The famous holes of Eugene area steelhead fishing — McKenzie and Willamette Rivers

In a “tongue in cheek” nod to the North Umpqua, our good friend Greg Hatten came up with names for several pools and tailouts on the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers

These names aren’t part of legendary river lore and won’t evoke images of Zane Gray fishing the camp water in pleated wool pants and hip waders… quite the opposite. My names are earthy and practical — anything but romantic and mystical — but they’re helpful.

Greg Hatten Steelhead Maniac

Charting and naming over 100 pools with boulders, bars and riffles in my Steelhead logs is the best way for me to keep track of the home waters where I catch most of my Steelhead.

I don’t know how the “Sawtooth”, the “Sweetheart”, or the “Confluence” holes got their names on the “North”… but I know that my “motor hole” on the Willamette got it’s name when I pulled a small block engine out of it with the winch on my Toyota.

I know why the “Kitchen Pool” was named on the Umpqua and I also know that my hat goes around in a circle when I lose my footing in the “Whirlpool” on the Willamette (how I wish I would’ve named it “Toilet Bowl” – I visit it regularly and have dumped a phone, a camera, and more than a few flies in it).

I can relate to “Upper” and “Lower Mott” – but I like the “Upper” and “Lower Homeless” pools of my home waters because I often find someone sleeping amongst the alders a foot off the trail on summer mornings as the sun comes up and I have caught so many Steelhead from those two runs.

Steelhead Map

Every time I catch a Steelhead, I draw a picture, name the features, put a dot on the map, and make notes about the temperature, flies, leaders, wind, cloud cover etc… It’s a natural progression of an obsessive fly fisherman, I suppose. After six years of this activity, I have become very familiar with two great rivers that run through our backyard here in Eugene.

I make notes about many things – water temperature, water level, weather, length of leader, color, size & weight of fly … and when I hook up, I put a dot on my “section map” to more clearly visualize where steelhead cluster and hold. What I’ve captured along the way is a hundred little details about steelhead in the rivers I fish.

Greg Hatten Steelhead Maniac

I can’t say for certain if any of this makes me more successful in my “steelhead pursuit”… after all, it’s steelhead we’re talking about,
but it has certainly changed the way I fish for them – in the rivers I know and the rivers I don’t.

If nothing else, I’ve got a lot of personal data to draw from. Here are a few stats:
* 95% of the steelhead I’ve caught were on “the swing”
* 5% of the steelhead I’ve caught were on “the strip” and the “take”
is usually on the first couple of strips
* 0% of the steelhead I’ve caught were dead drifting a nymph
* 0 = times I’ve tried to catch a steelhead dead drifting a nymph
* 85% of the steelhead I’ve caught hit the fly about 10 yards before
the end of the swing
* About 80% of the steelhead I’ve caught were “fin-clipped”
* I use 12 lb tippet on the Willamette and 10 lb everywhere else
* Managing line and fly depth through the swing is an art and the key to success in swinging flies for steelhead

-Greg Hatten

This entry was posted in Lower Willamette, McKenzie River, Summer Steelhead. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The famous holes of Eugene area steelhead fishing — McKenzie and Willamette Rivers

  1. tayk says:

    Very cool. Very intresting stats and the way you accumulated your information. I haven’t the chance to fish for steelhead on the fly. I haven’t found any books on fly fishing the willamette or mac, for steelhead/salmon or trout. Looks like you could write one, or at least start one. You journals published would be cool in the least. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Karl Mueller says:

    The don’t call him the “King of the Town Run” for nothing folks!

  3. gregH says:

    I’ve been called a lot worse than that…

  4. Pamela says:

    I see the map you’re drawn…but where exactly is that?!?

  5. Noah Montgomery says:

    Where exactly is this? By Skinners Butte park ? Do you wade out?

  6. fishface says:

    Which way is the river running

  7. J says:

    Maybe someone should petition the odfw too bring this run back. The river is so dead these days

  8. Richard Nelson says:

    I used to fish leaburgh dam down to greenwood. It was my favorite steelhead drift. I loved fishing it in June, and July. The steelhead on that river are small but are pound for pound some of the strongest and toughest to land.

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