What to Expect in Oregon in February

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

► Late in the month, trout will become more interested in drifting nymphs. A good 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.

► Trout and whitefish feed on drifting nymphs prior to the hatch. Emerging duns collect in backeddies, and that is where trout will be waiting for them. This hatch should improve throughout the month, if the weather is not too cold.

► There will be some sort of hatch nearly every day, but some of them will not be strong enough to interest trout. The best hatches will be on drizzly or overcast days. Temperatures near or below freezing will not produce a good hatch.

Egg-layer

Size 12-16 Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulator. Black, dark brown

Bankwater, slow-moderate runs: standard dry fly

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

► Trout can be very picky about size and color of the pupa. You may need to swap flies several times to find the right combination. You can speed up this process by fishing two pupa at once and noting which one the trout show more interest in.

► When trout are midging, a Sprout Midge or Griffiths Gnat can work well, but a pupa pattern is always a good choice.

► Be prepared for midge hatches in the warmer parts of the day.

Trout


► In cold weather, whitefish are the most responsive fish of all. So this can be a good time of year to hone your nymphing skills on whitefish. They will be taking small nymphs, such as a size 18 Pheasant Tail, and small white flies imitating roe. Drift your fly near the bottom in slow water and the inside corners of riffles.

► Colder weather will slow trout fishing to a crawl. The best trout fishing--"best" being a relative word, not an absolute--will be from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

► Early in the month, most trout will be lethargic and not interested in pursuing food. Late in the month, however, they will become more active.

► Whitefish are still spawning, so drifting an Egg Fly near the bottom can be a good way to pick up trout. Whitefish eggs are small and pale.

Small black stoneflies are also present this month. There aren't many of them, but when one lands on the water it is unlikely to be left alone if a trout is nearby.

Steelhead


► Use standard winter steelhead swinging flies and traditional tactics or indicator tactics and 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--as it will often be at this time of year.

► Early in the month, hatchery-raised steelhead predominate, but wild steelhead will be more plentiful late in the month. In between, action can be slow. Or not.

► Swinging flies can be productive, but here's something to think about: fish are often in the softer water near the bank. A lot of anglers use a sink-tip line and a weighted fly, so the fly continues to sink as it nears the bank. Then it hangs up on the bottom just as it's hitting "the zone" where the fish are. My personal preference is to use an unweighted fly whenever possible and rely on the line take the fly down. That way my fly lingers in the zone for a longer time. Your experience on your rivers may differ, but that's my two cents worth.

► Cold water means most fish will hug the bottom; a few will suspend a few feet above, if the conditions are right. In either case, they will be hard to budge. Under these conditions, a steelhead will seldom move more than 18 inches to either side or a foot upwards. It won't move down. So your fly needs to travel very close to the fish and at or just above the fish's eye level.

► The adage is, "When rivers are high, fish high. When rivers are low, fish low." That means that when the flows are unseasonably low your best opportunities are farther down the river, near the mouth, where there is more water and steelhead are stacked up waiting to come in at the first sign of increased flows. Conversely, if the river is high, you'll find better water conditions farther upriver where fewer tributaries have added their loads of silt and water.

► When it's relatively warm, precipitation that would normally stay as snow in the mountains will fall as rain and run into rivers. Cooler conditions will improve river conditions by keeping that snow where it does the most good: in the mountains. The best conditions are steady, but not heavy, rain followed by brief dry-but-cloudy spells, followed by more drizzle--all with temperatures in the upper 40s in the Willamette Valley and coast, and cold enough to snow in the mountains. "Best condtions" rarely converge, of course, but when they do you want to hit the water while temperatures are coolish (not frigid or warm), skies are cloudy, and rivers are dropping and clearing. Don't put it off. You make hay while the sun shines, but you go winter fishing when it's gray and slightly damp.

► When winter steelheading, the windows of opportunity are often just narrow slits. Fishing can be excellent, but you have to be prepared to drop everything and head for your favorite stream on short notice. You can't plan a trip in advance. So the motto is: "Be prepared and act quickly."

► In general, February rains are not like November's. Usually it rains hard, then clears up for awhile, then rains again. This is good for steelheaders. The rain freshens the fish that are already in the rivers, and causes new fish to enter. However, you still need to 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.

Importance by half-month
 Super    Major    Minor    Slight    None

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


Pupa

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

► Midges will be hatching at midday, but trout might not care.

Trout


► Cold water renders trout practically comatose, so this month will be slim pickings for lake anglers. However, it is possible that you might find some activity in low altitude lakes and ponds in the Willamette Valley or the Coast, especially if there is a "warm" stretch with temperatures in the fifties for a few days.

► This time of year, present a streamer, such as a Woolly Bugger, Hale Bopp Leech, or Morrish Sculpin "low and slow" because the few trout that are active will be lethargic and hugging the bottom.