Mckenzie River Fishing Report
April , 2008
The weather has been nasty at times, but the river
flows have been reasonable most days. Fishing has been good to excellent.
It hasn't been too busy on the river above Hendrick's Bridge. However, on
nice days and weekends, there's a huge hatch of drift boats from Hendrick's down
to Hayden Bridge, with lots of power boat traffic from Hayden down to the
confluence with the Willamette River.
The March Brown mayflies have come off with a
vengeance during the month. Blue-Wing Olive mayflies and small tan
caddisflies keep the trout looking up in the afternoon. We've seen some
caddisfly hatches that were so heavy the river's surface is literally carpeted
with them. There are so many insects in the air you'd better keep your
mouth closed if you don't want to inadvertently eat a few. Sounds like the
fish should be going wild at such times, doesn't it? But, that's not the
case. The fishing essentially shuts down as your lone fly is just one
among thousands and thousands. Dries don't work; wets don't work; nymphs
don't interest them either.
Wednesday, April 9
Guide Jason Mariner and his guest had good nymph fishing, hooking some native
redsides to about 17", with an absolute lunker that managed to escape on the
jump. We'll never know for sure, but my first thought was steelhead.
Jason insisted the fish appeared "too dark" to be a steelie. Yikes!
There may be a few "extra large" rainbows willing to bite a fly this season.
They had good fishing until a blanket hatch of caddisflies ended the fishing fun
until it subsided. The fish, no doubt ate well.
Hare's Ears and Caddis pupae patterns ruled the day for the anglers.
Friday, April 11
Jason, I, and our guest, John G, fished the lower river, starting late morning.
No rising fish, which is to be expected on an April morning. Hare's Ears,
Caddis larvae and pupae patterns caught fish at every location we stopped.
A mix of cutthroat and rainbows. No butt-kickers, but wild fish always
make a good show.
Though the fish continued to take nymphs when the rise started about 1 p.m., an
Adams and Elk Hair Caddis were readily taken when the angler put it over a
rising trout. Fishing was constant throughout the day if you were willing
to switch flies.
Saturday, April 12
Tara Fulps and Marcy were put up with Jason and me on a magnificent spring day
on the river. We fished the lower McKenzie and down into the Willamette.
It was the first warm weekend day in weeks, so everyone with a raft, canoe,
drift boat and jet craft was on the water. Hatch activity was minimal in
the bright sunshine, but, of course, the ladies did well on nymphs. The
McKenzie fished much better than the Willamette. Don't know for sure, but
water clarity may have been one of the factors. The Willlamette was a bit
off color, and, perhaps, a degree or two colder. No significant hatch to
interest the fish, which can make the Willamette quite temperamental.
Sunday had more overcast, the insects hatched early afternoon, and the trout
definitely bit better.
Monday, April 14
River flow was very good, as was the water clarity. Nymphed with the usual
until early afternoon with good success on the lower river. Rising fish would
take a dry fly, but were also interested in a little brown or tan Soft Hackle
swung slowly in the current. The game was to locate a riser, and adjust
the line length so it drifted exactly over its rising position.
Lesson: Change it up --- nymphs, wet flies, and nymphs. One-trick
ponies will be stymied much of the fishing day.
Friday, April 18
Fished lower river down from Bellinger. Rumor had it the water was too
cold to fish. Ooooops! No one told the fish. The weather was
chilly, and rain fell occasionally, but nymph fishing was steady.
Initially, all rainbows and a couple of mountain whitefish. Two fish of
14" - 15" both managed to trash 5X tippets. An even larger redsides ---
perhaps 16" --- took us down river until it found the far side of a huge tree
root wad in mid river. Toasted! Caddisflies and March Browns brought
the fish to the surface until after 4 p.m. Cutthroats predominated
the afternoon catch. Soft hackles or floating flies --- angler's choice.
Sunday, April 20
With snow on the ground this morning, I opted for indoor "spring cleaning",
rescheduling today's McKenzie trip. We are exactly one month into spring
today! I should have photographed my blooming rhododendrons with snow on
them . . .
Unable to help himself, Jason floated the river. He took the water
temperature at 40 degrees! In warmed to 43 degrees by late afternoon.
Brrrrrr! The fishing was mediocre, with the few fish which were caught
were all on nymphs.
Friday, April 25
John and Jason and I ran between Hendrick's and Bellinger on a scouting run.
The weather was mild and partly sunny. the
river had bounced up a bit, so some of our favorite runs were a little faster
and deeper than optimal. this also, it seemed to cool the water a bit.
Though there were a few rising trout, surface activity was sporadic. Very
few fish would take surface flies or emergers. The fishing was only fair.
On nymphs, we landed rainbows to 14", a few whitefish, and no cutthroats.
Something quite peculiar. For a couple hours in the afternoon we saw at
least a dozen flying salmon flies! The Pteronarcys californica
stoneflies are very common on the Deschutes, Madison, and Big Hole Rivers in the
West. Angling hordes flock to fish this hatch late May and June on these
famous rivers. In years past I usually see ONE salmonfly a day on only a
few spring days on the McKenzie, so to see more than a dozen in the air within
two hours was a unique event on this river. We saw three fluttering on the
surface that were eaten by trout that rose to them. No trout could be
fooled by our floating artificials. You might consider having a couple of
large salmonfly pattterns in your box.
Sunday, April 27
Launched around 10 a.m. Though there were a few March Brown mayflies on
the water, there were very few rising fish. Nymph fishing was sporadic
through early afternoon. A 13" rainbow took a Dark Hare's Ear, and Pheasnt
Tail nymphs caught a handful of cutthroat.
About 3 p.m. there were a few small caddisflies, a few March Browns, and an
abundance of Blue-Wing Olives which brought trout to the surface. Nymph
fishing picked up, but I switched Marcy to a small caddis which produced three
cutthroat. Jeff Elston went to a Soft Hackle, while I switched Marcy to a
Fuzz Ball emerger. In the next 45 minutes the action was nonstop for
willing cutthroat trout. The McKenzie trout love a hatch. If you
have trouble catching the risers, think small.
Wednesday, April 30
Client Les Davis wanted to learn about and focus on nymph fishing. The
water was cold through the morning hours. he best fish of the morning was
a native rainbow of 14". As the afternoon advanced we began to see a few
march bBrowns and Baetis. River had warmed by a couple of degrees, making
a difference. The fishing pace picked up, and the trout were willing to
move for the fly. Often as the fly swung up off the bottom as the line
tightened at the end of a drift, a fish would grab. Cutthroats
predominated the afternoon catch.
Guests Tom Clements and Alec Maki had fair fishing on nymphs in the morning.
The water was cold, but warmed throughout the afternoon. Mid afternoon the
hatch of Baetis and March Browns was sparse, but the trout -- predominantly
cutthroat --- willingly took emergers. Three good trout were broken on the
strike. Ahhhhh, the BIG ONES that got away! Could have been my vivid
imagination but I thought I saw my first large green McKenzie Caddis of the
The fishing was slow on the Deer Horn to Hendricks run for josh and his guests.
part of the mediocre fishing may have been do to a late launch. Fishing
behind a number of knowledgeable, good anglers and guides who pick off the easy
fish is always a challenge. Trout were caught on nymphs, but they were
nobody's fools on the surface. what few insects that hatched came off
sporadically. The water is still high and a little cold.
As the weather and water conditions stabilize, the hatches will, again, be more
dependable and long-lived. A good strategy is to cover a lot of water
quickly, and seek out those little spot lies potentially holding trout that
other anglers have ignored in favor of fishing the more obvious locations.
Linda Mackey and Steve Krygier fished with me on the lower river. It was
Linda's first time fly fishing, and she was a natural. She was rewarded
with landing many native cutthroat that responded well to a caddis/mafly emerger
pattern. Mr. Krygier, also, had very consistent fishing throughout the
day. There was no consistent hatch activity, but the trout demonstrated a
willingness to come to the surface for emergers, but not dry flies. We did
not fish nymphs much since the fish preferred to "look up". Interestingly,
the rainbow trout were not very interested. The numerous trout Steve and
Linda caught were all cutthroat.
Knowing the aquatic insects were not likely to be very active until mid day,
Jason, Marcy and I put in about noon. Today is "Experimental Fly Day".
Jason and I had tied an assortment of new flies, always looking for something
more effective on McKenzie trout. And, of course, it gave us a chance to
update current conditions for the McKenzie River Fishing Report for our readers.
Our first stop was a location I had done very well with clients Linda and Steve
on Wednesday. After pointing out specific fishing locations for Marcy and
Jason, I took my time struggling into my waders and checking my cameras.
By the time I stepped from the boat, Marcy had already landed two wild cutthroat
and had missed three others. Though there were no rising fish a
precisely-fished emerger was proving very enticing to the fish. Before I
even tied on a new Dangerous Experiment onto my own rod, I was busy taking
pictures of Marcy and her trout. She landed no less than nine trout
standing in one spot, starting with a short line section of fly line to cast.
she would lengthen her line for a subsequent cast only if she did not get a
strike or a landed trout. It doesn't get much better.
Jason was running through his selection of experimental patterns. The best
were some buggy CDC emergers, and he caught numerous cutthroat looking for
I started with my new Queen Latifah emerger, and landed three cutthroat in quick
succession. Ho - hum. I suspect I could have caught a few more in
the run I was fishing, but I was anxious to try a couple of experimental nymphs.
Trout were landed on new nymphs I tried, but on this day the cutthroat and
rainbows showed a preference for what will evolve into my RuLeAn (Rubber Leg Antron) and
PhAnFlash (Pheasant Antron Flashy Mylar) Mayfly series.
Mid afternoon, March Brown mayflies and a smaller species began hatching, along
with a few caddisflies. We fished a few other locations until we found a
few rising trout. There was little interest in floating flies, but Queen
Latifah and Jason's new subsurface experiments produced many fish.
All tolled, we landed more that 40 trout in a little over four hours of fishing,
and missed twice as many. When it got a bit too rainy and breezy for
Marcy, we called it a day, pleased with some of our new fly creations.
Back to the fly-tying bench . . .
Stay tuned for more updates on our McKenzie River Fishing Report.
Yikes! The McKenzie is starting to rise as warm temperatures melt the snow in
the mountains. Looks like the river will be HIGH and getting higher for
the next three or four days. I'm canceling my trips until the water flows
are manageable. Experts will catch some fish, but inexperienced clients
will have a tough go of it for sure. Being a fishing
guide is like farming and ranching: the weather and water greatly influence
success or struggle.
The large green McKenzie Caddises are, no doubt, continuing to hatch as I write
this. Can't wait for the water to drop. It'll be Hammer Time!
Today the McKenzie River is cresting, but its descent is gradual. Can't
fish. Can't dance. Can't stack BB's in the wind. Guess I'll
write about fish and tie flies.
Marcy's birthday event. We fished near Leaburg with excellent results. All
rainbows, and lots of them. Black and brown Wooly Buggers, Prince Nymphs
and Hare's Ears did most of the damage. We stopped only when Marcy's right
arm said it was time to quit.
Client guests Chuck Wagner and his son Andrew found the morning fishing
inconsistent, though we did get some nice native rainbows on Prince Nymphs and
Hare's Ears. The afternoon PMD hatch provided more dependable fishing.
Soft Hackles produced more dependably than dry flies. Most were cutthroat.
Though the water is still high, clarity is excellent, and the trout DO have to
Very much a repeat of Wednesday. Hit and miss in the morning, all nymph
fishing with the exception of a few rainbows willing to surface for a PMD Soft
Hackle. Soft hackles ruled the afternoon from Hayden to Armitage.
Find a few rising cutthroat and swing it in front of them. Fish on!
Now it's off to the Rogue River for awhile to see if the southern Oregon trout
(and maybe early-run steelhead) are in the mood . . .
Charles Oaks found the McKenzie to his liking, especially for those trout
willing to take a Pink Cahill and CDC Caddis on the surface. Native
rainbows to 14" and lots of smaller cutthroat in the afternoon below Hayden
McKenzie River guided fishing trip details:
info on Mckenzie River fly patterns and insect hatches: Click Here