I love it when the new stuff works!
Earl and I floated the upper Skagit on Monday. The flows rose from 4700 cfs in the morning to 6700 cfs in the afternoon. The visibility was between 7 and 10 feet.
The first stop was a run with a deep slow pool at the top which transitions to a fast and shallow head of the next run below it. I started at the top in the deep water with a floating line, long leader, heavy egg sucking leach with an egg trailer. After a couple dozen casts in the slow water, a small bull trout ate the egg. Earl worked the fast water below with a heavy sink tip, but came up empty.
The second stop was a run with large boulders spread throughout with fairly fast water...great steelhead water! This was my first chance to try out a new dry fly pattern that I had worked on over the last couple weeks. I tied a half dozen of these skater patterns trying to come up with something that looked good and stayed afloat in fast steelhead type water. As luck would have it, the pattern I liked the most also stayed in the surface and was easy to cast. I made a dozen or so casts, letting the fly swing in the surface, and stepping down after every cast. When I was half way down the run, a fish made a splashy rise, and hit the fly. Not thinking, I lifted the rod and pulled the fly right out of his mouth.....damn! I kept working down the run and five minutes later, I had another fish come up. This time I did exactly what I was supposed to do.....nothing, and I stuck the fish. Unfortuantely, he threw the hook 30 seconds into the fight, so I never got a good look at him. Earl was fishing behind me with a sink tip and streamer pattern, and to my surprise, nothing touched his fly. Either bull trout prefer surface flies to wet flies under certain conditions, or I stuck the only two fish in the run.
I have a theory as to why bull trout will take surface flies in the winter when the water temp is in the low to mid forties. This is a time when surface flies shouldn't work, however, bull trout thrive in cold water. The optimum feeding temperature for trout and steelhead is around 52 degrees....bulls like it even colder....something to keep in mind!
We moved on to the next run which was a short one. This run has a pocket of slower moving water at the top of the run close to the bank, and it quickly transitions to fast water on the outside, in the throat, and in the bottom end. I set Earl up with a floating line, long 8lb leader, and a heavy egg sucking woolly bugger with an egg trailer. He made a half dozen casts, his line stopped, he lifted, and up came a 15# chum, thrashing its head, trying to shake the woolly bugger from it's mouth. While trying to land this big guy, Earl pushed a little too hard, and broke the fly off. I retied the set-up, he went back to the top of the run, made a half dozen casts, his line stopped, he lifted, and up came a beautiful bull trout. It wasn't huge, at around 20", but it was in great shape! He released it, and started at the top of the run once again. This time, it was all whitefish.
The highlight of the day happened around noon when Earl was fishing the head of another good run. He was swinging a heavy sink tip with a purple/fuchsia fly with bead chain eyes. His fly just dropped into the bucket of this run that always holds fish. His line came tight and a chrome bright fish broke the surface and started pulling out line. Thirties seconds later, it threw the hook. Earl was thinking steelhead, I was thinking a bright silver, but I guess we will never know!
Have a happy new year! I hope 2005 brings all the best to you and your family!
I had a cancellation so I decided to head to the river myself and check out the conditions. I made a couple stops on the upper Skagit. I was surprised that the upper river, which is normally crystal clear, was quite colored with about 4 foot of visability. In the first run, I didn't find nearly as many chum as I expected, and they were not in very good shape. I moved down to the main part of the run and started casting a egg sucking white streamer pattern, letting it sink for 15 seconds, and stripping it back as fast as I could. I dedveloped this technique to target dollies in slower water, but I found that the more aggressive chum salmon would actually chase the fly down and just about tear the line out of your hands when they chomped down on the fly and turned for deeper water. This wasn't the case today as there just were not many bright chum around. I didn hook up with one small dolly in the 16" range. The strangest thing had to be the whitefish that I actually hooked in the mouth on this fly that was the same size as the whitefish.
When I arrived at the second run there were two guys at the top, so I watched them for a few minutes to see if they were going to move down. As I was watching them, an inflatable with a jet pulled in to the bottom of the run. I quickly realized is was Dennis Dickson, so I walked down to say Hi. Dennis and Yancy had the Skagit Skater out and Dennis was being very secretive, so I didn't stick around long. I headed back to the top of the run and the guys that were there, were taking a break and let me fish through. I set up with a 11 ft straight 8lb leader, a large corkey strike indicator, a egg sucking woolly bugger tied with large dumbell eyes, and an egg trailer. The indicator went down after a half dozen casts and up came a small whitefish. A couple more casts produced a larger whitefish that was around 12" and very fiesty. After a few more casts in hooked a chum that came to the surface thrashing. It continued the head shakes as I was backing in to shore until the hook came out. I found that there were more chum in this run and they were in better shape than the fish in the first run. After working through the productive water, and headed back to the top of the run to grab my gear, had a little chat with the couple guys that were there, and headed on to the next run.
When I arrived at the Cascade, I was surprised to find it was colored also. The visability was around four feet, and there didn't seem to be many fish around. I hooked into one old chum and another small whitefish, both on the floating line and heavy woolly bugger. I did a little scouting around for future trips, then moved on.
The NF Stilly was very dirty and even the creek mouth where I was sure was the main river would be clear and full of fish was very colored. I made a couple dozen casts and retrieves, looked around for some more fishable water, then headed for home.
The chum run is winding down. The upper Skagit is littered with whitefish so large white streamer patterns should be effective as well as leaches, flesh flies, straight egg patters, and egg sucking versions of all of the previously mentioned flies. The dolly and steelhead runs should be heating up so now is as good a time as any to get out on the water.
I met friends Bob and Bob at o'dark thirty and we headed to the upper Skagit. We were all a bit concerned about the weather because the forecast was for "definate rain", which I had never seen before. If that wasn't bad enough, the temperature was in the low thirties. As it turned out, the only place we saw rain was on the way to the river. By the time was launched the drift boat, it was still cood, but the rain had ended and the clouds even gave way to brief periods of sunshine in the afternoon. Somehow, we all managed to stay warm enought throughout the day.
The first run I like to fish on this float is long and somewhat fast, and littered with large boulders. I have caught huge bull trout in this run and the last time we fished it, we stuck a good sized chum that was bright and put up a good fight once he realized he was hooked. However, we didn't find anything this time.
We moved to the other side of the river and fished is short, deep run that was just littered with chum, with a few bull trout mixed in. We hooked into a bunch of chum salmon in this run, and the egg sucking black woolly bugger with the egg trailer was the hot ticket. In fact, most of the fish were taking the egg trailer and some were breaking the egg off. We went through so many flies, I almost ran out of egg patterns and it was only 9 in the morning!
We fished a number of runs though the day and by far, the most effective technique was dead drifting a heavy fly, either a woolly bugger, or fuchsia bunny leach, with an egg trailer, either with or without a strike indicator. Sometimes they took the leach, and sometimes the egg. The whitefish and bull trout were taking the egg, and the chum were mostly taking the leach.
I met friends Doug and Jim in Arlington and we headed to the upper Skagit to chase some bull trout and chum salmon. It was cold out, but the rain stayed away and we managed to stay warm in the drift boat. The last time the three of us were out, Doug managed to break his rod in the last run of the day. I asked Doug, "Hey, have you broken any rods lately?" Then I proceeded to tell him that I have never broken a rod on a fish. Big mistake!
The first run we stopped at was long and fast, and littered with large boulders. Doug made a handful of casts with the Teeny T-200 line with a purple egg sucking bunny leach before sticking a hot buck chum that was bright and put up a good fight once he realized he was hooked. This was the only taker we found in this run so me moved to the other side of the river
While we were fishing our first run, we watched a couple guys on the other side of the river float through this run in a sled. They were using bait casters and where hooking into a bunch of fish on each pass. After resting the water, we pulled into the bottom of the short run. Egg patterns on heavy sink tips or egg pattern trailers under heavy woolly buggers were the ticket and we hooked into a bunch of fish. To our surprise, these happened to be some of the brighter fish we found on the float.
Jim had a field day on the next run. A heavy egg sucking woolly bugger with an egg trailer all under a large indicator was the ticket. In the first couple minutes, Jim hooked a dandy of a bull trout. After that, it was a bunch of chum salmon. I moved downstream of Doug and Jim and started casting a floating line with a long, 11 foot leader and a heavy fuchsia bunny leach into a deep slow moving pool. The pool was a good 50 feet from the bank, so I had to make a long cast, I gave the line a couple strips and hooked into a small female chum. I released her, made another cast, gave the line a couple strips, and hooked into a rocket! This was a decent sized buck in the mid teens that tore up the pool. A couple times I got him into the shallows, and he just swam right back out. After a five minute battle, I pulled him into the shallows, Jim snapped a couple pictures for his web site, and I sent him on his way.
The fourth run we fished was long and fast and is great sink tip water. I started at the top and Doug and Jim started lower in the run. I was casting a egg sucking purple bunny leach to a small pool of silvers. I could just make out the crimson hue of their boddies in a slow pool 20 feet off the gravel bar. I had a couple graps, but the fly didn't stick. Doug and Jim hooked into a number of chum in the main part of the run using the same set-up.
In the afternoon, we pulled into the bottom of a very popular run that has easy access from the road, and to my surprise, there was only one guy in the run. He was at the top of the run, and shortly after we got there, he foul hooked a chum and it took him all the way to the bottom of the run.
Jim moved in to the very top of the run with a weighted egg sucking woolly bugger, egg trailer, all under a strike indicator. After a couple casts, Jim was into another fish, so I decided to play around a respectable distance below him. I was standing knee deep in some slow water with my Teeny T-200 line and an egg sucking woolly bugger. I cast it out as far as I could, let is sink for just a couple seconds, and started stripping it in as fast as I could. When the fly was half way in, I hooked into a monster chum in the mid-twenties. As soon as he felt the hook, he exploded through the surface and did a tail walk toward the middle of the river. I yelled up to Jim, "Hey, did you see the size of that fish?". The rod had a good bend in it so I started pulling my gloves off to land the fish. Just as the first golve was half off, this huge buck turned and headed right back at me at full speed, did another tail walk, I lost tension on the line, and he spit the fly at me, and gave me the fin. I was bummed I didn't land him, but it was fun while it lasted! I walked back out, made another cast, started stripping line, and hooked into another fish. This time it was a small bull trout.
We had time to fish one more run before dark, and once again, the woolly bugger with the egg trailer was the ticket. However, most of these fish were taking the egg trailer. I managed to hook a little hen with using one of my lighter 8 wt rods. Just as I was pulling her into the shallows, my rod gave a loud "Crack" and exploded. She popped the leader sand swam off. The lesson for the day....don't tell anyone you've never broken a rod before a chum salmon outing. Pound for pound, they are the strongest salmon to swim, and they break more rods than any other fish.
My father-in-law, Chuck, really wanted to catch salmon on a fly rod, and Thanksgiving morning is the day we were allowed to go out and play. My original plan was to take him the the Skagit River where I knew there would be a lot of fish, and I knew where they would be holding. However, since we were doing Thanksgiving at their house in Olympia, I had to go with a change of venue.
It rained heavily the night before and the rivers were not in good shape, so We headed South to the tidewater. We passed a number of creeks that were packed with people, but our first stop was the tidewater at the mouth of Kennedy Creek. There were a lot of people on the creek, and even more stacked at mouth, but we managed to find a 30 foot stretch that Chuck could fish without getting in anyone's way. The water was very dirty with maybe a foot of visability, but the creek was shallow, so the color wasn't too much of a problem. I started Chuck out with a flowing line, long leader, strike indicator, and a chartreuse bunny fly with red dumbell eyes and a red chenile head. Chuck made a cast upstream and let the fly and line drift down. The line stopped and I told him he had a fish on. Not believeing me, he slowly lifted the rod, and a big 15# buck started shaking his head, threw the hook, and moved a little downstream. I kept an eye on the fish. Without missing a beat, Chuck recast, and within seconds of throwing the hook, this same fish took the fly again. This time Chuck had him hooked well, and once again this big buck started thrasing in the shallows. Not knowing any better, Chuck grabbed the line and started pulling this guy in. Before I got a chance to say anything, the line snapped.
Ok, he hook his first salmon on a fly rod, now lets see if he can land one! I handed another rod to Chuck which had a sink tip and a chartreuse clouser. Once again, Chuck made a couple casts and hooked into another chum. This one was a small buck and within a few minutes, Chuck managed to land it. The tough part here turned out to be getting the picture. These fish are only 50 feet from the salt water and when you hook into one in a small creek (Not many are open to fishing for salmon), they don't have far to run. As a result, they are still full of piss and vinegar when you get them to the bank. As Chuck was holding his fish for the picture, it managed to get its teeth in the sleeve of his coat, started twisting around, and was able to tear a nice little hole in the fabric....so much for the coat! We revived his fish and released it.
Chuck went to work again with the floating line and weighted chartreuse bunny fly and 15 minutes later, he hooked and landed a small hen. After that, things slowed down and headed out for a small lunch before our big turkey dinner.
Mike, Paul, Tate and I floated the Sky in search of Chum Salmon. When we pulled into the first little slot, in addition to the boat in the middle of then run, I found the holding water had changed for the worse, the there were not many fish holding in the seam. We spent some time getting familar with the sink tip lines, floating lines, and techniques, then we moved on. As it turns out, the mother load of fish were holding at the mouth of the Wallace. I took Paul and Tate upsteam to the railroad bride and had them work the run with a Teeny 200 sink tip, short leader, and a chartreuse spanker. It only took a couple casts before they were getting hits, and both of them were hooking up after a half dozen casts.
Mike and I moved downstream and started working with a floating line, long leader, an egg pattern, and a piece of split shot about a foot up the leader. We also used a strike indicator to control the depth. After only a a couple casts, his line stopped, and when he lifted the rod, a big male chum came to the surface and started shaking its head from side to side. Then, for some reason, it went right back down and would not move from the hole it was sitting in. Mike lifted hard on the rod, and this fish did not move, instead, the hook straightened and pulled out of its mouth. This happened a couple more times before we changed tactics and headed for the deep part of the run. We switched to a heavy chartreuse bunny fly with red painted brass eyes and a red new age chenile head. I had Mike cast this into the deep, slow water, let it sink for a couple seconds, then give the line a short, quick strip. After a half dozen casts, he was into a hod little hen that turned out to be in great shape.
Paul and Tate moved down the run into a little riffle, and hooked into more fish, including a huge buck. Eventually, Tate decided to try something new, and started working the current seam with the egg pattern and strike indicator. After only a few minutes, he hooked into another big buck and managed to land it after a short battle. I snapped a coule pictures and released it.
As it turns out, this was the only productive run of the day. We found a number of spawners at the top of the run in the fast water an Tailor Flats, but that was about it.
Scott and I set up the pontoon boats and floated one of the local rivers in search of steelhead and sea run cutthroat. The forecast was for rain, but it was warm and dry, so we were no too worried.
Scott made a couple casts in the first run and managed to hook into a hot little silver right off the bat. He had been looking forward to catching another silver ever since hooking into one last year and he was jazzed.
We moved downstream to some faster water that was a perfect sink tip run. Scott made a dozen or so casts before a big male chum came up from behind a large boulder and just munched his purple egg sucking leach. This big boy spent the next five minutes trying to shake the fly fly loose while managing to stay in the fast water. Eventually Scott managed to slide him into the shallows and we snapped a couple pictures.
Then next run was fast and deep on one side and slow and deep on the other. We started out with a heavy fly and long leader on the fast side of the run. We also tried a heavy sink tip, but we just couldn't get the fly down to where the fish were holding. After moving downstream and resting the pool, we came back and started working the slow side of the pool. After a half dozen casts, Scott hooked into a hot silver that tore straight across the pool and just about beached himself on the far bank. He turned and headed back into the pool, then started going toward the submerged logs. Scott managed to keep him out of the brush and after a couple mintes I tailed an increadibly thick silver. It wasn't the longest silver I had seen, but he had huge shoulders! He was impressive, and Scott couldn't believe it!
The last run of the day was another good sink tip run and Scott fished it hard, hoping to come up with a steelhead, but it wasn't in the cards. After spending the entire day under heavy rain, we were soaked and decided we had had enough.
Cody, Scott, and I took the drift boat to one of the local lakes. They started out casting white and black woolly buggers into the bank and stripping them back to the boat as fast as they could. After about 20 minutes, Scott had a nice fish slash at his fly, but it missed the hook. We continued, and ten minutes later, Cody hooked into a hot little rainbow in the 16" range.
After an hour of so of casting into the bank, we changed tactics to full sinking lines and slow trolling #12 hare's ear and chartreuse nymphs. Cody and Scott both hooked up on these flies. Cody's fish threw the hook and Scott landed his first rainbow.
We switched off between slow trolling flies, and casting a stripping. We had the most action in the early afternoon when we headed to the shallow, weedy end of the lake. Scott started trolling this funky little baitfish pattern that was eveloped by a guy in California for their local trout streams. Our rainbows loved it and Scott was on fire for an hour or so. He would cast this little fly out, start stripping it in, the the rainbows just nailed it. After a few minutes of watching this, Cody tied on a similar looking #10 olive woolly bugger and started catching fish also, but he couldn't keep up with Scott.
When things finally slowed down, we headed back to the other side of the lake. When we got near the bank, Cody started casting and retrieving an articulated black bunny leach. Cody had made a half dozen casts. He was in the middle of the retrieve when a rainbow shot up from the depths, inhaled his fly, and bolted in the other direction. It happened so fast he could hardly believe it, but he managed to keep the fish on and land it.
There were a larger number of early chum salmon in the Skagit up until Thursday, then the rains started, the river came up, and by Saturday, when the river opened for chum, most of them were gone. Where they went, I have no clue. We did managed to hook into a dolly and a couple chum in the first run, but only after a lot of work. After not finding many fish at the top of the run, I sent Scott downstream to the slow water. I had him cast the teeny 200 line with a purple egg sucking leach on the end as far into the pool as he could cast, count to ten, then strip the line back as fast as he could. About 10 casts into the run a female chum crushed the fly and headed into the deep water. Scott was into his first chum of the year! After about 5 minutes he landed a hen in the 10 lb range.
We moved to the next run and found even fewer fish....time for a change in plans. We headed to the NF Stilly. I was hoping with all the rain that the river was still in shape. As it turned out, the river rose from 1000 CFS in the morning to 1800 CFS by the time we arrived in the afternoon, but it was still in decent shape.
Cody was swinging a sink tip in the first run. I just changed his fly from a egg sucking leach to a fushsia bunny leach. Let line finished swinging, and just as he started to strip the line in, the water just exploded and a red flash headed into the deep water. Cody thought for sure he foul hooked a chum, but after a couple minutes he landed a big chrimson colored silver. It was his first silver and he was pumped!
I headed out to the Skagit to look for silvers. I walked into the first run and didn't see any activity. I decided to tie on lead eyed black bart and search for some dollies. About 10 casts into the run I hooked into a small fish and landed ..... a white fish. I finished the run with one more taker, but the hook didn't stick. While I was working the run, I saw a couple salmon roll.
I went back to the top of the run and switched flies to a purple/fuchsia silver fly I tied up the night before. I was three casts into the run when my line came tight. I set the hook and this fish bolted for the middle of the river. Just as I was thinking I had some how managed to foul hook a chum in the tail, it came right back at me and did a tail walk 20 feet in front of me....with the fly hanging out of the corner of it's mouth. This fish tore up the run. Twice it came right at me, the line went slack, and I thought for sure I had lost it. After 10 minutes of give and take, with the rod bent in half and both hands pulling, I finally landed a male chum in the 15# range that was colored, but in very good shape. Surprised to hook into a skagit chum this early, I released it.
I did manage to find some silvers later in the day, but not in the numbers that I was expecting. Word has it, a lot of them are heading straight to the Cascade.
Dave flew up from California for a weekend get-away with some friends and wanted to spend a day on the river. I was originally planning to head for the Skykomish River, but with all the rain, I decided to play it safe and head to the Skagit.
A luck would have it, the river was loaded with chinook, jumping everywhere, sitting on reds, not interested in eating anything chinook. I didn't mind that fact that they were not eating as you cant target chinook, but it made it tought to concentrate at the task at hand. Dave was swinging his sink tip throught some very good steelhead water and these 20 to 30 lb chinook would come clear out of the water 10 to 20 feet away from him.
I was experimenting in the second run and managed to hook the first fish of the day, a small dolly. I handed the rod to Dave and let him do the honors. If nothing else, he got the idea of how to land a decent size fish without a net.
We were in the last run on some excellent steelhead and dolly water. Dave was 3/4 of the way into the run and had't touched a fish. He was making good casts and getting a good drift. I couldn't figure out what the problem was. I headed upstream to grab our gear and bring it down to where we were fishing. As I was walking, I was wondering what I could do to get Dave into a fish. I grabbed the gear, turned around, and saw Dave in the middle of the run with his rod bent in half with a fish that was headed upstream.
I was thinking it was a small chinook, but when we swam it into the shallows, I saw it was a large dolly in the 20+ inch range. We snapped a picture and released it. Dave was grinning from ear to ear.
Phil and I spent the weekend at Neah Bay. If you want the short version…..the seas and weather were rough, and the fishing was great!
The fog was thick on the way out of the bay on Friday and a number of boats were coming in, saying the fog as just too thick. With two GPS units and two VHF radios on the boat, I was thinking we would probably be OK. (I was assuming we could avoid the other yahoos on the water that didn’t understand the connection between boat speed and collisions with large objects.)
We started out heading toward Midway. (Midway is a spot half way between the green buoy at the mouth of Neah Bay and the Whistle Buoy at the entrance to the straights.) Since we were moving at trolling speed, (Between the fog and 7ft rollers this is as fast as we dare go.) I decided to drop a line in the water.
Bucktailing with a floating line is the most exciting way to catch silvers because you can see them come up for the fly. It is a kick! For the last couple years, we were not getting silvers on the surface, so we had been trolling sinking lines with the flies a couple feet under the surface. For some unknown reason, I decided to start out with a floating line. I dropped the fly in the water and peeled off twenty or thirty feet of line. We didn’t have and rod holders set up for fly rods, so I put the rod through the gap between the seat and the backrest, and set the butt of the rod on the floor of the boat. I was thinking that if a fish grabbed the fly the reel would hit the seat and stop there. Not true!
After dropping one line in the water, I went up to the front of the boat to set up a flasher. I was in the middle of tying the line between the downrigger ball and the flasher when I heard two loud bangs, then Phil yells out, “Oh shi#!”. I jumped up and ran to the back of the boat, and the fly rod was gone. Apparently Phil heard the racket and looked at the back of the boat in time to see a silver jump out of the water a couple time and then the rod launch out of the boat.
I was standing in the back of the boat, wondering what to do next, and Phil says, “Hey, I see the fly line!” He turned the boat toward the line, I reached over the side of the boat and grabbed it, and pulled the rod in. I half expected to have a fish on the other end of the line, but thinking about it later, I was glad there wasn’t one there because catching the line would have been a lot more difficult!
Lets try this again! This time I put the butt of the rod in the rod holder, and crossed my fingers that it would hold. I dropped a flasher in the water 20 ft behind the downrigger ball and dropped the ball down to 10 feet. I set up another rod on the other side of the boat and dropped another flasher below the fly. For the next four hours we were into fish on a regular basis. Occasionally we would stop the boat when we had one fish on and cast flies behind it. More than once we managed to entice fish to the cast fly and had a blast watching a fish or two slash at the fly as we would strip as fast as possible. We hooked up with a couple fish while casting. However, bucktailing a multi-colored fly was by far the most productive technique as the fish seemed to be fairly well spread out.
The rains over the last week should bring a lot of sea run cutthroat and silvers into the river. It should also bring even more fish into Puget Sound. If there was ever a time to get out on the water, now is it!
They say that wild steelhead are better surface risers than hatchery fish....
I was working a deep hole at the head of a beautiful steelhead run at first light. I was using a Teeny T200 for the first time and I was having as much fun casting this new line as I was watching my line swing through the run. There were some salmon rolling at the top of the run, but none of them were in a taking mood. I was working my way down the run when a fish rolled about five feet below my fly. I made another cast and my fly swang through were the fish had just rolled....nothing. I was thinking it mush have been another salmon. I kept working down and as my fly was swinging throught the run, my line came tight and my rod went down hard. Five feet of line peeled off of my reel and then the head shakes started. I was wonder what I had on the end of the rod. When this fish was 10 feet from shore it started doing backflips....it was a wild summer steelhead!
I released this fish and continued working down the run. I came into a boulder patch that looked like georgeous dry fly water. Knowing there were wild fish around, I switched to a floating line, an October Caddis pattern, riffle hitched to my line, and started skating it across the run. After a half dozen casts, a little head came up, my fly disappeared, and I waited....and waited. My line came tight, the reel started to spin, and I had another steelhead on! After a few minutes I landed a 5lb hatchery steelhead.
You are supposed to get the wild fish on the dry flies and the hatchery fish on the sink tips, but not today.
I have to appologize. Once again, I have been very lax on the fishing reports. Wow, what I month I have had on the water. It started with a trip to Pass Lake with my neighbor. We rose a number of fish to a streamer cast to the bank and stripped back as fast as you can move your hand. Man, is that a blast to watch the rainbows streak up and slash at your fly! The next week I was off to one of the BC Lakes outside of Merrit. I have never caught rainbows as big as the ones in that lake, and it wasn't just one. Each day we caught a number of rainbows that taped out at 24", and they were screamers.
Speaking of screamers, I took Scott and Jeff out for a guided trip on the middle section of the Skykomish River. There were a ton of boats on the first have of the float. Some jet boats, some drift boats, and one other guy in a pontoon boat. The rumor is, there are a bunch of chinook in the river, but I didn't see any sign of them.
We worked our way down the river, having most of the bank water to ourselves. At the first run, we worked on casting. As we worked our way down the river, we moved into runs that had better holding water. By 2:00 we were at one of my favorite runs with a large riffled section of fast water that flows into a deep slot. Scott and I headed to the slower, deeper water. I sent Jeff upstream to the fast water with a heavy tip and a weighted fly. Ten minutes into the run, Jeff gives out a yell. We looked up to see his rod bent in half and his line screaming downstream. After a few minutes, he got this fish in, then it went screaming right back out. He got it back in again and I tried to tail it. This chrome bright hen went right between my legs and headed into the middle of our boats which were anchored in the shallows. I was jumping around trying to keep anchor ropes clear of the leader while Jeff was working on getting his fish in. Minutes later he landed his first steelhead on a fly, a hatchery hen in the 7 lb range.
The flow on the Sky is hovering around 4500 cfs and the visibility on Friday was around 8 ft. The summer runs seem to be trickling in. With the higher visability, look for them in the faster, riffled heads of the runs that provide more oxygen and cover.
Bob, Earl, and I headed up to one of the BC lakes just outside of Merrit for an extended weekend of fishing, camping, eating, and a few bottles of the best beer we could find. We pulled into the campground around 2:00 on Friday. After setting up camp I headed down to the edge of the lake and turned over a couple rocks. I found an olive damsel nymph under the first rock and a large dragon fly nymph under the second.
When we finally got out on the water, I tied my killer Lone Lake fly , the newly named olive damesel bugger, on my intermediate line and started kicking around the edge of the drop-off. Within minutes, I had a hit, but the fish missed the fly. I worked my way to a corner of the lake, made a cast toward the deeper water, let the fly and line sink for 20 seconds, and stripped my line in 10" pulls. After only a couple casts, my rod went down hard during the retrieve. I worked about five minutes before I got the fish close enough to were I could see it, and it was huge! This was the biggest rainbow I had seen in a lake. The only way I could net it was to swim it into the net and lift up once I got half it's body past the frame of the net. I measured it out at 24", and it was a fatty!
Craig I, Criag II, Glen, and I headed off to Lone Lake for a day on the water. The water temp was a bit warm at 64 degrees, but the with the air temps in the mid 60's and overcast skies, you couldn't ask for better conditions above the water line. As we were getting ready to head out on the lake there were a number of rising fish. Things were looking good!
We started out with a number of searching patterns to quickly figure out what the hot fly was going to be in the morning. Glen had the string leach, Craig I had the olive willie, and Craig II had the olive/orange wolly bugger. Glen had never cast a fly rod before, so he was a bit overwhelmed at first. I showed him how to hold the rod, keep the rod tip in the water, strip off line, retrieve line, and twitch the line to give action to the fly. Within in minutes he had his first take. He lost his first couple fish, but after figuring out how to keep tension on the line, he manage to get his first Lone Lake rainbow to the boat. Actually this didn't happen until after a small battle where the fish was mostly winning. When I finally got over to Glen's boat, his fish was still heading the other way and all I saw was backing. With a little coaching, he managed to land his fat 18" rainbow. As it turned out, Glen had the hot rod of the day. Between his newly learned technique and his string leach, which produced for him all day long, he managed to bring 5 fish to the boat that ranged in size from 16 inches to 19+ inches. He also landed a couple of the 10" - 12" hatchery plants.
Craig II did fairly well with the olive/orange woolly bugger and managed to hook fish in the morning and the afternoon. After seeing the fat boys that Glen was bringing in, Craig II wanted the string leach also, but for some reason he was only able to entice the hatchery plants.
Now here is the strainge part. Craig I, has the most fly fishing experience and spends time on the Lake Michigan tribs fishing for steelhead. Craig struggled all morning! He had a number of hits, but he couldn't get any of the fish to stay on long enough to get them to the boat. Finally, when it was time to head in for lunch, he landed his first Lone Lake rainbow right in front of the launch. In the afternoon, he was still struggling, so I had him use a woolly bugger on a floating line. This worked well for him and he finally started hooking fish on a regular basis.
We played around with chironomids for a while in the late morning. There was a couple in a pram that were doing very well with chironomid and blood worm patterns, but it wasn't happening for us. With chironomid fishing, the right pattern and technique are everything. Unfortunately I haven't been spending the time on the lakes lately to hone my chironomid skills.
If you were thinking about getting out to lone lake, now is the time to stop thinking and get out there. With the temps in the mid 60's now, if you wait any longer, the water temps will be too high, the fish will be sluggish, and even worse, it will be difficult to revive them.
Earl, Bob, and I got together for the first time in a couple years and headed out to Lone Lake. I'm not sure why the three of of us didn't get together sooner. I guess our schedules never worked out with Earl's new granddaughter and Bob's remodeling projects.
Once we reminded Bob that the pointy end of the rod is the end that does the best at catching fish, things started to work out well for all three of us.
I started out with a #10 olive willie, and that fly worked really well on the freshly planted 10" rainbows. After tying into three of those little guys I switched to a #10 olive woolly bugger in hopes of getting something that would pull a bit harder. For some reason the planted rainbows and the 10" bass seem to take a liking to the olive willie. My biggest fish, a fat 18" Lone Lake hold over, took a #6 black woolly bugger while I was cruising across the lake a top speed.
Earl used his, "I've got a twitch in my finger that I just can't control" technique and gave us a schooling. He managed to tie into some beauties in the 16" to 20" range in a short period of time. The 20" fish took a 6" string leach, and the others really liked the olive woolly bugger with an olive/orange tail. Bob, on the other hand, kept his flies a little more secretive.
The aerial entertainment came around 10:00 when an eagle decided he just had to have the fish that the osprey worked hard to catch. These two went at it for a good five minutes before the osprey finally gave up and dropped the goods.
By then the time things really started to slow down, we each managed to hook into around 10 fish a piece. 2/3 of my fish were the new hatchery plants, which is typical this time of year. The rest where the hard fighting yellow/orange sided hold overs in the 16" to 18" range.
Dry fly dollies!
Around this time last year I was floating a run on the upper Skagit with a frined. We stopped at a run full of bowling ball sized boulders. The bottom depth ranged from two to four feet deep, and there was almost no exposed bank. Shortly after stopping, we saw fish rising....a lot of fish, and some were really big. I made one cast and hooked a massive dolly. Earl landed a handful of beauties. One even took the fly when it hit the water. The fish continued to rise the for the full two hours we spent on the run, but I never saw a single bug come off. A couple days later I realized this run full of dollies was having a fiest of salmon fry. Since then I have been experimenting with baitfish patterns that I could skate in the surface for dollies.
Today I was working a run behing a couple guys fishing sink tips. I followed them with a sink tip until I came to a shallow flat with some inviting water. The depth was between two and four feet, but the flow wasn't fast enough to keep a sink tip off the bottom. A perfect time to skate my dry fly baitfish patten in the surface film! My fly was cruising across the surface, diving under occasionally. I wasn't paying too much attention, the fly dove under, the line came tight and my rod went down. A dolly, and a good sized one! After a short battle, I landed an 18" hen. I got back into positioin, stripped off line, and made another cast above the same spot. This time I was paying attention, the fly swung over the holding water, a big head came up, I set the hook, the big dolly did a back flip and threw the hook. Once again I was reminded....never set the hook when skating dries, you'll pull the hook right out!
The Sauk is flowing at 3500 cfs and rising. The visability was around 2' on Saturday. There seems to be a fair amount of weekend pressure for a river that is full of sand.
The Skagit is flowing around 5000 cfs at Marblemount. The visability is around 10' above the Sauk, one to two feet at the mouth of the Sauk on the Sauk Side and probably around 4' below the mixer. Steelhead are still being caught in the upper river, you just have to work a bit to find them.
You're going to have to chase it downstream!
Roger and and I spent a day together fishing pinks on the upper Skagit last fall, but neither Roger nor his friend John have ever spent any time chasing steelhead with a fly rod. I gave Roger the low down first and left him to work the run while I went throught the steps with John. Both of them picked up the technique pretty quick and by the time John was a half dozen casts into the run, Roger let out a yell. His fly got slammed, his rod was doubled in half and moving violently, his reel was spinning, and the steelhead was screaming downstream, only stopping to roll in the surface before it headed downstream again. Roger asked me what to do and I said, "You are going to have to get out and chase it downstream!" Luckily, by the time he backed out of the water it slowed down and started heading back upstream. After a couple minutes of hard work and some serious pressure, Roger landed a chrome bright hen. His first steelhead!
The Skagit is low and clear with about 12 foot of visability and flowing just above 4000 cfs. The deep slots are holding fish and heavy sink tip will do the trick. The Sauk is just above 3000 cfs with at least a couple feet of visability, depending on the rain and air temps. The Skagit below the Sauk has a couple feet of visability at the mouth of the Sauk on the Sauk side until you get a mile or so downstream where it all goes to about 4 feet of visability.
The shot of rain last week mush have been enough to bring in a bunch of fish, as most boats are either hooking or landing at least one fish. Hopefully that trend continues as the light rain seems to be sticking around at least of the next couple days.
What ever you do, don't set the hook!
I spent Saturday morning checking out some walk in runs on the Sauk and Skagit. Yes, the Sauk is in bad shape. The color is good after a couple days without rain, but the good holding water is filled in with sand. It doesn't sound so bad, but when you fish a great riffle at the top of the run and find the same depth of water in the body of the run, but the bottom is all sand, it is dissapointing to say the least. However, there are a couple decent runs with big boulders and no one is fishing the river. The steelhead have to go up, so why not spent a little time at the better spots?
I spent an hour or so skating a fly over a boulder patch that you just can't work with a sink tip. The water is too fast and the rocks are too big. Just as I started I was thinking to myself, "Whatever you do, don't set the hook." A quarter of the way down the run I was skating my fly over a great looking pool, not really paying much attention. I felt a pull on the line, set the hook, and the fish was gone. Maybe next time!
I spent the rest of the morning on the Skagit. By 11:00 the sun was out and every one and their brother was on the water. Jet boats, drift boats, you name it, and they were all fishing the same water.
I spent a couple hours on the middle section of the Skagit before the March 1 closure. The river was low and clear and there was a fair amount of fishing pressure on the water, as there usually is when spring draws near. I decided to spend the morning working on my tow handed casting with the 14' rod. The casting worked out well and I managed to land three dollies between 16" and 20+" by the time I left the water at 10:00 AM. The dollies didn't seem to care which fly I was using, as long as I was able to get it down, which meant using a weigthed fly and a step down after the mend. The current seam in this particular run was a good ways out, which meant a long cast, but the fly didn't swing very fast, so I stuck with a type 3 sink tip. I used blue/purple when the light was off the water, and when the clowds broke, I switched to red/orange. The fish that took this fly pulled pretty hard and I though for sure it was a steelhead (I have never caught a dolly on red/orange.) However, this fish turned out to be the 20+" dolly.
If you have been following my reports over the last couple years, you know I have been working on a wheel assembly for the Outcast Fish Cat Pontoon Boats that I use. Well, they are finally ready to sell and the web site is up and running. From my home page, just click on the Pontoon Boat Accessories link and you can get all the info and place your order. Man, am I glad I finally got that done!
I plan to get out to the Sauk next week. I'll let you know if it is as bad as everyone is saying. Let's keep our fingers crossed that it isn't!
Paul flew out from Massachutes and wanted to fish for steelhead before heading off to China. We spent the first half of the day on the upper Skagit in the Rockport area fishing heavy sink tips and dark heavy flies. In the afternoon, we headed to the middle Skagit and fished some softer water with type 4 sink tips and dark flies.
The water was crystal clear for the first part of the float and Paul managed to tie into a hot 18" dolly in the first run. He also found a dolly while he was finishing up the second run, but it managed to throw the hook. By the fourth run we were into colored water with a foot or so of visability. We started high in the run because the dollies have been holding in the faster water lately. He was swinging a type 6 sink tip with a heavily weighted articulated leach when a fat 20" dolly nailed the fly a dozen casts into the run. The conditions were perfect, and I expected to find a steelhead or at least another dolly toward the end of the run, but it wasn't meant to be.
Later in the day we were fishing some softer water in the middle section of the Skagit. Paul landed a small dolly in the faster water at the top of the run that I didn't expect. Now we were in the slower, deeper water where the big guys hold. It was almost time to call it a day so I told Paul to make a couple more casts. His fly is slowly swinging across the current when his rod goes down, line peels off his reel, a fish rolls in the surface, more line peels off the reel, then it is gone. We never got a good look at the fish, but if I had to put money on it, I would say it was a big dolly.
Paul didn't land any steelhead, but he left the river with a big smile on his face.
I spent the morning floating the upper Skagit. There were a couple other guides on the water so the number of runs I could fish was a bit limited. The October floods changed a couple of the runs, but almost all the runs I saw were just as good, if not better than they were before the floods. The visability in the second run was around a foot and the water was moving at a good clip. A type 6 sink tip and a heavily weighted articulated leach was the ticket. The first fish took a heavy blue over purple marabou fly....seconds after I managed to free it from a rock in the shallows. This was a good fish, but it quickly threw the hook. The next two fish took the articulated leach and they were in the 18" to 20" range.
The last run I fished, which has never been productive in the past, looked very good with a couple feet of visability and it swung the fly beautifully! I kept expecting a take at the top of the run, then sure enough, a small dolly. Then a couple casts later, a good fish that once again threw the hook.
The fish are out there, but you have to work a bit to find them. The native steelhead are starting to show and the dollies can be found in most of the good steelhead water also. Remember to bring the fly in low and slow. When the flows are high like they are in some of the rivers, getting the fly down may mean adding a little extra weight to the fly, using a heavier sink tip, and giving the line a little more time to sink. When the water is off color, bring the fly all the way into the shallows, because this is where the steelhead and dollies will lie. Security is number one, and an easy path upstream is number two.
I spent the day on the Skagit river moving from the upper river to the middle section of the river. In the upper river, above the Sauk, the visability is around 10'. I fished some beautiful water, but didn't touch a fish. Later in the morning I moved down to the middle section of the Skagit. The water below the Sauk is off color and a little cauky with a foot or so of visability at the mouth of the Sauk, and a couple feet of visability a mile or so downstream. Then, the visability drops off again below the Baker River as it is putting out some water that is a bit muddy.
I walked into a run in the middle section of the Skagit and after making a couple casts, I notice my rod tip was not lined up. While my line was swinging, I grabbed the tip section to give it a twist, and something grabbed my fly. I lifted the rod, a dolly rolled in the surface, then it threw the hook. I made another cast and realized I never got my tip section straightened out. Once again I grabbed the tip section, and once again, something grabbed the fly. This time I land 14" dolly, which turned out be be the only fish of the day. The conditions were very good with a couple feet of visability, but very few fish willing to bite in this section of the river.
After spending two weeks out of town and a week under the weather, I finally got back on the water. There was a decent amount of rain over the last week, but the temps have been cool enough that most of the condensation is staying in the hills in the form of snow. The conditions on the Skagit are good with unlimited visability above the Sauk, a foot of visability below the Sauk, and a couple feet of visability below the Baker River.
Saul and I started out in the Hamilton area fishing a run under very good conditions with a flow that was just about perfect. Only trouble was, we didn't find many fish. We tried a number of patterns that should have been great producers, but Saul only managed one dolly in the 16" range on a pink marabou fly.
After out lack luster performance in the first run, we decided to head upstream and check out the conditions above the Sauk. There was another guy at the head of the run, so we started out in the middle of the run. Saul makes one cast, gives the line a couple strips, and hooks into a good fish. A couple minutes later he lands a male silver with deep red sides. Yes.... a silver in late January! Saul makes a couple more casts and hooks another good fish. This fish tears up the pool and sure enough, this one is a bright female silver. We continue fishing the run expecting to find some dollies in the tail-out, but come up empty handed. This didn't really surprise me as the water is crystal clear. However, what did surprise me is that the guy at the head of the run hooked a fish shortly before we left. His fish.... a jack chinook....in January!
The conditions in the Skagit are very good for dolly varden and steelhead. If the run timing is anything like it has been in the last couple years, the native steelhead should start showing in the good fly water over the next couple weeks. The best time to get out is when the weater is bad and the crouds are light.