The 2017 Fall Season has been notable for an unusually paltry summer steelhead return to the upper Valley. On local steelhead trips lately, the weather, water, and coverage has been excellent. But the results, alas, have not.
Over on the Deschutes, fishing has been better, although not particularly hot. A recent multi-day outing produced a handful of steelhead hookups along with some great trout action.
Back home on the west side of the Cascades, our attention has been focussing more and more to the coast and the chance to tangle with the King of all Oregon Gamefish: the Fall Chinook. When the tides have aligned with decent weather and stable river levels, the Kings have been on the bite. It’s a good feeling to head into the winter with some slabs in storage. Now that the rains are in, the deck of opportunities shuffles. See you on the drop!
With the first significant rain event of the fall season, everyone is breathing a clean lung-full of relief. The fires plaguing the region are on notice that their days are numbered. And although they will likely have some last gasps, we are hopeful that the choking smoke of the past month is behind us.
The trout fishing on both the lower and upper McKenzie has been excellent as the weather has cooled. The emergence of Fall Drakes, Short-winged Stones, and even some October Caddis combined with light traffic, overcast skies, and lengthening shadows have the fish looking up. The next month will be prime time for enjoying some of the best fishing of the year.
On the steelhead front, not much has changed. The return appears destined to remain at a historic low of around 2000 fish in the basin above Willamette Falls. That being said, anglers making the effort are finding the odd fish here and there. Not exactly the standard we are used to around here, but seasoned steelheaders know that it’s always worth a session of swinging as long as there is hope of success.
Meanwhile, one of the best respites from the smoke over the last few weeks has been heading west to the coast for some “cross-training” in the bays. It’s good for fly guys like us to get our hands stinky now and then, especially in pursuit of the King of all Oregon gamefish. Here’s a peek into the world of mega-guide-sleds, solo trollers, giant balls of lead, fresh baits, and ubiquitous hope.
The late season here in the valley has been hot, dry, and smoky, thanks to the myriad fires burning to the east and south of our area. Our wet winter and spring made for lots of understory growth in the forests of the Cascades and Siskiyou Mountains. After several weeks of hot dry weather plus a sprinkling of lightning storms, the worst fire season in a generation is upon us.
While the eerie, orange-hued, apocalyptic conditions have been unnerving, uncomfortable, and downright unhealthy some days, the fishing has actually been very good. Apparently the trout don’t mind the faux overcast.
While the fires will persist until we get some significant rain, each day on the river is different. With smoke conditions dependent on the whims and vagaries of the wind, some days are beautiful; some are… decidedly not. As we look to the weeks ahead, once we have some reasonable rain and the first wet onshore flow off the ocean, things should settle back into a more normal pattern. The fishing will remain excellent from here on out into November. In the meantime, seemingly everyone is hunkered down inside keeping a wary eye to the hazy skies, waiting for the air to clear.
It seems like everyone is getting hot and bothered over the upcoming Oregon eclipse, trying to out think the masses while keeping one eye on the ever-changing weather forecast: “will it be cloudy?!?…” “Are these goggles approved?..”
For those of us who are looking forward to the eclipse being over with, eyes instead are turned west to the cloudy cool coastal morning calm that signals the advance of Autumn, and the return of the Kings.
Fly fishing in the valley is still in full swing, but in between days, it’s great to spin some herring with good friends. Here, in no particular order are some fresh images from the front lines of Oregon’s most popular fishery. I wonder if there’ll be a good bite when the sun goes dark?
Just when we were all feeling comfortable in our flip-flops and shorts, a late pulse of cold fronts and wet weather reminds us that we’re closer on the calendar to winter than we are to the dry heat of late summer. But as western Oregon locals say, there’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad raingear. Anglers on the McKenzie over the last couple of weeks have had to bring their best slickers. But no one notices the wind and rain when the fishing is good.
While the conditions have been “variable,” the trout action on the McKenzie has been steady, with the native rainbows and their hatchery-born roommates clearly enjoying the cloudy skies, higher water, and abundant hatches. Whenever it’s raining in June, remember: it’s a great day to be a fish… or a fisher.
As we look ahead to more summery conditions in the weeks to come, the rivers remain full and healthy, just like the trout. Oregon’s summer season will soon be here. But who among us wouldn’t swap their flip-flop tan for some good waders and a quality rain coat to enjoy a wet June-uary adventure on the McKenzie? It’s all good!
With the flowers of May in full bloom, it finally seems safe to say that winter is over. A last couple of floats on the rivers of the coast range towards the end of April were the final shots for winter steelhead fishing until next season. While one trip was highlighted by eating lunch in a cave during a downpour, another yielded an amazing fish for young uber-angler, Max Jensen. This beautiful tide-running early summer-run hatchery hen put a nice exclamation point on what has been a volatile season to say the least!
Back in the Valley, McKenzie Trout Action continues. High water has predominated thanks to our higher-than-average snowpack, and nymphing has been steady. The March Brown Mayflies made for some reliably good fishing throughout the month of April, with lots of nice fish looking up. Recent warm days have seen the first big McKenzie Caddis of the season out bouncing around on the riffles.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Cascades, the annual Deschutes River Salmonfly Hatch is just getting started. The late spring has seemingly made for a more “normal” time-frame on the hatch this season, which means a just-completed early May float found high water, good nymphing, and very few adult big bugs out and about. Dry fly action was limited to say the least, but save for some sore shoulders, the nymphing more than made up for the lack of surface feeders.
Here is a sampling of images from the first run through the High Desert. It only gets better from here! Enjoy!