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The Boathouse Blog

How to Plan for a Fall/Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing Trip in Eastern Oregon

If you’re a fly fisherman, you’ve probably got a few dream trips on your bucket list. Tarpon and Bonefish in the Florida Keys, Trout in Montana or Colorado, or maybe a trip deep into the Amazon? But if you’re really looking for a one of a kind adventure, make sure you don’t overlook a Fall or Winter Steelhead fly fishing trip in Eastern Oregon.

At Winding Waters River Expeditions, we might be a bit biased, but we think our home waters of the Wallowa and Grand Ronde Rivers can hold their own when it comes to the best fly fishing spots in the entire world.
In today’s post, we’ll talk more about how to plan a successful Steelhead trip to our neck of the woods.


When is Steelhead Season in Eastern Oregon?

Our steelhead trips on the Grand Ronde launch in late October and early November. This is the height of Steelhead season and offers our anglers the best chance to catch these incredible fish!


Should You Take a 1-Day or Multi-Day Steelhead Trip?

If you can find the time, we guarantee you won’t regret taking a multi-day guided Steelhead trip in the wilderness of Eastern Oregon. Compared to a single-day (or half-day) trip you’ll get to fish more remote water, get away from heavily pressured water, and have more time and better opportunities to catch the fish of a lifetime.

In addition, a multi-day Steelhead trip is more than just a guided fishing trip, it’s a true once-in-a-lifetime adventure. At Winding Waters River Expeditions, we guide anglers from all over the world who travel here just for the Steelhead fishing!

The best part about our fully guided trips? We take care of everything, from setting up camp to cooking meals and putting you on the most productive stretches of the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers. Throughout this post, we’ll


Check the Weather

Before you leave for Eastern Oregon, check the local weather! Generally speaking, here’s what to expect in the Joseph, Oregon area during October and November:

  • Daily High Temperature: 45-60 degrees
  • Daily Low Temperature: 25-33 degrees
  • Precipitation: Virtually none (maybe 3” total during October and November)
  • Wind: Generally calm but pressure changes can produce breezy conditions

Fly Fishing Gear

When you book a trip with our experienced fly-fishing guide, we’ll provide all the gear you need. The only thing you’ll need to bring is a valid Oregon fishing license. You can purchase your license online or from a variety of local shops.

Many fly fishermen love to tie their own flies and we don’t blame them! It’s incredibly rewarding to catch fish on flies you’ve tied yourself. If you’re planning on tieing a few flies for fall and winter steelhead, our favorite patterns include:

  • Magneto Stonefly – Watch this video and learn to tie one!
  • Beadhead Copper Johns – Simple and effective. What else is there to say?
  • Egg Patterns – A real cinch to tie, but they’re a classic for a reason: they catch fish!
  • Marabou Leeches – Great movement in the water really attracts trophy Steelhead.

Most Steelhead patterns will be in sizes 6-10 (bigger flies for bigger fish) with egg and stonefly nymph imitators running a bit smaller. Consider tying some patterns with a tungsten beadhead to help the flies get down the water column. Tungsten or copper wire can also be used to give extra weight to a fly.

Read more about our favorite Fall and Winter Steelhead patterns.


What to Wear & Pack


  • Warm hat – A beanie or other warm hat that covers your ears
  • Windproof/waterproof outer layer – Gore-Tex is popular (although pricey) but any high-quality breathable waterproof and windproof jacket are ideal.
  • Fleece or wool mid-layer – Look for materials that dry quickly, wick moisture away from your skin, and will keep you warm even if they get wet. That means no cotton!
  • Warm baselayers – Even as the day warms up and you remove your jacket or mid-layer, warm base layers will keep you from getting chilly.


  • Sunglasses – Even in Fall and Winter, polarized sunglasses really help anglers see through the glare on the surface of the water.
  • Wading Staff – Coldwater plus slippery rocks can lead to a miserable, cold wet day. A wading staff (in addition to high-quality boots) can help you keep your footing in the river.
  • Dry Bag – A small dry bag is great for keeping your phone, camera, and other electronics dry and protected from the elements.
  • Head Lamp – The sun sets early in Eastern Oregon, so a headlamp can be a big help!


What You Don’t Need to Bring

When fishing with the guides at Winding Waters River Expedition, we take care of nearly everything! You just need to show up and be ready to have a great time (and as we mentioned earlier, don’t forget your Oregon fishing license!).

Our multi-day Steelhead fishing trips include:

  • Transportation to and from the river from Joseph, OR
  • Waders and boots
  • Rods, reels, lines, tippets
  • Flies (but you’re welcome to bring your own)
  • Camping gear
  • Heated wall tents
  • Warm sleeping bags
  • Comfy beds

And don’t forget about the food!

We prepare all meals, including delicious shore lunches and dinner by the campfire.

Menus might include:

  • Breakfast: Sante Fe Cakes
  • Lunch: Daily Sandwich Bar
  • Dinner: Wild Caught Salmon on a cedar plank, Dutch Oven Stuffed peppers, Beet and Arugula Salad.

Not to brag, but we take great pride in preparing restaurant quality, gourmet meals right on the water! There are no cans of Vienna sausage and Saltine crackers on our menu!


Ready For the Adventure of a Lifetime?

If you’ve been thinking about a Fall or Winter Steelhead trip, read more about the trips we offer. Our guides have been fishing these waters their whole lives and we take great pride in putting our anglers on the biggest, hardest-fighting Steelhead!

You’ll love your trip with Winding Waters River Expeditions!