Literary Angler – Hooking Up on the Middle Fork

Middle Fork, Willamette River

Fishing New Water

We were scheduled to fish the McKenzie but our guide, Clay Holloway, suggested we try the Middle Fork of the Willamette.  My fishing partner, Dennis Oster, and I agreed that it would be fun to explore a stretch of river neither of us had fished before.  I had heard good reports about trout fishing on the Middle Fork and was excited to finally have the experience.  We left Portland at 7 a.m. so we could connect with Clay at the Black Canyon boat ramp at 10 a.m.  Upon arrival, we geared up and rode with Clay to the launch site, Greenwater Park east of Oakridge.

It was going to be a 7-mile float in Clay’s drift boat.  The river level is running full right now with water releases but will drop off in late spring and early summer.  The color was just right.  The weather was perfect – sunny and no wind as we started the trip.  Since Clay indicated that the trout were feasting on salmon fly nymphs, we used fly rods with 2 girtle bugs 18 inches apart and 3 feet below an orange indicator bubble.


I started the day with a beautiful 15-inch rainbow on the first seam we fished.  It was a nice beginning to a very successful day of trout angling.  Dennis and I traded positions at the bow of the boat after each fish landed.  The healthy, colorful trout were stuffed with big nymphs.  Clay provided helpful instructions on the proper technic for keeping the flies “fishing” and how to set the hook.  His knowledge of where the fish reside, how to place the line and when to strike was instrumental to our success.


It seemed that this stretch of the river was mostly undeveloped.  There was a narrow canyon with overhanging trees and sections with boulders providing seams and eddies where fish were located.  We had the river pretty much to ourselves since we encountered only one other boat and a couple of bank anglers.  We ended up landing over 20 native trout, including a couple of coastal cutthroats.  Several fish were in the 15 to 17-inch range.  Dennis landed the biggest fish, a gorgeous 18-incher.  We both agreed it was a wonderful way to experience new water and can’t wait to return.

John Pyrch