McKenzie River and Willamette River Fishing Report March 16, 2023


While winter still has a hold over the Willamette and Mckenzie rivers, we are starting to see a few more warmer days sprinkled in the mix. Combine the shift (even if a slight shift) to warmer weather with the recent rains, and fishing conditions have certainly improved. The magic hours still remain in the 12-4pm range, but the time change has elongated the evening bite on warmer days, sometimes going as long as 6pm. Since our nights remain cold, anglers are well served to take their mornings slow. Getting on the water by 10am and staying out a little longer is going to be more productive than dawn patrol and getting off the water early.

In terms of fish and fishing tactics, the March Brown hatch has been gathering steam over the last week. We’ve had reports, and our guides have experienced, some windows where the water has been boiling with feeding fish. 

We’ve also heard reports of Springers on the move and a few steelhead making their way to Leaburg Dam. These are winter fish. Make sure to let all the unclipped ones swim free, and harvest as many hatch brats as your harvest card will allow.

McKenzie River

Both the upper and lower river are still cold but are at better levels after the recent rains. Fish are still holding deep, but they are starting to move into tailouts and heads of runs, especially during the warmer hours.In addition to March Browns, keep those BWOs in mind. We have been seeing consistent—if smaller—hatches in the late afternoon when the temps, sun, and shade align with one another. Finally, if fishing on the move, longer drifts around structure on the warmer side of the river has been producing consistent results.

Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette from Oakridge to Black Canyon:

Temps in this region remain low, but the river levels have bumped. With warmer weather, we are expecting a little bit of snow melt over the weekend. This could effect temps and the bite. Keep that in mind as you plan your trip. As for flies, we’ve been using a lot of partridge and orange soft hackles. Our preferred nymph has been the Iron Sally. Here in a few weeks, we expect to start throwing some caddis pupae nymphs. 

Middle Fork Willamette from Dexter Dam to Marshall Island:

The rains from last week colored up the Willamette river. We expect water clarity to improve by Friday. The run from Dexter to Pengra—above Fall Creek—is clear. Below Fall Creek is where you are going to run into problems. With the bump in water levels expect root balls and downed logs to shift. If you come across a new river obstacle, make sure to report it to the Marine Board so everyone can benefit!

Recommended Flies:

Dries Wets Nymphs Swing Flies
  • Missing Link #12-14
  • March Brown Klinkhammer #12
  • Partridge and Orange
  • Soft hackle PMD #12-14
  • March Brown #10-12
  • Iron Sally #12-16
  • Pat’s Rubber Legs #6-8
  • Stone Fly 36 or #8
  • Duracell #12-16
  • Pocket Rocket #8 in black and in olive
  • Sculpzilla #8 in Olive and Black
  • Trout Spey Soft Hackle in Fiery Brown