McKenzie Trout Action Heats Up as Weather Cools

IMG_3064With cooler nights and longer shadows on the river, fall is in the air.  The wild Redside trout on the McKenzie have noticed.  Fall drakes have been hatching daily, leading to some excellent dry fly fishing for actively rising trout.

JSRedside2015IMG_3103 - Version 2Meanwhile steelhead numbers continue to underwhelm.  That being said, we’ve managed to run into one or two now and then.  And the fish that have returned seem to be running larger than usual this year.  Here are a couple of whoppers caught by 16 year-old Jacob on his annual outing with his Grandpa.

IMG_2926IMG_2950Looking forward to the first Oregon September since 1994!  See you on the water.


Fly Fishing Through the Mid-Summer Drought

IMG_2597Despite historic drought conditions here in western Oregon, fishing has been good.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has imposed unprecedented restrictions on recreational fishing, closing most waters statewide from 2 p.m. to 1 hour before daylight, with the goal of protecting fish from additional stress during the warmest hours of the day. Fortunately, the cold spring-fed McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette rivers are exempted and remain open to fishing throughout the daylight hours.  Whew!

During heat waves, there are not many better places to play than on the upper McKenzie.  Clean, clear, and cold, the McKenzie’s waters are a welcome respite from the hot, dry, and dusty Willamette Valley.  Early starts have been the key to getting into some great fishing action followed by some bracingly refreshing swimming after lunch.IMG_2686IMG_2721IMG_2708 - Version 2

In addition to the steady fishing on our local rivers, a highlight this summer has been the fishing on the high lakes of the Cascades.  Many reservoirs dependent on snowmelt are at unprecedentedly low levels. For example, check out this shot from the resort at southern Oregon’s Howard Prairie Reservoir:IMG_2767

However, low water concentrates fish over cold springs and around deeper water structure, making for an easier task of finding feeding trout.  Here are some shots from a recent camping and fishing adventure in the high Cascades.IMG_2503IMG_2492IMG_2544IMG_2426IMG_2625

As we roll on into the traditional “dog-days” of summer, opportunities for good fishing continue.  See you on the water!

June is the new August

Now one month into the summer season here in the Valley, the drought is official.  Rivers are already running at late-summer levels.  No one around here can remember a drier first half of the year.  Fire restrictions are in place throughout Oregon in both urban and rural environs.

Luckily, the upper McKenzie has provided a welcome respite from the heat.IMG_2241 Charged by the upper Cascades aquifer, the river flows cold and clear despite the lack of snowmelt.  So even now at minimum annual flow, there is plenty of water, and the fishing has been good.  If the weather is hot, a quick dip into one of the McKenzie’s  crystal cold green pools is guaranteed to refresh!

This summer in addition to standard hopper/dropper-style fishing, we’ve also been enjoying the novelty and fun of trouting with our Tenkara rods.

IMG_2212 Perfect for beginners and experts alike, Tenkara is quickly becoming a go-to technique when chasing midsummer McKenzie trout.

IMG_2215IMG_2204Towards the end of the month, I slipped away for a couple of 5-day trips through the Canyon over on the Deschutes.  Caddisfly fishing for subtle sipping risers with #16-#20 dries was fair-to-good, with some excellent fish testing anglers’ backing knots and 5X tippets.  Here are some highlights:

IMG_2250 - Version 2IMG_2349IMG_2360IMG_2256IMG_2343IMG_2282IMG_2247Now back home for the summer, McKenzie trouting is the focus.  Although summer steelhead numbers over Willamette Falls are relatively woeful thus far, angler effort has been correspondingly low. Those who have been diligently putting in their swings have been rewarded as often as not.Salerno2015

We will be out there in the weeks to come.  Stay tuned for fresh updates from the field.  And pray for rain!


Deschutes Salmonfly: 2015 Highlights

IMG_1875The annual rite of spring that is the Deschutes River salmonfly hatch is in full flower.  We’ve been putting in some steady time on the oars in the last few weeks.  Up out of the canyon for a brief moment, back tomorrow for 7 more days. It’s a feast of great fishing!

Here are some fresh images from the high desert.  See you in June!


2015 Agua Boa Amazon Lodge Highlights

Another amazing adventure in the Brazillian Amazon!  Ultra low water conditions on the Rio Agua Boa made for some epic sight fishing for huge peacock bass and an incredible array of other species.  Before taking up the oars again around here,  let’s take a quick look back at some of the highlights from the equatorial rainforest.  Enjoy!IMG_1194

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Warm Winter Redsides Spring Special

FullSizeRender(3)Winter has more or less given western Oregon a pass this year.  Temperatures have hovered in the 50’s for weeks with very little rain.  Skiers are bummin’ out. . .

Fishing, meanwhile has been pretty good.  When balmy weather and stable river levels coincide, for a few hours of the day, sometimes for a few minutes of a day, McKenzie redsides have been biting.

IMG_0517FullSizeRender(1)IMG_1876 - CopyOnce again, we’re offering our annual Spring Special Trip:  $300 for 4-5 hours on the water, byo lunch.

Tight Lines!

2014: A Fishing Year for the Ages!

My father told me, as he handed me my first fly rod back in 1977, “Point this rod, and it will lead you to some of the most beautiful places on earth.”  At the time, I was picturing hopping on my bike with my buddy, Kevin, and pedaling the mile or so out to Oak Creek to try for some native cutthroat.  My 7-year-old imagination could not possibly have envisioned the panoply of fly fishing adventures in store over the coming decades.

Now looking back over all the years and all the people, places, and fish I’ve known, I see how truly prophetic Fred’s words were.  Following my fly rod has truly been a guiding principle throughout my life.  And it has yet to fail as a divining rod for beautiful waters and true experiences.

2014 has been a crystalline example of this theme.  And as we look ahead to another year of fly angling excitement in 2015, I want to share this look back on a year of globe-trotting, rod-bending, reel-screaming, wet-wading, finger-numbing adventures for the ages:

2014: The Year In Pictures

(Activate links to view blog posts)

IMG_8344January began with a persistent lack of rain in Western Oregon, leading to some of the best fly fishing for winter steelhead in recent memory on some of our larger river systems.

IMG_8371Fishing was amazing at times, so much so, that the old adage, “that’s why they call it ‘fishing,’ not ‘catching,'” was turned on its head.  Some days were actually just “steelhead catching.”

In February, I received an unexpected last-minute invitation to work as the host at the legendary Agua Boa Amazon Lodge in northern Brazil.  After discussing the prospect with my family, and (of course) with Gumby, I decided I had to act on this possibly once-in-a lifetime opportunity: five weeks in the Amazon Rainforest fishing for peacock bass, bathing daily in DEET, dodging cayman and jaguars, and drinking caipirinhas.P3290099

Wild 078IMG_9513IMG_9438DSCN0496IMG_8960This trip was truly mind-blowing!  I made some great new friends, caught several fish-of-a-lifetime,  and added a new continent to my angling life-list. I even managed to avoid being eaten by a cayman, despite a couple of uncomfortably close encounters.

Returning in late March, all aglow from the trip to Brazil, I had little time to decompress before hopping another cross-country red-eye for a long-planned trip to the Bahamas for some bonefishing with my father.  This was  his first try for the elusive ghost of the flats, and a return after an absence of some 20 years for me.IMG_9752

IMG_9773download-9Despite some sub-optimal weather, we had a wonderful 5-day stay at the exquisite Mangrove Cay Club on South Andros Island.  And we each got to catch quite a few bonefish together in a new and certainly beautiful location.IMG_9788

On returning from these exotic locales, I settled in for the heart of the guiding season here in Oregon.  No matter where I have been fortunate enough to travel over the years, I am still constantly reminded of the reason we call this place home.  Oregon is an anglers’ paradise on par with anywhere in the world.  Some highlights from the Spring and Summer on the home waters:

IMG_0189 - Version 2Late April and early May saw some great fishing for trout on the McKenzie followed by the annual extravaganza that is the Deschutes River Salmonfly Hatch.  Big, explosive, fast-water rainbows and bushy dry flies shake the winter doldrums from the hearts of anglers who mass on the riverbank (like the salmonflies themselves) to enjoy this incredible orgiastic phenomenon.

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After the fervor of the Deschutes, June on the home waters of the Eugene area is a welcome refuge, playing host to quieter times and glorious fly fishing for trout and summer steelhead.


In July, I wedged a few days out of a busy guiding schedule to take the family on a camping trip to central Oregon’s East Lake.  It was a wonderful relaxing time in one of Oregon’s prettiest places.  Fishing was casual yet compelling.  A simple assortment of dry flies and an heirloom 5 wt remained in the boat for whenever trout were rising within casting range.



The heat of August coincided with some of the best summer steelhead fly fishing of the year here in the Valley.  Spey casting and swinging flies in the cool of the morning, punctuated by a sharp tug, a powerful line-stripping run, and the arcing leap of a bright steelhead: is there any better way to start a day?IMG_0942


Towards the end of August, I packed up the duffel bag for my 17th annual month-long expedition to Outer Mongolia.  It is hard to imagine a year without this trip anymore.  Back in 1998, when I first stepped into the waters of the Selenge drainage, I never would have believed that I would still be returning to this place all these years into the future.  The very real possibility of encountering the fish of a lifetime on every cast makes this a true apex for my guiding year.

Photo 27Photo 23Thanks to early conservation efforts by Sweetwater Travel Company, and diligent guidance by Charlie Conn of The Taimen Fund, taimen are still not only surviving in Mongolia, but in many cases, populations are thriving.

This season renewed my faith in the resilience of this incredible yet vulnerable fishery.  One day on the river was a case-in-point:  A fellow Oregonian and I shared a day of incredible taimen action in which he rose 20 taimen to a mouse pattern and landed a dozen, all around three feet long.  IMG_1117It is days like this that remind me how lucky I am to be a fly fishing guide.  Any day can be the most memorable of an angling lifetime.

Returning from Mongolia for a busy October, I was again happy to be home and guiding for steelhead and trout.  The cooler weather and stable river conditions consistently make this some of the finest fishing of the year.  2014 was no exception.  A multi-day float on the Deschutes was epic.

IMG_1614IMG_1608Meanwhile, the fishing close to home was just fantastic.  How great is it to share awesome steelhead and trout fishing with old friends 15 minutes from the house?


As the weather changed in early November, and the leaves filled the rivers, attention shifted to the coast and fall salmon fishing.   Part “busman’s holiday,” part guide opportunity, late fall salmon fishing is a great way to wind down the year.

cwvDm9asA_Lw9YsGTQNy8vW7Zxw-4Days spent with friends, putting away some fresh filets for the winter, and nursing sore muscles from pulling as hard as you can on big bright fish, all make it easier to face the coming months of winter.


Taken as a whole, the 2014 season truly embodied my dad’s promise of so many years ago.  As it has for most of my lifetime now, my fly rod pointed the way to an incredible array of unforgettable experiences.  As this year winds to a close and we unfurl the promise of 2015, remember to follow your fly rod toward all the memories yet to come.

Peace! — MR

Salmo-thon 2014

cwvDm9asA_Lw9YsGTQNy8vW7Zxw-1 In between spates of rain and amongst the throngs of anglers, salmon fishing has been excellent at times.  Chinook action has been the mainstay of late.  Although it is a maddeningly volatile fishery, the payoff is always worth the effort and flexibility required to be there when the elements align.


IMG_1868RobBDayKing2IMG_1878IMG_1894ENChromer2014Meanwhile on many nearby drainages, we have enjoyed a bumper crop of returning cohos.  And while catching them has been awesome at times, the sheer numbers of fish have been amazing.  In the upper reaches of some streams, salmon have been so thick, you could literally pet them.IMG_1776IMG_1798 - Version 2Each year, the Fall return of salmon to Oregon’s coastal rivers is an event worth celebrating.  It reminds us that the natural world is still in order. Embodied in these creatures, the Pacific Ocean still reaches deep into the crags of rainwashed valleys in the heart of the coastal mountains.IMG_1826 - Version 2Fish On!

Fall Steelhead Wrap-up

IMG_1517Another fantastic October of steelhead fishing has come to a close here in the Valley and east of the Cascades.  Fishing was solid throughout. In between steelhead adventures, the trout fishing was also productive, with lots of big fall redsides finding the bottom of the net. As we transition into winter salmon and steelhead, please enjoy these highlights of the fall season:


Mongolia Fall 2014 Taimen Fishing Report

Photo 1Another season in  Sweetwater Travel Company’s Mongolian Taimen Camps is in the books.  After last season’s high water and tougher fishing, this year the taimen population on the Eg river proved to be healthy and resilient.  With perfect river conditions and stable weather, the 2014 Fall season reminded us why this truly is the world’s best taimen fly fishery.

Photo 2Week 1:  Arrival

This season, I was joined in the lower camp by Oregon homey and second-year taimen guide, Matt Carter, South African Seychelles veteran, James (Jame-o) Topham, Big Fish Bayaraa, and Ganzorig.  Matt, Jame-o, Bayaraa, and I decided to take Bayaraa’s jeep for the 13-hour drive out to camp from Ulaan Baatar.

Photo 3Along the way, Bayaraa shared his local knowledge of safe potable water sources.

Photo 4Once into the countryside, we climbed into the mountains and bounced our way over several increasingly “rural” passes.

Photo 5Which is not to say that there wasn’t any traffic.

Photo 6As we finally rolled into camp, the boys shook off the long drive by flexing their tenkara rods (newly acquired from the “black market” in U.B.) in front of camp.  It was great to see that the river was in prime shape and that the grayling and lenok were abundant.

Photo 7Photo 8Photo 9After a few days of fluffing the camp and boats, we were ready for the arrival of the first group of guests.

Week 2:  The Dries Have It!

Our first group was composed of the original six Texans who had diverted their trip last season when they learned of the blown-out river conditions.  Literally pulled from the airplane, they had audibled to a fall-back adventure in Alaska.  That trip had been a success, and now they were stoked to finally be wetting lines in the Land of the Giants.

Photo 12These guys were all solid fly fishermen, and they wasted little time in getting stuck into some great fish.

Photo 16Photo 15Even the pike were biting dry flies.

Photo 15aBack at International Guide H.Q., beer-fueled fly tying sessions lasted each night until the generator shut down.

Photo 10The Cyclops was an early-season favorite.

Photo 11As the week progressed, we had some amazing fishing.  One day, however was unforgettable:  I was guiding Kerry Hagen from Portland, OR, a single angler that had joined the Texans for the week.  Kerry had so far experienced less spectacular fishing than the others and wondered aloud if he was doing something wrong.  I advised him to hang in there (what else can you say?), that his day was coming.

The day was cloudy and overcast.  One of the Texans had reported finding a dozen dead mice in a weedbed near one of our favorite log-jam pools downriver the day before. Hmmm. . .  Additionally, the nightly dance-party of rodents (and the morning’s casualties) in the cabin suggested that this might be a big rodent year.

Photo 23aTying on a fresh mutant mouse pattern, Kerry and I headed down to the aforementioned log jam and waded in.  What happened next still defies description.  Kerry quickly rose, hooked and landed a nice fish in the 3-foot range, his best of the week so far.  And then, it happened: taimen began rolling and porpoising in the pool.  Kerry cast again and immediately hooked and landed another 3-footer.  In the course of the next 30 minutes, Kerry rose 7 more taimen including a couple pretty big ones, landing 5 more, all around 3-feet long. The taimen were clearly interested in the mutant mouse fly.

Photo 13Finally, the pool quieted, and we moved on, both of us shaken and shaking from the experience.  Kerry went on to raise several more fish throughout the afternoon landing so many that I was popping three-footers off the fly like they were McKenzie planter trout.  By the end of the day, Kerry had raised 20, hooked 16 and landed 12 taimen.  The mutant mouse was a little chewed up after the experience, and it had earned a new name: the “Hairy Kerry.”

Photo 14By the end of the week, the group’s official tally was an astounding 119 taimen landed.  Even though everyone landed trophy-class fish for the week, the true giants risen and lost haunted our nightly debriefing sessions in the cabin.  Truly a historic week!

Week 3:  Elvis is in the Building

Jame-o left us after the first week to head back to Norway to return to his regular job guiding for huge Atlantic salmon.  Matt, Bayaraa, Ganzorig and I remained in camp to handle the smaller group of four anglers for the week.  No matter what you are expecting when you come to Mongolia, it is still a bit disorienting when your guide ties on the first taimen fly for the afternoon session.

Photo 17This week the fishing remained strong.  One angler landed a 42″ trophy in the Home Pool in front of camp on the first afternoon.  While several very big fish rose to flies during the week, none made it to the bottom of the net.  Matt and I were co-guiding when we both witnessed the rise of a giant taimen (well north of 50 inches) to a dead drifted Hairy Kerry.  Despite our combined “fervent encouragement,” the fish was not hooked.  This was the theme of the week, with the guides lamenting the “one(s) that got away,” every evening.

Each day dawned foggy and cool with gorgeous afternoons and some amazing sunsets.  And the week settled in to its own rhythm.

Photo 20Photo 19Photo 18Photo 26Photo 27This was a mellow week, with days off for each of the guides, and trips to town and visiting local families for one of the more adventurous guests.  I got to go out one afternoon with Ganzorig and our chef, Sahknaa, looking for pike up one of the sloughs near camp.

Photo 22Photo 23Fly tying sessions every night led to overstocked boxes in anticipation of the next week in the “taimen mines.”

Photo 24Photo 25Week 4: How good is your Portuguese?

The next week’s guests hailed from Sao Paolo, Brazil, and most spoke almost no English.  I foolishly said I knew Spanish, leading many of the guys to speak nothing but Portuguese and Spanish with me, while the other guides got to speak English.  These were great guys.  Four of them were serious anglers, good fly casters with lots of experience chasing big fish in cool places around the world.  The other three guys (the “three amigos”) were total novices in all things fishing (let alone, fly fishing).

Fishing this week was tougher. While the serious guys got after it, enduring the punishment and emotional challenge of taimen fishing, the “three amigos,” had it dialed: trips to town and the inscription rock, visiting local families, riding horses, some days fishing a run or two in the morning, followed by lunch and a nap back in camp, maybe fishing another run in the evening, or wandering the gravel bar looking for cool rocks.  They rose a surprising number of taimen despite not really working that hard.

Photo 28Photo 30Photo 31The other guys put in their time. . .

Photo 29And ultimately they were rewarded with taimen encounters that will stay with them the rest of their lives. On the second-to-last day out, group leader, Jose “Big Plum” Godiano had a great afternoon, landing a pair of trophies on surface flies, one of which was the best of the season.

Photo 33Photo 34Photo 32At the end of the Brazilians’ week, I packed my gear and hopped on the chopper to head home.  Leaving the boys in camp for one last week of guests, I turned my attention to family, friends and fall fishing in the Valley.

Coming through Incheon Airport in South Korea, I was reminded that our economic society has become increasingly specialized.  What do you get for friends who already have everything?  Look for a store that caters to their specific needs.

Photo 35Once again, the 2014 Fall Taimen Fishing Season in Mongolia affirmed my faith in the fish, the fishery, and the future.  Conservation efforts implemented by Sweetwater Travel Company and  Hovsgol Travel Company, and carried today with religious zeal by Charlie Conn at the Taimen Fund, are working.  The long-held dream of establishing a fly-fishing-only taimen sanctuary on this great river system may actually be in reach.

The Taimen of Outer Monglia are settling in for another winter under the ice.  May we all be fortunate enough to meet again.