Speywater Lodge and Floats - Scott O'Donnell's Passion for the Ronde

Charles Gehr | Photos by Walter Hodges and Ken Morrish February 27, 2024

If the name of this lodge seems biased, wait until you meet the guides! Located on the Grande Ronde River, near Troy, Oregon, this low-key, high-value operation is where some of the Northwest's finest steelheaders and spey casters congregate for two months of guiding and instruction.

Renowned spey instructor Scott O'Donnell heads a crew of diehard steelhead guides who love the Ronde and the steelhead it sustains. As much a spey casting and fishing school as a hard-charging guiding operation, this is the best place we know of to learn the art of spey casting and improve your swing fishing skills. Now offering two distinct options on different sections of the river, Speywater Lodge continues to improve and impress.

Scott has deep roots in the sport stemming back to the 1980's and his time serving the Navy in Washington State. There he met another like-minded soul, Dec Hogan, and together they learned to steelhead fish and spey cast. Scott guided winter steelhead on the Sauk and Skagit for many years before relocating to the Northern Oregon coast to do more of the same. In the meantime, he spent more than 25 seasons guiding in Alaska, designed the very first Rio Skagit lines and enjoyed the pleasure and recognition of being a Sage-sponsored casting instructor.

It's now been more than 20 years since Scott O'Donnell first laid eyes on the river that he would eventually call home. For much of that time Scott had a simple game plan: run multi-day float trips on the lower portion of the river in the early season and move the operation upriver to a rental house turned short-term lodge later in the season when temperatures dropped. Over time, Scott expanded his operation, and more importantly, he and his wife Stefanie fell more deeply in love with the Grande Ronde. In 2014, with the purchase of their own permanent Speywater Lodge facility, Scott is proud to call the Grande Ronde home and share his love and knowledge of this river with guests.


The River

The Grande Ronde is a Snake River tributary and is considered one of the best late season steelhead rivers in the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the month of October, the Ronde is as good a dry fly and greased line fishery as there is. The multi-day float trips start the last week of September and continue through the last week of October. These trips cover the lower portion of the river and take out very near the mouth where it flows into the Snake River. At the beginning of the month anglers can expect to fish with a floating line 75% of the time or more.

As the season progresses and water temperatures drop, anglers spend more time fishing light sink tips. The Rio MOW spey tips were developed by the original Speywater guide team (MOW = McCune, O'Donnell, Ward) and are very useful on the Grande Ronde. The most common MOW tips will have a 2.5', 5' and 7.5' sinking section. Fishing can remain excellent through late November and later if water conditions permit. Grande Ronde steelhead are known for their willingness to move to a fly and range from 5-12 pounds, with the average fish typically weighing in around six pounds. Rafts are employed to access water, but all fishing is done while wading.

Speywater Lodge

Located on a productive stretch of the Grande Ronde upstream of Troy, OR, this comfortable lodge is the ultimate hub from which to fish the Ronde in October and November. Six guests stay in double occupancy rooms with combination of private and shared baths, and meals are taken in the main lodge. Anglers will depart the lodge each day with their guide to float a different section of the river, getting out to wade prime runs. Lodge trips are great for the later part of the season when air temperatures make camping less than desirable. Additionally, the river around the lodge differs in character from the broader, more open river downstream, giving guests the opportunity to develop an entirely different set of skills centered around the technicalities of fishing deeper pools and pocket water.

Float Trips

For those who want to maximize their time on the water, these six-person multi-day float trips are a great option. These four-day float trips launch twice per week in October and access the lower Grande Ronde in Washington. Deluxe camps are set up on great home pools and move each day. These mobile river camps consist of large stand-up double occupancy tents complete with cots and vestibules and a 12x14-foot wall tent for dining. Each trip includes a night's stay at Speywater Lodge on the evening of arrival. Optional day trips on the Oregon section near the lodge can be arranged before the float trip starts.


Speywater Availability

View our Speywater Lodge and Pacific Northwest availability below.

Speywater, Oregon

Located on the Grande Ronde River, near Troy, Oregon, this low-key, high-value operation is where some of the Northwest's finest steelheaders and Spey casters congregate for two months of guiding and instruction.