100 Best: Metolius
Type of stream: Freestone spring creek
Angling methods: Fly, spin
Species: Bull trout, rainbows, browns, brook trout, Kokanee, mountain whitefish
Supporting Services: Sisters
Short take: Fast and technical, perhaps Oregon’s best spring river
Handicapped Access: None
Closest TU Chapter: Deschutes
Seeming almost an inky black green, but clear as crystal, the Metolius rises in a pair of huge spring holes about 100 yards apart and pushes its way north before fish-hooking around to the south into the longest arm of Lake Billy Chinook, about 29 miles away. The springs issue roughly 50,000 gallons per minute providing constant flows and water temperature averaging a little less than 50°F creating a near perfect environment for rainbows, bull trout, browns, and rare little brookies.
The upper reach of the Metolius runs from the springs down to Canyon Creek is relatively easy to wade. The stream wanders through a high basin dotted with stands of Ponderosa Pine. This is fly fishing only, catch and release water. Hatches are extensive. Blue-winged olives, dark red quills, pale morning and mahogany duns, green drakes, yellow sallies, golden stones, a range of caddis, and terrestrials all have their place here.
Flows from Canyon Creek mature the Metolius, and it becomes increasingly difficult to wade as its valley narrows and gradient increases. Trails provide access to this run of the river and anglers willing to hike this, the canyon section, will find riffles and pocket water where larger rainbows can be found. In slow runs behind logs and ledges bull trout of three pounds or more take long streamers.