McKenziie river
McKenzie River Oregon
Copyright 2021 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The McKenzie River
In Oregon
The McKenzie River is an eighty-six mile long
tributary of the Willamette in the state of Oregon. It
originates from just above its outflow from Clear
Lake on the western slope of the Cascade
Mountains. It has a main tributary, its South Fork,
which is about thirty miles long.

The McKenzie River is famous for its native redside
rainbow trout. They probably average 14 to 16
inches with many reaching 20 inches. Although
parts of the stream have been stocked, there are
plenty of wild rainbow and cutthroat trout. The
rainbow trout are locally called "redsides" like those
of the Deschutes River.

There is a very good population of wild rainbows
and a large number of wild cutthroat in the lower
section of the river. The McKinzie also has a small
population of bull trout.

McKenzie trout average 8 to 14 inches, with some
going 16 inches, and an occasional fish 18 inches
or better. Many of the larger rainbows exhibit the
same dark coloration and deep red stripe that
Deschutes rainbow do, and proudly bear the same
moniker, "redside". However, the McKenzie is not a
trophy trout river.

There is also a good summer run streelhead.
These are Skamania stock hatchery raised fish.
Chinook Salmon make a run upriver in September.
Trout feed on their eggs after they spawn.

Steelhead are not native to the McKenzie. An
annual hatchery summer steelhead run of 2,000 to
3,000 adult fish that have spend two years in the
ocean usually weight about 7 to 9 pounds.

There are some three-salt fish that weigh around
12 to 13 pounds. There are some steelhead that
continue upstream to spawn, most of them hold up
at Leaburg Dam. These fish originate at the
Leaburg Hatchery.

The McKenzie River is considered a semi-rainforest
river. It's fir and hemlock get a good dose of rain
throughout the fall, winter and spring months. The
upper river It runs through a canyon and consist
mostly of heavy pocket water with lots of boulders.

The lower section of the river, downstream of
Hayden Bridge, falls on a much lower declination. It
is wider and flows slower.

The middle section of the McKenzie River holds
wild redside rainbow trout and hatchery rainbow
trout, as well as an occasional summer steelhead.
Itis the most popular section.

There are several floats possible from Blue River to
the Leaburg Dam. There is also a great variety of
water with various length riffles, long runs, boulder
strewn sections of pocket water and a few deep

From the Leaburg Dam to the Willamette River, the
McKenzie gets wider and slower. Long flats are
common. They are split up by short runs and riffles.
There are native cutthroat trout, wild rainbows and
hatchery rainbow trout from Leaburg to the Hayden
Bridge. Summer steelhead and Spring Chinook
salmon are also present during their respective

This is one of Oregon's best trout streams.
McKenzie River Oregon
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Photo Courtesy of
Dennis McCarthy
The section below Hayden Bridge can be
fished year-round under special
Trout fishing is legal in sections but the
water is usually high and cold. Trout can
be caught under good conditions.
Spring brings on some good hatches and
dry fly fishing provided the water levels are
Fly Fishing Guide to the McKenzie
Fly fishing the McKenzie River greatly
depends on the stream levels, water
condition and weather. The McKenzie
River is one of the finest combination
steelhead and trout streams in the United
States. It produces large native rainbow
and cutthroat trout. It also has chinook
salmon and steelhead.

The McKenzie River is surrounded by fir
and hemlock and rained on for just about
three-fourths of the year. The upper river
consist mostly of pocket water. The lower
river settles down some and is flatter and
smoother. It is loved not only by anglers,
but by several other sport enthusiasts.

The section of the South Fork McKenzie
River above the Cougar Reservoir is
stocked with rainbows. The middle portion
of the main river above Hayden Bridge is
also stocked with rainbows. Above the
Paradise Campground the McKenzie River
is not stocked and barbless fly and lures
must be used.

There are several places the river flows far
from any public access where boats are
the preferred option. The water varies from
stretches that anyone can float to
dangerous areas that only experienced
anglers should negotiate.
Guide, continued:
There's public access points located at the
Willamette National campground, McKenzie
River National Recreational trail, several
boat launches and parks.

The section of the McKenzie River below
Hayden Bridge is open year-round for fly
fishing, barbless hooks only. The other
sections of the river is open from the fourth
Saturday in April to October 31.

The spring chinook salmon run starts as
early as March but the earliest fishing
usually takes place about the last week of
April. Most of the fishing is done just below
the Leaburg Dam. There are only a few
places you can fish due to the limited
amount of public access. The best way by
far is to fish from a drift boat.

The McKenzie River steelhead start
showing up as early a mid April. The
steelhead fishing peaks in July through
strike indicators and by swinging a fly. Most
of the steelhead fishing takes place from
the town of Leaburg up to the dam. There
is only a limited amount of bank fishing.
Again, you are best off using a drift boat.
McKenzie River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
McKenzies River and in all stages of life
that are applicable to fishing. If you want to
fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call.  We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.

The first mayfly that hatches at the
beginning of a new year on the McKenzie
River is the Blue-winged Olives. These are
baetis species. These hatches take
place in January, February and March.
These mayflies also hatch late in the year
during September, October, November and
December. January and February also has
hatches of Little Winter Stoneflies.

Trout can be taken on imitations of midges
on the McKenzie River throughout the year
but are more popular during the times the
water is cold and few other aquatic insects
are hatching.

March Browns hatch during the month of
March starting about the middle of the
month. This hatch usually last about a
month and a half, depending on the area of
the river. Brown stoneflies also begin to
hatch in March. They are present until the
first of second week of April. Little
Short-horned Sedges or caddisflies hatch
from the last of April into the first of
August,depending on the section of the
river your fishing.

Golden stoneflies start showing up in April
on the McKenzie River. They are usually
present up until about the first or second
week of July. Little Yellow Stoneflies also
start hatching this month. You will find
different species from April into the month
of August. Many anglers call these Yellow

PMDs or Pale Morning Duns start hatching
around the first of May. These little mayflies
hatch up until August, depending on the
section of the river you are fishing.
October Caddis hatch in September and
October. These are rather large caddisflies.

Don't overlook the terrestrial insects. They
can be very important during the summer
and early fall months of the year. Imitations
of grass hoppers, ants, and beetles all
catch trout. The terrestrial season starts in
June and last through the month of

Streamers are very important flies to have
with you anytime of the year fly fishing the
McKenzie River. Those that imitate sculpin
are usually very effective. Others should
imitate baitfish and minnows. These will
come in very handy anytime the water is
stained from rain or melting snow.

Fish eggs are an important form of food
below Leaburg Dam. Salmon eggs are in
river during November and December.
Flies imitating these eggs are very
effective as well as
other traditional steelhead flies.

We recommend our own "Perfect Flies", of
course, but not because they are ours. Its
because they are the best flies you can
buy. They imitate specifics insects at all the
stages of their life trout feed on. They are
highly effective when used properly. If you
haven't already tried them, we suggest you
do. You won't be disappointed.

Green Sedges or caddisflies will hatch in
April. This hatch last until about the first of
June. The larvae of these caddisflies,
imitated by the Green Rock Worm, will take
trout all year.

Spotted Sedges, or caddisflies, hatch on
the McKenzie River from May through the
month of August. These are the largest of
the caddisfly hatches and consist of
several species that are almost identical.

Salmonflies start hatching in late May.
These large stoneflies will continue to
hatch untill about the first of July,
depending on the section of the river you
are fishing. Yellow Quill mayflies hatch
during June and July. Pale Evening Duns
hatch in July.
Summer continues with several hatches
but the water can become too warm in the
lower elevation sections during the hottest
days of summer.
Trout fishing can be good during the Fall.
They sometimes feed on the eggs of
spawning salmon.
L:ower McKenzie River Oregon
McKenzie River
McKenzie River Oregon
McKenzie river Bull Trout Sign
All images property of Dennis McCartly:
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
All images property of Dennis McCartly:
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Headlines:  The stream is
flowing a little above normal in
both the lower and upper
Steelhead are being
caught in the lower river and trout
in the upper section. Midges,
winter stoneflies and some little
BWOs are hatching. Keep up with
the latest by clicking the above
link to our weekly updated
McKenzie River fishing report.
Map of McKenzie River
Type of Stream

Rainbow Trout
Cutthroat Trout
Bull Trout
Chinook Salmon


Northcentral Oregon Coast

Nearest Towns

Most of it is open year-round

Fair to great, depending on the

Special Regulations
Yes, species specific, check the
current regulations

Non-Resident License
State of Oregon

National Weather Service

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies

Stream Flow Data:
Real time data near Vida
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

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