Late January Mckenzie & Willamette Report 2023


Cold Weather and recent high water in the past weeks has made trout fishing inconsistent. More recently in the last week or so on our local rivers, the Mckenzie and Willamette, the flows have subsided leading to more favorable fishing conditions. Hatches have been sparse with the colder weather, and nymphing has been the most productive approach by far. Larger flies have been working when water was higher, but now it seems the fish are more keyed in on smaller offerings.


During the high water events, fish were found holding closer to the bank in the softer water and in large deep pools where they have to exert less energy to hold. High water nymphs include: Stonefly Double Bead #8, Jake’s Depth Charge Worm #14, Mega Pirince #8-12, Tunghead 20 Incher #8-12, Gummy Worm #12, or Tungsten Trout Retriever #8. When rivers are flowing faster, it is common for large stoneflies and other bugs to be pushed into the current. Pair that with heavy rains flushing worms into the system, and you’ll find trout holding on the edge of seams picking off large offerings being swept downstream. These larger flies are noticed more easily by a trout when the water is high and off color; hence why using a larger fly that stands out is important. 


With flow levels coming down and water clarity improving, using a smaller nymph is more appropriate. Heavy jigged attractor patterns such as: Jigged PCP #14-16, Rainbow Warrior #14-16, Jigged Perdigon #12-16, Jigged Duracell #12 or a Jigged Frenchie #12-16 get down deep in faster water or deeper pools. When fishing water that is slower and softer, more realistic buggy looking nymphs often work better. The fish have more time to see your offering, so something more convincing and delicate will help. Good choices for slower, softer water include: Pheasant Tail #14-16, Galloup’s Peacock Hares Ear #14, Split Case BWO #18, Shop Vac #16, or a Zebra Midge #16-20. Drift these through the softer water near the seam and you’ll find willing fish. Letting your smaller flies swing at the end of your drift can also entice an eat, especially on warmer days before or during a hatch. 


Cold weather has resulted in spotty Baetis/ Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches. Very few baetis will come off on colder days, but it is not enough to get the attention of the fish. On warmer days, however fish will key in on this hatch, and feed vigorously during the warmest part of the day. Unfortunately, most of January has been fairly cold or the water has been high, resulting in less than optimal conditions for the bugs to hatch. Fish can occasionally be enticed to eat at the head of runs, or in the tailouts; the likelihood of dry fly eats increases as the temperature does this time of year. If there are some warm days in the near future here are some great Blue Winged Olive patterns: Baetis Cripple #18-20, Hatchmatcher BWO 16-18, Film Critic BWO #16, Morrish May-Day BWO #17-19


Streamer fishing can be good when flows are high. Small fish and sculpins can be washed down stream and provide high calorie meals to larger trout. Fishing a streamer at the head of a pool and stripping erratically will mimic a fish in a panic that was rushed downstream. When conditions are right, trout will key in on this and the streamer fishing can be decent. Streamer suggestions include: Thin Mint #8-12, Black Wooly Bugger #8-10, Olive Wooly Bugger #8-10, or a small sculpin pattern like Sculpzilla #8.


Our local waters are fishing well! Grab your gear, bundle up, and get out there!

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