When fishermen from around the world are traveling hundreds of miles for just a weekend—just a few days!—to fish Central Oregon's famous lakes, really, driving 30 minutes doesn't seem like that big of a deal. With postcard perfect backgrounds and diverse challenges, the lakes here are a fisherman's playground.
Crane Prairie Reservoir
The Deschutes River starts with a gurgling trickle at Little Lava Lake and flows several miles before hitting a dam. When first built in 1940, that dam flooded wooded territory that is now covered by Crane Prairie Reservoir—and beneath the surface is an underwater forest. Those trees are perfect habitat where fish lurk, and also a breeding ground for insects—essentially, an ideal combination for fly fishing. Best known for its plump rainbow trout.
East of La Pine, this lake is brimming with rainbow trout and massive (20-plus-pounders) brown trout. (Neighboring Paulina Lake has the state record for brown trout; a 28-pounder caught in 2002.) Truly one of the gems of high-altitude fly-fishing, a recommended summertime fly is the callibaetis, a mayfly replica. With perched wings and casually floating on the water's surface, it looks like a little sailboat, and is a spitting image of the mayflies that bumper crop breed there.
The fly fishing-only lake may undergo some major changes soon as the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife may soon stop stocking the lake with Atlantic salmon. Salad-thick with weeds and lilies, this lake provides great shade and coverage for the salmon, as well as brown trout. A speckle-wing quill is a great fly for here. Looking almost like a centipede, the fly hatches in the cool, shaded weeds.
Big Lava Lake
Primarily a rainbow trout fishery, bait fishing seems more common here than fly fishing.
One of the more exposed "lakes" in the region, the massive reservoir is popular but also can churn up quickly and frequently, which keeps the fish moving or at least pushes them to find calmer nooks and shady cranes near shore, which makes them easier to hunt down. Record brown trouts have been caught here.