4 Day Metolius Impressions

Just got back from a family trip to the Metolius and thought I'd share my impressions for this time of year. Let me preface this by stating that I did not have "unbridled access" to go and fish when and wherever as family obligations took precedence. I usually had only a 3 hour window so my time to explore was limited. I caught all my fish on dries, the biggest was "12 but really had to work to get any to come up.
The Metolius a beautiful small (about 10-20 yds across) fast-moving gin-clear stream of which the upper half is generally shallow with deeper holes in the upper reaches (easily wadeable and crossable in most areas) and deep and fast in the lower reaches (tributaries contribute to increased volume). It has fish which congregate in the deeper pools... but not a ton as say the Deschutes or the south fork of the Snake or even the Coer d'lane. I observed minimal surface action but a plethora of bug hatches throughout the day and at dusk. In speaking with many middle-aged gentleman that frequent the river and live in the area, as a general rule, it is known as a NYMPHING river as these fish rise only during "season-specific" hatches - ie october caddis hatches.
There is a huge disadvantage in this river, according to Oregon regs, you cannot fish with any type of additional weights or sinkers or lead core flies or lines in the upper sections of the river. With it's swift current, even with sinking lines, this makes it difficult to get down to where the fish are.
So, you say, move down to the lower section where you can use them? That's great but...so is everyone else! So the lower sections see a lot of fishing pressure from this very popular fly-fishing river. The campgrounds are mostly at the upper reaches so there is a lot of pressure there from casual anglers. Those in the know then go to the lower reaches. Remember though here the lower reaches are very fast water so the slow deep pools are the really only places that are fishable. So you stack these with a bunch of re-visiting anglers and the fish get pretty smart pretty fast.
Yes I saw bull trout and yes I did get fish (no bulls), but I was disappointed that everyone says "it's a very technical river", but really it is the regs that make it so. I realize this is probably to preserve the fishery in this rather small river. Technical to me is a drag-free drift, or casting acumen (see Umpqua river further south) not "drag bottom of river without weights". If you're looking to catch fish on top on a regular basis, this is really not your river (see above caveat). Hooking a bull is probably a great rush (I've caught Kings on a wet fly) but I'd rather catch big ones on top (see Big hole River in Montana).

my $.02:ray1:
I grew up fishing the Metolius. It is a very different river now than it used to be. You can easily catch Bulls on top, even in the deepest holes. You just need to throw a fly big enough to get their attention. Nothing wrong with throwing an articulated, unweighted, eight-inch fly out there. They'll hit it. Think Muskie flies.

Greg Price

Love da little fishies
Fished it once, not impressed. iagree

Would rather go to Rocky Ford where at least I can see the fish refuse or laugh at my fly and/or presentation

Fast Action Freddie

Having a drink in The Buff
to add to the list: it is f-ing cold! there are few (no other?) streams that I can't fish without waders in summer -- the Met is one of them (or the one?)

I never caught a bull - but I've had mid sized bulls stalk my smallish bows that I was able to catch.
I read an article recently that ODFW reports less than 70 trout per mile as of 2006. Most of the water and bottom of the Met is poor spawning habitat. It sure is beautiful there and the rare trout are worth the patience it takes to catch them.


Should be fishing right now
Nearly all the fish I have ever caught on the Met were on dries.
Of course thats because I don't nymph it much. Every time I spend a whole day there (this time of year) I can usually find rising fish. Fooling them can be tough, but that makes it extra cool when you do get one. On my last trip dad and I fished most of the day and I caught 2 very nice fish from that deep, glassy smooth hole above wizard falls. I thought that was doing pretty good, considering how many people hammer that spot. My best times there were fishing a spinner fall at dusk, hard to make out your fly, but fish rising like crazy all around me.

If you like slightly dumber fish and in huge numbers, then the Crooked is your place. We always try them both when we go down and focus on which ever happens to be better. I love that goofy river. If the Crooked rainbows averaged the same size as those in the Metolius instead of 8-12" that river would be my favorite place on earth!
I guess you could reverse this, and say if the Met had the same trout population as the
Crooked, then that would be my favorite place on earth. I think the first one is way more likely to happen though.
As someone that fly fished that river often over 20 years ago and saw good it was then, I have written it off. Oh yes, I stop by every year or two when traveling through the area and catch a one or two here and there. I actually prefer the upper reaches with dry's as this is more fun for me. But in all honestly, it is only for nostalgia not to try and catch fish. There are many other places that fly fish so much better in Central Oregon, I wouldn't waste my time on the Metolius at all if I were new to the game and/or actually wanted to catch a fish. The sad truth is that the area has been too over-built and the fish populations have been over stressed. :beathead:
The Met is an experience, there isnt another comparable stream in central oregon (shit here too). Go back in november or december when everyone is clogging up the deschutes and while your marching up and down an empty river sight nymphing to feeding bulls youll take that back. :) i know some adventurous souls who used to snowshoe in once the road closed. try telling them that river is down in the dumps. its not a hatchery like the fall, its not a slayfest like the crooked, its a difficult river filled with beautiful wild fish. its all about expectations. a couple strong 15" redbands that i worked for and earned are what makes me miss that river. and holy shnikes are some of those bulls gigantic. :eek: where else are you going to sight nymph to a 30" bull, catch a beautifully colored redband, and enjoy a beautiful setting? :thumb:

sorry you feel that way, cause like i said, i dig that river.
Geez Sean,

Tempting tempting, I have to admit I haven't done the met that time of year since high school, but I might have to give it a try. I'll bet the weekend warriors won't be out that time of year. Thanks for the prodding, I might just give it another shot.

the Met has no fish of any kind in it, period.

actually, there are plenty of spots where one can find rising fish...catching them is a whole different issue...but, that's part of what keeps me going back.
You will find that there are hatches throughout the river and fish that rise to them. The key is finding the fish. There is a lot of water on that river and it keeps you on your toes. Fish in one place on one day will not be there the next. Fish key on different bugs at different parts of the day regardless of what else floats down the river at one time. If fish are taking midges, then they will only take midges, regardless of the october caddis that have been floating down stream all day.

the largest Rainbow I have seen taken on a dry on the Met was 22 inches and it was caught in Dolly Hole of all places. That run gets beat everyday-all day. Still there are large fish there and instead of throwing dries to the few risers, I was throwing steak and potatoes to bulls. That is why the guy that walked in below me got that fish as well as a few others on tiny gnats. Live and learn I guess.

I always find it odd when I do a seasonal trip during the late winter to find that during that later morning and early afternoon, there is always a few older gents that show up with dries on the ends of their lines. There is a reason those guys fish that river frequently instead of the Middle and Lower Deschutes that is not that far away.

What the Met lacks in numbers it makes up in quality and diversity of species not to mention beauty in the surroundings. i do not know how many rivers out there in which you can catch rainbows, bulls, browns, kokanee and whitefish in the same day. The size of the fish is another story, you can fish double digit rainbows, bulls and even browns there. Although I can only count the number of browns on one finger, I have seem plenty caught and even refused flies to know that they are there. The amount of two to three foot bulls I have caught on small flies on that river are far greater then the numbers I have caught on streamers. The key is presentation.

The Met is the only river I never mind driving three hours to get to and get skunked. I suggest you give it another try on a couple days that allows you so spend more quality time on the river. The Met has a cult following and there is a reason for it.
No question about it, the Metolius is a character builder. I really don't know much about its trout-per-mile statistics but agree that it probably doesn't have a huge population. It is a gorgeous river though and for this reason alone I'll keep giving it a day or two whenever I can. One thing I do know is that Metolius trout look up. The trick is to lay the fly perfectly into the ring of the rise and they will usually grab. Line one and it is all over between you and that fish, probably for the day......in my experience.
Just hanging around Camp Sherman and going through all of the flies in the store is worth an hour or so. And, those little old cabins along the river are nice. Nearby Sisters is a fine little town as well. The entire place is a genuine mini-destination, much more than just a place for catching trout.