Deschutes River Float Trip
- Fish a truly unique river that offers both hard-fighting wild trout and summer steelhead
- Experience incredible desert scenery, whitewater, and wildlife each day
- Enjoy multi-day float trips of varying length, allowing for flexible travel schedules
- Visit from May through November, as each month provides unique angling opportunities
- Fish with great guides, enjoy very comfortable camps and delicious, freshly cooked meals
There is good reason that the Deschutes is Oregon’s best-known river. The Deschutes is a desert oasis rife with wild resident rainbows, hearty sea-run steelhead, countless rapids, and stunning scenery. It is also a favored stomping ground for the Rentons, a family that has centered much of their life around this remarkable resource. David Renton has guided the river for more than 30 years and his wife Debbie has been there with him creating the most comfortable camps and preparing the tastiest meals that guided Deschutes anglers have ever experienced. In keeping with their priorities, they also raised their boys Dillon and Knut on the river and with time they have become an integral part of this finely tuned family-run outfitting business.
The Rentons run multi-day float trips for both trout and steelhead. Trout trips tend to focus on the upper river while steelhead trips tend to focus on the lower reaches of the Deschutes. Typically the camp crew will hustle downstream to secure and set up camp while the anglers will carefully work their way downstream in drift boats getting out to wade fish at prime locations. In addition to having earned a reputation for great camps and cooking, the Rentons are equally well known for providing great instruction and making their guests better anglers. Whether you want to work on your entomology, dry fly presentations or spey casting, the Rentons have what it takes to improve your game.
The Deschutes has the distinction of being one of the West’s best rainbow trout fisheries, as well as being a world-class steelhead river. Fishing for the famed “redsides”, which range from 12 to 20 inches, can be good throughout the year. The steelhead fly fishing gets going in August on the lower river and peaks on the upper river from mid-September through October. Drift boats are used for transportation, but no fishing is allowed from the boat. Be prepared for aggressive wading and dealing with low overhanging bushes, especially when trout fly fishing.
Fly fishing for trout on the Deschutes may be one of the most unique angling experiences to be found in the American west. The fish are all native, wild “redsides.” This is a distinct sub-species of rainbow trout that tend to be some of the hardest fighting trout, for their size, you will ever find. Add to that the size of the river these fish swim in (3,500 to 5,500 cfs) and you have got a real battle on your hands! The Deschutes is a very healthy river system with an abundance of food for the trout. This means a “typical” day could have you fishing small mayfly emergers on 6x tippet, then bouncing large stonefly nymphs along the river bottom before spending the evening swinging caddis soft hackles. Guests will fish two per guide and good wading skills are important.
The Renton’s are known to set up some of the most comfortable camps on the Deschutes. Guests stay in double occupancy 12 x 12 Montana canvas spike tents. Camps will have a solar shower as well as a solar charging station. Tents will have cots and pads and guests will bring their own sleeping bags and towels. All meals will be delicious and thoughtfully prepared by Debbie and are served in the dining tent.
**Note: Make sure to bring your own sleeping bag
Day 1: Arrive Portland or Redmond, OR and overnight at your elected accommodations
Day 2: Take rental car to predetermined launch point to meet guides for a full day of guided fishing. Lunch and dinner provided riverside. Overnight at riverside camp. Rental vehicle will be shuttled to take out
Day 3 - 4: Full days of guided fishing with all meals and riverside accommodations included
Day 5: Full day of guided fishing with breakfast and lunch. After fishing depart for home
Note: Lower Deschutes River float trips operated under a BLM special use permit issued to Renton River Adventures
Rates & Details
2024 Rates: Per person based on double occupancy
- 4 night/5 day package: $3,300
- 3 night/4 day package: $2,640
- 2 night/3 day package: $1,980
Day Trip: $660 per day for 1 or 2 anglers
Note: Stays of varying length available
Included: On the water meals and accommodation, guided fishing, fishing tackle, camp gear, dry bags
Not Included: Alcohol, waders/boots, fishing licenses, guide gratuities, sleeping bag, vehicle shuttle, boater passes, personal items
Species: Redside (rainbow) trout, Summer steelhead
Capacity: 4 anglers
Fly Water Q&A
Who is best suited to this destination? Anglers who are mobile, have good balance, and have experience wading will feel most comfortable on the Lower Deschutes. While this is a float trip, no fishing is allowed out of the boat on the Deschutes. It is a big river with challenging wading. We recommend wading staffs and studded wading boots. Expect to get in and out of a drift boat multiple times per day.
Additionally, those who are comfortable in a tent-camp scenario for multiple nights without a shower or flushable toilet will be best suited to these trips.
Where is the lodge? The Deschutes originates high in the Cascade mountains of central Oregon. It flows north 252 miles to its terminus at the Columbia river just east of The Dalles, Oregon. For all intents and purposes the angling focus is confined to the final 100 miles below the Pelton Dam complex. This is where the best of the rainbow trout and all steelhead fishing occurs.
How do I get there? Guests fly into Portland, Oregon where they rent a car and drive the remaining distance to either Madras or Maupin, Oregon. Depending on which stretch of the river you are floating, the drive times are 2.5 hours to Madras, OR (the upper portion) or 2 hours to Maupin, OR (the lower portion). In both scenarios, you will overnight in Madras or Maupin the night before your trip at your elected accommodations and meet the outfitters at the predetermined launch point on the morning of your first day. The section of river you will be floating depends on your angling desires, the time of year, or other natural variables.
When should I go? Trout season is from late April through October and Steelhead season occurs August – November. Highlights for trout are the salmonfly hatch of May and early June, followed by great caddis hatches during June and July when hot weather and high-pressure systems become the norm for the summer months. Guests interested in steelhead begin floating the lower portion of the river in August and September, then follow the migration upriver for the remainder of the Fall. Fall is a fantastic time for trout/steelhead combo trips as well. Hatches of blue winged olives and October caddis provide anglers with ample opportunities at some of the least-pressured trout of the season in between morning and evening swing fishing for steelhead. These combo trips are incredibly popular!
How will I fish? While targeting trout, both dry fly and nymph tactics are employed. Many days guests can focus entirely on surface presentations. Dry fly fishing on the Deschutes will involve some deep wades along the shore and under the canopy of overhanging shade trees. While focusing on the back eddies, many times guests are casting from the banks. Nymph tactics can be employed in the many riffles and moving seams on the river. While targeting steelhead, mostly the down and across traditional swing tactics are employed using Spey rods. Most of the season floating lines can be used and small traditional hairwing patterns are productive. When the sun is high or when water temperatures drop, sink tips become more involved in the fishing.
Is there wade fishing? All fishing is done while wading.
Where will I fish? Our preferred outfitter works on the 100 miles of river below the Pelton Dam complex, terminating at the Columbia River. This is what is referred to as the “Lower Deschutes” and where anglers target steelhead and wild rainbow trout. There is an upper float above Maupin and lower float beneath Maupin.
How long does it take to reach the fishing grounds? Once you are on the river, the fishing grounds surround you. Often, you will camp on productive trout or steelhead water, so you can start or end your day with some fishing right in front of camp!
What type(s) of fish will I catch? Steelhead and rainbow trout will be most of your catches. Sometimes you will catch bull trout and or whitefish.
How many fish will I catch? Trout fishing trips can be very productive when hatches are strong, and conditions line up. With that said double digits would be considered a good day. As is the case in most steelhead systems, a fish a day is considered good fishing.
Will I see other anglers? Yes, there will be others enjoying the river. All the fishing is done while wading and with 100 miles of navigable river, there is plenty of space for all.
What are the guides like? Your guides are enthusiastic, hard-working, knowledgeable and have a passion for the Deschutes. All are very committed to showing guests the best of the river and improving their guest’s skills.
What are the physical demands? The Deschutes requires its anglers to wade while fishing. While there are no long hikes, the wading is moderate to difficult. The guides we work with know the water well and will have you in the spots that offer good fishing and match your ability.
Are there any special skills required? Good balance and mobility are key to wading safely and comfortably on this river.
Does the lodge provide equipment? Rods, reels, flies, and terminal tackle are provided. Guests will need to provide their own waders and boots. We can suggest places to rent waders/boots in the area, but its best to have your own. The guides are also happy to provide flies when needed.
What is your favorite setup for the trip? For trout, a fast action 9-foot 5-weight rod is the most versatile tool. During the salmonfly hatch, 6-weights can be handy when casting bigger dry flies. During the caddis hatches of mid-summer, often a 4-weight can be nice for more delicate presentations. Weight forward floating lines are all that is required for trout fishing. For steelhead, 6- to 7-weight two-handed rods in 12- to 13-foot lengths are ideal. Both Scandi and Skagit heads are employed while swinging flies, with floating and sinking tips of various lengths.
What are the top flies? Trout flies will need to follow the hatches. Having a good variety of stonefly, caddis and mayflies will cover the basics. Relying on your guide to have the right flies for the right time is best, and all flies are included on these trips. We are happy to suggest a fly list for your specific trip dates. Steelhead anglers who want to tie or bring along their own selections should have traditional hairwing patterns in size 4 to 8. Muddler minnows in size 4 and 6 are great and even some skated patterns will get attention. When fishing sink tips, marabou tube flies or leech patterns work well. Your outfitter will have plenty of steelhead patterns to use as well.
What are the options if water conditions become challenging? If you are scheduled to float the lower section of the river and it blows out, often you can change plans and float the upper section of the river where the water is clear. Blowouts in the upper river are very rare. The outfitter monitors these situations very closely, and it will likely be a change that would happen in the days leading up to your trip, as opposed to the day of. If the Deschutes does blow out, it tends to clear quickly, and the fishing can still be productive with medium-level clarity using adjusted tactics. Wind is also a variable on the Deschutes, which can make fishing more challenging, but rarely does it create unsafe or unfishable conditions. In those uncommon scenarios, you will get to the shore or into camp where you are safe from the wind and wait out the conditions, which don’t tend to persist for more than a half day.
What is a typical day like? On steelhead trips, guests typically wake up before first light to make sure they are on the water early for the morning shade session. Coffee will be ready as well as fruit, yogurt, granola, and other light fare at this time. A more significant breakfast can be eaten after fishing through camp water or taken on the boat with you to eat while floating once you push off from camp. After departing camp, you will fish and float your way downstream, stopping for lunch during a mid-day break. In the evening, you will arrive at a fully established camp and often end your fishing day swinging the runs around camp. After fishing, appetizers will be set out followed by a delicious, freshly cooked meal.
On trout trips, your days will have a similar structure; However, you are typically waking up later as being on the water at first light is not necessary.
What is the general vibe, atmosphere, and style of the lodge? This is a very scenic trip where guests can fish long hours. There is no fishing from the boat, so while floating guests can relax and enjoy the scenery and wildlife in the canyon. Camps are very comfortable and casual.
Is there an on-site owner, manager, or other point-person at the lodge? The services on camp trips include a guide for each two anglers and at least one camp host that will set camp each day and cook your breakfast and dinners. Your outfitter has many years of knowledge under their belts and has a great grasp on how to provide a comfortable trip for guests.
Where do we eat, and what are the meals like? The overnight camp trips provide fantastic and well thought out riverside meals. Depending on the target species and trip timing, breakfast can be a simple and quick affair getting you out fishing in the prime early morning time. Lunch will be served streamside by your guide, typically consisting of sandwiches, lettuce wraps, chips, fruit, and cookies. Appetizers are available in camp each evening and dinner is the highlight where the camp host creates incredible dishes in the riverside kitchen. Dinners typically involve a first course of soup or salad and move onto a protein, starch, and vegetable of some sort. The outfitter is known for serving some of the highest quality food on the river.
What is the alcohol policy? This is a BYOB trip. The guides will have plenty of space for beer, wine, or liquor, so do not be shy!
Where do we stay, and what are the accommodations like? These are overnight camp trips where guests stay at streamside camps each evening. Camps include spacious tents with cots and pads, dining tents and shelters for shade. Guests do need to bring their own sleeping bags. Some of the camps on the Deschutes have drop toilet facilities and others do not. When these facilities are not available, a bathroom tent with a groover will be set up.
Is there internet and/or cell service? There is no internet or cell service while on the river.
Are there other activities? There are some great hikes to the top of the canyon where the views can be spectacular. Many times, big horn sheep, deer, eagles, osprey, and other wild critters can be seen while floating. During the fall, the outfitter can offer “cast and blast” trips where there is a mix of fishing and upland bird hunting for chukar, as well as waterfowl hunting for ducks and geese.
Are there any other expenses? $25 per person for BLM Boaters Passes, $65-$100 per vehicle shuttle (depending on the section of river you are floating), alcohol, fishing licenses and tags, guide gratuities, accommodations the night before your trip, airfare and rental car/transportation fees to/from the river.
Do I need a visa? No.
Are there any health concerns, dangers, or annoyances? There is poison ivy along the riverbanks…” leaves of three, let it be.” In the warmer months, it must be said that there are rattlesnakes in the area. They are typically very docile and will typically let you know they are there. We recommend that guests always consult with the U.S. Department of State and the Center for Disease Control websites for general travel information and guidelines.