Earlier this week trout tagger extrordinaire Scott Kinney and I hit the lower Mckenzie trout population study area between Hendricks and Bellinger. It was the first time that I’ve fished the lower river since the high water levels of spring have subsided and the water clarity increased. It was good to actually see the new structure of the river’s bottom and know why fish are holding in these areas as opposed to just knowing they are and will eat.
The day began inauspiciously enough …. The river had dropped which Scott wasn’t so into (his mind on the quality of the fishing), myself, I was about there with the high water so I was happy about it even if the drop might mean slower fishing. We both could agree that the weather was perfect, not for hatches, the bluebird skies signaling the death knell for the March Brown hatch but for humans to enjoy a little bit of time in the sunshine. It is most likely hatch ‘tweener season, the time of year drives me batty because it feels like the fishing should be better than it is …. Despite the “adverse” conditions we were on rising fish almost immediately, a mix of residual steelhead smolts that we released unharmed and cutthroats and rainbows that we tagged and released. The first group of risers happily scarfed our flies … but not the next group or the next one. What we were generously calling the “hatch” petered off and it was time for some bobber-cating.
The fishing remained slow for about an hour and I fished through a beautiful bucket picking up nothing. As we moved on, Scott shrugged, “you fished that well …..” and I shrugged in return, throwing one more upstream cast into the meat of the trough. My bobber plunged down, the and the hook found “a oh shit! That’s no redside” type of fish. The steelhead broke the water twice right away and I could see that she had not eaten the big stonefly dropper I had in a hinged loop connection dropped on 10 lb flouro just in case but rather the #10 Ice Dub Prince nymph I had tied to the bottom of the 5x leader. Fortunately for me, the hen seemed inclined to stand her ground and fight mostly for the hole in which she was hooked. She made a few hard charges to the middle of the river but never really in earnest tried to make for the Pacific.
This was the highlight of the trip. The trout fishing remained slowish but as long as we didn’t dump the boat how could I complain? I’ll be out there again today and it’ll be interesting with the return of the high overcast to see what comes off … and you never know what might happen out there. Hope to see you on the water.