In general, there is a lot of great fishing here in Western Oregon in the early Spring. It often offers some of the best fishing of the winter steelhead season, and great opportunities to fish for wild trout on rivers like the McKenzie and Willamette. This year, however, the weather just has not been very cooperative. Here in Eugene we had only two days last month without precipitation, which led to a lot of high and sometimes off-color water. That being said, these last few weeks were not without their highlights.
In general, the winter steelhead fishing has been best on the smaller creeks and rivers that drop into shape quickly after a heavy rain. These can be some really cool places to fish, sometimes offering the opportunity to intercept chrome-bright fish fresh from the Salt. Most of the bigger streams that I like to swing for late winter steel have been in shape only briefly if at all over the last several weeks. Many winter steelhead streams are now closed for the season, while some remain open unil April 15th, and others don’t close at all. Consult your ODFW regulations before you go fishing. Some of the closures can be confusing.
The trout fishing on the lower McKenzie and Willamette has been good whenever the weather cooperates. The McKenzie has many charms, but amongst its finest qualities is the clarity of the water and its resistance to turbidity: the river maintains its clarity very well even when it is quite high. Fishing in high water can be intimidating, but remember, you are fishing for trout, and they need to eat. The same spots that you like to fish when the river is at a more normal level may not work well, but the fish will be feeding somewhere. When the river is high and rising, the fishing is almost always tough, but if the flows are stable or dropping, the river can fish very well at a surprisingly high volume.
The March Brown hatch has been inconsistent, which we can probably blame on the weather. It has come off in fits and starts, with good abundance of bugs on calm, warm, overcast afternoons. Sadly, we have had too few days like this.
I guided the last three days with pretty good success, finding some nice wild rainbows and cutthroats each day. Saturday and Sunday were particularly good with high water receding, good afternoon hatches of both caddis and march browns, and some nice fish feeding on the surface. I saw very few other anglers on the river over the last several days. I think most people were scared off by the relatively high water.
Unfortunately the river blew out again today and another inch of rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow…Ouch! Let’s hope that we are about to turn the corner, and a drier weather pattern is in our future.