I wish we were discussing high water tactics in August of 2021…. Fish like water as we all know. It’s going to be a very interesting summer with extreme drought conditions wreaking havoc on numerous watersheds across the state of Oregon. There is a silver lining for anglers who don’t have boats, unprecedented wading access.
Fish early and late: Water temps are going to be cooler in the early a.m and late evening. Insect hatches are going to be concentrated early and late. Bigger fish are going to be more available in lower light conditions.
Fish fast water: As the summer progresses and water levels bottom out you are going to find the best fishing in highly oxygenated parts of the river or stream you are fishing. Fast runs, riffles and banks offer refuge to larger fish in low water conditions.
Fish light tippets and longer leaders: Move to 11-14 feet on your tapered leaders. You will find better presentations both in stealth and sink when you go longing and lighter. Dry flies land lighter, soft hackles swing “truer” and nymphs sink quicker with lighter longer tippets.
Fish more small dries: While hatches are minimal this time of year fishing smaller dries like Elk Hair Caddis, Purple Haze, Hippie Stompers, still work really well. Fish simply don’t have to look up as far in low water. Early in the day before the sun has moved over the top of them fish are keen to move to the surface despite a lack of hatches. Lately I have been challenging myself and guests with more dry fly fishing. Put a dry through the run first, think about it like steelheading, run the skater through first and then move subsurface.
Fish Deep Water: Look for deeper runs, pools and “drop-offs” when you are nymphing. Euro Nymphing remains deadly and you don’t need a monster nymph to get down. Our most successful rigs have included a mid sized ( #12 ) euro nymph and a smaller nymph (#16-18) above it.
The Mckenzie and Willamette rivers are very low and unseasonably warm. Do take care when fighting fish. Try and get fish landed quickly and don’t take them out of the water. Fish barbless hooks so you don’t struggle to get fish unhooked. The upper parts of both the McKenzie and Willamette rivers are the areas to concentrate. The lower reaches are where the water is warmest and you are going to stress fish the most. The upper reaches still have cold water, shade and more oxygenated water. Look at tributaries closer to the Cascades, the Middle Fork above Hills Creek Reservoir, the North fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette, the upper South Fork of the McKenzie, Horse Creek and the main McKenzie off the Mckenzie River Trial all have colder flows with excellent wild fish.