Fishing on the McKenzie and Willamette has been very good the past three weeks. Both the lower and upper sections of both rivers have been fishing well, and with low water levels and some warmer days, dry fly fishing during the March Brown hatches has been very good. Earlier this month, MB hatches were only showing up on hot, sunny days, and the water was still too cold and the wind too strong for fish to be taking adults on the surface. On those challenging dry fly days, nymphs and emergers have been a sure bet until the hottest parts of the day. During the peak of the day, sometime between 1-4pm, using cripple patterns or smaller (size 14 or 16) purple haze and other attractors was very effective when you don’t see fish rising to MB naturals. As we are getting to the end of the MB season, cloudier days have been fishing better, and the hatches have been very impressive with the fish matching the intensity of the bugs with eager surface activity. My favorite MB dry is the Western March Brown; pairing that with a cripple, a sparkle dun, or a MB soft hackle pattern is a surefire recipe for success this time of year!
While I’ve had a little success on the upper river, the lower section of the rivers have had better hatches, and more willing fish eating on the surface thanks to warmer water temps. Nymphing the upper rivers has still been tons of fun, and there have been fewer anglers to fight with up there as well. Standard springtime patterns have been working well. Mega Prince, Possie Bugger, heavier and larger 20-incher stoneflies on the bottom to get the rig down have been great. Rigging a dropper nymph is great if you can cast it — size 12 pheasant tail jigs, size 16 olive baetis nymphs, size 16 red copper johns, and size 8-12 attractor patterns like lucent jigs and frenchies have all been productive the past couple weeks. Targeting deeper, slower, pools, drop-offs, and shelves will be most productive as water temps are still quite cold.
The recent developments of the Coronavirus have made for strict social-distancing measures in our state. As you might have heard, the Lower Deschutes is closed to boating, which has stirred some anglers up quite a bit, with some worried about prolonged closures up to the point of the river’s famous salmonfly hatch. I drove up the McKenzie from Armitage to Blue River yesterday, and didn’t see any ramp closures. State parks are closed across Oregon, however, so popular spots on the Willamette no longer are accessible to boaters. Stay-at-home measures mandated by Governor Kate Brown make leaving the house a bit of a guilty pleasure, but keeping a best-practice for social distancing is the key to success. It may happen that Lane County decides to close down parks if things continue as they have, in which case, access to some popular ramps might be limited. I would get out and enjoy our local waters during the spring, when they fish as well as any other waters in the state.
This report was brought to you by Alex Worth, tennis professional and avid angler.
An additional notes; I saw yesterday was that USFS access had been shut down as well so be sure to check with local offices to confirm open areas and accesses.
Local rivers have risen with recent rains (dropping back down today) but all of the tactics and fly patterns Alex described will hold throughout April given reasonable water conditions.