Lower McKenzie and Willamette Fishing Well Late October 2019


My final day of guiding locally for 2019 was a memorable one. Good friend Pat Banks and I put my Ambush raft in at Armitage Park around 11am yesterday. Soupy fog enveloped the river and most the the Willamette Valley. Mahogany Duns had already begun hatching and fish were rising in the flat below the I-5 bridge. Pat made a couple of casts and a 17″ white fish took the #14 pheasant tail jig dropped off of a size #10 Parachute Madam X Rusty Orange. That was the last white fish of the day, we stuck cutthroat after cutthroat on the PT after that.

Down the river a bit and Pat hooks into something that stays down. I am thinking big rainbow a short while later Pat lands a small steelhead.



Banks, shallow riffles and mid-stream gravel bars all held fish. We fished what we thought was ideal trout water all day. Around 12 noon the fish really began to rise and we switch to size #14 Parachute Purple Rooster. The fish loved that until the sun popped out and then we went back to the Madam X with the Pheasant tail jig dropped off of it about 24″.





Just below the Wildish gravel conveyer belt now and we are still catching trout in a variety of water types. The sun is out and it’s turned into one of those glorious fall days. Pat makes an upstream cast into a nice run and his rig is immediately ripped upstream and another steelhead is leaping and cartwheeling on the surface. No idea how this fish stays on the 4x dropper tippet but Pat manages to skillfully work the fish into shallow water and I tail our second steelhead of the morning. Wow!






More trout as we quietly run down through the riffles and bars of the water approaching the Willamette confluence. Fish are rising in many of the broken riffles and we switch back and forth between dries and hopper dropper tactics. When we are on the move we generally employ the hopper dropper. With the water low and clear reading the superb looking trout water in the lower stretch is a piece of cake. Not having steelhead fished at all this year my head is definitely in steelhead mode.

I tuck the boat in behind a huge downed cottonwood midstream and Pat runs a drift just in front of the raft (10 feet from the boat) down goes the Parachute Madam X, bottom? Nope. He lifts the moderate action Winston rod and the fish slowly swims out of the perfect trout slot and into the main river. I am in total disbelief, thinking again a nice rainbow or maybe a sucker? Nope, another steelhead! This one is bigger and a buck that stays down during the 15 minute fight with a 5wt. Another steelhead to the bank and we are reveling in the moment and the day.






How nice are Oregon fall days? So much to do all over the state and right in our own back yard.


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2 Responses to Lower McKenzie and Willamette Fishing Well Late October 2019

  1. Patrick Banks says:

    Thanks, Chris, those are kind words. For me, there seem to be several factors that came into play that day. The stealth of the Ambush raft, time of year, and weather, but at the top of the list, your fly fishing expertise (in the choice of a fly rod, selection of flies, and placing me in the proper position) has to be the leading factor. Without that, none of the others would have mattered.

    Thanks again, it was a fantastic day on the river.


  2. Greg Bueker says:

    Hello CD and PB,

    A very helpful post. I live in Bend and am driving my son to Eugene for a sports event next week. I hope to have a couple of hours to wet a few flies on the McKenzie. However, I don’t have a boat. Do you recommend any access points below the I-5 bridge to do some hike and fish with waders?

    Thanks, Greg

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