This past week was a very wet one here in western Oregon. Though I had to cancel a couple of guided trips because the river was out of shape, all this rain and snowfall is a great thing, and will go a long way to offset a very warm and dry Winter. A couple of weeks ago, the lower McKenzie was fishing well while the flow was just over 3000 cubic feet per second. Today the river is running a bit over 7000 cfs at Springfield. Many fishermen think this is too much water, and in some instances they are right. If the river is high and rising, or the water is off-color with less than 3 feet of visibility, the fishing is seldom very good. If the water is clear and the flow is stable or dropping, however, the lower McKenzie can fish very well even when it is quite high.
Yesterday, though the river was running high and a little off color, I decided to give it a shot. We found some nice redsides nymphing. In the afternoon when the weather was calm and mild, there was a good March Brown hatch which brought some quality wild fish to the surface.
This period of high water has been a nice break for the fish. All Spring the water had been at summer levels, with a good deal of pressure on certain days. As you get ready to head out there and fish the river at this higher flow, keep in mind that the river fishes differently when the water is up. Many of the spots that were fishing well earlier this Spring will no longer be very productive, but there are a lot of spots on the lower reaches of the McKenzie River that will only produce at higher flows. The weather authorities predict that this week will gradually dry out and warm as it wears on. As the volatile weather passes and the water begins to stabilize, the fishing on the lower McKenzie should be great.
Another thing to keep in mind: the ODFW put this year’s batch of spring chinook smolts in the river this week. The hatchery summer steelhead smolts, though I haven’t seen any yet, generally go in the first week of April as well. The smolts can be a real annoyance whey you are trying to fish for trout. Hopefully they will quickly migrate downstream with this high water.