The Klickitat River


The Klickitat is a small and beautiful river in Washington State. It is often overshadowed by the near by Deschutes River which is across the Columbia in Oregon, but the Klickitat is a great river with good access along the lower 20 or so miles. The steelhead of the Klickitat can get to be pretty good sized (20lbs) with very few small fish, but in my several trips to the river I have never, nor have I seen, a fish landed over 10 lbs, I have hooked some nice fish though. I have only landed smaller fish.

It is only a short (20-30min) drive from town of Hood River in Oregon. It is also close to the Dalles. There is the town of Lyle at the mouth of the river and The town of Klickitat is about ten miles from the mouth. Klickitat has an OK market, but a person is probably better to have there stuff purchased before they arrive, I like to stop in Hood River and then License up at Bridge Mart just across the Columbia from Hood River.

Floating the Canyon from Stinson Flat to the takeout at around rm20 is a great way to see the Klickitat river. I believe that Larimer Outfitters out of Hood River, Oregon does float trips down the Klickitat, I know that those guys guide the river and know it well. There are also some primitive boat launches above Stinson Flat that can be used to float down to Stinson.

The float from Stinson to rm20 is a great float with lots of fishy water and not alot of guys on it. My friend BR and I floated this stretch with Tom Larimer. We turned it into a two day float and had some good fishing, at least we all got fish.
I have fished the Klickitat in early September and in early October and have found fish at both of these times. It did seem like there were more fish around when I was there in October. I have only fished the river on three ocassions, for maybe a total of eight days, so there is a whole lot I don't know, but I have heard that fish will start arriving as early as July and the river fishes good until it closes.
I have heard that skaters and big flies out-perform classic wets on the Klickitat, but I have done as well with a #3 spey as about anything else, although I haven't been all that successful on the Klick either. For good Klickitat patterns check out Larimeroutfitters.com, tom knows what works there it is his home water.

I have stayed at two campgrounds on the Klickitat; Ice house & Stinson Flats. Icehouse is a few miles up stream of the town of Klickitat. Stinson Flat is on the upper river and getting there from the lower river requires going up a single lane switchback to a plateau, from which you can see both Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, and then back down a switchback into the canyon. Stinson is quieter than Icehouse, ordinarily, maybe even too quiet sometimes. I spent a night at Stinson and it did get a little lonely.

The Klickitat is not a very big river so there would be no reason to try to fish it with a 15' rod and 90' line. I think that and angler would be best served with a 11'-13'6" 6-8wt rod, and throwing either a Scandi or a skagit based on conditions and/or fly preference.

The Snake River -

Even though the Snake has been massacred by dams, it is still incredible. In many ways that makes it worse. The Snake was a national treasure, it carried steelhead and salmon so far inland that Nevada once had native fish populations. Those unique populations are now no more, but the Snake still exists and fishing her waters is humbling.

The Snake is a very big river. Only the experience it self can describe what it feels like to cast out from the rivers edge. Many anglers that have fished the Deschutes would agree that it is a big river, and yet the Dechutes is but a quarter of the size of the Snake.

I spent a week on the Snake recently and when I took an afternoon off and drove up to the Red Shed Fly shop on the Clearwater, the river looked absolutely small in comparision to the Snake.
From the town of Asotin up to Hellars Bar, Where the Grande Ronde dumps in, The Snake fishes well with a fly. All though the river will seem crowded, with all of the jet boats and roads anglers aroound, I have found that an angler looking for classic steelhead runs will often find this water open. Most of the anlers I have come across focus either on the slow, laminer runs of the lower snake or they are fishing Hellars bar. The boats will mostly avoid the fly runs because of how shallow they are.

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I like looking for shallow runs that have some chop on the rivers surface. This is not hard to find on the Snake. On my last trip my friend Rusty and I were able to find several spots that fit the bill perfectly. And once we found a few of these spots it was not long before we started finding Steelhead.As for flies on the Snake, I have caught fish on every thing from a 1/0 black Marabou to a #7 purple green-butt. My go to fly however, I quess would be a #3 Yellow Jacket. This is a spey fly that uses a dyed yellow pheasant rump for hackle over a black body and uses a black wing, I think it is both buggy and pretty so I fish it, but I have also caught Snake steelhead on Akroyds, purple speys, black speys, Harry Lemire patterns, you name it. it seams like they like flies.There are classic runs and bars, and lots of spots that look like nothing from a distance, but are epic and fishy when you are on them. Alot of these hidden gems fish like classic water allowing for long casts and will often take an hour or more to fish through.
The big runs and relatively small fish that are common on the Snake, left me looking for just the right two handed rod. The river handles a floating line really well in late October. I ended up getting a Loomis 15' 7/8wt Grease Liner and have paired it up with a couple of long belly lines, so now I can launch a long line and enjoy a 5-6lb fish, which is great. On my latest trip I caught several steelhead on this 15' Loomis, they were great. I also fished a Thomas & Thomas DH1409/5 with the same Nextcast 95' 8/9 line and I found that it was even easier to cast and the little bit of extra power was great when it was time to land a fish, and I would say that no enjoyment was lost from the fight. Now, due to the success of the T&T DH1409/5, I have picked up a DH1509/3 for next years trip. (which subsequently sold and replaced with a Greaseline 16' 9/10)

The Sandy River

The Sandy is a river that I have fished this river only twice and I found it to be pretty tough to discover via the road program. Not that there isn't great water to fish that is accessible by road, It is that the dense forests and the question of private vs public property makes knows where to go and finding a way there tough. So over all, I think the best way to discover the Sandy is with a guide. With a guide you can float the Sandy which I think would be the best way to see it.

Two good friends of mine , Tony and Rusty, floated the Sandy with Tom Larimer out of Hood River, OR and they loved it and learned lots. They were new with two handed rods and got lots of casting instruction from Tom, who really is an expert, and they were able to get this education while fishing great runs and searching form big fish.

I have not floated the Sandy, I have gone with the road program. I have found some great runs, been told of a few others and the waters of Oxbow park are pretty obvious. I have not caught a steelhead on the Sandy, I have hooked some, I have had bone jarring grabs, but no fish.

I know that the Sandy has a summer fishery, for both salmon and steelhead, but I have not fished it.

The times that I have fished the Sandy, I have primarily fished a 13'3" 7wt Burkheimer (which is my favorite rod for everything but small fish) with a 540grn compact skagit, but I think that alot of the runs on the Sandy would fish a longer head 55-68' well, like a Delta or a PowerSpey, especially on the runs around Oxbow State Park.

There is a really major spey clave held at Oxbow Park on the Sandy river each spring, because of this the Sandy is really well known among spey guys. The Flyshop in Welches is a good place to get some info and shit, they also have guides, but I know Tom Larimer and he is who you should get if you get a guide.

When I have been on the Sandy, Oxbow park has been my point of focus. This is mostly be cause there are some pretty obvious runs in the park and there is good camping as well.

As with any time that you are fishing for Spring/Winter Steelhead be ready for swiftly changing weather. Rain jackets are a must, cleats are a plus. Another key piece of gear, a headlamp it never hurts to be the first through the run.