McKenzie River and Willamette River Flyfishing Report: Early Summer Steelhead Are Here

The early summer steelhead that show up in the Willamette and its tributaries are impressive. These fish average 7-10 lbs., are mint bright, agressive biters, and fight like crazy.

Willamette River Steelhead, cropped

Yesterday my buddy Kyle and I fished one of our favorite stretches for a few hours in the morning and came up with a couple of chromers.

Willamette River Steelhead

Light precipitation and low snow pack this Winter have led to low water conditions here in western Oregon. Many years, though the fish are here in April and May, we don’t get a lot of opportunity to fish for them because of high and cold water. This season, however, the water is already relatively low on most of the Willamette tributaries, and has warmed up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 degrees.

Swinging for Steelhead

Steelhead will respond well to a swung fly in 50 degree water, but because this is still on the low end of the optimal range of temperature, I have had most of my success swinging various leech patterns on different sink tips, varying the weight of the fly and the density of the tip to effectively fish water of different depth and speed. As the water warms up a bit more (into the 55 degree range) the fish will become more agressive, and will be more inclined to chase smaller wet flies and skaters fished on or near the surface.

This is going to be a great steelhead season here in the valley. I think one of the things that makes people hesitant to book a steelhead flyfishing trip is that they think that the likelihood of catching a steelhead on a fly is only marginally better than the odds of catching a leprechaun or bagging a unicorn. While it is true that successful steelheading often requires persistence, the people in my boat get skunked very rarely. In fact, if I have a trip scheduled and for whatever reason I don’t think the fishing will be very good, I will always reschedule the trip for another date. I do everything I can to maximize the likelihood of your success while helping you improve various skills like water selection, casting (single-handed or spey), and how to fish a swung fly in various water types. Please send an email or give me a call to schedule a trip.

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