What to Expect in Oregon in April

Importance by half-month
 Super    Major    Minor    Slight    None

Hatches are matched from Westfly's database of "standard" fly patterns.


Nymph

Size 16-20 Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear. Brown, brown-olive

Moderate runs, just below riffles: indicator, tight line, rising nymph

Emerger

Size 16-20 Sprout Midge, Film Critic, Hackle Stacker. Olive-brown body, gray wing

Flats, runs, backeddies: standard dry fly

Dun

Size 16-20 Sparkle Dun, Comparadun, Hairwing Dun. Olive-brown body, gray wing

Flats, runs, backeddies: standard dry fly

Spinner

Size 16-20 Diving Caddis, Soft Hackle. Dark body

runs, slowish riffles: surface swing

► Emerging duns collect in backeddies, and that is where trout will be waiting for them.

► Post-hatch, try a size 16-18 brown Soft Hackle to pick up trout feeding on egg-laying females in moderate-speed runs.

► Trout and whitefish feed on drifting nymphs prior to the hatch, so a good pre-hatch strategy is a two-nymph rig with a heavy fly--Rubber Legs, Kaufmanns Stonefly, etc.--on the point and a small nymph, such as a size-18 Pheasant Tail, on a dropper; use indicator tactics. Runs of slow to moderate speed are best for the blue-winged olive nymphs.

► The delightful blue-wings continue to make their presence known in April, but the hatch is fading in importance as other bugs join the fray. Expect hatches around 1:00-2:30 (daylight time).

Emerger

Size 10-14 Soft Hackle, Quigley Cripple, Film Critic, Hackle Stacker. Tan to red-brown body, brown wing

Near riffles, flats: surface swing

Dun

Size 10-14 Sparkle Dun, Hairwing Dun, Comparadun. Tan to red-brown body, brown wing

Near riffles, flats: standard dry fly

► Look for feeding fish in the slow-to-moderate runs that are within a hundred yards (upstream or downstream) of a good-sized riffle. Nymphs grow-up in the riffle, then migrate to quieter water (upstream or downstream) just before hatching.

► If you're really into hatch-matching, check the naturals for color; some hatches east of the Cascade crest are pale brown or cream on the underside, while Willamette Valley hatches tend to be reddish-brown underneath. In all cases, the underside (the part trout see most) is lighter than the top.

► On most streams, hatches start around 2:00-2:30 p.m., daylight time.

► Prior to the hatch, nymphs can be productive if you drift them near the bottom.

► During the hatch, trout may be receptive to emerger patterns.

► Despite the name, March browns don't only hatch in March. In fact, some years the best hatches are in April, especially east of the Cascade crest. This hatch will most likely be fading, however, as the month progresses.

Pupa

Size 12-16 Soft Hackle, Deep Sparkle Pupa, . Body: green; Shroud: tan

Riffles, moderate-fast runs; just below these: surface swing, shallow nymph

Adult

Size 12-16 Goddard Caddis, X Caddis, Parachute Caddis, Elk Hair Caddis. Body: green, dark brown; Wing: brown, black

Egg-layer

Size 12-16 Diving Caddis, Soft Hackle. Body: brown; Wing: black

Riffles, current seams, backeddies below riffles: surface swing, shallow nymph, rising nymph

Pupa

Size 16-18 , Deep Sparkle Pupa, Soft Hackle. Body: tan, green

Riffles, fast runs; just below these: indicator, tight line, shallow nymph

Adult

Bankwater near foilage: standard dry fly

Egg-layer

Size 16-18 Soft Hackle, Diving Caddis. Body: tan, olive-brown; Wing: dark brown, black

Riffles, seams, backeddies below riffles: surface swing, shallow nymph, rising nymph

Nymph

Size 6-10 Kaufmanns Stonefly, Rubber Legs. Black, chocolate brown

Riffles, moderate-fast runs; just below these: indicator, tight line

► Nymphs are increasingly on a trout's menu this month. Use a two-nymph rig with a heavy salmonfly nymph teamed with a smaller fly such as blue-winged olive imitation or a caddis larva.

Nymph

Size 6-10 Rubber Legs, Kaufmanns Stonefly. Dark brown

Riffles, runs over rocky bottoms; just below these: indicator, tight line

Adult

Size 6-10 Clarks Stonefly, Stimulator, Chubby Chernobyl. Body: Brown-olive; wing: Brown

Bankwater near foilage: standard dry fly

Skwalas are a minor hatch on most Oregon streams, but they are a big bug that is seldom ignored by trout if they are looking up.

Pupa

Size 10-22 Chans Chironomid Pupa, Zebra Midge. Black, gray, olive, red, creams, browns

Adult

Size 10-22 Griffiths Gnat, Sprout Midge. Black, gray, olive, red, creams, browns

Adult

Size 2-8 Muddler, Morrish Sculpin. Browns, olives

Lakes; rivers over gravel and cobble, undercut banks: count-down-and-retrieve, slow retrieve, wind drift, deep swing

Adult

Size 2-8 Muddler, Woolly Bugger, Clouser Minnow, Possie Bugger. Browns, olives, silver, greens

Lakes; rivers over gravel and cobble, undercut banks: count-down-and-retrieve, slow retrieve, wind drift, deep swing

Trout


► Another generic pattern to carry is a size 16 brown Soft Hackle, which can pick up trout when presented with a surface swing.

► No matter where you pursue your trout, be sure to carry some size 14-16 Parachute Adams or Purple Hazes with you. They have saved my bacon on many rivers at this time of year. They will often take trout when no hatch is present and trout aren't evident near the surface. Sometimes, a size 14 Parachute Adams works wonders during a hatch of size 18 blue-winged olives. Go figure.

Steelhead


► The wild winter steelhead peaks in March, and starts to fade in April. But there are still fish that can be caught, especially in the first half of the month.

► Large numbers of spawned-out "downstreamers" are headed for the ocean. The downstreamers are more likely to be in slower, quieter water than their fresher breathern. Don't target them. And if you catch one, gently release it and send it on its way.

► Use standard winter steelhead swinging flies and traditional tactics or indicator tactics with standard steelhead nymphing flies. The latter strategy works well around rocks, through slots, and along ledges. It is also the best approach when the water is very cold--low forties or upper thirties.

► Check the river levels before you go. Understand the trend: are the flows dropping following a spike? holding steady at a moderate level with daily rain showers? rising quickly, or low and steady after a spell of dry weather? The only scenarios that are good for fishing are the first two.

General


► Spring weather governs April fishing: too warm, and snow will melt and muddy the rivers; too cold and the trout won't be very active and hatches will be depressed or delayed. Cool and showery, with a big storm about once every ten days--that's my fondest hope for April.

► Above all, remember that rainbow trout are now spawning. Avoid spawning beds (redds). They show up as clear patches in the gravel. Don't walk through them, anchor over them, or target trout that are on them.

Importance by half-month
 Super    Major    Minor    Slight    None

Hatches are matched from Westfly's database of "standard" fly patterns.


Pupa

Size 6-10 , Deep Sparkle Pupa, Soft Hackle. Body: Ginger, brown

Lakes; backwaters and slow sections of rivers: slow retrieve, verticle retrieve

Adult

Size 4-10 Parachute Caddis, X Caddis, Elk Hair Caddis. Ginger, brown

Lakes; backwaters and slow sections of rivers: chuck-and-sit

Nymph

Size 8-12 Marabou Damsel. Olive, yellow-olive, browns, greens

Lakes near submerged vegetation: count-down-and-retrieve, slow retrieve, wind drift

► Nymphs should become effective as the water warms up. Imitations work best near weedbeds.

Nymph

Size 4-8 Carey Special, Lake Dragon. Browns, dark olive, grays

Lakes; backwaters and slow sections of rivers: count-down-and-retrieve, wind drift

Pupa

Size 10-22 Chans Chironomid Pupa, Zebra Midge. Black, gray, olive, red, creams, browns

Adult

Size 10-22 Griffiths Gnat, Sprout Midge. Black, gray, olive, red, creams, browns

► Look for hatches at midday.

► If you're on a lake that is partially covered with ice, cast a midge pupa pattern along the edge of the ice sheet. Midge pupae rise up under the ice, then wriggle to the open water. This concentrates them along the edge of the ice sheet, and that's where trout will cruise.

► Late in April in the dry, high desert of central/eastern Oregon, you may see some black, size 10 mega-midges. Trout love 'em when they're out, and can be very selective. A slender size 10 midge pupa pattern with a black body and silver or white ribbing will do the job. Let it sit or give it a very slow retrieve.

► During a midge hatch, the static midge tactic usually works well. If the hatch is during the bright part of the day, however, you may do better with the deep midge tactic because trout can be reluctant to come to the surface.

Adult

Size 2-10 Woolly Bugger, Bunny Leech, Hale Bopp Leech, Possie Bugger. Black, browns, olives

Lakes; backwaters and slow sections of rivers: count-down-and-retrieve, slow retrieve, wind drift

Adult

Size 2-8 Muddler, Woolly Bugger, Clouser Minnow, Possie Bugger. Browns, olives, silver, greens

Lakes; rivers over gravel and cobble, undercut banks: count-down-and-retrieve, slow retrieve, wind drift, deep swing

Trout


► It's spawning season for rainbow trout. You'll find them in or not far from the inlet and outlet creeks, if they are wild fish. If you respect the fish and value the future of your sport, you'll leave them alone until they've spawned and recovered.

► Non-wild hold-over rainbow trout in lakes with no spawning access may be stacked around rocky, gravelly areas. On some lakes, that means the boat ramp.

► This can be a good month to visit Willamette Valley or coastal lakes. They warm up sooner than their eastside brethren.

► When fishing streamers such as Woolly Buggers in the spring, "low and slow" are the watchwords. The colder the water, the slower you should present the fly. Keep your fly near the bottom (in water that is less than eight or ten feet deep) and retrieve it very slowly.

► Other than a midge pattern, it's hard to go wrong with a Woolly Bugger on a slow sinking clear line. A slow retrieve is usually best.

Wind drifting is an effective spring strategy if the wind is not too strong. On the other hand, you need something more than dead calm or your fly isn't going to move. Done right, wind drifting covers the water well and feels like cheating.

► In lakes or reservoirs with open water, expect to find trout in the shallower parts of the lake because those areas warm up first and are more likely to have food. Sometimes you can pick up fish at deeper levels, but in general you're better off to concentrate on the margins of the lakes and near weed beds.

General


► Many lakes are closed until the fourth Saturday in April. Eastside lakes that are technically open all year may still be iced over or snow may block access to them. Or not. It depends on what kind of winter we have.