The McKenzie & Willamette (okay, I lied)


I didn't think I had enough photos I took during all the years I fished Mac and Willy but I found more in an article I wrote in regards to the March Brown hatch on the McKenzie. So, I tossed this clip together last week -- I'm getting much faster at using the editing program.

At one time I fished both rivers more often than any others in Oregon. In fact, when I was first learning to fly fish, I found a place on the Willamette that is a 10 minute drive from my house... no one else fished there.

The Willamette runs next to Corvallis and is primarily frog water. However, it is not nearly as deep as folks think it is and it supports a population of native and wild cutthroat. But they move around. So, you need to find them. There's also a ton of whitefish. So once I found the spot, I'd go there just about every evening after work.

Most likely, if I was so inclined, I could still catch trout and whitefish at that spot and truthfully, I have no idea why I stopped fishing there... maybe it is due to the fact the spot is in a park that has become very popular with the town folk.

Eventually I started moving upstream away from the frog water. And then, I started targeting the McKenzie. A friend and I would fish Mac all summer during the evening after after a work day. While both rivers are best fished from a drift boat, there are plenty of areas you can access the river on foot.

Right now is the time to fish these rivers. The MB hatch has started and will continue for a few months. The native rainbow and cutts do love the March Browns.

The scruffy looking guy in many of the shots is Deke Meyer. Deke and I (sometimes accompanied by his dog Trout) would target the McKenzie and Willamette during the MB hatches. Deke had a boat so we could access the islands and fishing spots that you can not reach on foot.

While most folks focus on the McKenzie, the Willamette is an extremely productive fishery and many see it as a slow-moving, wide, uninviting river when in truth, from a boat, it is quite remote and very fishy. Once you drift away from the populated areas, you may as well be fishing in Alaska. You won't see any houses, power lines or other evidence of human influence. The river is lined with trees and farm lands.

Hard to believe that a river which flows through the most populated area of Oregon is actually a secret flyfishing heaven.

Anyway, if you're interest, now is the time to fish Mac and Willy with MB patterns. You don't really need a floating craft, but like the Yak, they are best fished from a drift boat or river capable pontoon boat. There are plenty of boat ramps along both rivers.

If you're interested in a destination fishery, right now I'd recommend the McKenzie and Willamette.
The MB hatch normally starts at 2:00 PM. (before that time, use size 16 BWO patterns)


Very nice Gene, every time you post one of your videos it brings back great memories. That march brown hatch made me think I was the worlds greatest dry fly fisherman. I used to cut my last class of the day and drive to Haden bridge and fish the island. I would swing a nymph imitation until the hatch started then it was game on once they started flying. I was always interested in the Willamette but never fished it. We used to float it in the late spring in inner tubes although we were more interested in catching a buzz than fish. Although I did see lots of suspicious rises. If memory serves me correct I remember a nudest beach along the float.


Yup... you are correct about the nude beaches. The best ones are on the McKenzie ... U of O has to do with that :D

We kept the Willamette a secret for years. Then we decided to push for a regs changed to require the C&R of all wild trout (which is all of them because they don't plant Willy).

The proposal passed after a long, pitched battle with the zone bio. There are a few guides that take folks to Willy but for the most part, it is still under fished. The Middle Fork is a different story. It is quite popular with fly anglers.

The McKenzie is the big draw and during the MB hatches, it can get kind'a crowded with guides in boats. There's a theory that the cutts migrate between Mac and Willy. Whatever the case, I've had some mighty fine days on the Willamette using MB Comparaduns. ... better than on the McKenzie.
Didn't know the regs had changed on the Willamette. I did see a couple guys actually trolling pop gear around Corvallis back in the day with some success. Like I said I never fished it. I wish I would have taken the time to learn it. Then again I probably would have never graduated!
My introduction to fly fishing was March Browns on the Mackenzie, and my youngest daughter now shares her name with this beautiful river.
Patrick, I know that Island well, and it was an after class destination for me also.
Thanks for sharing Gene!

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Fin, I honestly don't remember the name of the group/person responsible for the music...

I used one of the songs off this bluegrass album

Once I'm done with editing a clip, I blow away the music info in regards to what I used for what. Well, I don't really blow it away I just remove the compilation from Photoshop Premiere Elements so I can no longer pull up the project and track down what song I used.

Anyway, it was one of the ones in the album shown above.

While making the clips, I've amassed quite a bit of background MP3 music. Sometimes, picking the soundtrack music for a clip is the most difficult part of the entire process.


Active Member
Thanks Gene...sometimes I just like to hear the music without words. I just purchased a'll go good with a fine cigar and glass of Pendleton 1910 on the back porch this summer. :cool: