McKenzie River Flyfishing Report: Great Trouting on the Upper Reaches Despite High Water

Western Oregon has been pummelled this week by warm and wet storm fronts. The Willamette River near Eugene and most of the McKenzie looked a lot like a stretch of the Congo I saw on a recent episode of River Monsters as I drove past them on my way upstream. Above all of its major tributaries, however, the McKenzie was running high and fast but clear.

Upper McKenzie Wild Rainbow

I did a two boater today with my friend Chris Daughters, owner of the Caddis Fly Angling Shop. We put in at Frissel-Carpenter and made our way downstream, our guests fishing any water we could find that looked slow enough to work. Neither of us knew what to expect: the river was running higher than either of us had ever fished it, and the possibility of finding a new log in the river around each corner kept us on our toes. The fishing was much better than I expected it to be today. Over the course of the day in my boat we encountered many dozen wild rainbows on dry flies and nymphs, many of which were of quite respectable size. A big stonefly nymph coupled with a possie bugger was the winning nymph rig. The possie also fished well suspended off a big dry fly, and a surprising number of nice fish ate the dry this afternoon. We were using a #8 foam golden stone that I tie.

McKenzie River rainbow trout

A high water event of this magnitude this time of year is not unprecedented. In recent years we have seen water nearly this high in late May due to a heavy snow pack coupled with warm temperatures. The difference this time is that most of this runoff is rain water and not snow melt. I have never seen the river go out of shape this time of year due to rainfall. It would be hard to blame the recent weather trends here in Oregon on global warming, global wierding is more like it.

The Deschutes fished very well early this week, but that trend has not held. I spoke to some fellow guides who got off the Trout Creek to Maupin stretch today. The river was big, brown, and nearly 7000 cfs. I am starting a 5 day trip over there on Monday, and hope that by then the river has begun to drop and clear. The Deschutes typically fishes very well this time of year when the river is much higher than typical summer flows, but 7 grand is a little excessive. The weather is supposed to dry and warm next week, and I anticipate that the fishing will be good as the water subsides.

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