March Browns: Fly patterns and fishing tips for the McKenzie and Willamette

Right now you need to get ready for some of the best trout fishing of the year, literally a few miles from downtown Eugene, on the lower Mckenzie River.

Fly fishing really kicks into high gear starting this month with the March Brown hatch. The Lower McKenzie River runs from below Leaburg Dam down to the confluence of the Willamette River, roughly 30 miles of broad glides with a large number of boat ramps and lots of hungry wild trout.

McKenzie River Fly Fishing

The lower McKenzie River isn’t stocked until the fourth Saturday in April, and the river below Hayden Bridge is not stocked at all. The lower fifteen miles of river support all wild fish, which must be released, no kill. Native cutthroat and redsides are the big draw on the lower river. And a good March Brown hatch is your best bet to get some of these 18-20 inch bruisers to take a fly.

Western March brown

The March Brown mayfly: Rhithrogena morrisoni
March browns are the first large mayfly hatch of the year. It can be a frustrating hatch to time, but overcast and 54 degrees is ideal.

march brown

The nymph stage of the March Brown mayfly is effective right before or at the beginning of a hatch, but it isn’t particularly important in the weeks leading up to the event. From the new Dave Hughes’ book, Nymphs for Streams and Stillwaters: Clinger mayfly nymphs live in the very thin layer of slow water caused by friction as fast water rushes over the face of a rock or boulder. If you’ve ever hoisted such a stone from the bottom and tired to pry a clinger nymph away from it for closer inspection, you’ll know why they’re rarely knocked loose by the currents and delivered to waiting trout.

March brown nymph, macro

Swinging March Brown Wet Flies and Soft hackles can be particularly effective. When fishing dries, go with size #12’s early and move to #14’s for the later part of the hatch, or when you get a tough fish in softer water use the smaller bug.

March Brown Fly Patterns:
Harop’s CDC Biot Emerger March Brown
Beadhead March Brown Emerger
Sparkle Dun Tan/March Brown
Brook’s Flymph March Brown
Brook’s March Brown Variant
Captive Dun March Brown
Harrop’s CDC March Brown
March Brown Parachute
Heavy Hackle Parachute March Brown
Hogan’s Clinger March Brown
Klinkhammer March Brown
March Brown Cripple
March Brown Wet with Golden Pheasant Tippet
March Brown Soft Hackle
March Brown Western

March Brown Fly Tying Videos:
March Brown Wet, Coachman Style
March Brown Soft Hackle
March Brown Parachute
March Brown Sparkle Dun
CDC March Brown Emerger
March Brown Bead-head nymph

March Brown Weather
From WestFly’s March Brown entomology page:

On the Willamette, McKenzie, and other Oregon rivers, March browns are beloved by local anglers even though the bugs often hatch in godawful weather. Many ardent fly fishers will spend a March afternoon shivering in a driftboat as droplets of cold rain run down the sleeve of their casting arm.


McKenzie Trip W/ Lou

But the rewards of fishing the March Brown hatch can be great:

Fishing Pics -- Chris Daughters


This entry was posted in Fishing Reports, Fly Tying, McKenzie River, Middle Fork Willamette River fishing, Oregon Fly Fishing Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to March Browns: Fly patterns and fishing tips for the McKenzie and Willamette

  1. RTE (Brian) says:

    I guess I change up the colors on most of these flies and end up with a good bwo fly eh? They’re hatching with decent frequency on the truckee right now– any favorite patterns for them?

    Keep up the great reports, pics & vids. Love it.


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