It was a great winter steelhead season throughout the central coast. Good fishing persists in some drainages that are still open, though the run is past its peak most everywhere, and many of the coastal systems are closed for the year.
2013 was an exceptional year. We had very light precipitation, no real blow-outs since December, and particularly of late, unseasonably pleasant weather. If these trends persist, we very well may have a drought on our hands this summer, but has been nice to worry about preventing sunburns rather than maintaining contact with fingers and toes while winter steelhead fishing.
I am already looking forward to next season! Here are a few pictures from recent trips.
Now through the end of April, I am offering a discounted rate for half day trips ($275) on the lower McKenzie. Late Winter and Spring offer some of the best fishing of the year for the lower McKenzie’s wild rainbow and cutthroat trout, with good nymphing opportunities throughout, and some good afternoon wet and dry fly fishing as the March Brown hatch materializes. The best early season fishing is during the middle of the day as things warm up a bit, and a half day trip is the perfect way to take advantage of this window of opportunity. A typical day involves meeting up around 9:00 or 9:30, and fishing until 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. All tackle, flies, etc. are included, along with beverages. All you need to bring is some rain gear, sunglasses, lunch, and a fishing license! What could be easier?
Recent warmer rains have brought an end to a prolonged cold and dry spell here in Western Oregon. These freshets helped to improve winter steelhead fishing on area streams, raising and warming the water, and drawing new fish into various river systems.
The weather forecast predicts intermittent rains over the next week, which should keep river conditions hovering at a very fishable level.
Winter steelhead runs have been good so far this year on many of Oregon’s coastal streams. Throughout much of January, we enjoyed good water conditions and some great fishing. With two months left to go in the coastal steelhead season, we have a lot more to look forward to.
Since the end of December, the rivers I fish on the central coast have enjoyed good water conditions, with good numbers of steelhead holding and willing to take a fly in the likely spots.
On the tail end of the last high water event, all the fish I was encountering were two-toned chromers, fresh in from the salt. In the last week, some of the fish have started to show some color, particularly the bucks, but there have still been a lot of nice bright ones in the mix.
This strong early run is a great indicator of things to come. With a lot of fish around this early, chances are fishing will remain good throughout winter steelhead season (now through the end of March) as long as river conditions remain fishable.
I have enjoyed consistently great fishing over the last couple of weeks with some truly spectacular days. For anyone who is interested in seeing some of what the rivers draining Oregon’s coast range have to offer, please call or email. I have a lot of days available throughout late January, February, and March.
Here are a few photos from my fall steelhead season on the Willamette and Deschutes Rivers. As in any steelhead season, there have been great days and slow ones. It has been a another busy fall, with a packed schedule of great guests on both rivers.
The recent weather change has done a lot to improve the fishing on the Willamette. The last couple days of cloudy weather with some drizzle really renewed the fishes’ interest in the swung fly.
The fishing on the Deschutes has been good at times, but like steelhead fishing often can be, inconsistent. While we are not looking at a great year over there in terms of the total run, we have been seeing some really nice-sized steelhead, and I have had, on average, better fishing than I have the last couple of seasons thus far.
It may not quite be fall yet, but you can feel it in the air. The mornings have been cool and crisp. The shadows are lingering longer in the morning and creeping across the water earlier each afternoon. Cooler weather has done a lot to chill the water and heat up the bite over the last couple weeks, and things should only improve as we move deeper into September and October.
I have been taking fish on a number of different fly patterns over the past weeks. In the shaded hours of morning and evening, the summer steelhead have been responding well to traditional wet fly patterns swung on a floating line. Silver Hiltons, Skunks, and sparkly purple flies have been producing well for me under these conditions. When the sun gets on the water, I typically switch to some sort of sink tip and leech combination, but in my experience, it is not important to fish really dense lines or heavy flies this time of year. In water 2 to 6 feet deep, I typically swing a relatively sparse, unweighted leech pattern on a type 3 tip. Often, it is not important to fish the fly really deep, only to sink it a little bit, meeting the steelhead half way through the water column.
Fall is, on average, the most productive time to swing flies for summer steelhead here in the Willamette valley, and a great time to be on the Deschutes as the run moves its way upstream.
We are blessed with a bumper crop of summer steelhead this season in the Willamette valley; the numbers of fish streaming over Willamette Falls far exceed annual averages. Over the last couple of weeks, we have had ideal water conditions, and lingering spring-like weather which have, no doubt, helped encourage the fish to bite.
Swinging flies, whether out of the boat with single-handed rods, or spey casting and stepping through runs, has been very productive. In my boat, most of the fish have come on light to medium-density sink tips and unweighted flies. In shallower lies, floating lines and intermediate tips are also producing well.
This is a great time of year to get out and swing for steelhead on the Willamette and its tributaries, but the fishing should continue to improve as more fish stack into area streams.
Early summer is usually a great time to be out fishing, but hands down September and October are the most productive months to swing for steelhead in area streams. In the fall, the sun shines at a softer angle, the fish become more trout-like and bite better, and fishing pressure tapers off.
I still have a number of days available througout the late summer and fall. If anyone reading this is interested in getting out and experiencing some of the best summer steelhead fishing our area has to offer, please give me a call or drop an email!
Western Oregon has seen more than its share of precipitation this Spring. There have been some high water, but in the last several weeks very fishable conditions. Higher than average flows and cool water have scared off a lot of anglers, but the fishing for nice native trout on the upper McKenzie has been good.
With the water back up again over the last couple of days, nymphing tactics continue to find most of the big fish, although there have been some good afternoon mayfly hatches have brought some nice fish to the surface, particularly on warmer days.
Over the next couple of weeks, the water should drop and the surface fishing will improve. Golden Stoneflies will appear on the menu, while Green Caddis and Green Drake hatches will continue.
It is remarkable how little pressure I have seen up there. Just before Memorial Day, I went 7 days straight guiding the upper McKenzie, saw neither another boat nor angler, and enjoyed some great fishing.
The Deschutes River’s Salmonfly hatch is one of the most anticipated events of the flyfishing calendar here in Oregon. Once again, the hatch did not disappoint; we had great numbers of bugs this year and consistently good dry fly fishing. Though the bugs have been out in force since the middle of May, the hatch should linger on for another couple weeks, particularly on the Warm Springs to Trout Creek section and the upper reaches of the Trout Creek to Maupin float. When I took out yesterday afternoon at Harpham Flats, just above Maupin, decent numbers of golden stones were still around, and the Deschutes’ native redsides were responding well to dry flies.
Later in the hatch the fish have seen some pressure, and golden stones outnumber the salmonflies. As the hatch wears on, the fish become a bit shy to some of the giant, foam salmonfly patterns, particularly in the softer water, and a smaller, more sparsely dressed golden stonefly imitation will often out perform the bigger stuff.
It is true that the Deschutes sees its share of pressure this time of year, and the fish have become somewhat more cagey in many of the more heavily fished spots, but it is remarkable how much good water there is to fish on the lower Deschutes. With a little poking around it isn’t hard to find less-molested water and willing fish. Brushy shorelines hold both bugs and fish. This type of fishing is a close quarters affair. Tension casts and bow-and-arrow tactics can lead to a lot of action in places that don’t allow room for more conventional casting. This type of short game fishing is exciting, often leading to violent takes right under the rod tip.
On the last trip I did we had issues with rain, cold temperatures, and high winds. The unseasonable cool weather made the salmonflies and golden stones hunker down in the grass and go dormant. The dry fly fishing was still pretty good in the more out of the way areas, but tougher than it had been when the weather was warmer and the bugs more active. The cold weather did have an upside, however. We got some great afternoon mayfly hatches, with fish rising greedily to a mixture of mayfly species. The smaller mayflies brought some nice fish to the surface with dainty rises, but when the green drakes started to pop this last monday afternoon, all the big redsides came to the surface to hunt one of their favorite prey. This green drake hatch led to an hour and a half of outrageously good dry fly fishing, etching indelible memories for guests and guides alike.
Although the weather can always be volatile here in western Oregon during the late winter and spring, this year has been particularly wet, with rainfall far exceeding historical averages and many days with unseasonably cool temperatures. March and April are usually great months to fish the lower McKenzie for wild trout, but unfortunately the river has been swollen and out of shape for much of the last six weeks or more. This is not to say that this spring has been without good trout fishing opportunities; whenever the McKenzie or Middle Fork Willamette have dropped into reasonable shape they have fished well, there have simply been a lot fewer fishable days this Spring than we usually get.
I am not too picky about water levels; the McKenzie can fish well when the water is quite low, but good fishing can also be had when it is at 10,000 cubic feet per second or more. I talk to a lot of anglers who neglect to go fishing unless they think the river is at an ideal level. This year, waiting until things look perfect might mean not fishing until Memorial Day. Trout need to feed whether the water is high or low, and good fishing can be had when the water is surprisingly high. It is true that high water severely limits wading access, but fishing from a drift boat allows you to get to where the fish are. There are, of course, extremes of high water that make the fishing very difficult, and rarely is the fishing very good when the flows are coming up in a hurry, but I have had surprisingly good fishing over this last week at quite high water. The McKenzie is very resistant to turbidity; even when it is way up, it typically maintains a green color with several feet of visibility. The pictures in this report were taken on a day when the lower McKenzie was running between 13000 and 14000 cubic feet per second at Hayden Bridge.
Fortunately, conditions seem to generally be on the mend. The McKenzie came down into very reasonable shape this Sunday and Monday, though it is back up a little bit today, it looks like the long term trend is for the weather to become more seasonable and for the flows to fluxuate at a relatively high, but very fishable, level.
Though big, leggy nymphs are still taking most of the fish, the last several days have seen much better surface activity. The water has warmed up by a couple of degrees, and there have been some decent afternoon mayfly hatches with a mix of blue-winged olives and some lingering march browns. The surface fishing will really improve over the next couple of weeks as the water continues to warm. The big green caddis hatch will start to materialize sometime soon. When these bugs hatch in decent numbers, can make for some of the best dry fly fishing of the year.
May is usually a great month on the McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette. With a wet March and April behind us, hopefully May has some drier weather in store so we will have more opportunity to get out and fish.