Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The McKenzie River
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 has 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
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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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing: 71/2 ft.,
3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Recommended Tackle & Gear
For Steelhead and Salmon
7, 8 , 9 or 10 weight for appropriate type
rod, sinking, sinking tip and floating
10#, 12# in 9 to 15 feet lengths
10# and 12#
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly 7, 8, 9 and 10 ft. single hand
For 7 to 10 weight lines
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
KISS Strike Indicators, Lanyards, etc.
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
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.
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
mostly 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
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
All images property of Dennis McCartly:
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
All images property of Dennis McCartly:
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Headlines: The river is in great
shape for this time of the year.
Stream levels are good in all
sections. Trout are being caught
and mostly on the surface on dry
flies. Conditions have been
excellent with decent hatches,
mostly Blue-winged olives but
some others. A few Skamania
steelhead are being caught as
well. Terrestrial insects are still
working as well. Keep up with the
latest by clicking the above link to
our weekly updated McKenzie
River fishing report.
Map of McKenzie River
10/16/15 Anglers are reporting catching some good numbers of both wild and stocked trout
both above and below the lake. Terrestrials, Blue-winged olives, October Caddis and other
hatches are taking place. The weather should continue to be good but there is rain coming
down for the next two day, so watch the stream levels.
10/24/15 October Caddis are the main trout attraction. Anglers are catching them feeding on
the egg laying females late in the afternoons. Fish the pupa during the actual hatch. There is a
lot of rain in the forecast this coming week, so keep a close check on the levels.
10/31/15 Conditions are about the same as last week. Trout fishing is okay but not hot.
Blue-winged olives have begin to hatch good. A few steelhead are being caught mostly on egg
flies below spawning salmon. There is a chance of rain every day and this should help the
11/07/15 The McKenzie is gradually getting a little colder each day. Hatches are about limited to
Blue-winged olive species and Midge species. it will remain that way for the next few weeks.
Sculpin are plentiful and the Brown sculpin streamer will remain a good fly. Summer steelhead
are still being caught below Leesburg dam.
11/14/15 There is a chance of rain every day for the next week. Cloudy days means more
Blue-winged olive and midge hatches. The weather is going to be mild temperature wise. It is a
good time to fish the river. We didn't get any reports of an summer steelhead being caught this
11/21/15 The rain last week has had the levels very high but they have been falling and are
almost down to fishable levels. Keep track of them by clicking the links on the report. The water
is also cooler but not too cold, averaging in the high forties. That makes Midges and little
Blue-winged olives important insects to imitate.
11/28/15 The river has been falling back down all week and is at a good level for fly fishing. The
weather is mild and the water temperature in the low forties. Fish small BWO nymphs and Midge
larva/pupa combinations and you should catch plenty of trout. More rain is coming next week.
12/05/15 You are going to have to watch the stream levels closely if you plan on fishing the
McKenzie this coming week. The weather is going to be warmer but there is a good chance of
rain every day for the next week. The Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin streamers are
great flies to use under these conditions.
12/12/15 As I'm sure any locals know, the river is blown out as we like to say. Yes, it will bring a
lot of steelhead into the system and in the long term, improve fishing but don't expect to do any
for the coming week. There is rain in the forecast every day for the coming week.
12/17/15 The situation isn't good at all. The river is blown out big time in all sections and in fact,
flooded is some places. The other problem is there is heavy rain in the forecast for the next
seven days, so conditions are unlikely to change. Lets just hope they don't get worse.
12/26/15 The stream levels are still high as I'm sure most of you know. They are much better
shape than they were a week ago but there is more rain in the forecast starting tomorrow. There
are a lot of fish in the lower river and it won't be long before this will all be over.
12/02/15 The stream levels have got back into good shape with near normal levels but there is
more rain coming, starting tomorrow. You should always check them. The water temperature is
dropping and probably averaging about 40 degrees. Midges and Winter stoneflies is the best
option for trout.
01/09/16 We received one good report this past week form a customer. He caught several trout
using our Brown Sculpin streamer and winter stonefly nymphs. The water temperature is around
40 degrees, so keep the presentations slow. Stream levels are in good shape but be sure to
check on them.
01/16/16 The White Belly and Brown sculpin streamer flies have continued to do well for two of
our regular customers. They have caught several trout lately. The stream levels are running
about normal but there is rain forecast every day. Blue-winged olives nymphs, size 18, and
winter stonefly nymphs will work.
01/23/16 The weather is warm for January but that just means a lot of rain I guess. There is ran
in the forecast everyday for this coming week. The river levels in all sections are very high and
likely to remain that way for the next several days. You will just have to keep a check on them.
01/30/16 The river is very high and ranging from very dingy to very muddy, depending on the
section. There is little to no chance of catching trout at this time. You will just have to keep a
close check on the stream levels. There is a lot of rain forecast for this next week and it is likely
to stay high.
02/06/16 The river has dropped back to near normal levels and cleared up. The weather is
going to be warmer for the next few days. Conditions for trout fishing are good. Midges and
Blue-winged olives will hatch and the trout should be active.
02/13/16 Rain is falling and will continue for the next week. The streams are already high and
will continue to rise. You will just have to watch the levels to know when you will be able to fish,
but it likely will be a few days. Little BWO nymphs, and midges will be the first choice flies.
02/20/16 There has been a lot of rain and the stream levels are high in all sections. They are
lightly to heavily stained depending on the section. This is likely to continue through
Wednesday, due to more rain forecast. Blue-winged olives are hatching and the nymph would
be our first choice fly.
02/27/16 The stream levels are good right now, but on the way up with lots of rain in the
forecast. Hopefully, the levels will be good through the weekend. Blue-winged olives and
midges, both creams and reds, are hatching. Anglers have been doing good just about any
section they fished this past week.
03/05/16 The stream is high right now and will probably continue to be high for a few days.
There is rain in the forecast every day for the next week. It is going to be warmer with highs in
the forties and fifties. We added March Brown mayflies to the list. They will begin to hatch very
03/12/16 The river is still very high in all sections and there is heavy rain forecast for the next
several days. To be blunt, there just isn't going to be any fly fishing opportunity. When the
levels do drop, expect March Browns and Skwala stoneflies to be hatching along with the
Blue-winged olives and midges.
03/19/16 The water temperature is warm and several insects are hatching such as March
Browns, Blue-winged olives, little Black caddis and Skwala stoneflies BUT, the level are very
high and fishing is next to impossible. There is rain in the forecast every day for the next week,
so this is unlikely to change.
03/26/16 The river is still high in all sections. There has been a lot of rain and more is coming
through the weekend. The levels are much better than last week, but still too high to wade
anywhere. The water is warm and several aquatic insects are hatching. Fishing will be very
good when the levels do subside.
04/03/16 The river has fell back down to a normal level for this time of the year and the water is
getting warmer. Wading is possible in many sections. Several new hatches will begin to take
place very soon. The water is getting warmer and the weather for this coming week looks great.
04/09/16 Conditions remain good on the McKenzie. The stream levels are in good shape from
top to bottom and the water mostly clear. Several new aquatic insect hatches are taking place.
Green Sedges, or McKenzie caddis, are taking place. There are lots of Blue-winged olives
hatching when the skies are cloudy.
04/16/16 Stream levels are good in most sections. It is a little high in the tailwater but that will
soon change. There are lots of insects hatching including Skwala stoneflies, Green Caddis,
Blue-winged olives, March Browns and others depending on the elevation of the location your
fish. Rainbow trout are spawning.
04/22/16 The McKenzie is in great shape right now, with good stream levels offering good
wading opportunities. The water is warm and clear and several aquatic insects are hatching.
Our customers are reporting that they are catching lots of trout. It is raining and this could affect
the levels a little but we don't think it will be substantial.
05/05/16 There is a great week of weather ahead and it is a good time to fish the river for trout.
We got two good reports from customers this past week. The water levels are down in good
shape and cleared up. Redside trout are waiting on your dry flies. Get off the couch and on the
05/21/16 The stream levels are currently low, easy to wade in many places and our customers
are catching a lot of trout. There is rain in the forecast every day for the coming week and the
levels are likely to change, so be sure to check them. The weather is going to continue to be a
little cooler than normal. Lots of insects are hatching.
05/28/16 The river is in good shape and anglers are catching trout in good numbers. The
weather is going to be turning much warmer and that is going to change the hatches before
long but we will keep you updated. The stream levels are down and there is only a little rain in
06/04/16 When it turned warm, it turned not just warm but hot. The water temperature will rise
fast this coming week in all sections of the river. Lots of caddis are hatching and the Pale
Morning duns have begin to hatch. The section below the dam will remain the most consistent.
06/11/16 It was hot last week, but the temperatures are returning to a more normal weather
pattern this coming week, with much cooler weather. There are chances of rain about every day
for the next week. Lot of insects are hatching and our customers are sending in some very good
06/18/16 The McKenzie just doesn't get much attention for its trout fishing, but that is just the
way the locals like it. It does turn out a lot of trout and good fly fishing experience for those who
give it a try. The stream levels are in good shape in all sections of the river with lots of aquatic
insects hatching. Those fishing are catching a lot of trout.
06/25/16 The stream levels ae a little low but otherwise, in very good shape. Anglers are
catching lots of trout. Don't pull out the terrestrial insects just yet. There are still some hatches
taking place and bring the trout to the surface. It is especially good late in the day when the
caddis are depositing their eggs.
07/02/16 The only reports we are getting is from trout anglers. They are catching fish below and
above the lake. There are still a lot of hatches taking place but they will soon start subsiding.
We went ahead and added terrestrials to the list of flies because they will soon become
important to imitate. The stream levels are good.
07/09/16 The river is a little high in all sections right now and may go up some more. There is
rain forecast through tomorrow and then we think it will be dropping back down. You can still
wade in many places but be careful. There are still mega insects hatchng and our customers
are still reporting good catches of trout.
07/16/16 Trout fishing has been good lately, especially above the lake. The stream has recently
been stocked but there is a good population of native and wild trout as well. There are several
different insects hatching. The best time to fish is late in the day, near dark. There are egg
laying stoneflies and caddisflies.
07/23/16 The river levels are still in good shape. There is no rain in the forecast for this coming
week. Anglers are catching good numbers of trout in the upper river above the lake as well as
below it. Pale Morning duns are hatching along with two species of caddisflies. Late afternoon is
the best time to fish.
07/30/16 There is little change from the past week except the stream levels are a little lower.
They are still in decent shape with some hatches taking place. Trout are being caught in the
upper river above the lake and below the lake. Fish early in the day and the last two hours of
daylight for the best results.
08/06/16 Discharges and stream levels continue to be low but otherwise in good shape. Trout
fishing continues to be good both above and below the lake. Few anglers are taking advantage
of that. There is some rain in the forecast this coming week. The weather is going to be a little
08/13/16 Trout fishing continues to be very good with lots of wild trout being caught as well as
the stockers. You may want to fish early mornings and late in the day through Tuesday. It is
going to be very hot then cool down later in the week. Sculpin streamers are working good
during the early mornings. Caddisfly egg layers are bringing fish to the surface the last two
hours of daylight.
08/20/16 Wow, it is going to be hot and I'm sure that's no secrete. Fish early mornings. Scuplin
streamers are catching trout in the mornings according to some customers. The last two hours
of the day are still hot but you can catch trout feeding on the egg laying caddis. Fish the fastest
water you can find, otherwise.
08/27/16 Stream levels wise for trout fishing, the river is in good shape. The weather is a little
cooler and that will help the overall situation a lot. Our customers reported some good catches
the last two days both below and above the lake. There are a lot of hatches going on but mostly
all caddisflies. There are some Tricos in the lower sections.
09/10/16 Another good week has passed with anglers catching good numbers of trout. This
coming week should be as good or better. The stream levels are a little low but good for wading
anglers. Terrestrials sucn as Japanese Beetles, Carpenter ants and grass hoppers are working.
There are lots of caddisflies hatching and late afternoon egg laying is brings trout to the surface
09/17/16 The stream levels are almost the same as last week in spite of the rain. It is raining as I
write this, however, and will continue through Sunday. There are still plenty of hatches taking
place and anglers are catching trout on terrestrial imitations as well. Many of the trout being
caught are wild fish, not just stockers. This should continue through the next week.
09/24/16 The stream levels are in good shape in all sections and trout are being caught in good
numbers. The cooler weather has started Mahogany duns to hatching along with some October
Caddis. The weather will warm back up some next week, but hopefully it won't slow down the
hatches and active trout.