18/18: Wow - perhaps some of the best dry fly action for big fish (15" to 20" thick hogs) I have had on the Wallow in years. Not a lot of fish, but I was wading upstream along grass banks casting 15' upstream within 3' of the bank. I walked a fair distance between small holding pockets. You can double your catch by dropping a sz 16/14 15" under your big foam salmon fly pattern. No stinkin rattlesnakes or crowds needed for premier salmon fly fishing.
6/16/18: ALERT!!!!! Everyone that has driven by the Wallowa in the Canyon this past week has assured me that recent rains have left the river too high to fish. Until yesterday - a friend and excellent flyfisher from Bend, gave it a try. With salmon flies/golden stones plentiful, he tied on an orange crystal stimulator and ..... had a great evening of fishing. Being the Deschutes Salmon Fly expert he is, he cast upstream within 3 feet of the bank and dead drifted the fly back down stream. Besides catching a number of Wallowa "hogs," he caught a nice range of trout - 12" - 16" and 8" - 10". He commented on how feisty the fish were. He fished from about 5:00 to 7:00 in the evening. More rain is expected tomorrow, but .... PS I was just told that the above report was probably good timing in that the river had dropped and cleared after last weeks rains.
6/6/18: Yawn .... Sorry kids, we were a little late crawling out of our cave this spring. But, up to now, the Wallowa has been raging - pretty normal for this time of year. However, the mountain tributaries have dropped quickly the last few weeks. The high country trails are starting to open up to hikers.
A few fly fishers are starting to pick away at the banks of the Wallowa with nymphs. In a week (or better, two weeks) float fishing or fishing from the bank should pick-up. It will probably be July before you can wade across the river.
Salmon flies and Golden Stonesare moving quickly up the Grand Ronde and should hit the Wallowa before long. However, Wallowa trout seem to be slow to feed on them. All the same, a stimulator with a touch of orange is probably the number one dry fly year-round.
Still, the best way to trick a Wallowa trout is with a BH prince nymph, with a sz 16 dropper, below a strike indicator. Trout on the Wallowa can reach 20". This high water is a good time to find them. Consider using a sx 2-4 black bh woolly bugger with green crystal flash, or even a dali llama.