Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the McKenzie River Oregon
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
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
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 September. These fish can be caught using 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, Oregon
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