Posts Tagged ‘McKenzie River


Fly Fishing: Back Channels Hold Possibilities Too

Back channels, this time of year can be rather low with boulders and smaller rocks exposed. Quiet, almost stagnant pools remain where in the Spring and early Summer the water offered possibilities of life (insects and fish). But, if the flows are still there, give that back channel a look.

Often, in our haste to reach the main stem of the stream or river, we descend down the bank, wade through a back channel, move across an island and reach the main stem and stand and ponder the possibilities. Well, when the flows are there, you might stop sooner and study that back channel for possible insect activity, holding water and fish. 

Here is a back channel on the McKenzie Rvier, below the Leaburg Spillway. Trout and Steelhead can be found holding in this water as they circumvent the island to the right. Easy to just wade across this water while moving out to the main stem. At least worth a look see.

Steelhead, Salmon, Trout and Bass can be found in those back channels, which are  really only small segments of the greater whole. My only caution is during certain times of the year those back channels are spawning areas too so rods off during those times. 


Fly Fishing: Simple Partridge & Green Shined

Yesterday, midday, on the McKenzie River the Partridge and Green Wet Fly Shined

PMD’s and a variety of  Caddis were coming off. As the fly became tattered from teeth, it still worked just fine until it finally came undressed. Darn!  Tutorial/SBS by Oregon Fly Fishing Blog.


Fly Fishing: The Water Is Alive

For the beginning fly fisher recognizing your insects can be confusing. On a lake, the insect population is seemingly distinct and more recognizable: hexagenia, callibaetis, dragons, damsels, and of course, the other creatures of scuds (rivers too), leeches, water boatman, chironomids (rivers too) etc. Maybe, at first you might confuse a damsel and dragon. On a river or stream, the puzzle can be a bit more confusing. 

The other night, an associate was fishing the McKenzie River. There were what appeared to be bright yellow, large mayflies out over the water, “as big as a dragon fly”. There were additional yellow mayflies near shore bobbing up and down and almost like a swarm. The fly fisher saw no surface activity from fish.

This is confusing for a beginner and also for the non-beginner. But, this is truly part of the fun of fly fishing! This part of the thinking, observing, planning, deciphering, responding that makes the endeavor so satisfying….at least if you successfully sort out the puzzle. If you don’t observe to start with or if you observe but can’t sort it out then it is daunting. But, don’t let it be.

Keep it exciting and do the research, which has never been easier for the beginner given today’s on line resources: identify the river (or lake) you were fishing. You can do this before or after your fishing. What hatch charts can you find for that water? What insects are present during what months or when you were fishing? Research those insects. Find pictures of the nymphs, duns, spinners for that mayfly lets say (or caddis?).

In my friends case: what were those ‘large’ yellow mayflies? PMD, PED, Yellow Sallys (stonefly), Epeorus, Golden Stones. Color, size, hatch location, stage of life (dun, spinner), hatch method, time of day…can be important in narrowing down the insects you are seeing. Asking the local shop; writing knowledgeable fly fishers who really know that water shed and insects. The resources are there. Then be armed with patterns for several insects from the bottom (nymphs) up to the top. Remember there can frequently be more than one mayfly hatching at the same time and the duns and spinners can be simultaneously present. Recognize the busy egg laying spinners (no fish activity); the hatching duns, different mayflies from spinners (in this case there could have been the hatching Epeorus, hatching Pale Morning Duns, and egg laying PMD spinners.

In this instance, I did a little research and learned something interesting. The larger, yellow mayfly called Yellow Quills or Epeorus is a mayfly that ‘hatches’/’emerges’ beneath the surface and then moves to the surface to view. Now I know that I should have, for that particular mayfly on that river a larger yellow wet fly to be fished beneath the surface. I learned from my friends bewilderment and hopefully you will too.

So, stay patient. Study. Ask questions. Observe and keep notes. Take a picture if possible. And enjoy the puzzle! Then again, I did some more research and in Arlen Thomason’s excellent Bug Water, he and Rick Hafele arrived at Heptagenia solitaria…a PED. All part of the puzzle.


Fly Fishing: A Couple Hours to Kill

A couple hours to explore. A co-worker told me of a nice stretch on the McKenzie R. to explore. Business trips afford little time to play. What little time there is seems wasted driving hither and yon to find a new place, so you settle on the tried and true spots. Last night, I decided to explore. I headed toward the McKenzie R. and found a the nice spot.

As I put on the gear and rigged the rod, those pesky mosquitos appeared. I had sprayed on some DEET, but  they didn’t mind and found sweet spots of opportunity. I walked quickly toward the river. Once there the water looked swifter than I had at first thought. I decided to walk up stream through the woods to find a safer stretch. Big mistake. The trail petered out onto a bluff and there were even more mosquitos in the woods…very aggressive and not the least bit put off by wimpy DEET %’s. If you are going to use it, go for the gusto (90%).

Eventually, I found access and waded out beyond a back channel and to the other side of an island. Beautiful water of rapids, riffles, seams, and an eddy. Easy wading. A few willing trout; a few large, unwilling trout porpoised for something beneath the surface. There were a midges aflutter above the quieter back water near the island. I could not tell if they were coming off or had already come off earlier. A very few Caddis (small/black, medium/brown, medium+/tan) elevated up from the riffles. No mayflies. No stoneflies. Pretty sparse. I nymphed, swung a small wet, used a dropper, fished the surface and in the film. I fished well. I caught a few and had several splat attacks. But, I didn’t draw the big trout I had seen porpoise a rod length away, directly in front of me. It was a perfect evening in most respects. Location, presentation were clicking along. Wrong fly selection? Maybe. Or, just the cosmic alignment of the boulders?

Plus, I  have learned to deal with rejection. There is a certain karmatic (I made that word up and you can use it) harmony to it all. The McKenzie River is a very beautiful river. On the way out to the rig and the mosquitos, a man asked if I connected with any steelhead. Hmm, next time. Now, where did I put that Scandi head?

Oh the above pic of me…just screwing around with some photo processing dealy (‘special effects’)….freaky hey?


Fly Fishing: Little Yellow Sallies (More To Learn)

As I enjoyed a few early evening hours on the McKenzie River last week, I noticed a few BWO’s, PMD’s, a few Caddis coming off as well as a larger, bright yellow fly that looked like a stonefly (not a mayfly). But would a stonefly be hatching in mid stream? Hmm? Well, let me express and share my ignorance once again.

I had believed all stonefly nymphs crawl out onto the shoreline rocks and vegetation to hatch. But, a little research reveals that not all stone flies follow that path. Some, like the Little Yellow Stoneflies in fact can sometimes emerge like other insects right out of the water and take flight, as I saw those bright, larger yellow flies doing. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I have seen the same thing with Little Black Winter Stone flies as well? Also, my first impulse would be to tie on a yellow Stimulator or similar dry pattern. But, another approach is sometimes advisable as written about at Fly Fishing Smoky Mountains:

Yellow Sally (Ran Dry Fly)

“As simple as it is in terms of matching either the nymph or the adult Yellow Sally,
many anglers still fish the hatch wrong. In fact, I think most of them do. When they
start seeing the adults flying, in the bushes or on the banks, they start fishing an
adult fly pattern. This shouldn’t be done until you actually spot trout eating the
adults. That means the egg laying adults. That is the only time an adult stonefly
gets on the water.”

“They hatch out of the water and they don’t go back on the water
until the females deposit their eggs or the males happen to die and fall on the water.
That is actually rare because they mate and die in the bushes and on the banks,
not over the water like mayflies in the air. So, while you fish an adult imitation, you
should be trying to imitate the egg laying females. The females may hatch and live
out of the water for a few days before they begin to deposit their eggs. So often,
anglers are casting a dry fly imitation of the adult when the trout are not looking for
them on the surface.

Of course, this is all contingent upon my observations of maybe a half dozen of these fluttering larger, yellow flies. They were not like any mayflies that I have ever seen that fly away in a fairly uniform manner…these creatures had the same gangly fluttering mannerisms as other adult stones I have observed over the years, but never as emerging out of the water before me. It is a pleasant part of fly fishing to solve these little questions and add them to your wisdom and to share them. So, more observations are needed to see if those were indeed Yellow Sallies or some other insect I had yet to observe. Part of the learning experience that keeps fly fishing enjoyable.

Oh, as I hiked out in a pleasant state of euphoria of once again being on the water and catching a few trout and feeling the rhythms of the rod, I looked up from the trail and…….eek!

Almost Skunked (SwittersB)

A moment of contemplation. A moment in which I asked myself, how exactly do skunks spray? How fast do skunks move? Do I run? Does the skunk run? I moved to the right and the skunk stayed squared and moved equal to my tentative moves. Yes, I was calm or stupid enough to snap a pic. But, can I just say as a slight waft of that familiar sent, one usually only smells along the highway, floated my way I was soooooo happy when the skunk turned and trotted away into the stream side vegetation……it was a whew moment…not a phew moment.


“Protecting the McKenzie River from death by 1,000 cuts..”


The Oregon Fly Fishing Blog is often in the forefront of reporting on projects, groups, efforts at a grass roots level engaged in preserving habitat of our watersheds and bringing focus upon overuse, abuse and lack of responsiveness at State and Federal levels. This piece on the amazingly beautiful McKenzie River is informative on what can be done when focused experts and groups bring awareness to those of us that infrequently fish the McKenzie R. or get no more glimpse of her than from a freeway bridge. 

      “Moll, Executive Director of McKenzie River Trust is working hard to prevent us from loving our homewaters to death. Find out more about the threats to the McKenzie River watershed and what our local land trust is doing…”


Upper McKenzie R. (Lucky Men, Beauty and Envy)

When I come upon a site posting such as the one on The Oregon Flyfishing Blog (, I am so envious. Look at that unbelievably beautiful fish. The picture is wonderful and the moment must have been perfect. Check out the blog and read the piece about the Upper McKenzie float. Great shots and lucky men. Of course, they are making their luck. Earning their luck. I know several guides and they are for the most part of a certain ilk (doesn’t ‘ilk’ sound negative?). Let’s say a of a certain style. By no means identical but rather a style of self confidence and swagger earned from managing a boat under all circumstances. Handling all manner of personalities if they are a guide and trying to safeguard customers and reputations while producing. I fancy myself a good instructor. A good hands on teacher of sorts. But these guys are the full meal deal. They do it all. And, handling that drift boat and fishing is something to be admired. I fish streams, rivers and stillwaters. But as Clint has previously said, “A man has to know his limitations” or something like that. I know mine. I really don’t much as admire men who can handle the oars and place people either in the boat or from near the boat into fish. Kudo’s to them. Isn’t that water beautiful too.     

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August 2020

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