Runoff and rain have bumped flows in our local rivers; high water calls for a different approach to spring fishing. The good news is both the Mckenzie and the Willamette rivers are dropping and should be in better shape as the flows come down. Warmer days and nights have helped kickstart our early season hatches and dry fishing can be good. March Browns and Baetis are trailing off and Grannom Caddis have taken the stage as our primary hatch currently. Large Salmonflies are making their way to the banks. Salmonflies and smaller leftover Skwala size stoneflies can be found in the bankside foliage. Fish are looking up with more bugs on the surface making dry fly fishing good, especially during a hatch. Nymphing will be most productive when there aren’t bugs coming off the surface; if you like streamer fishing, you should make use of the high flows while they last. The streamer bite can be especially good when water is high like this. Look for fish holding along the banks, and in softer water when fishing these higher flows.
Our recent warm weather has shifted the Grannom or “Mother’s Day” Caddis hatch into full swing. As the season progresses, you will see fewer March Browns and Blue Winged Olives. Late morning to early afternoon you will see small, dark size 14-16 Grannom caddis emerging; this is often accompanied by some rising fish. There also may or may not be some March Browns or small Baetis sprinkled in with the Grannom hatch. Salmonfly nymphs, adults, and their shucks are littered along the riverbank. Having a variety of flies will help to key in on what the fish are taking.
The Grannom Caddis hatch can be notoriously difficult and frustrating to fish with dries. Often fish are rising but will not touch your fly, or even worse, there’s loads of bugs and nothing is eating on top. This is primarily because the fish have either already eaten their fill, or they are eating subsurface on caddis pupa trying to break through the surface film. It may look like a splashy, aggressive rise, but often they are not actually eating adults. Swinging caddis pupa or soft hackles during this period is especially productive. Fishing caddis patterns with a shuck will be helpful if you want to fish dries. Here are some dry fly recommendations for the Grannom hatch: Splitsville Caddis #14 Peacock, X-Caddis #14-16, Missing Link Caddis #12-14 . If you see March Browns here’s what’s been working lately: March Brown Klinkhammer #12-14, Hi & Dry Western March Brown Parachute#12-14, Jake’s Hatchback Hecuba #14. If they’re only keying in on Baetis, this is what I’d throw: Parachute Extended Body Blue Winged Olive #18-20, Galloup’s OG Bent Cripple #18 Olive, CDC Baetis Emerger #18.
Salmonflies are hatching and are all over the banks. Fishing a large chubby chernobyl, or other salmon fly imitation through fast water can move a fish. This is also a great opportunity to fish with a dropper below your large buoyant dry fly. Here are some great Salmonfly adult imitations: Double Stack Chubby Chernobyl #8, Moorish Fluttering Salmonfly #6, Goodman’s Crowd Surfer Stone #6. If you’re fishing a Dry-Dropper rig, here are some hot nymphs to run below it: Jigged PCP #14, Jigged Frenchie #12, Sweetmeat Caddis Lime #14.
Nymphing will be productive when there isn’t a hatch or when dry fly fishing is frustrating. This time of year, trout will be gorging themselves on caddis pupa, large salmon fly nymphs, and other assorted nymphs on the move in the water column. Dead drifting your nymphs through slackwater on seams will be the best. When fishing high flows, finding any soft water where a trout can catch a break will be a great place to run larger nymphs through. Letting your flies swing at the end of your drift is a great way to mimic emerging caddis pupa and entice an eat this time of year. Some great salmonfly nymph imitations are: Pat’s Rubberlegs Brown #6, Mega Prince #6, Tungsten Trout Retriever Chocolate Lab #6. Some of our favorite Caddis Nymphs follow: Weiss’s Possum Anchor #12, UV Green Weenie Jig #14, Jigged Duracell UV Light Olive #12-14. Other must have attractors include: Morrish’s Dirty Bird #12-14, Morrish’s Sparkle Donkey #14, Improved 20 Incher #12.
Often like during the March Brown hatch, swinging wet flies during a Grannom hatch can be, and often is more, deadly than fishing dries. Whether you’re doing this for mayflies or caddis, a similar “indicator-less” nymph rig will do the trick. The first fly on the end of your leader will be some sort of beaded nymph, the second fly will be some sort of unweighted soft hackle tagged off the back of your heavy nymph. A cast upstream and some upstream mends will allow your heavy nymph to pull your soft hackle deep. As the fly swings towards you downstream you will often get an eat as it pulls tight. You can add very small strips if you’d like, or slowly lift the rod tip where you suspect a fish is holding to make it look like your flies are emerging right for the surface. Some great flies for swinging during a March Brown hatch are: Beadhead March Brown Emerger #12-14 & March Brown Wet Fly #12-14. These are killer options currently for swinging during a Grannom hatch: Spectre Soft Hackle Olive #12-14, Simple Olive Soft Hackle #12-16, Sparkle Caddis Pupa Olive #14-16.
Swinging streamers can entice big, explosive eats during this high water. Swinging flies through riffles into the seam and softer water can be deadly given the shape of our rivers. If you find a pool or eddy, erratically stripping streamer through that calmer water is great also. Here are some great streamers to throw right now if you like streamer fishing: Tungsten Thin Mint#8-10, Jr. Sculpzilla #8, Conehead Kiwi Muddler #8.
There are still fish to be caught in high water. Look for fish pushed up on the banks and find them holding in calm water. Have fun out there, and use caution wading in the swift water!