100 Best: Crooked RIver
Type of stream: Tailwater
Angling methods: Fly, spin
Species: Red Band Rainbows, Steelhead, Salmon
Season: Year ‘round
Supporting Services: Prineville
Short take: Know the flow before you go
Handicapped Access: None
Closest TU Chapter: Deschutes
Though Crooked River runs for more than 100 miles from its formal beginning at the junction of Beaver Creek and the South Fork of the Crooked River to Lake Billy Chinook where its waters marry with those of the Deschutes, most anglers concentrate on seven miles of tailwater below Bowman Dam 19 miles south of Prineville. The upper 12 miles of the tailwater are classed as wild and scenic. Though flows may make wading difficult in summer when water for irrigation is released and it may seem slightly off-color, this river is easily fished and at its best when flows run in the 150—200 cfs range. Primarily pocket water with runs turned here and there by dark gray bluffs on basalt. A narrow grassy flood plain fringes the river in most spots making casting a joy for inexperienced anglers. State highway 27 follows the river valley. Along the road are several campsites maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.
Native and stocked redband rainbows, also called “redsides,” share the river with mountain whitefish, steelhead, and Chinook. Fish steelhead in winter. Otherwise, concentrate on the trout. Prominent hatches include the usual run of midges, mayflies, and caddis. The river is a nympher’s dream and, because of its cloudiness, ideal water to fish with the Czech tight-line style.
If you’re looking for a truly back country experience, make tracks for the headwaters. The North Fork begins gathering its waters high on a ridge in Ochoco National Forest. Redband trout are smallish in the upper reaches, but the few trails that access the river almost guarantee that you’ll find solitude. The South Fork heads up in Rattlesnake Draw but is warmer and has less structure than its sibling, and is thus a less popular destination.