In February 2023 I got a chance to fish the Newport Area on the Oregon coast with Kelly Painter from Painter’s Guide Service. It was a long drive from the Seattle area, but well worth it. If you decide to make this trip, do yourself a favor and spend 2-3 days on the river, spreading out the driving and enjoying the area. It is a uniquely beautiful  place and the fishing is great.


Kelly and his son with a steelhead.


The coastal range is so pretty and very different than the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. What was most interesting to me was the topography in the river. I expected it to be uniform with a sandy or pebble bottom, but it was anything but that. There was significant structure, defined channels and deep slots cut in the rock. The river that we fished really defined for me what pocket water is and it was unlike any water that I had fished before.

In a recent episode of Day One Outdoors, Bill Herzog was fishing with Cody Herman and made a comment around the fact that when we schedule a winter steelhead fishing trip and often drive a long distance to get there, we should expect a “Comedy Show” as Bill put it, meaning, expect the unexpected such as torrential rains or low clear conditions with bright, sunny skies. I have always found this to be true and rarely plan a winter steelhead trip that results in ideal fishing conditions. I think that true steelheaders just drop what they are doing when the conditions are good, sort of like surfers with the perfect break. On the day that we fished, the sun was bright and the water was low and clear, so it was anything but perfect steelheading weather.





This was my first fishing trip to the Oregon Coast, thanks to the persistence of Kelly. He read one of the Guide Spotlight articles and reached out, inviting me sever-al times to spend a day with him. We fished on Friday while the Portland Sportsman’s Show was going on and there was very little traffic on the river. I think that we saw one other boat the entire morning.

Born in Kodiak, Alaska, Kelly has been fishing since he was a young boy. Growing up in a commercial fishing family, he worked on boats for the family business from the age of 14 and became a captain in his early 20’s. His family owned a commercial crab boat, the F/V Trailblazer, and he fished the Bering Sea during the famous derby days for crab and cod and tendered salmon during the summers. He spent about 10 years as a deckhand before he moved up to the wheelhouse to run the boat, where he spent another 16 years. He has been running boats ever since. When he was four years old, Kelly’s family relocated from Kodiak to Newport, Oregon, where he continues to live today.





As a boy, Kelly spent a lot of time camping and fishing with his grandparents in Oregon. He learned to fish the streams and rivers of Oregon for trout and steelhead. In the summer and fall, he learned to catch salmon in Alaska and as he got older, spent his downtime on the rivers with friends in his drift boat. When he started his family, it became harder to justify spending time on the water, making it more important to become a guide and fish professionally. Kelly started guiding part time in 2016 and has been guiding full time for the past two years since retiring from the commercial fishing industry after more than 25 years.

Kelly loves to be on the water and figured that he could probably make a decent living as a fishing guide. He is living his dream, doing what he loves most, every day. He spends his time fishing winter steelhead around Newport, moves up to the Columbia in April, fishing springers and then spends his late summer and fall fishing Chinook at Buoy 10 and then the Newport area. Last summer, he guided corporately in Alaska during June and July, taking out VIP clients for his employer including a few days that he spent fishing with Danica Patrick.


Kelly Painter with a winter steelhead.


Kelly loves fishing for winter steelhead. The constantly changing conditions make every day a unique challenge, and steelhead can be both the easiest and hardest fish to catch on the same day. After spending a day on his home river, I don’t know why anyone would want to go anywhere else. It is serene and beautiful like few rivers that I have floated. He also really likes the Buoy 10 fishery in August and September on the Columbia for Chinook and coho. This fishery usually results in great catch ratios on an average day, including big fish. You can find him doing very well in all these fisheries as he is obviously a very good fisherman.





Kelly said that he is likely known as the guide who is friendly to everyone and easy to be around. He really prefers to get away from the crowds and likes to find his own water, respecting other fishermen. Also, he looks at guiding as an entertainment industry and feels that a good guide should listen to what their clients want and deliver the experience that they are looking for, whether that be a relaxed day of laughing and learning or a day grinding away until fish are caught. He feels that he is a good read of people, but that making assumptions can also be dangerous. As a result of his approach and the experience that he provides, he has a strong client referral base and many repeat clients.

If you visit Kelly’s website, you will find this. “When you spend a day on the water with me you will see that I truly enjoy each and every trip! It is my opportunity to show you what I love to do. It is my honor to witness the joy on your face when you get to hook-up with a salmon or steelhead in one of Oregon’s beautiful rivers or bays.” I concur with this. It was obvious to me that he is a great guide and I highly recommend that you all book a day or two with him.





Since we decided to get a late start, Kelly and I met for breakfast at the Newport Café in Newport, OR. We had a chance to talk, and I took a lot of notes. It was obvious to me that he is very passionate when it comes to guiding clients and he is willing to grind as long as needed to put his clients on fish. At the same time, there was a noticeable calm to him, and he had the natural ability to relieve any anxiety that one might feel. When I say anxiety, I think that most can relate to that feeling you get when you are about to float a river for the first time. You are excited, nervous and don’t quite know what to expect. When a guide can direct you towards the excitement part, it really gets you prepared for what is about to come.

We slid Kelly’s brand new Clackacraft drift boat into the river around 9:00 a.m. and began our float. The water was very low and clear, and the sun was bright. From a weather standpoint, it was a beautiful day, but as mentioned earlier, not ideal for winter steelhead fishing. More of a comedy show as Mr. Herzog put it. We all prefer pouring rain, wind blowing sideways, maybe some snow on the bank and that perfect green color with 3-4 feet of visibility. That was not what we found on our day together.


 Kelly’s sled.


On the day that we fished, my fishing buddy for the day was Larry Wood. If you have attended one of the Sportsman’s shows lately and stopped by the ProTroll booth, you have likely talked to Larry. He is a big personality and a lot of fun. Larry was working at the Portland show for the weekend, so he drove down early the morning we fished.

Larry is a very good fisherman and caught the only fish of the day, but not until after I jumped out at the first takeout point to start my journey home. Larry and I both missed an opportunity in that first four miles of river, but Kelly and Larry kept at it and hit two fish between the point that I jumped out and their takeout downriver. Just my luck!

Kelly was very concerned that we catch fish while I was in the boat, even though the conditions were challenging. I reassured him that my goal was not to catch fish, though that is always a bonus. My goal is to get to know the guide so that I can share my experience with all of you.






Kelly employed a fishing technique that I had not used. I am accustomed to bobber dogging, drift fishing and float fishing, depending on the river, but he used a technique where he combined a few of these techniques to reduce the number of hang ups while getting our presentations in front of holding and travelling fish. I will try this technique on my home river to see if it makes a difference for me there.

Another thing that I noticed about Kelly is that he was constantly teaching and telling us where to set our gear. He was calm but in total control. I have not experienced this, but he whistled while he guided us down the river. Pretty cool to see a guide so laid back, yet so on top of his game. He seemed very confident and the only stress that I sensed in him was his desire to make sure that we caught fish.


Kelly’s family.


Kelly appears to be a good planner, but also seems to live life by the day, not taking things too seriously. He looks at each day as a gift and when he is not working, his priority is spending time with his family, an amazing wife and two young children. Speaking of children, not all guides like to have kids in their boats. It takes a ton of patience to teach a youngster to fish and it is not for everyone. Kelly loves to guide kids and teach them how to fish. He especially loves to see the smiles on their faces when they catch their first fish.

As mentioned, Kelly has two kids. His son, Kallen is seven and has not quite caught the fishing bug yet. His daughter, Kieva who is eight, has become an avid angler and will jump in his boat whenever he has a seat available. This is priceless for those of you who have kids who like to fish. There is just nothing like spending a day on the water with your closest family, making memories together.






Kelly is a pro guide for Pro-Cure Bait Scents, Lured Beads, Edge Rods, Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear and Dylan Rush Outfitters, using and promoting their products. I generally bring my own rod with me when I fish with a guide, but there is no need to do so when fishing with Kelly.

To book a day on the water with Kelly, you can call or text him at (541) 270-1446 or email him at He is also active on Facebook at Painter’s Guide Service, and you can visit his website at

To nominate your favorite guide or to request a day on the water and an interview, you can reach out to me at







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