Norm's Chrome Bright Skykomish River Pink Salmon
Norm makes an annual trip to Washington with his wife to get away from the South Carolina heat. Over the last few years I have had the oportunity to spend the day fishing with Norm, which is always a treat. Norm is an excellent caster and he has a great attitude. I tell him where to put the fly, and its there. He is happy to work hard all day long for his fish. Luckily he didn't have to work too hard this time.
Norm and I met up for a day on the Skykomish River to fish for Pink Salmon. I was out a couple days earlier and found a lot of fish in the river, and a lot moving through. I had a feeling it was going to be a good day. The river was fogged in for the first half of the day and the river was flowing at 1800 cfs, twice its normal flow, but the norm for this year.
There were a lot of trucks and trailers in the parking area. We moved on down the river past all the boats and found a nice quiet little spot away from the crouds...and it was loaded with fish. We started out fishing from the boat and Norm hooked into his first fish after only a dozen or so casts. After that, he hooked into one fish after another. Pods of fresh fish moved in and He hooked a fish on just about every other cast. The fish were on the bite until around 11 AM. When it slowed, we stopped and ate lunch. When we were joined by a number of other fishermen, we moved on downstream to find some open water. In the afternoon, Norm hooked a fish about every half hour. Some were really bright with sea lice. Some were super hot and went on reel screaming runs. A couple were jumpers.
In the afternoon, we had bright sunny skies and a light breeze. It was a great day to be on the water!
Gary, Bo, and I met a handfull of other guys from the fly club for the annual saltwater sea run cutthroat outting. The conditions were perfect with a morning low tide at 6 AM, no wind the whole time we were out, and flat water.
Once we picked our place to fish, I was into a sea run right off the bat. It was a small fish in the 12" range and it took a 3" long flatwing baitfish pattern tied with white, olive, and gray hackles. In fact, all three fish I hooked that morning were taking on the same pattern, which included a 18" fatty that really put up a fight.
I headed out to the NF Stilly for the annual Kalama Cup outting. I spent my first couple hours fishing above and below Swansons place, and ran in to Bruce half way through the run. I managed to tie into one 18" dolley.
I ran upstream and fished under the Whitman bridge but didn't have much time to work the run. I hiked downsteam to check out some new water, but decided it was best to fish it with the sun off the water, so I headed for home.
I met Frank and Ron at 7 AM for a float on the North Fork Stilly. As we were loading gear in my truck I noticed that Frank pulled out a pair of hip waders with rubber soles, the old style, not the new vibrax style soles. I consider hip waders to be hazardous based on drownings I have read about on the Skagit and from waders studies I have read. Luckily I had an extra pair of waders that were a little small, but fit OK.
On the way to the river the rain really started coming down, so I decided we would fish the first run before getting the boats ready and see if the rain would stop.
The river looked pretty good with two to three feet of visibility. We started above the good water as there was one guy ahead of us. I could tell the way he was casting that I was my friend Russ. We both worked our way down the run and eventually Russ stopped and called it a day.
As we stepped downstream into the run where I have hooked a number of fish this year, I switched the fly to a small, but bright pink bottle tube. I had frank start with short casts, close to the bar, and eventually work out his casts a little longer. About 20 casts into the run, his line came tight, then started screaming off the reel. I told him to let it go, and just then, it turned around and came right back at us. He tried to keep the line tight, but the fish was smoking fast. The fish jumped, then as soon as Frank got a tight line, the fish turned again and headed to the deep water, then turned, jumped, came back at us again, and threw the hook. Bummer! This was Franks first steelhead and he didn't even have a chance.
Due to a wardrobe malfunction on Ron's part we were unable to float the river. We called it a day around 10:30 AM with plans to meet up again next week.
I made it out to the NF Stilly for a couple hours on the morning of the 4th. I pulled in to the parking area around 7:30 AM and to my surprise, there was no one there. I headed to one of my favorite spots, armed with a freshly tied bright pink tube fly tied on a 1.5" copper tube with a cone head up front.
Like I usually do, I started above the good water in hopes of hooking a fish where I had not hooked one before. There was no one on the run, but I did notice a couple tents on the bank. As I was watching, a gal walked out on the gravel bar wearing a swim suit and jumped in the river. Just as I had thought, the water was so cold that she didn't stay in very long or go out very deep. My favorite run was basically un-harassed.
As I moved in on the good water, I shortened my casts and starting working the shallow water, then started working out again. I got a grab as the fly was swinging through that was hard enough to pull half the loop out of my hand. I made a second cast in the same spot, but came up empty. After the third cast, I should have moved upstream and changed flies, but I was certain I was going to hook the fish on the next cast, so I never made the change. I fished through the rest of the run with no more takers.
I headed back to the top of the run with the thought of crossing the river and fishing the pool across from the mouth of Deer Creek. When I made it to the middle of the island, I noticed three guys on the near bank. I decided to head for the truck.
Similar to most of the rivers in the state right now, the NF Stilly is running high and cold with the flow around 1800 CFS, the water temps in the low 40's, and visibility hovering between one and two feet. I decided that I would head to the river in the evening to make the most of the warm weather in hopes that the river would also have warmed, putting the fish in a more agreeable mood.
I was on the water around 8:30 in the evening with air temps in the mid 60's and a clear sky. I was swinging a 12 ft, type 8 sink tip with a 6 ft leader, 15 lb fluorocarbon tippet, and a freshly tied black and purple tube fly tied on a 1 1/2" copper tube with a cone head for additional weight.
I was swinging my fly through the sweet water, a spot where I have hooked a number of fish over the last couple years, around 9 PM. I felt a small, trout like, tap in the middle of the swing. It was definitely a fish, but it didn't feel like there was much size to it. Just in case it was something bigger, I stayed in the same spot and made the same cast. This time the line stopped, I lifted, and the rod tip went down. Yes!
The fight started with a hard pull, then nothing much happened. After a couple short screaming runs, I figured out I had a steelhead on the end of my line and not a Chinook. The fish didn't jump, but it was very strong and unwilling to move in to the shallows for at least a couple minutes. After a short fight I managed to ease a chrome bright 28" steelhead buck into the shallows. I am a little embarrased to say this was my first steelhead on a tube fly. Those firsts are always a great feeling!
The NF Stilly finally opened on Saturday after being closed for four months. (For those of you that were on the Stilly on June 1st, the river was still closed. Check the regs before you head out!) Eric, Alex, Bo, and I met up in the middle of the North Fork and floated a section that is about 7 miles long. Normally this would be a long float, but the river was high, flowing at 2000 cfs and dropping during the day. The water was cold, 41 degrees in the morning, probably due to the continued low temps and high snow pack. The river warmed significantly during the day under bright sun and was around 48 degrees when we got of the river around 6 PM. The visibility was about 18" at best.
I was on the water just after first light and there was one other guy ahead of me. This time of year I like to fish my Sage Z-Axis 7136 13 ft 7 wt spey rod with a 12 ft, type 8 sink tip, 6 ft leader, and a purple/black tube fly streamer. I fished through the best part of the run and didn't get a bump. I didn't see the guy in front of me or behind me touch a fish. I left the run around 6 AM to meet up with the guys.
We started our float around 7:30 AM. We skipped the first run because it got pounded by the guys ahead of us with nothing to show for it. We fished a couple runs before we started into one of the best steelhead runs in the river. Alex went through first after Eric and I pointed out the sweet spot. Eric followed behind and decided to use a pink bottle tube fly just to change things up. I was on shore adjusting my boat to account for the weight of a 90 lb dog on the back of my boat. Eric was in the middle of the sweet spot when he got a little tap, then a hard pull, and the fight was on. After a five minute battle, I managed to tail Eric's beautiful downstream winter buck. We didn't measure it, but I am guessing it was about 28" and it great shape. Alex snapped a couple pics and off it swam.
We spent the rest of the day working some likely water and a couple good spots where we had landed steelhead in the past. However, the water was a bit high and a lot of the runs didn't fish quite right, most being too fast.
I am looking forward to slightly lower flows and slightly warmer water temps to bring a majority of the summer steelhead into the river. With the high snow pack, who knows when the river will drop into shape. It may take a week, or it may take a month.
Eric, Alex, Bo (My new fishing dog), and I floated the middle section of the Sauk River on Sunday. The river was flowing at 6200 CFS and dropping, the visibility was 2 - 3 feet and clearing through the day, and the water temp in the morning was 39 degrees. The sun was on the water around 9:00 AM and it was bright and sunny all day.
Around 10:00 in the morning Alex and I were fishing a long run about 100 yards downstream from a back eddie where the sand stops and the gravel bottom starts. As far as good steelhead water goes, this water is pretty crappy. As a result, it never gets fished, but it always holds some nice dolley varden. I was at the top of the run and Alex was downstream about 100 ft in the sweet spot. Alex hooked up on the first cast and landed an 18” dolley on a black egg sucking leach. By the time I got to where Alex started, I hooked into a dolley also. I landed a fish in the 20+” range on a orange/white streamer using a 15 ft type 6 sink tip.
Eric headed downstream and to the other side of the river to fish the high bank. He was using his 8136 Z-axis rod with a 15ft type 8 sink tip with a blue/purple tube fly. About the same time Alex and I were done fishing the run I heard a “Yeah ha” yell from the other side of the river. Sweet, Eric hooked a steelhead! We walked upstream to the boat, loaded Bo into the boat, rowed across and downriver to where Eric was still fighting his fish. It was a beauty! I tailed the fish for Eric and Alex started snapping pictures. We didn’t have a tape to measure Eric’s fish but we estimated it at 39” and over 15 lbs. After releasing his fish, Eric stayed to fish through the run a second time while Alex and I moved downstream.
In the early afternoon, Eric and I stopped at a long boulder strewn run. I started downstream of the huge boulders where the water slows a bit since I was only using a type 6 tip. Eric started at the top of the run using is type 8 sink tip. Just as Eric was approaching the last set of big boulders, he hooked up again. He had it on long enough to let out another yell and for me to look upstream to see that is rod was bent again. And then it was off. We were both pretty sure it was another steelhead.
As you read this, all Puget Sound Rivers are closed except for small sections near the hatcheries on a couple rivers. Check the WDFW web site for exact closure areas. If you want to fish for steelhead, you will have to travel to the East Side, South to the Columbia Tribs, or to the Olympic Peninsula.
|2010 Reports||2009 Reports||2008 Reports||2007 Reports||2006 Reports||2005 Reports||2004 Reports||2003 Reports||2002 Reports||2001 Reports|