Make the McKenzie Connection!

Fishing the McKenzie River

2024 Spring McKenzie Magazine

The McKenzie River flows nearly sixty miles from its source high in the Cascade Mountains to the Willamette River, 200 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The source of the McKenzie is numerous ice fields, but many consider Clear Lake to be its beginning. Approximately 2,000 years ago a lava flow dammed Fish Lake Creek and Clear Lake was formed. Today still- standing submerged trees, preserved in the cold waters, can be seen in the depths of Clear Lake. See

Just downstream of Clear Lake are two impressive waterfalls, Sahalie and Koosah. Both can be viewed along the McKenzie River Waterfall Loop Trail. See

The upper McKenzie, defined from Paradise Campground to Blue River, is very swift and a favorite for Oregon white water rafting. The upper McKenzie River fishing can be good early in the season but boating this section is difficult and only the experienced should attempt to Driftboat this section.

The middle section, which extends from Blue River to Leaburg, is the most popular for the sportsman wanting to experience the many moods of McKenzie River fishing. The clear waters and many boulder fields offer plenty of places for the fly fisherman to find excellent trout fishing.

A word of caution, there are two rapids, Brown’s Hole and Martin’s Rapid that require skillful boating. Other rapids such as Cook’s, Bear Creek, and Rock Gardens require proficient Driftboat oar work. The McKenzie River Guide Association and its over 50 active members can help you fish in this area. See

The lower McKenzie River, from Leaburg to Springfield, offers the most diverse fishing. Beginning in April, Summer Steelhead begin their migration up the river and continue throughout summer. Fly-fishing with wooly-buggers and large caddis patterns works well as do spinners and spoons.

For those wishing to pursue even larger fish, the McKenzie River supports a run of Spring Chinook salmon. Fishing for these fish requires many methods and tactics. Back-bouncing bait, back-trolling Kwikfish, and bobber fishing provide most of the action. Knowing where to find salmon is also important. The peak of this run is May through June and fish can be caught through July.

The McKenzie is best known for its dry-fly fishing. Throughout the whole river, Wild Rainbows (Redsides), Native Cutthroat, and many hatchery-reared trout respond well to Caddis, Parachute Adams, and Stimulators, #4, and #5 weight rods are recommended.

McKenzie River trout fishing in the lower section is also quite diverse. The section from Hendricks Bridge to the mouth is restricted to artificial lures/no bait allowed and is open year-round. These bait restrictions are to protect the Native Rainbow population. During spring and early summer, the fishing can be fantastic. Check ODFW regulations

The McKenzie drift boat, designed in the 30’s and 40’s by the first McKenzie River guides, is a must when plying the stream’s many rapids and boulder fields. This boat enables the fisherman to stand in the front and cast into likely places where fish can be found.

Popular campgrounds are McKenzie Bridge and Paradise. There are also many Bed & Breakfasts accomodations in the McKenzie River Valley.


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