Call Us Today 1-877-426-7238
Info +
Menu +

Here I am!


  1. Steelhead 101: Understanding Steelhead

    Comments Off on Steelhead 101: Course Intro and Meet Your Professor of Fly Fishing Paul Pagano

    Paul Pagano SteelheadPaul Pagano, fly fishing guide for Winding Waters River Expeditions and owner of Fly Side Angling, offers his take on fly fishing for Steelhead on the Grande Ronde River and the Wallowa River.

    In this series, Paul will explain the Steelhead journey and where you can find them in the river. Pagano will break down both single hand and spey casting setups, discuss fly patterns and offer advice on fly presentation so you can approach fly fishing for steelhead with confidence.

    What Paul is presenting is a basic understanding of how to approach fly fishing for Steelhead. We can’t, of course, explore more complex and technical information without understanding where to start.

    Whether you’re a newcomer or could use a refresher, come along as Paul explains what you need to know to be a successful Steelhead fly angler.

    Paul Pagano lives to be on the river, in any capacity. Whether guiding clients, fishing with friends, or letting his wife enjoy the oars for a while as he fishes, Paul enjoys every second of river time. Aside from guiding steelhead and trout trips for Winding Waters, Pagano owns and operates Fly Side Angling, also located in beautiful Wallowa County.

    Paul enjoys using both single hand and spey casting techniques. Paul is also a Pro Staff member with The Spey Company and spends most of his time in the fall on the famous Grande Ronde River guiding clients, or just enjoying the river.

    Let’s get started.

    Lesson Number One is: Understanding Steelhead and Where They Hold. Click here for a quick life history of these amazing fish and watch for updates in this series as Pagano walks you through the steps of understanding Wallowa County Steelhead so you can translate knowing into feeling these fish as they rip line off your reel.

  2. How to Plan & Pack For a Multi-Day Fly Fishing Trip

    Comments Off on Wallowa River Steelhead Creel Report March 8th

    Wallowa River Steelhead Creel Report


    The Numbers are starting to look pretty good down on the Wallowa.  The fishing conditions are perfect.  Get down there before the big warm up happens this weekend and the river blows out.






    Number of sts anglers Hours








    Hours per fish
    LGR-Ore. Feb 27, Mar 2,3 11          
    Hatchery         1 1  
    Wild         7 7  
         Total     45.6 0 8 8 5.7
    LGR-Wash. Feb 27, Mar 2,3 89          
    Hatchery       46 7 53  
    Wild         6 6  
         Total     548.8 46 13 59 9.3
    Wallowa Feb 27, Mar 4,5 107          
    Hatchery       46 58 104  
    Wild         2 2  
         Total     416.7 46 60 106 3.9
    Rondowa Mar 4, 5 10          
    Hatchery       8 13 21  
    Wild         7 7  
         Total     67.5 8 20 28 2.4
    Imnaha Mar 1, 2, 4, 5 50          
    Hatchery       10 0 10  
    Wild         20 20  
         Total     189.3 10 20 30 6.3
  3. Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing Report March 2, 2017

    Comments Off on Wallowa River Steelhead Update February 27th 2017

    Grande Ronde River Steelhead caught swinging a Purple Hobo Spey fly.


    The Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing Conditions have improved greatly over the past few days.  The Wallowas are experiencing some nice cold nights and cold days basically shutting down the run off and bringing the Wallowa River into prime fishing conditions again.  I have posted the Creel report from over the weekend below.  The numbers are starting to look better and reflect this improvement in conditions.

    Take a look at the Wallowa River Gauge near Water Canyon to see what the flows have done this week.

    Hope to see you out there on the river.

    If you would like a Steelhead Fishing guide for the day on the Wallowa or Grande Ronde, do yourself a favor and call Paul Pagano at Fly Side Angling 541.398.0180.  


    If you want to see what is below Minam on a 5 Day Fall Steelhead Fishing Trip or 4 day Summer Trout Fishing Trip contact us at 541-263-1326 or paul@windingwatersrafting.com

    Happy Angling!






    Number of sts anglers Hours








    Hours per fish
    LGR-Ore. Feb 24-26 2
         Total 7.3 0 0 0
    LGR-Wash. Feb 24-26 82
    Hatchery 24 1 25
    Wild 1 1
         Total 458.8 24 2 26 17.6
    Wallowa Feb 23-26 93
    Hatchery 10 9 19
    Wild 7 7
         Total 329.3 10 16 26 12.7
    Rondowa Feb 24, 25 15
    Hatchery 5 0 5
    Wild 4 4
         Total 72.8 5 4 9 8.1
    Imnaha Feb 22, 23 3
         Total 6.3 0 0 0
  4. Wallowa River Fishing Conditions Report

    Comments Off on Fall Steelhead Fishing Wrap Up


    Fall Steelhead Fishing Season is a wrap:

    Fall steelhead fishing for summer run steelhead on the Grande Ronde has pretty much wrapped up. Are the fish still there? Absolutely. Traditionally, there are more fish here this time of year than in the warmer fall months. But, it is down right cold with water air temps in the teens and water temps dipping into the mid 30’s. Soon, we’ll see the ice. And looking back, it was a surprising fall. The counts were down, no doubt. We expected that from what we heard from our local biologists. The results were as expected. However, there were still a lot of fish landed and lots of those fish came by way of fly.

    Larger two salt Steelhead were expected to return at a greater rate than the one salt fish. This, again, was exactly right. Most of the fish we put our hands on were large and in charge. A great reward for the dedicated angler, regardless of return projections.

    As we transition into the winter months, we’ll look forward to more and more steelhead arriving on both the Grande Ronde River and the Wallowa River. Steelhead have already been caught on the Wallowa, which typically does not see too many fish until after the new year. And then of course, we see the abundant return from February to April on the Wallowa.

    Right now, temperatures are colder and anglers are sparse. For the dedicated angler, this can mean low pressure fish that may not have seen a presentation in quite some time. Good news for you.

    Check back with us for further updates as the winter moves along.

    Submitted by Paul Pagano of Fly Side Angling

    Paul Pagano Steelhead

  5. Grande Ronde River Steelhead Fishing Report 10/20/16

    Comments Off on 7 Fall & Winter Steelhead Flies for the Grande Ronde & Wallowa Rivers


    Are you planning a fall or winter trip to the Grande Ronde or Wallowa River to fly fish for steelhead? Not sure what patterns they might be hitting? In today’s posts, the steelhead guides at Winding Waters River Expeditions will share a few of their favorite patterns– telling you what they’ve learned in the 25+ years they’ve been guiding for steelhead.

    Let’s get started!

    1. Magneto Stonefly

    The Magneto Stonefly is a pattern made by our friend Devin Olsen, one of the most experienced fly fishermen around. It’s a great fly for Euro-nymphing and it’s the best of both worlds– both an attractor and an imitator.

    That means it both imitates the silhouette, shape, and size of a stonefly nymph but it also attracts steelhead with its shiny bead head and reflective mylar tinsel body. Devin and our guides fish the Magento Stonefly in a size 8 or so and use a tungsten beadhead to help it get down (and stay down) in the cold, fast waters of the Grand Ronde and Wallowa rivers. Learn how to tie the Magneto Stonefly here.

    2. Hoh Bo Spey Fly

    Hoh Bo Spey Fly

    If you enjoy spey fishing for fall and winter steelhead in the Grande Ronde or Wallowa River, you’ll love the Hoh Bo spey fly. It’s been a longtime favorite of steelhead fishermen in the Pacific Northwest and it’s a go-to fly for our guides at Winding Waters River Expeditions.

    The Hoh Bo has great motion in the water thanks to the marabou and guinea fowl collar and the trailing hook turns short strikers into hookups! Definitely keep a few of these in your fly box if you’re headed out for steelhead this season.

    3. Other Stonefly Nymph Patterns

    A photo posted by Steven Fort (@utahflyguy) on

    In addition to the Magneto Stonefly we love just about any weighted stonefly nymph pattern for steelhead. There’s no magic recipe, but a combination of a heavy beadhead, rubber legs, biot tail and antenna, a pheasant tail and mylar shellcase, copper wire abdomen and fuzzy dubbed thorax make for a can’t miss steelhead fly.

    You’ll sometimes hear steelhead fisherman say that a fly can be any color as long as it’s black, but in our experience steelhead will hit a wide variety of colors, including black, olive, brown, tan, and even dark purple.  You just have to give it the right presentation in the right place at the right time.

    If you tie your own steelhead flies, try stonefly nymphs:

    • In sizes 6-10
    • With varying size (and weight) beadheads and thicknesses of copper wire to adjust to different flow conditions
    • Experiment with different length and number of legs (and don’t be afraid to clip them off while you’re fishing if needed)

    4. Beadhead Copper Johns

    A photo posted by stix_fishing_and_hunting (@stix_fishing_and_hunting) on

    Beadhead Copper Johns are simple, effective steelhead flies. Just like other nymphs you can experiment with different weights and hook sizes but the formula remains the same:

    • Feather or biot tail
    • Copper abdomen (try green, red, or natural colored wire)
    • Dubbed thorax
    • Beadhead (tungsten is more expensive but heavy, good for getting closer to the bottom when the rivers are running fast)

    5. Egg Patterns

    A photo posted by Symmone Anderson (@symmelaine) on

    We can’t talk about simple but effective steelhead flies without mentioning egg patterns. They’re so simple to tie, but they catch steelhead when other flies miss. Lime green, neon yellow, red, and hot pink are all great color choices. But when the steelhead are keyed in on eggs, they’ll hit any bright color that comes in front of their face. Just make sure to use split shot on your leader to keep the buoyant eggs down in the water column.  You will definitely want to try these on the Wallowa River late February thru mid April!

    6. Black Marabou Leeches & Wooly Buggers

    A photo posted by GreenWoolyBugger (@greenwoolybugger) on

    A black wooly bugger will catch just about any fish that swims and that includes steelhead! No steelhead fly box is complete without a few black buggers or other leech imitating patterns. The classic pattern features a marabou tail, chenille body, and soft black saddle or hen hackle. However, in our experience, a bit of flash from mylar chenille, and bright chenille or a beadhead are great variations on a classic pattern.

    If you’re new to flytying, the black wooly bugger is a great pattern for beginners. Watch this video to learn how to tie a beadhead bugger.

    7. Skaters

    A photo posted by Rob Parkins (@rpoutside) on

    You haven’t lived until you’ve caught a steelhead on a skating dry fy! There’s really nothing like it. Just like other flies on this list, you don’t need a specific pattern, just one that has the right look and style.

    Skating steelhead flies often feature:

    • Elk or deer hair tails and wings for buoyancy
    • A head made from closed cell foam that pushes a big wake and keeps the fly high in the water
    • Clipped hackle wrapped over a peacock herl abdomen for extra floatation

    Watch this steelhead hammer a skating dry. That’ll get your blood pumping!

    Choosing & Presenting Your Fly

    Oftentimes, the pattern itself isn’t as important as the presentation. When you’re able to put a fly right in front of a steelhead, you’ll probably get a strike– unless they’re being extra picky. Then you’ll have to experiment with different sizes and patterns.

    But unless you’re working water that’s holding steelhead you’re going to go home skunked. And that includes the right depth. If the steelhead are sitting at the bottom and your flies are swinging near the surface even the best fly won’t help.

    That’s where a great guide can help.

    Book a Steelhead Fly Fishing Trip With Winding Waters River Expeditions

    Our steelhead guides have been fishing for steelhead and guiding anglers for over 25 years. They know what flies work and where to find steelhead no matter what time of the season or what the weather conditions are like. There’s just no better way to maximize your chances of catching a wild steelhead than hiring one of our experienced guides.

    Best of all, we provide all the gear you need (flies included), as well as transportation to and from the river, and much more. Read all about our guided steelhead flyfishing trips and book your adventure today!

  6. Grande Ronde River Trout Fishing Report June 15, 2016

    Comments Off on Wallowa River Fishing Conditions

    Steelhead caught on the magneto Stone Fly

    • Date: April 14th, 2016

    • Weather: 45F and cloudy turning to Sun

    • Flow: 944 CFS & falling

    • Water Conditions: High and Brown

    • Gear: 10′ 7 weight, Floating line

    • Flies: Magneto Stone from Tactical Fly Fisher

    Wallowa River Fishing Season Wrap Up

    We had a great spring Wallowa River fishing season, but all good things must come to an end.  The Steelhead fishing season on the Wallowa is coming to an end.  The river has turned into a churning mass of rushing brown.  We have had some cold nights which have tempered this a little bit but the warm weather over the weekend caused the river to double in size.  There are still 2 weeks left in the legal Steelhead fishing season but the run is tapering off and the river conditions make it even more of a challenge to hook up.

    The Steelhead had a good run this year with the bulk of the fish being caught in early to Mid March.  We had a couple of stellar weeks in there.  We are already thinking about swinging flies with the spey rod for Steelhead on the Grande Ronde next Fall. In the mean time we should focus on the coming Rainbow Trout Season and the Stone Fly Hatch on the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers.  There is still space available on or 4 day Stone Fly Hatch trip.

    Wallowa River Flow Gauge Link

    Here are a few useful links for you to consider checking out before you come over to the Wallowa River to fish.  Wallowa River Water Levels at Water Canyon will give you the flows for the Wallowa River above Minam.  Minam River at Minam will give you the flows of the Minam river just above the confluence of the Wallowa and Minam Rivers.  Add these 2 numbers together and you get the flow below Minam.  This is a good indication of what the river is doing.  A good flow for the Wallowa river is somewhere in the 500cfs and below range.

    Steelhead Creel Report:

    Here is the link to the final Steelhead Creel report of the season for the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers.  Come back and visit the report to see these creel reports weekly starting next fall.

    Steelhead Creel Report April 14, 2016


    Icons made by Freepik, Vectors Market, and Daniel Bruce from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

  7. Wallowa River Flows

    Comments Off on Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing is Heating up!

    Wallowa River Steelhead are on the move.  The water conditions have been holding steady and have not blown out yet even with the warm temperatures during the day time hours.  Steelhead are being caught in the canyon section along the highway in small numbers.  We expect this to continue to pick up as the water temperatures rise and the steelhead start thinking more and more about getting into spawning mode.


    Paul and Devin fished for Steelhead on the Wallowa River yesterday for a couple of hours and reported catching 3 Steelhead a few large rainbows and a few Bull Trout.  This sounded like a productive few hours to me.  Paul is back on the river today with some clients.  He was feeling positive about their chances of hooking.  Hope to have some photos to share with you tomorrow.


    The exciting news for today is the Creel report from Rondowa, which is the confluence of the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers.  The report showed 2 hours per fish caught, which is a good number for this time of year and encouraging for what we should expect up in the canyon in the coming weeks.  You can take a look at the report by clicking on the link below.

    Steelhead Creel Report Feb 9 2016

  8. Winter Steelhead Fishing on the Wallowa River

    Comments Off on Grande Ronde River Steelhead Creel Report for December 22nd

    Believe it or not Folks are still having good success catching Steelhead on the Grande Ronde River in both Oregon and Washington.  The Grande Ronde River Flows are holding around 1700 cfs making for great levels to float and fish.

    If you have time to get away from the family and you are not skiing powder this holiday season you should consider getting out to catch a Grande Ronde River Steelhead or 2.  You can view the Creel report below.

    We have not been on the Wallowa River yet but you can expect to start seeing some information from the Wallowa coming up in January.

    Steelhead Creel Report



  9. Steelhead Fly Fishing Season is not Dead Yet

    Comments Off on Grande Ronde Steelhead Count Update

    Here is the Grande Ronde Steelhead Count update update from Jeff Yanke, the Wallowa District Fish Biologist.  There are some encouraging numbers here.  Thanks to Jeff for sharing this data with us.


    Hope this update finds you all well. See attached for this week’s PIT tag estimates, updated through Sunday, and last week’s Grande Ronde River creel report. Here’s a quick breakdown…

    Bonneville Dam: We estimated at only 75 steelhead migrated above Bonneville last week, confirming the Grande Ronde and Imnaha runs are about complete. This year’s total is up to 20,595.

    McNary Dam: Fish continue to move steadily through the lower Columbia, around 1,000 per week. Currently we estimate a total of 14,000 fish above McNary Dam, about 68% of the estimate at Bonneville Dam. During the last two run years, we’ve estimated 70-75% of our fish survive the migration between Bonneville and McNary so things are winding down here as well.

    Lower Granite Dam: We have now eclipsed 11,000 Grande Ronde steelhead above Lower Granite Dam. We estimated that at approximately 1,800 migrated above last week, so the run is still coming pretty strong here. Of what we’ve estimated above Granite, we estimate 8,500 of those are bound for the Grande Ronde and 3,000 for the Imnaha. Of the steelhead that crossed Bonneville, we estimate 54% of the Grande Ronde and 62% of the Imnaha stock are now above Lower Granite.

    Imnaha / Grande Ronde Rivers: Catch rates were amazing in the Grande Ronde River last week (see attached report). A steelhead for every 4-5 hours of fishing is tough to beat! Our guides are doing really well throughout the Grande Ronde corridor. We did observe more steelhead in the Imnaha River since last week, but estimate only 100 are in the river above Cow Creek. I’m confident many, many more than that are in the lower canyon and staging near Eureka Bar.

    This is prime-time folks. Enjoy!

  10. Grande Ronde River Steelhead Report

    Comments Off on Golden Stonefly Hatch is On!

    The Golden Stonefly hatch on the Lower Wallowa and Upper Grande Ronde is absolutely fantastic right now. With our low snow pack the water level is predictably lower now than it has been at this time in previous years by about 4k cubic feet per second at the gauge station in Troy. The lower and clearer water coinciding with the stonefly hatch has made for some unforgettable dry fly fishing. The Golden Stonefly hatch on the Wallowa is one of my favorite times to fish here. In fact, during the winter, as local anglers talk fishing at the pub over beers, it is the golden stonefly hatch we talk about. Last night I floated with Mark Keffer and Jordan Manley, two Winding Waters River Expedition guides who have backgrounds with lots of fishing experience. During the float we passed the spot where a couple decades ago Jordan caught his first fish. Such are the foundations.

    We started out fishing with nymphs, primarily the mottled brown Pat’s Rubber Leg stonefly nymph. I love this fly because fish love it and they are easy to tie. I cranked out half a dozen in the time it took me to cook a frozen pizza before the float. Mark boated a really nice fish almost immediately, while watching a cow elk casually swim across the river. He continued to catch fish until the fly fell apart, a good problem to have. The wind settled enough to switch to dry flies and then it was basically non-stop action for the rest of the evening. At one point I questioned aloud, “what happened? I haven’t caught a fish in minutes.” Aside from that agonizing dry spell, the evening was as perfect as it gets. We ended the trip with a beautiful wild rainbow that Mark hooked in the Wallowa and then the fish proceeded to lead us into the Minam before finally getting in the net at the takeout where we took this picture.

    Wallowa River Rainbow Trout

    Wallowa River Rainbow Trout


    When Paul Arentsen, owner of WWRE, asked how the fishing was I honestly replied, “As good as it gets.” Like anything good, it won’t last forever, so if dry fly fishing for big wild rainbows on a beautiful stretch of river is your game, then come on out and let’s float down the river.

  11. Sturgeon Fishing with a Circle Hook

    Comments Off on Fishing Season is Open in NE Oregon


    Fishing season is open for trout and whitefish in our NE Oregon streams for the summer. Don’t be too discouraged by the high muddy water we are seeing as the snow leaves the mountains. High water has the fish more concentrated in areas of reduced turbulence, especially along the banks. The fish we have been catching on large profile flies like wooly buggers and stonefly nymphs look healthy. On the Grande Ronde we are already seeing golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, Pale Morning Duns (PMD’s) a handful of drakes and some Blue Winged Olives. Faster water with less visibility means a fish has less time to inspect your fly with his eyes so takes can be very aggressive. Choose flies with lots of moving parts like soft hackle, marabou, and rubber legs to help trout detect them in the water. Fish them with weight under and indicator close to the bank and get ready. During a typical year the largest trout caught on the Wallowa and Grande Ronde are hooked during high water in the spring.

    A preview of coming attractions: Chinook Salmon season is slated to open on the Wallowa from the deadline at Minam State Park to the mouth of the Lostine and on the Imnaha on June 6th. The Grande Ronde opens on June 13th from Stateline to 100 yards above Wildcat Bridge. Lower than normal water levels should make for some pretty exciting fishing for Salmon and trout. Dates are already filling up so call to book your trip. We don’t know how long these seasons are going to stay open since Salmon are still coming over Bonneville Dam and quotas have not yet been set.

  12. What is Marabou Anyway? Fly Tying

    Comments Off on Steelhead Season Winding Down…

    With the sun shining and flowers blooming steelhead season has begun winding down at Winding Waters River Expeditions. While the official end date of the season is April 15, the major pulses of steelhead have made their way upstream to the hatcheries.

    IMG_0591-3Reported catch counts this past week were 7 hours per angler per fish on the Wallowa, about 8 hours per fish per angler on the Grande Ronde at Rondowa, and 45 hours per fish on the Imnaha.

    River levels on the Wallow-a still remain fishable. River levels on the Grande Ronde have popped above 4,000 cfs.

    For best results this time of year try using stone flies or smaller Copper Johns and light pink egg patterns. Don’t ignore shallower water off of seams. Get creative with your fly fishing and it could pay off in a fish.

    Thank you for reading our fishing reports this season!

    -Winding Waters River Expeditions

    (Print http://www.feverishart.com)

  13. Steelhead Fishing with Winston Fly Rods Pro Staff

    Comments Off on Wild and Scenic Grande Ronde Steelhead Report
    Grande Ronde River Driftboat

    Launching from Minam for 4 day Grande Ronde River Float

    Fishing update for the Wild and Scenic

    By James Nash

    The Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers have steelhead in them and earlier this week, the conditions for catching them reached what will likely be the most optimum levels for the Spring season. Winding Water River Expeditions floated from Minam to Wildcat Bridge with two anglers who work for the Rolls Royce of the fly rod industry, R. L. Winston Rod Co. My experience guiding anglers, by nature, usually involves instructing people who are on the youthful end of the experience spectrum. On this trip I found myself faced with the less common challenge of guiding men who were better fishermen than me. And so it was a perfect storm. The rivers had stabilized their flows and colored slightly due to last week’s drizzle, the steelhead were there in force, the weather was warm and overcast, we had the finest fly rods made in the United States and two anglers who, having had a hand in building them, knew how they should be used.

    On the Wallowa we caught fish on black, chartreuse, yellow, brown, orange, pink, peacock, and white colors; which reinforces the theory that fish do care about color but it is the aspect they care about the least. We hooked fish in the tailouts of long riffles and in deeper pools, as you might expect, and almost exclusively on a dead-drift presentation. The hatchery steelhead dogged somewhat and who could blame them after all they’d been through. Although these fish are close to their terminus, they do not give up easily as we experienced in spades later on when Jock hooked and landed a shining wild hen his 9’ #6 BIIX. After we released the fish with a trembling voice jock whispered “that’s what I came here for…” Then he looked at his rod with amazement and gratitude and back to the water from which his fish had come. He had just experienced something he’d thought about for decades and it was better than he’d imagined.

    At night, full to bursting on gourmet three-course meals cooked by WWRE guide Morgan Jenkins, we saw large stoneflies attracted to the flames of our campfire. During the day Blue Winged Olives, Caddis and Skwala stoneflies came off sporadically on both rivers. The Wallowa was easier floating than it had been earlier in the week, although the rock garden below Blind Falls was a predictably sweaty trial.

    On our last night we listened to rain flowing in little creeks off the roof of our wall tent, kept cozy by a wood stove. Enough water accumulated in my drift boat to require 20 minutes of bailing with a Folger’s can in the morning. The Grande Ronde came up 1,000 CFS to just over 3,000 and the water turned to the brown side of steelhead green. That morning mist clung to the rims where four bighorn sheep watched us eat breakfast and pack camp. The mountain goats we’d seen the day before were concealed in clouds.

    Grande Ronde River Steeelhead

    Wild Grande Ronde River Steelhead

    After a Spring rain the canyon looks at the same time as if it were both very old and also brand new. The first arrow leaf balsam roots begin opening showing spots of yellow along the hillsides where soon bears will be out eating them. The old gray moss hangs off the fir trees dripping the night’s rain and the morning’s dew. The river itself, milder on the surface than before the rain slaps gently on the hull of the boat and beneath steelhead move from one place to the next towards the gravelly redd where they were born. If you didn’t know better you might think you were the first person to ever float through those canyons.

    Stopping at pools and riffles, Adam and Jock stand on the edge of the water carving curves in the air with the long slow strokes of their Spey rods and then standing still as the line unrolls across the water, straightens, pauses briefly then falls into the current and begins swinging downstream then across and then straightening below them before the cycle begins anew. It isn’t every day we get a chance to be quiet and graceful, but this time of year on the Grande Ronde you can hardly avoid it. The pace and the experience are of the type that you start missing before you’ve even left, and you plan on returning. In addition to all of that, we caught Grande Ronde steelhead every day, hooked more than we landed, and left the river as we found it.

  14. Full Swing…

    Comments Off on Don’t Fear Low and Clear

    That’s right, with this past weekend’s temperatures with highs in the fifties and lows in the twenties our local rivers are back to being low and clear. This high pressure system of blue skies and cold nights looks like it will continue into another weekend. So, what exactly does this mean for your fly-fishing chances of hooking into a steelhead?

    A few things:

    -Play hooky like “The Gearboat Chronicles” Jon Rombach and go fishing mid-week, although if you do have to do battle on the weekend, find a set of train tracks to walk down or cross the river and fish the other side.

    FullSizeRender-2 copy

    -Don’t bother waking up at dawn to go fishing, sleep in, cook a good breakfast, read a book, take a nap, because your best fishing hours will be in the late afternoon and dusk.

    -Wear a toque or beanie, it will keep your noggin warm and is also considered lucky by some anglers.

    -Use smaller flies than you normally might (that’s right, now is the time of the prince nymph) because a cold fish is more likely to hit something small than something ungainly and large in clear, high visibility, conditions.

    -Fish deep slow pools, steelhead will be holding in deeper slower water with temperatures so low (but don’t forget the riffles).

    While these are just a few of the many things to consider with our local waters clearing up, don’t consider for too long. The steelhead are here.

    Grande Ronde Flows over the weekend: 2500 cfs.

    Wallow River Flows over the weekend: delicious and easily wadeable.

  15. Midweek Steelhead Love…

    Comments Off on Grande Ronde River Steelhead Creel Report Looking Great!

    It looks like the Steelhead are hungry in the Wallowa River after that big flood of water they experienced last week.  Take a look at the Creel report from the past weekend.  We don’t like to put a lot of stock in these reports but the numbers on this report are hard to argue with.  Looks like Cam was right and we need to enjoy these warm temps and get out there and catch a few of these Big Steelies.  Hard to believe that we can be out in short sleeves catching Grande Ronde River Steelhead on the Wallowa River in February.

    Click on the link below to see the numbers.


    Steelhead Creel February 17th

  16. Grande Ronde Flows Dropping, Wallowa Good to Go…

    Comments Off on Chinook Weather, Steelhead Production

    A freight train of a Chinook blew in on Friday, February 6th, bringing rain and warm winds that bumped river levels and will ultimately reset steelhead holding locations. The Grande Ronde topped out at 8,000 cfs late Saturday night and has begun to drop. The same pattern occurred on the Wallowa (currently clear above the Wallowa Canyon mouth) and Imnaha Rivers (the Imnaha at Imnaha jumped from 219 cfs to 1390 cfs by Saturday night and now has also begun to gradually drop).


    So what does this mean? For a group of hearty steelhead fishermen and fisherwomen who drove fourteen hours from Colorado, fished Thursday afternoon through Saturday, it meant steelhead. And then no steelhead. And then, as the river turned big and muddy, carrying sticks and other debris, seriously no steelhead.


    For the rest of us? It means steelhead are going to start moving. Big time. In from the Snake River and up the Grande Ronde and Wallowa. While last week produced some steelhead on the Wallowa River earlier in the week and over last weekend, by Wednesday and Thursday runs were feeling beat. When flows began to rise the fishing got hot, and then shut down once water levels really got moving. For best success keep an eye on river levels this week and look to great fishing by the end of the week if overnight temperatures drop back into the thirties.


  17. Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers Heating Up

    Comments Off on Grande Ronde River Steelhead Catch Rates

    We had a few anglers out on the Grande Ronde River yesterday.  They were able to hook a few Steelhead even though this was their first time ever fishing for Steelhead.  This matches what the creel report is now telling us.  Over the weekend all anglers interviewed averaged out to about 3.7 hours of fishing for each Steelhead caught.

    We are in peak Grande Ronde River Steelhead Season.  Come on over and join us for a day on the river.


    Keep reading if you are interested in hearing what Jeff Yanke from ODFW has to say about the fish counts thus far.


    The most recent estimate at Bonneville Dam is 18,972 (Grande Ronde and Imnaha combined).  This remains the second-highest estimate since I started doing these estimates during the 2010-11 run year.


    • We estimated that 1,127 and 1,210 hatchery steelhead crossed McNary and Ice Harbor dams, respectively, during the past two weeks.


    • The most significant movement occurred at Lower Granite Dam, where we estimated that 2,224 hatchery steelhead crossed during the past two weeks.  Of those 2,224 – we estimated that only 462 were Imnaha origin, and the remaining 1,762 were bound for the Grande Ronde


    • Our size distributions seem to be generally holding up.  At Bonneville, 53% of the Grande Ronde and 36% of the Imnaha hatchery run were 2-salts.  At Lower Granite, 43% of the Grande Ronde and 39% of the Imnaha run are 2-salt.


    • Currently, we estimate that 48% of the fish that crossed Bonneville dam have migrated above Lower Granite.  During the last four years, the final ‘conversion’ rate has averaged 63%.  With a 63% conversion on this year’s run, we would expect to see just under 12,000 hatchery steelhead migrate over Lower Granite this year.


  18. Grande Ronde River Success and Creel Report

    Comments Off on Gone Steelhead Fishing!



    Time for the annual crew member Steelhead fishing trip. The Oregon Grande Ronde River Steelhead Season is just about to be in full swing.  There have been reports of Steelhead being caught in the lower river particularly in the Heller Bar area.  The Grande Ronde is still quite low which I think is probably slowing down steelhead upriver movement.  We did have a nice spike of cold water last week that should have produced a little excitement in the fish movement.

    The crew and I are packing the boats today and heading down to the lower river for a 3 day float.  We are going to float from Boggan’s Oasis to Heller Bar and test the Washington waters to see what might be in store for us on our Wilderness fishing trips later in the month. There is still space available on our October 24th Supported Steelhead fishing trip.  It is not too late to join in the fun.  There is also space available on our November 2 Support trip.  Stay tuned for a full Grande Ronde River Steelhead report on Friday.

    Here is fish biologist Jeff Yankees fish number synopsis for the week.

    Our fish are still moving through the hydrosystem.  We estimated that 1,157 and 1,628 steelhead crossed McNary and Ice Harbor Dams, respectively, last week.  That’s farily consistant with what’s been observed the past few weeks.


    • Closer to home, we estimated that 2,377 steelhead migrated above Lower Granite Dam last week.  That’s very consistent with last’s weeks observations.  To date we’ve estimated that 6,885 steelhead have crossed Lower Granite, representing around 34% and 47% of the Grande Ronde and Imnaha estimates at Bonneville Dam, respectively.


    • We observed three more PIT tags detected in the Imnaha River last week.  Flows are still very low though, just over 100 cfs.


    • Expect a harvest report from the Grande Ronde in a few days.  The Heller Bar fishery near the mouth of the Grande Ronde was in full swing last week, but success has been varied near Troy.  A few anglers were reporting 1-4 fish hooked earlier last week, but most couldn’t shake the skunk this weekend.  Lots of bull trout in the vicinity, please help us encourage folks to treat them well.


  19. Grande Ronde River Steelhead Estimates Looking Good

    Comments Off on Steelhead Coming This Way!

    Wow!  I have not been very good at keeping up with this blog.  But that is not surprising as it has been summer and all.  Now it is time to turn our eyes toward Steelhead season.  I will do my best to keep up with this report as we begin catching steelhead which was done by guide James Nash last week in the Troy area.  Read on to see what Fish Biologist Jeff Yanke has to say about the upcoming season.


    Stay tuned and be sure to join one of our Supported Steelhead adventures taking place on the Grande Ronde in late October and early November.


    Estimates of hatchery steelhead at Bonneville dam indicate the run continues to shape up over the past few years.  So far we estimate 15,828 steelhead from the Grande Ronde and Imnaha have crossed Bonneville Dam.  At this time last year, the run was about 85-90% complete.  In total, we estimated 14,501 steelhead from the Imnaha and Grande Ronde Rivers passed Bonneville Dam – so we’ve already exceeded last year’s total!  Looking ahead, we’re might end up somewhere near what 2011-12 (17,000 at Bonneville) offered us.


    • We estimate that 4,189 Imnaha River steelhead have crossed Bonneville to-date.  This time last year we estimated 3,293 had crossed.  We’re still looking heaps better than the final 2012-13 estimate of 1,400 fish.


    • Based on the detections to-date; the age composition of both Grande Ronde and Imnaha runs is way more balanced this year.  The 2-salt fish that typically measure 25-28” comprise over 53% of the Grande Ronde and 37% of the Imnaha fish detected to-date.  If that pattern remains, a Grande Ronde angler should only see one large 2-salt fish (25-28”) for every two fish caught, and one two-salt for every three fish caught on the Imnaha.  Last year, the composition of 1-salts exceeded 80% in each of the Grande Ronde / Imnaha runs.  Typically the runs are 60% 1-salt and 40% 2-salt.


    • Very little of the run has made it through the Columbia.  Of the 15,828 steelhead estimated above Bonneville, only 3,063 (19%) were above McNary Dam.  We are still observing a good number of detections each day at Bonneville dam, although not as many as a week ago.  We typically see a 70% conversion rate between Bonneville and McNary Dams.


    • No PIT tags have been detected in the Imnaha, but one Wallowa fish (fallbrood) was detected on the Wallowa River.
  20. Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing Report March 25th

    Comments Off on Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing Report March 24th
    Wild Steelhead on Wallowa River

    Wild Steelhead caught on the Wallowa River

    A quick Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing condition update.  We had a great couple of days on the Wallowa.  The Wild Hen in the photo above was 1 of 6 Steelhead that were caught on Thursday and Friday last week.  The river is really shaping up.  The cold nights have slowed down the run off allowing the river levels to continue to drop and clear up.  The water temps are in the low 40s and clarity is good.  We have been having the best success catching Steelhead nymphing with a heavy prince nymph trailed by any kind of egg pattern.  It is time to get out there and catch a Steelhead.  There are only 3 weeks left in the Wallowa River fishing season this year.

    I should have the creel report in my hands later today and will try to update with that data.

    Book your guide today!

  21. Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing Update March 17th

    Comments Off on Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing Report March 3rd
    Wallowa River Steelhead

    Art’s Wallowa River Steelhead

    Tom had a group of anglers out on the Wallowa River steelhead fishing over the week end.  The water was a little higher and browner than we would like but the guys persevered and caught some fish.  Art was the lucky one hooking into the Wild Buck Steelhead shown in the photo above.  Along with the Steelhead they caught some rainbow trout making for a nice day.

    Tom reported seeing a lot of anglers out on the river on Saturday particularly below the Big Canyon hatchery and at the State Park.  He found the water to be on the verge of being blown out and 41 degrees.  They caught their fish using some heavy nymphs with egg pattern dropper trailing behind.  The high flows required some bug flies to get down fast enough to be effective.

    We had a very rainy day on Sunday which sent the Grande Ronde River gauge at Troy from about 5,000 cfs to about 8,000 cfs.  This will likely have caused the Wallowa to officially blow out today.  The weather this week looks like it is going to bring more warm rain to the area so we don’t expect to see the Wallowa River clearing up until early next week.  We are hopeful that these big flows will help to bring more Steelhead up into the canyon improving the Wallowa River Steelhead Fishing.

    Contact Winding Waters to schedule your next Wallowa River Steelhead fishing trip.

  22. Wallowa River Spring Steelhead Fishing Season is Finally Here.

    Comments Off on Grande Ronde River Steelhead Fishing Report Nov 1
    Grande Ronde River Steelhead

    Grande Ronde River Steelhead

    Tom had a wonderful day on the river yesterday.  HIs client Mike caught a nice 28 inch Wild Grande Ronde River Steelhead Buck.  They found the river to be clear but cold.  The water temps were holding around 40 degrees F and the River Flows are 843cfs.  Mike was new to Steelhead fishing so considering that and the water temps they chose to nymph most of the day.   Mike caught this fish on a size 12 tungsten head prince nymph with red wings about 6 miles downriver from Troy.

    I do think the best Grande Ronde River Steelhead fishing has yet to come.  Today it actually started to feel like Steelhead season with a rainy cold front moving in.  We are looking forward to a great November on the Grande Ronde River.  The October crowds are subsiding and the fish should be continue moving into Oregon waters.

    Morgan, Jon, Todd and Tammy just launched on a 5 day trip from Minam to Troy.  This is their guides only trip celebrating a long Rafting and Fishing Season.  They felt the need to get down there after running all of our Supported Steelhead trips this October.  It says a lot that they still want to be down there after working down there for the month of October.  I should have a report from them for you on Wednesday.

    Please feel free to leave your own reports in the comment fields below.

  23. Grande Ronde River Steelhead Report October 31

    Comments Off on Why We Fly Fish

    A friend recently shared this amazing fly fishing video from Kitchen Sink Studios. It’s a short clip about the essence of the sport. Granted, it’s based on fishing in the Grand Canyon, but you will understand the universal love. Check it out:

    Vermillion from Kitchen Sink Studios ®, INC. on Vimeo.

    The Steelhead are biting. Our Fully Guided Day Trips on the Grande Ronde are in full swing. Book one now and experience the passion in this video.

  24. Grande Ronde River Steelhead Oct 17

    Comments Off on Grande Ronde River Steelhead Update Oct 14th

    I have some positive news to report from last weeks steelhead fishing on the Lower Grande Ronde River.  The steelhead fishing conditions are perfect with the flows holding steady in the 900cfs range and the water temperature holding right around 50 degrees F.  These are ideal conditions for swinging and waking flies for Steelhead on the Grande Ronde River.

    The catch rates are still below where we would like to see them this time of year.  The good news is people are catching fish.  My group, that was out last week, all caught at least 1 Steelhead in addition to many Rainbows and Bull Trout.  1 of our guides took a private trip floating from Boggans Oasis to the Snake River and had great success.  Their group of 4 caught a total of 29 Steelhead in 3 days.  The  caveat here is that they were caught nymphing and swinging spinners.

    I also heard a report of 2 Steelhead being caught swinging flies above Troy last week.  This tells us that it is time to go Steelhead fishing on the Grande Ronde River.


    Tom will be out guiding tomorrow and I will let you know how he does.