Incredible Fishing Trip On The John Day River

This past week I had an incredible fishing trip, floating down the John Day River on a pontoon boat. I went with two friends, Dan and Harold.  None of us had ever floated this river before and didn’t know what to expect, but we were all very excited about what we hoped would be an excellent adventure.

We left Redmond early in the morning and arrived at our launch point around 8 am. The weather was perfect and the water was nice, not too cold. We loaded our gear onto our pontoon boats and hit the water by about 8:30 am. Here’s a photo of Dan and Harold just before we launched.

We decided to have a prize for the first catch, and a prize for the biggest catch. After launching we floated down river about a quarter mile before breaking out the fly rods. I started with a brown wooly bugger. I was surprised at how quickly a fish grabbed it. I had a fish on within a minute of starting to fish. I landed a couple and lost a big one that took my wooly bugger when it snapped the line.  What a great way to start the day.  Dan and Harold were catching fish as well.

We headed a little further downstream where I tried a black wooly bugger. Not as much luck with that one. So I switched to a maroon wooly bugger and landed 3 fish on the first 3 casts. Then one cast without a fish, and on the 5th cast a big one took it. We fought for over 5 minutes before he snapped my line and took my maroon wooly bugger. Here’s a photo of Dan working that stretch of river.

After loosing my maroon wooly bugger I switched to an olive wooly bugger. From then on I just hammered the bass. Just about every time that olive wooly bugger went into the water something would grab it. Fish after fish after fish after fish . . . I was loving it! I quit counting after 30 or 40 fish. No real big ones, just 9 to 11 inchers. But they can really fight and I was having the best fishing day of my life.

Here’s a photo showing some of the terrain we floated through. If you look very closely you can see Harold in the photo, on the left bank. He’s out of his boat working a slow moving stretch of water where he caught quite a few fish.


We continued to catch fish as we floated down river.  The fishing was fantastic, the scenery was incredible, and we were having an incredible day.  Her’s another photo of Dan tying on a fly as he floated past me.  Notice the incredible scenery all around us.


We ended up floating just over 9.5 miles.  We caught more fish than we could count and had a fantastic time.  We had no idea how long it would take us and didn’t quite know how to pace ourselves, so we ended up spending the latter part of the day working pretty hard to get to our truck before running out of daylight.  Now that we know how long it takes we will be more prepared for our next trip.  The water is getting too low now, but we are hoping to perhaps do a steelhead trip on the John Day this fall whe water levels come back up.  What an incredible adventure that I would highly recommend to anyone.  If you do a trip like this, bring a lot of sunscreen!

About the Author

Tory Allman

Tory Allman

Tory Allman is General Manager at Cent-Wise Sporting Goods & Hardware in Redmond, Oregon.