McKenzie River Trout Fishing Report

March Brown Adult

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.

A Huge Lower McKenzie River Wild Rainbow Trout

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.

McKenzie River Wild Rainbow

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.

McKenzie River Wild Rainbow

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.

McKenzie River Wild Rainbow

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Spring Special on Lower McKenzie River Guided Flyfishing Trips

McKenzie River Wild Rainbow Trout

Now through May 15th, I am offering a half day guided flyfishing trips on the lower McKenzie for $275, a $50 discount off the regular rate. These trips include about 5 hours of floating and fishing by drift boat, drinks, fishing tackle, flies, accessories, and expert instruction. All you need is a fishing license, a hat, sunglasses and rain gear. What could be easier?

McKenzie River Wild Rainbow Trout

The convenient proximity of the lower McKenzie to the Eugene/Springfield area makes this trip an easy one, and the spring season on this section of the river offers some of the best fishing of the year for wild rainbow and cutthroat trout.

Wild McKenzie River Rainbow Trout

This week the McKenzie’s wild trout have been responding well to various dead-drifted nymph patterns. As the March Brown hatch gets going later this month, the fishing opportunities on any given day will include nymphing, wet fly as well as dry fly fishing. This is a great opportunity to get out on the water for a reasonable price, learn a great deal, and catch some beautiful fish. The spring season on the lower McKenzie is not to be missed. This is some of my favorite trout fishing of the year.

Wild Lower McKenzie River Rainbow Trout

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Oregon Steelhead Report: The Winter Run Is Still Going Strong!

Oregon Winter Steelhead, cropped

Runs have been solid this winter with good returns on most of Oregon’s winter steelhead streams. Over the last couple of weeks, we have had periodic showers, keeping water levels on many of the coastal streams in the sweet spot for an extended period of time. Over this weekend, weather forecasters predict that somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.25″ of rain will fall in the coast range. If anything, this is a good thing. Some rivers were getting a little too low and clear for ideal fishing conditions, and the freshet should bring in some fresh bright fish. When river levels start to drop again next week, flows and clarity should again be prime.

Oregon Winter Steelhead

The fish have been responding well to both dead-drifted and swung offerings. On the smaller, bed-rock-lined streams, nymphing egg patterns has been extremely effective. In bigger, broader water, warmer than average water temperatures have made the fish more willing to chase well-presented intruders or leeches swung on various sink tips.

Oregon Winter Steelhead

During the tail end of winter steelhead season, the catch is often a mixed bag. I have been seeing good numbers of both wild and hatchery fish. Some are bright, some are colored, and some have already spawned and are on their way back out to the salt. Though many runs are at their peak or already past their zenith, fresh fish will continue to enter the rivers and creeks along the coast until after most winter steelhead fisheries close at the end of March.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Oregon Steelhead Report: Good Fishing Interrupted

We have had an interesting weather pattern so far this winter in western Oregon. We have had only 3 major rainfalls since Thanksgiving with extended dry periods between these events. The storm systems that began to wash ashore earlier in the week with drenching rains and gale-force winds have dropped a monumental amount of precipitation particularly on the central oregon coast and inland areas and have triggered some massive flooding. While it appears that the floodwaters have crested on most rivers and are starting to drop, the rain persists, and it is anyone’s guess exactly when the high water will abate enough to get out do some fishing.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

That being said, it has been a good winter of steelhead fishing thus far, with nice numbers of fish in most systems. Just before this last system rolled in, the water had gotten low enough that conditions were perfect on the lower reaches and mainstems of some of the central coast’s larger rivers. This is some of my favorite fishing: when the water conditions are amenable to fishing this close to salt water, it is the best opportunity to intercept extremely fresh fish. I have seen a lot of bright, two-tone steelhead this winter that redefine the term “chromer.”

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

I have had good results in the past weeks swinging flies with a spey rod and skagit line system, as well as nymphing various egg patterns under an indicator. Depending on the conditions of the day, and the character of each individual spot, both techniques can be very effective.

Oregon Winter Steelhead

As flood waters recede, we should have some good opportunities to get out and fish soon. Flood events, though destructive and potentially lethal, are cleansing for rivers. Any accumulated flotsam and jetsam; from deadfalls to old tires and rotten cohos will be swept away, and the gravels will be turned over and cleaned of sediments. We are likely to find some of the reaches of our rivers resculpted by this event. A few old fishing spots will be gone, while new ones will appear. It is part of the natural order of things. It will be intersting to float some stretches as the water recedes to see what changes the flood might have wrought.

Hatchery Oregon WInter Steelhead and Happy Anglers

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Fall Salmon Retrospective

Oregon Fall Chinook

Late November and early December typically comprise the least busy period of my guiding calendar, which gives me a great opportunity to play around, do some fun fishing, and recharge the batteries after the long fall steelhead grind. After spending months chasing steelhead on the Willamette and Deschutes, a chance to throw a fly at chrome-bright chinook within a few miles of salt water is awfully appealing.

Oregon Fall Chinook

Oregon Fall Chinook

Every year I spend some time chasing chinooks on the coastal rivers. Like many kinds of fishing, it can be hit or miss. If we get a lot of rain here in western Oregon, like we often do in the late fall, opportunities to fly fish for these fish can be few and far between. This year, however, things fell into place just perfectly. I spent the better part of two weeks with great friends fishing a dropping river with bright chinooks showing up on each tide.

Wild Oregon Fall Chinook

Oregon Fall Chinook

The water became low and clear enough that the guys fishing conventional tackle were getting very few bites, but the fish were hungry for our flies. Depending on the depth and flow of the spot, and the water level any given day, we fished anything from a Type III to an Intermediate shooting head on a single-handed rod. Given the clarity of the water, a relatively long fluorocarbon leader seemed to improve the odds.

Oregon Fall Chinook

Oregon Fall Chinook

The most productive fly for me this fall was a clouser minnow in chartreuse and white, chartreuse and black, or chartreuse and blue. All sorts of flies, however, can be effective. In years past on these same rivers, my best pattern was an orange comet.

Oregon Fall Chinook

Many of the holes have a lot of woody structure and snags in them. When you hook a big, bright chinook that decides to head for a log, you have to pull on it with everything that a 10 weight and 20 pound fluorocarbon can muster. This is a lot of the fun of flyfishing for chinooks. A hot steelhead often takes off on long runs culminating in dramatic jumps, while the battle with a chinook is usually more of a wrestling match.

Bright Oregon Fall Chilook

The brightest highlight of my fall chinook season was when my girlfriend Alia fought and landed her first salmon. The battle was hard-fought and resulted in bruised knuckles, a broken finger nail, and sore forearms. She and I were fishing with my friend Brian. For Brian and me it was far more rewarding to watch her get this fish than it would have been to catch it ourselves.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Winter Steelhead Report: The Swing is the Thing

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

Though we have had a little bit of rain in the last couple of days, thus far Western Oregon is having its driest winter in 35 years. All of the smaller rivers and creeks that I typically fish this time of year are unfishable; with the water too low for either boat or fish passage. The only upside of this historic drought is that some of the big rivers that are almost always high and brown this time of year are low, clear, and fishing well with flies. Whether fishing for fun or guiding, I have spent my time in the last couple of weeks swinging flies, and while I don’t catch as many fish as the guys side-drifting bait or those staring at their bobbers all day, I have been finding good numbers of fish and fairly consistent action.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

Depending on the spot, the fish have come on anything from a light tip and an unweighted fly to a lead-eyed intruder fished on ten feet of T-14. The key is to match your sink tip and fly combination to the depth and flow of the run you are fishing. Winter fish are, on average, less willing to chase a swung fly near the surface than summer fish are. Ideally, you want your fly to be swinging 1-3 feet off the bottom. The fish will move up in the water column to attack your fly, but if you are fishing underneath them, they cannot even see your fly. Touching the bottom every once in a while isn’t a bad thing: most runs have a piece of ledge rock or a boulder that sticks up more than the rest of the structure around it. If you are consistently hanging up, however, you probably need to move to a lighter fly, sink tip, or both.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

In the right type of water, the swing can work surprisingly well in the winter time. Nearly all the fish I have seen brought to hand recently have been wild, two-tone chromers covered with sea lice. There is nothing like it when one of these things climbs on your fly mid-swing. The fish below is a magnificent specimen. Though it was a little colored, it also had sea lice hitch hiking on the base of its fins. If I were to guess, I would say that this was not this fish’s first spawning run, and maybe it didn’t re-bright out in salt water like some of them do.

Wild Oregon Winter Steelhead

My friend Les, a guest for a few days of guided fishing, actually caught this fish, but the picture of me holding it turned out better. Needless to say, our encounter with this fish etched indelible memories for both angler and guide.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Deschutes River Trout Fishing Report

Deschutes River Redside

I finished a three day trip this afternoon on the stretch of the lower Deschutes that runs between Trout Creek and Maupin. The weather was unseasonably mild for this time of year, but the fish didn’t seem to mind the cooler weather. We saw highs in the seventies, but the temperature would drop quickly when the afternoon thunderstorms materialized. Though high winds did occasionaly put a crimp in the dry fly action (and certainly the casting), the dry fly fishing and nymphing were consistently good.

Deschutes River Redside

Summer is caddis season on the Deschutes. During the peak of the hatch (usually sometime in July) there can sometimes be a blizzard of bugs hanging over the river, and the dry fly action can be widespred. These bugs come out in greatest profusion when the weather gets really hot (85 degrees or more), which is typical for the lower Deschutes canyon this time of year. When some other trout streams go through their summer doldrums, the Deschutes can really shine.

Deschutes River Redside

The weather was cool on this last trip, feeling more like May than July, but despite the cool weather, there were still enough caddis coming off to keep the fish looking up, with a mixed match of small mayflies to spice things up. Though the hatch wasn’t heavy, we found nice trout rising in various types of water from eddies to riffles and brushy bank lines. Top producing dry fly pattern in my boat included the royal wulff, peacock caddis, and parachute adams, and x-caddis, all in sizes 16 and 18. Simple flies work well here, provided they are well-presented, small and relatively sparse.

Deschutes River Redside

Some of the Deschutes’ native redsides can get picky this time of year, but sight fishing for these trout is really compelling. It pays to move slowly and carefully observe before you cast. Oftentimes the biggest trout are the most subtle risers. If you get a refusal, it pays to rest the fish and change the fly, usually to something smaller and darker.

Nymphing was also productive. When the wind started to crank, blowing most of the bugs off the water, we did well fishing various small nymphs about 7 or 8 feet under a thingamabobber. Various nymphs worked well. A Fox’s Poopah in tan and a pheasant tail fished in tandem were hard to beat.

-3Windy Canyon on the Deschutes River0

We had a number of guests on the trip who had never held a fly rod before, but by the end of the trip, with some instruction and coaching, all had landed some great fish.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Deschutes River Flyfishing Report: The Salmonfly Hatch Is On!

Wild Deschutes Rainbow

The Salmonfly and Golden Stone hatch is out in force on the Lower Deschutes, and the dry fly fishing for the river’s wild redsides hatch has been good. Between Pelton Dam and Maupin, the Deschutes is host to the most prolific hatch of these bugs anywhere in the country. It is an epic hatch, one every dedicated trout angler should experience.

Deschutes River Salmonfly

Earlier in the hatch, the dry fly fishing was a little spotty, with some high and off-color water, and many of the fish still in transition as the hatch worked its way upstream. More recently, however, the water has dropped and cleared, the fish have lined up where they should be, and we have had some spectacular sessions of dry fly fishing.

Wild Deschutes Rainbow

The water is still relatively high, but like anywhere, moderately high water doesn’t necessarily make the trout fishing good or bad, it just changes things to some extent. Some favorite spots will be washed-out, while many other places that wouldn’t necessarily fish at lower flows will become good spots. Especially during the salmonfly hatch, many fish will hold tight to the bank, downstream of trees, as well up underneath overhanging limbs. Dry fly fishing on the Deschutes forces you to work on your short game to work around these obstacles.

Deschutes River Golden Stonefly

The grabs this time of year can be amazing. It is not uncommon to see a big rainbow chase your fly downstream to crush it. Sometimes two trout will charge the fly at the same time, and the bigger one usually wins. The same fish that in the summer months will be daintily sipping small caddis in a back eddy will charge out of a heavy current seam to blow up a fly nearly the size of a badminton birdie fished on a stubby 1x leader.

Deschutes River Salmonfly and Imitations

During periods of cool and wet weather, the bugs go dormant in the trees and grass, waiting for warmer weather to mate and lay their eggs. Given all the nasty weather we’ve endured this Spring, I think the good dry fly fishing the stonefly hatch offers will linger on for another week or two.

IMG_0749

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Deschutes River Flyfishing Report: The Salmonfly Hatch is Almost Here!

Deschutes River Scenery

I spent the last couple days on the Lower Deschutes between Trout Creek and Maupin. My buddy Kyle and I were showing our friend Clay the river, training him to start running baggage this season, but we also got to do some fishing.

Wild Deschutes River Rainbow Trout

The river was running a little high (somewhere in the neighborhood of 5500-5600 cfs coming out of Pelton Dam), and a little off-color. The heavy snowpack in the Ochocos this year has the Crooked River running high and muddy as it melts, coloring the water in lakes Billy Chinook and Simtustus, as well as the Lower Deschutes River. The fish, however, did not seem to mind.

Deschutes River wild Rainbow Trout

The nymphing was outstanding start to finish. Big flies seemed to be the ticket. Most anything seemed to work; various stonefly nymphs, mega-princes, possie buggers, whatever we tied on. We caught rainbows primarily, a few whitefish, and Clay caught this magnificent, butter-bellied sucker.

Clay with Butter Belly

We saw very few rishing fish, but managed to bring a few nice trout to the surface, including this guy, who attacked an adult stonefly pattern.

Deschutes River Redside on a Salmonfly Dry

The fabled Salmonfly hatch on the Deschutes is just barely getting started. We saw just a couple adult stoneflies flying around on our float, and all of those down closer to Maupin. In the coming weeks, the Salmonflies and Golden Stones of the Deschutes will grace the river with their annual emergence, and the dry fly fishing will really turn on.

Deschutes River Salmonfly

Anyone interested in a top notch Deschutes River Flyfishing experience should call or email! Salmonfly season is already pretty booked, but we have the rest of trout and steelhead season to look forward to. The trout and steelhead fishing on the Deschutes is some of the best of what Oregon has to offer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

2011 Summer Steelhead Apprehended on the McKenzie River

Early Summer Steelhead, McKenzie River

While guiding Ken Mackay and his grandson, Ian, a couple days ago on the lower McKenzie, Ken hooked, played, and landed a 29 inch, bright 2011 summer steelhead, the first I have seen this season. There are not many summer fish in the system yet, so we can thank the moon and stars for aligning correctly and the fish gods for smiling on us. What made this encounter even more miraculous was that Ken hooked this fish while swinging wet flies for trout on my 9′ 4wt. z axis. It ate a #12 Silvey’s Soft Serve March Brown swung down and across on the end of a 4x fluorocarbon tippet. The fish took the little wet fly on the hang down. There was a huge swirl and the line came tight. When I realized exactly what was going on, I thought our odds of landing this fish were slim at best: light rod, light tippet, high water, no net, and nowhere in sight to pull the boat over so I could get out and tail the fish. This was going to take a while. Most of the credit for our success should go to Ken; an experienced fisherman, he kept steady pressure on the fish, giving quarter when he needed to, but exerting as much pressure as the light tippet could take to try to keep the fish under control. To make a long story short, we followed the fish downstream for 3/4 of a mile before the fish began to tire, I anchored the boat on a shallow gravel bar, Ken managed to turn the fish as it made it last runs, slowly relented, and came to hand.

Early Summer Steelhead, McKenzie River

The summer run fish here in the Willamette Valley return early. Many seasons, we have fishable numbers of summer steelhead around by sometime in May. With winter steelhead season ending in April and summer fish showing up on their tails, steelhead anglers in this part of the world hardly get a break. That, as they say, is a good problem to have.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized