Recent fluctuations in weather has made fishing a toss up. Some days, as of late, fishing is on and the fish are cooperating, other days things are a bit slower. It seems like spring is on its way, but the weather isn’t quite sure what it wants to do. Warmer days are bringing the hatches and great dry fly fishing we’ve all been waiting for, but the colder days have been putting a damper on good fishing.
The long awaited March Brown hatch has begun on the lower portions of our local rivers. Both March Browns and Baetis (Blue Winged Olives) will become active during the warmest part of the day. Depending on the weather, this can begin as early as 11, and wrap up as late as late afternoon as the temperature drops. I have seen a handful of Skwalas lately, and even saw some small Grannom Caddis on the lower Mckenzie that last warm Saturday we had. These spring hatches begin on the lower river where it is warmer and move their way up as the season progresses, and water in the upper stretches warms.
Nymphing will still be most productive on colder days, or warmer days when there aren’t bugs coming off the surface. Small baetis imitations such as: Bender #18, Roza’s Jigged Pink Pheasant Tail #18, and Rainbow Warrior #16 work great. These March Brown imitations are deadly this time of year: Morrish’s Sparkle Donkey #14, Jigged Double Down Pheasant Tail #12-14, and Hogan’s Clinger Nymph #14 . Modest stonefly imitations for migrating Skwalas include: Tunghead 20 Incher #10-12, Double Bead Epoxyback Peacock #10-12, and Jigged Hot Spot Girdle Bug #10-12. Whitefish are also still spawning, and there are eggs still in the river. If things are slow consider fishing an egg pattern. Otter’s Soft Milking Egg #12 in Apricot is very close to the size and color of the eggs; Fulling Mill’s Slush Egg #14 is a great jigged option that is more of an attractor. I like to pair a larger fly with a smaller fly for searching. I often will also pair a flashy attractor pattern with a more natural looking one. As I fish, I let the fish decide what they prefer and adjust my other fly accordingly.
Dry fly fishing will be at its best during the warmest part of the day. Smaller Baetis (Blue Wing Olives) can be seen hatching on cooler days; on especially warm days we will start seeing more March Browns. Sometimes these two hatches can happen side by side so watching the fish feeding can help. Baetis imitations are smaller and include: Baetis Cripple #18-20, Blue Winged Olive Ext. Body #18-20, and Galloup’s OG Bent Cripple Olive #18. Some great March Brown dries are: Hi and Dry Western March Brown Parachute #12-14, Galloup’s OG Bent Cripple Brown #14, and Sparkle Dun March Brown #12-14. If you like fishing dry dropper setups, pair a Skwala imitation with a jigged nymph below. A Double Stack Chubby in Black/Peacock #12 or Brown/Gold #10 will imitate one well. Although the fish here in the valley don’t key in on the Skwalas like out east, they may eat a chubby on a warmer day when they are already looking up.
March Brown’s have the unique ability to shed their shuck subsurface during their ascent, so they don’t always spend a lot of time on the surface like other mayflies. This is why there are so many march brown wet fly patterns, and stinging wet flies for this specific hatch is so popular. Some of our favorites for this time of year are: Fulling Mill’s March Brown Wet Fly #12-14, Bead Head March Brown Emerger #12-14, or a March Brown Soft Hackle Spider #12-14. Swinging these before or even during the hatch can sometimes be even more effective than fishing dries.
Everyone has been doing the best on warmer days. Even days with clouds can be productive as the clouds help insulate the temperature from fluctuating; small bugs feel a 1 degree difference much more than us. The best days are those with stable, warmer temperatures. Keep an eye on the gauges for flows and temps. High flows and low temps make for unfavorable fishing conditions. Flows on the lower Mckenzie have been conducive for a float, and the lower river is in great shape for fishing. Inconsistent flows and rain on the Middle Fork Willamette have made fishing there a crapshoot. Now is a great time to get out and get your dry fly fix!