Deschutes River Salmonfly Hatch 2015

Steve Hanson with a football-shaped Deschutes River redside.

Steve Hanson with a football-shaped Deschutes River redside.

Yes, as we creep through the dog days of summer, this spring’s stonefly hatch on the Deschutes seems like old news.  My good friend Matt Ramsey, another veteran flyfishing guide in the Eugene area who I often collaborate with, recently sent me a bunch of great photos he took while working with our crew on the Deschutes for this year’s salmonfly hatch.  Matt takes great pictures, and was generous enough to share them with me.  They are a great reminder of the beauty of the Deschutes River canyon in the springtime, the awesome dry fly fishing opportunities for hard-fighting Deschutes redsides.  The overnight Deschutes canyon camping trip during the salmonfly hatch is one of the best fishing trips around.  From the fishing, the quality and dedication of the guide staff, to the camp amenities and food, it is a top notch experience.  For more information on overnight Deschutes trips, please click on the Deschutes link at the top of the page.

A flash in the water as a big Deschutes Redside puts a serious bend into a 5 wt.

A flash in the water as a big Deschutes Redside puts a serious bend into a 5 wt.

Now is a great time to start organizing and scheduling a Deschutes salmonfly trip for 2016.  To guarantee the best dates and best guides, it is a good idea to start the ball rolling early.  The peak dates for the hatch and the best dry fly fishing are any time between May 10 and the end of the month.  Within this window of opportunity, the Deschutes salmonfly hatch is not a hit or miss type of thing; the hatch is consistent within these dates, and when the bugs are around, the fish will be looking for them.

TJ Rosengarth, preparing to dig a big trout out of dense brush with a bow-and-arrow cast.

TJ Rosengarth, preparing to dig a big trout out of dense brush with a bow-and-arrow cast.

Brushy spots often offer good dry fly opportunities during the salmonfly hatch.  Unlike most of the bugs trout feed on, the salmonflies and golden stoneflies first migrate to the bank as nymphs and climb up onto stream side rocks and vegetation to emerge as adult insects.  As a result, the trout will often lie in wait adjacent to grassy banks and overhanging limbs, waiting to ambush the big bugs.  As the insects become active and begin their mating flights, however, they become available to the trout in all sorts of different types of water, including mid-stream seams and riffles.

Tim Becker takes trout after trout from the seams surrounding this mid-stream rock pile.

Tim Becker takes trout after trout from the seams surrounding this mid-stream rock pile.

The scenery in the Deschutes Canyon in the springtime is hard to beat.

Evening light on the Deschutes and a drift boat gliding downstream.

Evening light on the Deschutes and a drift boat gliding downstream.

A dramatic sky, precursor to an afternoon thundershower.

A dramatic sky, precursor to an afternoon thundershower.

The salmonfly hatch is hands-down the most fun and most productive time to fish the lower Deschutes for trout.  Good-sized, hungry rainbow trout and big dry flies are a great combination.

Eli Krainock with his rod bent on another nice fish.

Eli Krainock with his rod bent on another nice fish.

Phillip Dean with a well-fed Deschutes rainbow that pounced on a Norm Woods Special.

Phillip Dean with a well-fed Deschutes rainbow that pounced on a Norm Woods Special.

Providing the best fishing trips possible really is our family business!  Below, my wife and I are busy packing and reloading camp boxes and coolers while 4 month old Henry looks on from the shade of the boat stack.  We are getting ready for another trip the following day!

Teamwork at Ethan Nickel Outfitters.  It is a family affair!

Teamwork at Ethan Nickel Outfitters. It is a family affair!

Now is a great time to get in touch with your fishing buddies and organize a trip for next year’s salmonfly hatch.  Book early to secure the best dates!

MJ Lyons with a beautiful wild trout.

MJ Lyons with a beautiful wild trout.

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Spring Lower McKenzie Fishing Report: Great Hatches!

A Huge Lower McKenzie River Wild Rainbow Trout

We have had an extremely mild winter here in Oregon, and with light snow pack, most rivers are running low and clear.  The lower McKenzie is no exception; it has been running at flows more typical of the late summer than the early spring.  One upside to all the balmy and dry weather we’ve had lately is that the McKenzie saw very little flooding this winter, as a result there was very little scouring of the stream bed, and the March Browns, caddises, and other bugs the trout eat, are showing in better than usual abundance.

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The March Brown hatch materializes every afternoon this time of year between 2 and 2:30, but the intensity of the hatch varies markedly from day to day.  Weather conditions seem to drive the density and duration of the hatch.  On bright and sunny days, caddises dominate the scene, and the March Brown hatch is relatively sparse and brief.  On overcast, stormy, and rainy afternoons, however, the March Browns will come out in force, and the hatch can last an hour or better.  When the conditions line up for a really good hatch, it makes for some exciting fishing; bringing most of the lower McKenzie’s wild trout population to the surface.  I was out fishing the lower river on two such days this week.  Each afternoon the weather was blustery, stormy, and cold, and these conditions made for great March Brown emergences.  When the March Browns started to litter the surface, dozens of big rainbows started to feed recklessly on adult insects, and we enjoyed some great dry fly fishing.

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The March Brown hatch should persist for at least another 3 weeks.  As it starts to wane, we will see mixed hatches of Pink Lady and Pale Morning Dun mayflies, as well as the March Browns and small Grannom caddises.

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The Spring is arguably the best time of year to pursue wild rainbow and cutthroat trout on the lower McKenzie.  A typical day on the water generally involves fishing several different techniques in order to fish productively from early morning and through the day. In the morning when the weather and water are cooler, typically there isn’t much action near the surface or many bugs moving around.  Under these conditions, nymphing under an indicator will yield some really nice fish.  As the day progresses and warms, swinging wet fly emergers will start to bring some great tight line grabs and good action, and as the bugs start to show in good numbers, there is usually a good enough rise to make for productive dry fly fishing for a period of time.  It makes for a great day on the water, and is a great opportunity to hone a number of different skills in different water types.

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I still have a good deal of availability throughout the Spring season.  Please call or email to arrange a great day on the water!

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2015 Oregon Winter Steelhead Report: The Winter Run is Going Strong!

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It seems rivers draining Oregon’s coast range mountains are seeing a great return of steelhead this winter, that is certainly true of the rivers on the central coast that I have been fishing over the last several weeks.

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With a major winter storm coming ashore as I write, it is likely the rivers will blow out for a few days, but it is probable things will start to fish well again by the middle of next week. River conditions can be fickle this time of year, but when you hit it right, the fishing can be stellar.

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I have seen good success recently both nymphing and swinging flies. We have had relatively warm water temperatures so far this winter, which I think has improved the bite, particularly with respect to the swung fly. Because steelhead are a cold-blooded creature, their activity level is directly influenced by the water temperature; when the water is warmer, they tend to be more frisky, and more willing to chase a fly. That being said, if catching fish is your goal, it is hard to beat the effectiveness of nymphing egg patterns.

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I still have a number of days open for this month and next. With two months left to play, we still have a lot of winter steelhead fishing to look forward to. Please contact me if you are interested in securing a date to chase these magnificent fish!

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Summer Highlights: Eugene Area Steelhead Pictures

These images document a couple of firsts. First steelhead on the swing for my guest Steve Ricker. I think this series of pictures is priceless. In the first image he has the fish firmly by the tail, and in the last picture is a pretty good grip and grin. The three images in between, however, document the fish’s last effort to get away, and the expressions on Steve’s face are hilarious. For those concerned for the fish’s well-being, it was a hatchery fish that was dispatched soon after being wrestled.

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The last picture commemorates the first (and I am sure not last) steelhead caught by 12 year old Will Hendersen. Will’s dad had just bought him a sweet switch rod that he had never cast before, but needed breaking in. After the first spot and some pointers, Will was casting competently, and in the second hole of the morning this fish slammed his fly, and was into the backing, jumping before he even raised his rod tip. After his first steelhead encounter Will’s hands were shaking, and he wore a smile that looked like it would last for days.
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I hope everyone out there is having a great summer!

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Eugene Area Summer Steelhead Report: 2014 Is Looking Good!

2014 summer steelhead

After a somewhat disappointing return of summer steelhead in 2013, this year is looking and fishing much better on the Willamette valley’s summer steelhead streams. Fish numbers over Willamette Falls are already much better than last year, with more fish on their way.

2014 summer steelhead

The fish have been responding well to swung flies. I have been fishing fairly small pink/purple and black/blue leeches with good success on various sink tips ranging from Type III to T-11 depending on the depth and flow of each spot. That being said, I am sure that floating lines and traditional patterns would work as well, particularly in the shallow and shaded spots.

2014 summer steelhead

We are blessed with a long summer steelhead season in the Eugene area. Our fish start to show up early, and will inhabit the riffles, runs, pools, and tailouts of the McKenzie and Willamette throughout the summer and fall.

2014 summer steelhead

Better than anywhere else I swing flies for summer steelhead, the fish in our area streams respond well to the swung fly even in bright sunlight! Shaded conditions are always nice, but the sun is by no means a deal-breaker. On the last couple of outings I have seen a number of steelhead taken while swinging flies in bright, sunny conditions.

2014 summer steelhead

Please call or email to come experience some of the best summer steelhead flyfishing in Oregon!

2014 summer steelhead

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Deschutes River Salmonfly Report: Big Bugs and Big Trout

Robert Jones with a great Deschutes River Rainbow Trout

I just got home from another four day trip on the Deschutes. We had great weather, very good dry fly fishing, and an excellent group of guests; nice guys and good fishermen. When luck and conditions line up like this, it is hard for everyone, guests and guides alike, not to have a great trip.

Koffler Boats in camp

Tom Daugherty with a Deschutes River Redside

At this point the salmon flies and golden stones are well distributed from the Maupin area all the way up to Warm Springs. As the hatch progresses, the bugs will thin out on the lower end (around Maupin), but good numbers of bugs should stick around on the upper reaches for some time.

Keith Sherman with a nice Deschutes Rainbow

The Deschutes River salmonfly hatch is the best in the country, likely the most prolific in the world, but is often also accompanied by a fairly substantial drift boat hatch. This last trip was no exception, there were substantial numbers of other guides and fishermen around, but we had very good dry fly fishing nonetheless. Fishing successfully around or behind other anglers and guides often requires some strategy. The low hanging fruit has often been plucked; the easy spots out in the open have often been fished hard, but in the out of the way areas around brush, trees and low-hanging branches, and in the areas that are more difficult to wade, the fish are often relatively undisturbed, and very willing to attack a big dry fly.

Keith Steinbruck with a Deschutes River Rainbow

The way the fish eat the fly is my favorite part of fishing the salmonfly hatch. The takes are often startling, like a toilet bowl flush under the fly. Sometimes the strikes occur under the rod tip and are so violent that the fish splashes the angler.

Mike Stickel with a Deschutes River Rainbow

Special thanks to the guys who came fishing with us last week: Keith Steinbruck, Robert Jones, Keith Sherman, Tom Doherty, Mike Stickel, and Rick Fairbanks. All photos in this post were taken by my good friend Matt Ramsey, who was guiding with us on the trip. Many thanks to Matt for sharing the images. He has a great eye for photography and takes much better pictures than I do.

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Spring Special on Lower McKenzie Half Day Trips

Wild McKenzie River Rainbow Trout

Now through the end of April, I am offering a discounted rate for half day trips ($275) on the lower McKenzie. Late Winter and Spring offer some of the best fishing of the year for the lower McKenzie’s wild rainbow and cutthroat trout, with good nymphing opportunities throughout, and often great afternoon wet and dry fly fishing as the March Brown hatch materializes. The best early season fishing is during the middle of the day as things warm up a bit, and a half day trip is the perfect way to take advantage of this window of opportunity. A typical day involves meeting at 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning, and fishing until around 4:00 in the afternoon. All tackle, flies, etc. are included, along with beverages. All you need to bring is some rain gear, sunglasses, lunch, and a fishing license! What could be easier?
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The lower McKenzie is currently in great shape. We are seeing good March Brown hatches most days, with some really nice fish moving to dry flies and wet flies on or near the surface when the bugs are out!
Lower McKenzie Wild Rainbow

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