Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor to the north, the Middle Fork of the Willamette River has quietly been gaining a reputation as a destination for serious steelhead fly anglers. The long, broad runs and tailouts of the Willamette River are particularly suited to modern spey casting. With countless acres of easily wadable holding water perfectly suited to the swing, and annual summer steelhead returns in the tens-of-thousands, the Middle Fork is one of the most productive urban fly fisheries in the lower 48 states.
Steelhead are present year-round, with wild winter fish available from January-March when conditions are favorable. The main attraction is the summer steelhead, which begin arriving in the Middle Fork in April and continue through the end of October. In addition to steelhead, resident rainbow and coastal cutthroat trout often provide good light rod action between swing sessions. Spring Chinook salmon are also available in early summer. The lower section of the river is regulated by a major flood control dam ensuring consistent flows in midsummer.
The proximity of the Middle Fork to the Eugene metro area makes it an ideal destination for anglers traveling with non-angling companions. Eugene is home to a vibrant arts community, excellent restaurants, world-class running trails, major sports venues, the University of Oregon, and a signature open-air market in the heart of downtown.
Willamette River Location:
The Middle Fork of the Willamette River flows southwest from the Cascades and through the Eugene/Springfield metro area.
Willamette River Fishing Program:
All fishing on the Middle Fork Willamette is accessed by driftboat as the river is large and access is limited. Most fishing is by wading with some areas fished from the boat. Wading is generally over loose cobble river bottom. Studded wading shoes are not required, but a wading staff is always a good idea.
Trips begin before dawn to take advantage of low light hours and fishing is done by early afternoon. The summer steelhead of the Middle Fork are receptive to a wide range of patterns, from skaters to standard wets and leech patterns. Water flows and light conditions dictate the presentation, with surface and near-surface techniques in the low light with lower flows and sink-tips in higher flows or once the sun is on the water.
Art galleries, shopping, hiking, museums, live music, sporting events
Accommodations and Meals:
In Eugene, The Hilton (541.342.2000) is in a prime downtown location in easy walking distance of galleries, restaurants, and shopping. La Quinta Inn and Suites (541.344.8335) is located next to Alton Baker Park, and is in easy walking distance of the Willamette River trail system and wade-fishing opportunities for summer steelhead.
Day 1: Arrive Eugene, OR and overnight.
Day 2: Full day of guided fishing for McKenzie River trout. Overnight in Eugene.
Days 3-4: Dawn – midday steelhead fishing on Willamette.
Day 5: Depart Eugene, OR.