The lower McKenzie is fishing well, and the annual March Brown hatch has commenced. The March Brown hatch is much-heralded by local anglers, not because it is one of the best hatches of the year (which it is), but because it is the first good one. Previous to the March Brown hatch, sunken and dead-drifted nymphs offer some great fishing for good wild trout, but this hatch is the first to bring the really good fish to the surface.
The abundance of this hatch varies widely with weather conditions. On overcast, misty, and rainy days the bugs often come out in profusion and the hatch can persist for a couple of hours with lots of fish feeding on the surface. When it is bright, sunny, and windy, however, the hatch can be very sparse, and the surface fishing slim.
A typical early spring day on the lower McKenzie includes some good nymphing opportunities early in the day, followed by swinging wet fly emergers as the hatch begins, some dry fly fishing as the fish start to rise, then more good nymphing as the hatch subsides.
On the days when the weather doesn’t cooperate and the surface fishing is limited, the nymphing with Mega Princes, Possie Buggers, as well as various Golden Stonefly and March Brown imitations is a very productive plan B. This last Friday I was guiding a single angler on the lower river and had just such a day: it was bright and sunny with blustery winds. I saw only one March Brown on the surface and one small fish rise, but we nymphed throughout the afternoon hours and caught a good number of large rainbows. They are in beautiful shape this time of year and in brilliant, pre-spawning colors.