Late-fall fly fishing for ocean-fresh chinook salmon can be a compelling siren song. With the variables of weather, river level and clarity, tides, ocean conditions, other anglers, and luck all in play, as often as not, an angler’s dreams of Chrome encounters can be fraught with frustration. It’s easy to talk yourself out of going. But the chance to connect with the ultimate prize on Oregon’s fly fishing Mt. Rushmore entices anglers to roll the dice even when it looks dicey.
A recent 3-day outing illustrates: Day one came on the heels of some discouraging reports and featured constant torrential rain and wind, leading to a rapidly rising river. But the Two Dudes have good rain gear! So we launched, enjoying the kind of river solitude that only a true Oregon downpour can provide.
As the river steadily filled with mud, leaves, and debris, we cast hopefully for hours. Would the salmon also be coming with the flood? In short: Yes! Three hours in, salmon began to roll and crash the surface. And they were in a biting mood.
On days two and three, we were joined by our old friend, the Oceanographer. The weather improved, but thanks to Day one, the rivers were kinda high for fly fishing. Conditions slowly improved, but we saw only a few crackers here and there. Even the bait guys were shaking their heads.
In the end, you can’t catch ’em if they aren’t there. And while a few fish probably trickled past in the high flow, we spent our time casting and stripping, casting and stripping, casting and stripping until it was time to reel up and head home. A taste of success, followed by a full double-serving of skunk stew!
Can’t wait to try again!
As the month of October wound down, and some record-setting rain totals filled in, steelheading was good for those willing to brave the elements.
While always aware that we were at the mercy of the Army Corps of Engineers whims of dam control, the river level remained stable and fishable despite blown-out conditions downstream of rain-swollen major tributaries. On a typical day, by keeping our heels dug in upriver most of the trip, anglers enjoyed good fishing followed by a leisurely float out once the clarity and level degraded.
In amongst the soaking-downpour days (there were many!), there were still days with beautiful fall conditions to savor and great memories made.
Finally (inevitably) the other day, the rains were not to be denied: the gates opened at the dam, the river filled with leaves, logs, and riparian duff, and just like that, it was over for good. Now looking forward to late-Fall salmon season on the coast, and winter trouting and steelheading in the early months of the new year, it’s nice to remember the still-warm glow of yet another glorious October in the Willamette Valley.
The first couple of weeks in October have been a great reminder why we live in Western Oregon. With mellow cool weather, rivers in perfect shape, and fishing simply excellent everywhere, the biggest daily challenge has been deciding which fishery to enjoy.
While most anglers put their energies into the coastal bays, trolling herring for ocean-fresh salmon (any boat that’ll float will do),
back here in the Valley, we’ve been enjoying outstanding fly fishing for trout and steelhead. The annual October Caddis hatch has made for some memorable days on the Lower McKenzie.
And thanks to a generous return of summer steelhead to the upper Willamette Valley, we’ve seen some of the best Dry Fly Fishing for these great migratory rainbows in recent memory. Whether chugging a dry across the shallows or swinging for the fences with a spey rod, the fishing has been steady.
Now here in mid-month, the rains have come as they always must here on the windward side of the continent. As the rivers rise and fill with leaves (and fresh salmon), our focus shifts to the excitement of late fall and the challenge of timing the spates in pursuit of the Pacific King. Tying flies, dusting off the 10-wts, buying hand-warmers at Bi-Mart; there’s plenty to keep you busy while the rain and wind pound around outside the house. Here in Western Oregon as one season winds down, another adventure is always on tap.
We’ve been enjoying a relatively mild midsummer weather pattern of late. Only in the last week or so has the temperature finally gotten downright hot. On the valley streams, the steelhead bite has been good.
At the same time, trouting has been reliably excellent in the cool of the mornings, with plenty of action on both dries and nymphs.
Summertime in Western Oregon: Paradise!!
June fishing has been very good at times, with mild temperatures and cool water conditions. Over on the McKenzie, the “breadside” trout fishing has been excellent, with action galore throughout the day.
In addition to the trout, the summer steelhead and spring chinook salmon are back in good numbers. As is typical this time of year, success has been hit and miss, with bright and brassy weather and lots of angler effort out there this early in the run. But every fish landed is a true trophy!
Summertime, and the living is easy!
After last year’s low warm water debacle, the 2016 summer steelhead return is looking great in the upper Willamette Basin. As of mid-June the summer count has already topped 10,000 fish, and we are seeing about 300/day ascending Willamette Falls fish ladders. All signs point to a solid season of swinging on the local waters.
We still have many prime dates available including some select openings in the Prime Time Season of September and October. Don’t delay. Now is the time to save a spot on the calendar for a date with a chromer.
Moving now into the latter half of April, fishing on the McKenzie has been just fine. With temperatures varying from unseasonably warm 85 degrees and sunny to some days in the mid-50s with rain showers, this is a dynamic time of year. Scott even had some guests tap out before the trip even started last week when they spotted a tornado en route to the river!
Nymphing has been the best throughout the late-mornings followed by decent if not spectacular mayfly activity in the afternoons. Each day, we see more diversity in hatches, and the fish are into a pretty wide range of offerings. And what a relief it is to have a reasonably normal flow after last year’s austere conditions.
Now home for the season from international gallivanting, it feels so nice to be back on the home waters! Looking forward to seeing you on the river!