The Grande Ronde River flows from the Blue Mountains to the Snake River. At nearly 200 miles long, it is considered to be one of Oregon's best steelhead rivers. The Grande Ronde slices thru a 3,00 foot deep canyon through flood basalt flows that originated from the Grande Ronde volcano millions of years ago. Forty-four miles of this river are designated as Wild and Scenic. Because of this wild and very remote country, most of this river is very hard to access. Therefore, drift boat fishing is the norm. This freestone river has a moderate gradient which makes rowing fairly easy.
Fishing for the stars of this river, the Pacific steelhead, is best from the Wallowa River confluence, downstream to the Grande Ronde's confluence with the Snake River in Washington. The lower section here from Troy to the Snake River is accessible by road. Easy access makes for crowded fishing during the fall run. Most of the steelhead in this river average about 4 or 5 pounds, much like the Lake Erie tributary steelhead. The upper section of the Grande Ronde actually has a great population of wild rainbow trout. They probably average about 12 inches but go up to 18. There are also bull trout in this section and fishing for them is illegal. If you do happen to catch one, it is to be released unharmed immediately. The trout fishing is usually a mix of both dry and nymph fishing, with June being a great time to catch the stonefly hatch. In July you can expect to see a significant caddis hatch, with hoppers and terrestrials rounding out the late summer and early fall months.
Steelhead begin entering the river around late January and continue through February, with much of the spawn occurring in April. But serious steelhead anglers turn their attention to the Grande Ronde in the fall. By October, these fish have negotiated the Columbia and the Snake, to begin their run up to their home waters. Both wild and hatchery steelhead in this river have been known to take a dry fly or two.
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