Some nice fish on the upper McKenzie. Chuck’s Caddis Variant cleaned up during the afternoon hatch.
Some nice fish on the upper McKenzie. Chuck’s Caddis Variant cleaned up during the afternoon hatch.
The wife and daughter were away last weekend so I went out Saturday and Sunday for some roaming and fishing. On Saturday I went to the McKenzie and had a beautiful fall day with rain and moody fog (man I love fall in the NW).
I caught a dozen or so nice rainbows on dries with the Parachute PMD being the go to fly on the upper river for some reason. The flies in the air were all darker but the fish were not keying in on my dark flies. Sometime you just have to un-match the hatch a little. In the middle of the day I saw a Morell fly box float by and I managed to reach out and snag it with my net. I took it up river to see if there was anyone around the corner that might have dropped it. Ends up it was a group of guys who just earlier that day were making a racket in the pull off on the road and one of them tossed a rock in the water to make his friend look and almost beaned me in the head. I thought about keeping the box as pay back but that just wouldn’t be good karma. Shortly after returning the box I got four nice 14-16 inch fish in four casts. Nice.
I loaded up a shopping bags worth of yellow chantrelles in an hour on the way back down to Eugene. I set a course back home and tried to decide what to do the next day.
If you have been around my site you know I love release videos. My wife has told me I need to keep the camera in the water longer but the McKenzie is freezing so this is all I could manage:
I headed out to the Deschutes Sunday even though all I have heard is lackluster reports about the steelheading. When I drove past the White River it was puking mud into the Deschutes. It literally looked like a river of mud. I worked my way through Hole in the Wall with not a tug. Did a run near Pine Tree and nothing. I shelved the spey rod and decided to work some of the back eddies for trout but only found a few pipsqueaks in the 16 inch range. I was fishing a spot that usually holds lots of large trout and a large steelhead jumped four feet in front of me. They love to jump right next to me in that river. I have not had that happen to me anywhere else. Hmmmm…
The fishing was slow so I spent an hour cleaning up beer cans and flip-flops when I came across this in the rocks:
I brought it home and might sand it down and see if I can do anything with it. Whatever I do with it I thought it was cool and wondered where the fisherman that used to belong to the net is. I also found some cans of unopened beverages with the labels worn off and I am a little scared to open them so I can recycle the can. Does five year old beer that has been baking in a desert stink? I am only guessing it’s beer in the can as it’s the Deschutes.
On the way home I stopped at a favorite spot and found two and a half shopping bags of white chantrelles in an hour and a half. It was weird because almost all the mushrooms were just under the soft soil so they just looked like mounds of dirt and pine needles. The two dehydrators have been running nonstop since Sunday but I just about have them all done.
I’m still here. I have just been working weekends to put a little extra scratch aside, but this last weekend I got down to the McKenzie for a dearly needed trip. I was going to leave early for the Deschutes, but I heard the White River had completely blown it out. I also wasn’t able to get my fishing buddy to go which makes the drive that much longer. But when I got there the water was crystal clear (check the video below) and around noon all variety of bugs started to move around. The sure fire Chuck’s Caddis Variant brought lots of beautiful wild fish to hand along with Biot Parachute Adams and a few orange Stimulator’s thrown in for good measure. With no wind you could watch the fish rise to your fly like you were looking through glass. The hard part was not pulling the fly away before they even had time to annihilate it. Only one month left of trout season then it’s off to land that massive steelhead on the Salmonberry.
After throwing a spey line ten hours with the guide I thought I would head to the upper McKenzie for some 3 weight action. A Parachute Adams with a natural color Mercury Pheasant Tail off the bend of the hook was the ticket. The fish would explode out of the water for the Pheasant Tail. Unfortunately I had only tied two and when the second one was gone the fishing slowed to a crawl.
Can you spot the fish?
Can you spot the forceps that I dropped in the river and couldn’t find/reach*? I took a photo to remind myself to check next time I go back. Hopefully the water will be lower, or I will take a snorkel mask so I can spot them easier through all the sticks.
These are the size of fish I was getting to hand. The largest fish of the day is the one that broke off my last Pheasant Tail. Next time I will head back with my small arsenal of newly tied Pheasant Tails!
* hint: the forceps are in the upper right. If you can’t spot the fish in the other image up top you may want to take up tennis.
So my fishing buddy turned the big 40 and some fishing, good food, and drinking was in order.
We took the wives and kids down to our favorite area on the upper McKenzie and found great dispersed camping spot right on the bank of the river. We set up camp as quick as we could and then busted a move to a fishing spot we like. There was not a lot of dry fly action but the Parachute Adams was good for a few fish in the 10 to 12 inch range. More action was found nymphing though, especially with little Pheasant Tails dropped below a really heavy fly. Now that I think about it I have no idea where all my Mercury Pheasant Tails are. Hmmm…
We got back to camp and the birthday boy cooked up his steaks cooked in a pound of butter, half a bottle of Dijon mustard, and bottle of Cognac. Then you flambé the whole thing. It’s delicious but cleaning up those dishes the next morning was a major chore, all the butter and all.
The next morning we hiked up to the Blue Pool which is a four mile round trip hike. The pool is a beautiful sapphire blue and crystal clear. When you get up to the pool the cliff you are standing on is about 40 feet high so we hiked around to the far side to make it down to the water (we had the kids or the Billy Goat in me would have loved to try and make it down the steep side). The water swells up from the lava below the pool and Alex any my wife were debating jumping in but a quick dunk of there hand convinced them that hypothermia would probably set in within seconds.
At the head of the pool you can see the old river bed and it really made me sad. At one point it must have been such a beautiful area with the water plunging in to the pool. Instead the Eugene Water and Electric Company plugs the water up in a Carmen Reservoir and then pipes it a few miles underground to Smith Reservoir. Check out this lucky reporter who actually saw water flowing over the falls one day (http://www.kval.com/younews/22696999.html).
We headed back to camp for some lunch and then back out for some fishing It was more of the same with the bulk of the fish coming to hand with nymphs. I was really wishing I had a czech nymph set up because I think I was missing several gentle takes. We kept telling ourselves “one more fish” but you know how that goes. One more after this one. After this one…
In the end it just got dark out so we headed back to camp. We had Salmon over the fire and roasted bell peppers. Several Cuba Libre’s later I got to hear stories of Alex’s two week trip up to BC. Hopefully I will be able to get some photos out of him soon and we may even be graced with a little write up here! Basically it was lots of big trout taking dry flies with wild abandon but we will see.
The next morning we got our little village packed up and loaded back into the cars. We headed up the river and saw a few fish rising. While I was switching flies a fish rose down below me and Alex casted across the river to try and get it to come up again. “HEY, that’s my fish!” I yelled back at him. Trying to fish my side! Geez. Anyhow the fish didn’t take his fly and I showed him the fly the fish was going to take and put it on. Casted straight up river to get nice drift down and right as the fly came over the fish it slammed the fly. HA! Goddard Caddis to the rescue. Pain in the ass to tie but the fish love ’em. We fished the next hour and then the wives came to fetch us as it was noon nap time for the kids and that makes it the perfect time to drive two and a half hours back home. My daughter slept all but the last 15 minuets of the drive which is a huge nap for her. Thanks for watching her while Alex and I played this weekend honey!
I have written about Ed, who I see on the McKenzie all the time, and who I had the joy of running into on my recent trip down there. He is 84 and has fished the same area for 40 to 50 years. Every time anyone gets into a fish he is excited. So when I saw him on my trip on the 4th (I was getting away from fireworks which I can’t stand) I was excited, and the lucky for us the fish were rising like crazy. Anything that looked like a mayfly was nailing fish. Eighteen or so the first hour I was there and twelve more the second. Things died off and the fish were not eve responding to the nymphs.
Two days before this trip to the McKenzie Alex and I were there and since we got no action on the river we went to explore Smith Reservoir. I fished a few streamers and had a few grabs but no takes and Alex was in the same boat so we decided to head off and explore more areas. Unfortunately when we got back to my house that night I realized I had lost my large Morell box that was packed with about fifty streamers (I was feeling Whitefishcantjump’s pain). So on this trip I went back down to the area we were and found my box right where I knew it was. The water level in the lake had risen though and the box was a mere foot from the water now. Lucky, huh.
Alex and I headed out to one of our favorite spots and found the fishing super slow. We persisted for a few hours trying every little section of water but the normally abundant fish could not be enticed to the surface—for that matter the nymphing was dead too. One of the few fish I found was happy to make a quick getaway:
(No that is not a swimming pool, the water is that clear. And yes it is freezing cold.)
We decided to check out some of the water we had never seen so we headed up to Smith Reservoir on the Upper McKenzie. It was beautiful (see photo above) and the water was crystal clear but there is no real drive in access around the lake so it seems more like a boat lake to me. Which is ok with me I just didn’t happen to bring my pontoon. You could see lots of trout cruising near shore and they would mess with the flies but we couldn’t get any hooked.
We worked the creek below the dam and found lots of small brookies (I think they were brook) willing to take some dry flies. The largest was about 8 inches but after such a slow morning they put a smile on our face and so we fished the creek all the way to it’s end. Here’s Alex working one of the many little pools:
On the way back we hit up our favorite spot and fished for 30 more minutes or so. Alex got a nice fish to take a Parachute Adams (my favorite fly) and we decided that was a good end to the day so we went in search of food and beers.
It’s almost time to get back to fishing. Fall in the NW hits and I can never seem to get outside enough days to do all the amazing things that are happening with the start of the rain. Huge trout feeding like crazy for winter, Coho, Chinook, and Chanterelles. I got out several times this fall for some amazing trout fishing on the McKenzie and tried to find some salmon on the North Coast rivers (with no luck since there are so few this year). But when the cold air starts to move it’s way in I always start to get worried about my reserve of Chanterelle mushrooms for the year. I have a 5 Liter (1.3 Gallons) glass jar with a hinge lock glass lid that I store them all in once they are dehydrated and if the jar isn’t full come the freezing weather, that kills the mushrooms, then I know I will definitely run out by next Chanterelle season (Oct–Nov).
In the past I have had no issue filling the jar and several gallon zip-lock bags with the dried mushrooms but this year I have a little something on my back slowing me down:
(Chloe & Me — Alex & Lorenzo. Not sure why I look so short as I am the same size as Alex.)
What a work out climbing up a 45 degree hill, over and under fallen trees, and trying to spot small morsels of happiness (the Chanterelles) mixed in with all the other similarly colored leaves scattered around. Not to mention that when you do find one you get to do a power squat with 20 or so pounds on your back. Now repeat for two hours and dozens of mushrooms. Wheeeeee.
I did get to run down to my favorite area, which is about 30 minuets from my house, solo on Monday. I was out during one of those rain storms that the TV loves to jump on “FIRST FLOODING OF THE SEASON – TONIGHT ON CHANNEL 12”. Lucky for me I don’t watch TV so I didn’t know that the hard rain was supposed to be the first large storm of the season or I would have known and gone anyway. I hiked around at full speed with my dog and proceeded to find one Chanterelle in 20 minuets. But then as I hiked further up the hill I spotted one that was trying to hide in a large patch of Oregon Grape. As I got closer I noticed that there were tons of them all in this one area. I went home happy and the jar is sure to be filled as soon as they are all dry. Now back to fishing.
Trout season is starting to slow. In all fairness it is November first so it is time, right. Soon I will have to hunker down and get started on my winter fly tying extravaganza to get my boxes replenished for spring. I try to go after steelhead and salmon in the winter but I just can’t muster as much excitement for them as I do for trout. I am sure most of it is that I understand trout more and that I like catching more then one fish every 1,000 casts.
I went to the McKenzie on October 31 and had a fun day with my wife and daughter. It is really great to take my wife along as she likes to take photos so I come back with more then just me holding the fish out and trying to take a fast photo so I can get it back in the water (see almost all photos in my other posts). She took this one of me tying on a new fly:
Speaking of flies, the fish were SUPER picky. I saw larger mayflies on the water and the fish were hitting them hard but I could not figure out what the fish wanted to see. I tried all the usual suspects with no luck. So I waded out to the top of my waders and waited for one of the mayflies to float near me and grabbed it off the water. It looked like a BWO but darker so I matched as close to the size as I could but unfortunately I didn’t have the right darkness of fly but, hey, that is why I carry a black sharpie in my vest. I got the parachute BWO nice and dark and threw it out and found this nice 15″:
I love the color of wild McKenzie trout. The last fish of the day was on a #12 BH flashback pheasant tail and as soon as the fish starts to move in the water you can just tell they are not wild by there lack of fighting and there colors. Compare this hatchery fish (that I took home to eat) to the wild above:
BTW: Oregonflyfishingblog.com has a great list of what you can do to help out wild fish in the McKenzie. Check it out here.
After the day of fishing we swung by Ike’s and I got my favorite Trout Special pizza (mushrooms and sausage) and my wife got broasted chicken. If you find yourself on McKenzie Highway near Vida, OR I recommend both, especially after a day fishing. As we sat there eating all the power went out suddenly and the eerie glow of the battery powered jack o’ lanterns near by illuminated our table. We packed up in the dark and headed towards home just to find the highway closed five miles down from a car that had hit a power pole and brought the lines down on the road. The emergency workers told us it would be hours before the road was open but seeing as we were low on gas we got in the queue and waited our turn after 15 to 30 minuets of waiting we were on our way. The delay from the accident put us back home after 11 so we missed all the trick or treaters. To bad we weren’t giving out candy this year or we would have had a nice stash.
To close, one more great photo from my wife (thanks for the camera mom and dad):
I shot this fun little video of a nice upper McKenzie wild trout heading back off to get bigger for next year. Crush those barbs people—or better yet tie your own flies with barbless hooks.