Matt's 29" Skagit Winter Hen
A majority of the rivers in Puget Sound Region are now closed. Only small sections downstream of the hatcheries on the Skagit, Stilly, Sky and possibly some of the other rivers remain open until mid February. The short winter season on the Skakgit and Sauk was very productive for me. We did three float trips and hooked steelhead on all three. I landed a beautiful 32" steelhead on the middle Skagit in early January. I lost a super hot steelhead on the Sauk in late January. I also did a guided trip with Matt and Mark on the middle Skagit in late January and Matt landed a beautiful 29" wild hen, his first steelhead. In addition to productive steelhead fishing, we found a number of dolley varden on every trip. There were a lot of big dollies including a 28" dolley varden that Eric tied into on the Sauk.
If you didn't get your winter fishing fix, you can fish the open areas below the hatcheries until mid February, you can fish the open areas down South or on the East Stide, or you can head to the Peninsula.
Eric, Matt, and I floated the middle Skagit on Sunday. The flow was at 16,000 CFS (18.6 ft) and dropping. The visibility was around 4 feet. We had overcast skies all day...ideal conditions for steelhead fishing.
We fished a couple good runs on our way down the river in the morning. Matt got a good grap that pulled the loop, but he didn't hook up. After that, it was a dolley varden here and there.
After lunch we headed down to a run where we have caught a number of small dolley varden through out the run and a couple small hatchery steelhead at the head of the run. Matt went to the head of the run while Eric and I ate our lunches. After Matt worked down the run a bit, Eric started in behind him. Once I finished my lunch, I started fishing downstream of the boat which was about 50 yards downstream of the riffle. The bottom structure was less than impressive with gravel ranging from 1” to 3” in diameter. I was using a 15 ft type 8 sink tip, 6 ft leader tapered to 10# maxima ultragreen, and a blue/purple tube fly tie on a 1.5” long copper tube. I made about 5 casts in the run before my line came tight. It felt like I was on the bottom so I lifted the rod. There was a big splash, then my reel spun. It was pretty clear that my drag was set too loose. I had a bunch of slack line so I started stripping line as fast as I could. When the line came tight, the fish was still on. It turned and started heading downstream quickly, and when it stopped, I was well into my backing. I spend the next five minutes pulling off my gloves and stuffing them in my waders, working the fish in, then loosing line again, grabbing the line to get some slack on the reel, tightening the drag and checking it to make sure it wasn’t too tight. Except for the hook-up, the fish never came upstream, which was unusual for me. I was never able to fight it from the side as it kept moving downstream every time I got it within 100 feet of the bank. At one point, I laid the rod on its side, directly upstream of the fish, with the line and tip in the water, and just started cranking on the reel. To my surprise, the fish followed the line and I was able to get line on the reel and the sink tip near the end of the rod. When I finally got the fish near the bank, Matt was able to tail it. I wasn't surprised to see that it was barely hooked. It was a beautiful fish, and taped out to 32”.
We guessed it was a 12# fish.
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