Summer time tactics for Fly Fishing the Mckenzie River

Now that water levels have settled down and our weather pattern of blue sky and beaming sun is upon us, what tactics will improve your catch. Early in the day fish will come to the surface with dry flies. Lower light conditions mean the fish are less wary.  Cooler temperatures allow for more insect availability in the 7am-11am zone. Good patterns for this early morning session are Pale Morning Dun Sparkle Duns #16, Brown Elk Hair Caddis #12-16, Yellow Elk Hair Caddis #14-16, Parachute Adams #12-16 and No Down Golden Stones #8-12.

As the sun gets higher in the sky and temperatures rise insect activity near the surface diminishes. It is not that all the bugs have stopped emerging. They simply are spending less time near the water, as the heat will evaporate them. When aquatic insects hatch mid day they migrate to the trees where they will find shade. Many species of mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies will return to the river in the evening hours to lay their eggs but for now they are seeking cover. This means you should look to fish shaded areas, deeper drop offs and faster water that can contain insect activity as well as cover.  Use a two fly system dropping a nymph of a dry fly 2-5ft and get your Mega Prince, Possie Bugger, Copper John, Flashback Hares Ear or Red Headed Prince down deep.  Your nymph should outperform the dry five to one during the 12-5 hours. And hey if they still come up for the dry your are using to locate the subsurface fly, not a problem.

As the sun begins to fade away behind the Doug Firs look for a huge variety of insects, Little Yellow Stones, small Caddis, Green Drakes, larger rust Caddis, Pale Morning Duns, Golden Stones and more. The trick to this time of day is to change things up as the evening progresses. Look for the most prolific insect. Do you see more little yellow stones or more caddis? Are the fish sipping dries, maybe it is a rust colored mayfly spinner the “pale morning dun spinner”, or the adult PMD which would have me using a Sparkle Dun PMD. Are the fish leaping head first out of the water, probably chasing up an emerging caddis or little yellow stone (unlike most stonesflies the little yellow one freely emerges like a mayfly) sink your dry and swing it when you see this happening, the fish often like this vulnerable state of emergence and will key on the emerger.

Fish are still rising and it is getting late, critical descisions on what to make my last fly change. Go for two, it’s nearly dark and you are having trouble seeing the little brown elk hair that has been killing them, it’s barley floating by now anyway. Tie on a huge Stimulator or No Down golden, add another peice of tippet and your small elk hair down from that 36 inches. When the huge bug lands you can locate your set up, mend the big bug away and even if you can’t see the little one you know the general vicinity and can set up on anything near by.

Regardless of what time of day you are out fly fishing the Mckenzie River or Willamette and tribs it’s a good time to be there. Changing flies and tactics to adjust for light and weather will help you catch more fish.-CD

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