The Klickitat River is a tributary of the Columbia River, in south-central Washington and It drains a rugged plateau area on the eastern side of the Cascade Range northeast of Portland. The river flows for over 90+ miles from its origin on the slopes of Mt Adams to its confluence with the Columbia river at the Columbia river Gorge. The drainage is quite steep and in fact some of the lower portions of the river are not navigable due to class 5+ falls. The last 11 miles are designated “Wild and Scenic” The river tumbles into the Columbia approximately 120 miles from the salt and this can equate to some rather ‘hot’ summer run steelhead.
The Klickitat river’s wild strain of steelhead are strong and unpredictable. Typically, in the 8-12 pound range with the ever present possibility at a 20 pound fish. The wild summer steelhead runs enter the river anywhere from June until November. In addition to the wild steelhead, the hatchery steelhead that inhabit the Klickitat are of the Skamania strain are an added bonus.
Reservations & Rates
Seasons at The Steelhead Ranch
‘The Steelhead Ranch’ is running to full capacity from August 25 until November 30. Prior to that, The Steelhead Ranch Lodge can be scheduled based on a trip by trip basis. Steelhead begin entering the Klickitat as early as June but due to hot weather which melts the glaciers of Mt. Adams, and can create milky glacial water and warmer temperatures, fishing can be inconsistent in those summer months. As temperatures cool, in late August and into September and October, this is prime time and this is when the highest concentration of steelhead begin to enter the river. The bigger Klickitat fish tend to be caught in November.
The Summer run steelhead season begins every year on June 1st, but inconsistent water clarity makes it difficult to plan fly fishing trips during these early summer months. Spring chinook are in the river and there are many spinning/gear fishing anglers targeting them at this time.
Early/mid-August is very similar to June July and it isn’t until late August where things start to change. The weather cools off in the higher elevations and the river begins to clear and cool off. The fall Chinook run is at its peak from the last week of August through the end of September. Kings average 15-20 lbs. with a big one tipping the scales at 50+ pounds. These fish are targeted in the mouth of the river.
Although Fall run Steelhead as well as chinook begin entering in the river earlier, September is when fish begin pouring into the river due to optimal water temps. Because of the more consistent water temps and visibility, this is when Jack and his crew get on the river and start to get serious. King Salmon and Coho are also in the river at this time.
Water conditions continue to be optimal and October is prime time to chase steelhead on the Klickitat. Get your dates early as these are the dates everybody wants.
November is when the biggest wild Steelhead are landed on the Klickitat. Fish up to 20 pounds are occasionally landed and November is the time when it happens. The steelhead season ends on November 30 every year.
Getting to The Steelhead Ranch
The Portland International Airport (PDX) is the closest major airport to the Ranch at just under 2 hours. Portland International Airport is the largest airport in the state of Oregon, accounting for 90% of the state's passenger air travel. Portland International Airport offers over 100 direct flights to over 75 destinations. The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is 225 miles away and just under 4 hour drive away from the Steelhead Ranch.
A majority of guests prefer to rent a car and make the drive to and from the lodge on their own. It’s nice have a vehicle for mobility. Your guides will provide transportation to and from the Lodge on your fishing days.
Lodging at The Steelhead Ranch
The Lodge is located on a 40 acre ranch which features a beautiful double mountain view and ‘Bonanza style’ ranch like comfort – the nearest neighbor is 1/4 plus mile away. The lodge is a 3 bedroom ranch style building with a big dining room where guests can enjoy a family style meal as well a large living room where you and your fishing partners can congregate before dinner to enjoy a beer or glass of wine and share stories of your day on the water. Within the Lodge, is a master bedroom that has two beds. Each of the other two additional bedrooms has 2 twin beds in each of the room. In addition to the main lodge there is a separate cabin that can be utilized that has two beds and a bathroom as well as Jack’s 650 square foot cabin, that has a bedroom with two beds and a living room. The Lodge can accommodate 10 anglers in double occupancy or single occupancy for 6 guests.
Fishing at The Steelhead Ranch
The Steelhead Ranch focuses on summer run Steelhead on the Klickitat. The headwaters of the Klickitat river originate on the slopes of Mount Adams. Being 100+ miles and only one dam from saltwater, these fish are known to be the hottest of all the summer steelhead runs in the area. Early in the season the fishing is both wild and Skamania strain hatchery fish with the biggest wild fish entering the river later in the season. Chinook salmon are targeted at the mouth of the river in the fall. If anglers want to do a longer stay and travel to see some other great fisheries, the Deschutes River is 1 hour and 40 minutes away. The Yakima is just over an hour away for some great smallmouth and trout fishing and you can even target big carp on the Columbia river located just a half hour from the lodge. Although not fly fishing, Jack can also set you up on the Columbia for giant White Sturgeon, which can be a lot of fun.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• LOCATION: Being one dam from the salt and evolving in such a steep rugged canyon, these fish are built tough, with broad shoulders and a bad attitude. They are known as some of the hottest fish in the Columbia drainage. These fish don’t have to navigate multiple dams/reservoirs or long distances to get to their native rivers, which means there are more of them and they are a lot hotter when you hook them.
• GUIDES: When you think about a fly fishing trip, who do you spend more time with than your guide? The guides working for Jack are some of the best in the business, anywhere in the world and they have been with him a long time. They are experienced oarsman, patient, fishy and dedicated professionals whose sole goal is to get you into big, wild steelhead and help you have the best day of your life, all in an enjoyable and safe manner.
• OPPORTUNITIES: The name of the game at the Steelhead Ranch, is of course steelhead. It is a prime location for catching Klickitat summer run fish. But, if you want to lengthen your trip and explore all the area has to offer, at certain times you can target Chinook salmon in the Klickitat, Trout and smallmouth bass in the Yakima, carp in the Columbia and Jack can even set you up going after White Sturgeon on the Columbia with spinning rods. All within a short drive, you can really mix up the opportunities and experience all the area has to offer.
• EXPERIENCE: Jack Mitchell was born and raised in Washington and spent his whole life fishing the state from top to bottom. His whole adult career has been based around fly fishing and it has taken him all over the world which allowed him to gain valuable experience and perspective to incorporate in his own idea of the perfect fishing lodge. Since 1988 he has operated his outfitting business which has expanded to 12 rivers, 4 lodges and a small fly shop. You could not be in better hands to best execute a successful fly fishing adventure, then with Jack and his team.