Fish on! Winter Trout Fishing on the Upper Rogue River and Union Creek
“Be patient and calm – for no one can catch fish in anger.” – Herbert Hoover, U.S. President and former guest at Union Creek Resort.
Winter fishing in Oregon, and especially on Southern Oregon’s famed Rogue River, is renowned worldwide for its salmon and steelhead. But in this fishing-happy state in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, the fish that boasts the most fishermen trying to catch it is the trout. In fact, famed outdoorsmen Herbert Hoover, Zane Grey, and Jack London have all fished for trout on the Rogue River.
And in the beautiful stretch of Upper Rogue River between Lost Creek Reservoir and its headwaters near Crater Lake, the waters are teeming with rainbow trout, along with brown, brook, and cutthroat trout. This is one of the Rogue River’s most stunning stretches as the waters cut through volcanic rock. The scenery is filled with old growth Douglas fir, as well as hemlocks, sugar pines, alder, and yew, and you’ll also see lots of waterfalls.
Countless fishing holes and limitless fishing opportunities line the entire Upper Rogue River, along with its many tributaries, including Union Creek, Muir Creek, National Creek, Copeland Creek, Mill Creek, Crater Creek, and Bybee Creek.
“Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.” – Herbert Hoover
At the center of it all is the historic Union Creek Resort and Beckie’s Café, which provide the perfect respite and basecamp for year-round fishing in every direction. Both the Upper Rogue River and Union Creek are regularly stocked with trout, providing for perfect fishing opportunities any time of year. Winter time is a great time to experience this outdoor adventure with fewer anglers, more secluded fishing holes, and lots of fish to catch. It’s a great activity to enjoy with friends or family, grandparents and children of all ages.
Plus you can try your hand at all different types of fishing, including casting a spinner, spoon or other lure, using a worm or PowerBait, and fly fishing.
Types of trout you’ll find
Most of the fish you’ll catch on the Upper Rogue and Union Creek will be rainbow trout, the close relative of the bigger steelhead found below Lost Creek Reservoir. The most prominent feature of rainbow trout is its coloring of silver, pink, and red stripes along its sides. They can be as big as 30 inches long and are found in cold, clear water. Rainbow trout feed on minnows, crayfish, insects, and other small river creatures.
Brook trout are typically smaller, usually between five and seven inches long, but they can also get as big as 25 inches, depending on the size of the river or stream. Colors range from dark and golden along their backs to pink and red on their bellies. Brook trout eat insect larvae and nymphs, so fly fishing is a great way to catch them.
Brown trout are more difficult to catch, making for a fun day of fishing and a bigger sense of accomplishment once you land one. They are brownish with darks spots on their top, and golden on their bellies. Brown trout average between 11 and 30 inches, and are best caught with spinners or flies similar to the minnows that they feed on.
Cutthroat trout have red-to-orange markings under their jaws, making them look like they have a “cut throat.” These fish are smaller at around nine inches long, but they’re aggressive and make for a fun catch.
“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” – Zane Grey
Where to fish for trout in the Union Creek area
Excellent trout fishing starts right here at Union Creek Resort, located between Crater Lake and Prospect on Highway 62. The lively 15-mile-long Union Creek flows through the Resort’s property, right by cabin 21, and into the North Fork of the Rogue River just below the Rogue Gorge. Along the way is beautiful Union Creek Falls, an impressive 15-foot drop.
Union Creek, the Upper Rogue River, and other local tributaries provide excellent trout fishing with cool, clean water, lots of aquatic insects, minnows and crawfish, and ideal fish habitat with fallen trees, large rocks, and protection from predators.
When fishing on these rivers and streams, look for trout:
- In gently moving waters characterized by riffles
- Behind rocks, logs, branches or other structures
- In deeper pools with less current
- Close to steep or undercut banks
Between Lost Creek Lake and the Rogue River’s headwaters are a lot of easily accessible fishing spots close to Highway 62 and Highway 230. Look for highway pullouts along the road.
What gear is needed for trout fishing?
If you’re fishing in winter on Union Creek and the Upper Rogue River, you’ll want to dress appropriately to stay dry and warm. Be prepared for cooler temperatures, a bit of rain and possibly snow on the ground. You’ll need clothes, boots and accessories that wick moisture, dry quickly, are insulated, waterproof and breathable. Avoid wearing cotton-based fabrics that hold moisture against your skin, wicks heat from your body, and don’t insulate once wet – putting you at risk of hypothermia. Wool is also to be avoided as it does not wick moisture, and instead keeps it against your skin.
For more winter weather tips for being outside, click here.
For trout fishing gear, your basic list of essentials includes a lightweight, 6-foot spincasting or spinning rod and matching reel, some lures, hooks, bobbers, and your choice of bait, including worms and artificial baits like PowerBait or PowerEggs. The Union Creek Country Store rents rods, reels, and features a nice selection of fishing tackle for sale. The store also sells Oregon fishing licenses, available for a full year, one day, two days, three days, four days and seven days.
If you’re bringing your own gear, you’ll want to have a lightweight 6-foot spincasting or spinning rod and reel, along with 4- to 6-pound fishing line.
If you’re fly fishing, which we highly suggest, you’ll want the following gear:
- 9-foot-long fly rod
- Matching fly reel
- Weight forward, 5-weight fly line
- Tapered monofilament leaders, 4X 7.5 feet long
- Spools of 4X and 5X tippet
- Assorted streamside tools
How to successfully catch a trout
No matter what you use to catch a winter trout, you’ll want to practice some fundamental fishing techniques to land them. The Upper Rogue River and its tributaries are rife with trout, but landing them can test your patience and determination. Here are a few basics to remember.
- Don’t rely on any one method. Mix up your techniques – if spinners aren’t working, switch to a bobber and bait. Several different types of methods will work, depending on the river flow, conditions, and activity of the fish. You just need to keep trying until you find what’s working on that day. You can also talk to fellow fishermen on the water or local tackle shops to get the inside scoop.
- Cast a wide “net.” Fish every nook and cranny of your space. Be relentless with your probing and don’t fall into the comfort of the same cast angle or sweep. When using a spinner or spoon, start by casting upriver and reel in the slack. As the spinner is carried down river, keep the line off of the water as best as possible. Then, once the spinner is toward your shoreline downriver, start a slow, steady retrieve.
- Go rockhounding. You’ll find lots of trout near and behind big rocks and rock gardens, where they like to hang out.
- Keep a positive attitude and be patient. There are a lot of fish in the water, and through practice, and patience, you will find them. And remember, there’s nothing better than a day out on the river whether you catch a bunch or not.
In Oregon, you’re allowed to keep two trout each day when fishing on streams and rivers. Keepers need to be eight inches long, and only one trout over 20 inches long can be kept in any given day.
For the complete 2015 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, click here:
If you’re not keeping the fish you catch, here are some tips for a safe catch and release:
- Use barbless hooks
- Try to land the fish as quickly as possible to limit the damage to the fish, and keep it from getting too tired
- Before handling the fish, wet your hands and try to keep it in the water
- When removing the hook, use needle-nosed pliers or a hemostats clamp
- Before letting the fish go, revive it in the current
As if you didn’t have enough reason to get outside and go trout fishing this winter, other benefits you’ll experience are enjoying clean, fresh air, getting away from technology and into nature, experiencing a memorable adventure with friends or family, and getting an opportunity of catching a great tasting fish. Get outside and go fishing!