The John Day River is the second longest free flowing river in the lower 48, it’s 248 miles long and drains most of eastern and Central Oregon. Its ruggedness, remoteness and natural beauty make the John Day a world class fishing and boating destination.
Many think of the John Day for its prodigious steelhead runs – the largest summer steelhead returns in the Columbia River Basin, and perhaps the largest run of wild steelhead in the Lower 48. I’ll say it again—there are more summer steelhead in the John Day River Basin than any other river entering the Columbia River! There is also a world class smallmouth bass fishery.
Spring and summer on the John Day are about boating, camping and smallmouth bass. There are bass everywhere and they are easy to catch, making this a great venue for beginning anglers, as success is a guarantee. Day trips are available all spring and into the summer. Overnight trips range 4 to 5 days and are best scheduled in June, early July if there is still enough water. There may be no better way to introduce your kids to river trips and fly fishing than a JD spring smallmouth float.
Fall Steelhead Trips
For our purposes, steelhead fishing begins in mid-October and lasts through November, depending on weather and flows. John Day Steelhead readily take a swung fly; many like to skate them up before water temps cool below 50 degrees. We typically fish floating or intermediate lines with 5, 6 or 7 weight rods. A day of swinging flies on the JD is typically peaceful, with little competition for good runs and willing fish. These are float trips and typically run dawn to dusk. The price is $600 for one or two anglers; a modest lunch is included.
John Day River multi-day trips
For those eager to get off the beaten path, we also offer multi-day camp trips. in the Thirty Mile Wilderness Study area. If you haven’t floated the wild and scenic John Day River canyon, a treat awaits – this is a bucket list trip! The canyon (including the Thirty Mile Wilderness Study Area) is teeming with wildlife from bighorn sheep to every bird you can think of. Camp sites are phenomenal, set on tables above the river amidst old growth junipers. We’ll cover forty-four miles in a drift boat or raft, accessing pools and runs that see very little pressure. Our camp moves with a “bagger” to ensure we have a prime camp spot; camp will be set up by the time we arrive. Accommodations are comfortable, featuring roomy tents with cots and pads, and a luxurious dining tent. You will be fed very well…maybe too well!