March Brown hatch set to blow up next week with warmer temperatures. What flies should you have in your box?

Both the McKenzie and the Willamette drainage’s are in fine shape. We’ve had mixed reports the past couple of days. Some anglers doing well nymphing and swinging March Brown Wets. Others seeing adult March Browns and fish up, devouring them. And even other anglers who made it out during a cold, bright and windy day with little or no activity. Thats Spring fishing for you. The forecast has this coming Thursday at 58 degrees, perfect for a great March Brown day.

March Browns are beginning to hatch, Blue Winged Olives have been out, along with Winter Stones, Skwala Stones and Midges. Hopefully the month of March brings us some better weather and anglers get the time to get on the water. Here is a discussion of the shops favorite  bugs you want to consider stocking your fly box with.

 March Brown Sparkle Dun/March Brown Heavy Hackle Parachute: It is a tough call between the Parachute March Brown and the March Brown Sparkle Dun as to which is the better adult March Brown imitation. During a full blown emergence when fish are up and obviously eating adults the March Brown Sparkle Dun is probably my first choice but if I don’t find success with it, the Parachute is next.



March Brown Soft Hackle: Weather you are pre, during or post hatch the March Brown Soft Hackle is a killer. Especially during ideal March Brown weather, warm cloudy and rainy. March Brown adults struggle to break the surface miniscus and at this highly vulneralble point of their life cycle trout key on them. If you were stuck fishing three flies on the lower Mckenzie this spring the March Brown Soft Hackle would be one of them.

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Tungsten Hunchback March Brown Nymph: March Brown nymphs live in shallow, oxygenated riffles. If you find your self fishing prior to the hatch and can’t get fish to come to swung wet flies like the March Brown Soft Hackle of the March Brown flymph, fish the Hunchback by itself with a split shot or coupled with a Possie Bugger or Mega Prince. The Tungsten Bead will get this pattern down were you want it.


Tungsten Trout Retriever: Both the McKenzie and Willamette have decent populations of stoneflies. The nymphs seem to increase thier activity starting now and will hatch out sporadically throughout the spring. I will use the Trout Retriver series in golden or black to help get other smaller nymphs down to the bottom, pheasant tails, march browns, princes. But you will have those days when the fish really key on the big nymph.


Mega Prince/Possie Bugger: Both hall of fame flies for all of our local waters and beyond. A discussion of spring flies would simply be incomplete without including these two. When the water is up a bit I will swing the Mega Prince with a March Brown Flymph or Wet. You can always dead drift  either fly under an indicator, and as the water drops and clears a touch, the Possie Bugger remains an excellent choice at all levels of the water column.



Blue Winged Olive “Drymerger Beatis“: I’ve spent many days on the McKenzie and Willamette with excellent numbers of March Browns on the waters surface. Yet getting a fish to eat my March Brown adult imitation seemed impossible. Switch to a Blue Winged Olive, seemingly microscopic amongst the large March Brown duns and instantly have fish scoop up my smaller bug. While smaller than the March Brown, many days the Blue Winged Olive mayfly is far more numerous, and fish find it far more efficient to eat the plentiful Blue Winged Olives.

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Skwala Stoneflies “Silvey’s Little Olive Stone“: You aren’t going to see huge hatches of the Skwala stones on the McKenzie or Willamette like you would on the Bitterroot out of Missoula, but you will see these medium sized adult stoneflies enough to carry a few in you box. It is basically a slimmed down dark stimulator. You will find these bugs in a variety of waters, not just near the bank like their larger cousins the Golden and Salmon flies. Consider fishing the nymph version as well. The Tungsten Skwala Stonefly nymph is slim and dense, a perfect pattern to help sink a March Brown Nymph in a riffle with moderate depth.



Royal Coachman Wet/Dark Cahill/March Brown Beadhead Emerger: No other time of year do I fish so many wets/emergers. The river is up a bit usually, and covering water with a down and across swing is very effective. Tying one of these behind a dry fly during a hatch is also effective. The Coachman is a great wet fly on the lower McKenzie and Willamette in Spring. It really gets the Cutthroat going with or without a hatch. Try a tandem Cahil and Coachman set up on the lower river, it’s been working for 75 years, tough to argue with success. The March Brown Beadhead Emerger has been our best selling Spring wet the past couple of years. The orange thread head, thorax bead and traditional overwing all contribute to it’s success.




Numerous other patterns work as well, and before you know it things will have warmed up enough for us to start talking about early season caddis.–CD

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3 Responses to March Brown hatch set to blow up next week with warmer temperatures. What flies should you have in your box?

  1. Jason Lowentritt says:

    Fished the super prince nymph and swung the little the soft hackle on Friday from above Hayden Bridge to the mouth. The mouth was a foot higher than the Willamette and the water was cold. I found fish on my humingbird side finder, stalked them up river and still no bite. I’ll try this Thursday. Thanks for the update

  2. Mark Raimer says:

    I fished the Middle fork around Hampton last monday and had no luck dredging the bottom w/ the usual. I spotted a couple of splashes down stream and put on a dark patridge wet fly and started picking up fish. I even threw on a small 16 dry and picked up a good fish. Thanks for the patterns to stock up on.

  3. Brian says:

    Andy Burk’s Hunch Back march brown = fish– right now on the truckee!

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