One of the reasons I go fly fishing is the unknown. What’s around the bend? What will that spot fish like this year? How will it be in high water? What changes will I find this year? The list goes on. The unknown keeps us coming back, it keeps us casting and it makes us push the outer edges of fishing conditions.
Thirty years fly fishing the McKenzie the fish pictured is the biggest baddest fish of all. A shocking specimen that blew my mind. For those who feel the McKenzie lacks biomass to hold wild fish like this one, well here you go, discussion over. Imagine a river where fish like these were not dredged off the bottom with worms all summer long. It happens folks, and fish like these caught on treble hooks do not get let go alive, and most of the time they get wacked. When the the no bait regulation comes up for the McKenzie please be active. But that’s way to depressing, back to the fishing report.
I had a great week fishing the McKenzie and Middle Fork of the Willamette Rivers. Tuesday the Middle Fork was still at 1000cfs for an outflow at Hills Creek Dam (today it’s 2500cfs). It fished well with heavy nymphs. We had nice weather and the river to ourselves. Wednesday and Thursday were spent from Armitage down hammering on small to medium Cutthroats swinging classic wets. The Coachman wet was the clear winner on both days it out fished the Mega Prince and March Brown Beadhead wet. The river rose on us Thursday afternoon and the fishing got a bit tough, but the sun was out! Friday was exploratory or at least that is what I told my guests. My first trip up above Leaburg dam for the year. Fishing was really pretty good but the a 12lbs Bull Trout attacking a hooked Whitefish, and the big rainbow over-shadowed everything else.
High water is just going to be a fact of life on the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers for a while and I was seeking water stability more than anything else. Fishing the McKenzie when it’s running as high as it is now is like fishing a different river. In some ways it’s limiting, only certain areas are slow enough to get quality drifts and hold the boat for any reasonable amount of time to effectively fish an area. Many of the pockets and mid-stream boulder patches that hold fish are simply washed away and way to fast. The runs that do have moderate speed and 3-8ft of depth are really holding fish though, and fishing is very good. The wild trout on the upper McKenzie River are not bothered by 43 degree water temps, they live in cold water all year long. These are gorgeous, hard bodied trout that fight hard under any circumstances but add 7000cfs to the mix and they can leave the pool/run and force you to give chase.–CD