Updated: Dec 15, 2022
If you are looking for a good one day stretch of the John Day River, the section from Spray to Service offers several options.
The section from Spray to Service Creek is approximately 12 miles long, and depending on CFS is can take up to 12 hours to float. My Opinion is that a CFS of around 400 is perfect for fishing. 400 is not too fast, and not to slow..just right. If that float is too long, there are other options to take in and out. I like the float from the "Four Mile" bridge to Service creek. It is about 4 miles long with ample fishing opportunities and you can easily make this a 7 to 8 hour float.
There are also many camping opportunities along the river if you want to have a 2 day float and camp in-between Spray and Service creek.
Getting there from Portland: Take 84 east to Biggs Junction. At Bigs Junction take Hwy 97 South to Wasco. At Wasco, take HWY 206 to Condon. At Condon, take HWY 19 towards Fossil. HWY 19 will take you all the way to service Creek.
Accommodations: There are several campsite available, and to my knowledge most of them are on a first come first serve basis. Riverfront Park in Spray is a great location to camp. If you want to stay in a hotel your options are limited. Here are three that I know of: Fossil Motel and Trailer Park, Kellie's Service Creek and River Bend Hotel in Spray. Kellie's service creek also offers a shuttle service.
Fishing: The John Day is renowned for its fantastic Smallmouth Bass Fishing. There are lots of fish, many of them in the 7 - 12" class, and the opportunity to catch a trophy 20" fish are good. Best lures are usually soft plastic grubs and worms fished on a light jig head, top water lures and some Crank baits. These bass will definitely rise to a fly, so bring some hoppers, or other top water flys.
Guides: If you want a truly great exerience on this river I would highly recommend booking a trip with Steve Flemming of May-Haw Outfitters. He is a great Guide, and provides a true 5 star experience on the river.
Thanks for reading,