Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Winter's Early!



Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide.
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!


Winter

     The last week of November has been colder, with lots of rain, and the mountains have gotten some much needed snow. All of autumn has been a blustery run of warm pacific storms, wind, high water and low water, and everything in between. We've had some great days on the saltchuck too, chasing sea-run cutthroat trout casting from the beaches, and in the rowing dory too. On milder winter days, especially with the rivers running high and dirty, this is a great way to get out on the water. There's some big trout out there! Winter seems to be settling in a bit early this year, as the nights grow longer and colder. No more mosquitoes! And speaking of pests, finally, now that the "Tourons" are gone, I can find a place to park downtown without having to walk ten blocks to the barber shop. (Doug Rose loved to use that term.")

     We had some special emergency fishing rules put into place out here this summer and fall, to protect the runs of wild coho salmon that had been so depressed last year. Those closures pretty much shut down my autumn summer steelhead and cutthroat trout fishing on the rivers. That was a bummer. And hard to fathom, considering how simple it would have been to write regulations for a gamefishing season that would have avoided impacting returning salmon. By the fishing reports from around the Puget Sound region, the coho runs seem to have done quite well this year, especially at the hatcheries. And many fishermen reported catching some very big, robust coho.  But we're most interested in recovering the wild salmon runs here. So we will still need to wait until the final results come in from the 2016 wild coho spawning surveys, to get a sense of the true escapement numbers of these wild salmon. It's going to take more than one year to get a clearer picture of what has happened to these fish. And there's no reason to expect that many other fish, including steelhead, are not impacted by the same things, (significantly climate and ocean conditions), that have hurt the coho runs. I did not fish for nor guide for coho on the beaches here this year, even where the season was opened.  

   You might be happy to hear that Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife announced today that you may retain Hatchery Coho, through December 15th, on the Sol Duc River. This means that the Sol Duc hatchery was able to collect their quota of hatchery coho eggs.
Check here for details: https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=1901 



Winter Steelhead Green.

    Many of the Olympic Peninsula steelhead rivers that we like to fly fish are reopened now, for early winter steelhead fishing. And some of the hatchery runs are already showing up, riding on the strong river flows we have seen this fall. We can expect to see those runs through December here. Don't be surprised to find plenty of tough cutthroat trout in these rivers now too. Hopefully the colder temperatures will set in, and the river flows will moderate. Of course this means that the water will be colder too. So be prepared to fish slow and deep. 

   Popular winter steelhead fly colors are usually fluorescent and rude. The higher winter flows add turbidity and color to the water, and this can reduce visibility significantly. That's okay, just get those bright or dark flies down. I could wax poetic here with the esoteric memes of proper, traditional fly selection, the history of Spey and Dee flies, and the classic Pacific Northwest steelhead fly patterns. And I love these things myself. But what you really need, especially for these hatchery fish, is something big, bright and ugly. (And some will also say that all you need is a purple and black fly.) Whatever you use, you need to get it in their face, and piss them off! This is where bait fishermen excel as fly fishers- they understand this. Heresy, I know. The next thing you know I will be telling you to use a big- ass Pink Bunny Leech!

"Winter Bright Waters".

    The great thing about the Olympic Peninsula steelhead rivers is that there's a road next to almost all of them, and plenty of trail access. So it's not like you need to fish from a drift boat to find some good runs to fish. Speaking of roads and winter driving, here's a link that you should be aware of: 

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/SNOWWATCH/
      
Select "Full Domain" for the Olympic Peninsula.


    Something that we are very aware of in the wintertime out here is Black Ice. The SnowWatch system has temperature sensors embedded in the roads, continuously feeding live, real-time data, which can help you plan for or avoid bad driving conditions. Warmer marine air and fog meeting colder road surfaces sets up this condition, and the roads here can glaze over with ice quickly, creating deadly driving conditions. Even on a day when the air is in the forty-something degree range! Make sure you have good winter tires and winter safety equipment when you come out here to fish in the winter. And remember that this SnowWatch website is just a reference, and not without error.  

    By the end of December you can expect that the hatchery steelhead runs are mostly done here. And January can be slow. If you want to fish for the later, wild winter steelhead runs on the Olympic Peninsula rivers, I can't help you. I gave up fishing and guiding for wild winter steelhead out here a few years ago. From my perspective, with over 13 seasons of winter fishing experience on these rivers, I think that they are almost gone now. And there's already too much pressure on them. Now I stop winter steelhead fishing on the rivers by January 1st. And this is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make as a fisherman and guide. 


    Happy Holidays to you!
   


The most relaxing way to fish for sea-run cutthroat.
One angler, maybe two,  Call or write for details.

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide and Instructor
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!

    I am guiding fly fishers on the Olympic Peninsula beaches, rivers and streams. We walk and wade, or row along the shorelines in the dory, fly fishing for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout in freshwater and saltwater, and in the rivers for Cutthroat trout and summer and fall steelhead. This is all strictly catch and release, traditional, barbless single hook, fly fishing only. Lunch, snacks, soft beverages, and use of some equipment is included. I also offer personalized and private fly fishing and fly casting instruction for beginners through advanced casters. I would be happy to help you plan your Olympic Peninsula fly fishing adventure, for all levels of ability, beginner to expert. Public presentations, Naturalist Guide, rowboat picnics, tide pool and  river trail day trips. Please call, write or email for booking details. Booking on short notice in the fall and winter is welcome.

Bob Triggs
Little Stone Flyfisher
P.O. Box 261
Port Townsend, WA
98368

Licensed Washington State Guide 
Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Trout Unlimited Aquatic Educator Award
2006 W.S.U.Beach Watcher / Water Watcher graduate
U.S.C.G First Aid/CPR/BLS/AED/BBP/HIV Certified

Phone: 360-385-9618


Monday, November 21, 2016

A Thanksgiving Steelhead



Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide.
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!

November Moon
Photo credit: Heather Gilpin

     Fall has been seeping in here one rainy day after another. And we have been fishing on the beaches, in between the wet and windy days, since mid-October. The rivers have been getting their annual autumn rainfall, with cooler, deeper flows. Just in time for the salmon and steelhead runs. The storm winds put a lot of debris, branches, logs and leaves in the rivers. The beaches have been torn up a few times too, with storm damages and higher tides. The October Hunter Moon brought the tides way up. We can expect that the November 14th Full Beaver Moon will do the same. It is remarkable how quickly the beach waters will be clear of turbidity, and the fishing will resume after a storm here. November is statistically the wettest month of the year out here. The western slopes of the Olympic Mountains can get 140-180 inches of rain annually, most of it in the winter. There have been many times in Novembers past when we couldn’t fish the rivers because of high flows and poor visibility, even though the storms had passed days previously. So we headed down to the beaches to fish for sea-run cutthroat trout instead. This is never disappointing. We are in the Olympic Mountain Rainshadow over here on the east side of the Peninsula. And we only get about 17-19 inches of rain annually. 

  “I want to catch a steelhead.
   
   A few years back my friend Jeff called me, during the week just before his birthday on Thanksgiving. He had the holiday weekend off. He and I had worked at the same fly fishing lodge in Alaska one season. And I had time open to get away with him. So we loaded up our gear in his truck and we took off for the west-end Olympic Peninsula rivers.  There are some smaller coastal streams that could have some steelhead in them around then, mostly hatchery fish. But that would be good enough for us. It was a fairly balmy day, and we got into the water after dawn. The water was low and gin-clear. We walked along the sandy edges of one pool and run after another, easily wading across the shallow tail-outs, scouting for fish as the sun got brighter. We clambered up a small waterfall, crouching on the wet slippery boulders, looking at the Coho salmon holding in the deep plunge pool below, as they waited for the flows to come up, so they could then move upriver to spawn. We stood, barely knee deep, at the edge of one pool, just above the narrowing flows, surveying the water, looking for a sign of fish. After a few minutes we noticed a faint bit of movement- a shadow, an eye, a mouth, A Fish!  And it was right there in front of us, not fifteen feet away, in the shallow fast water. A bright steelhead!
  
    If you have ever tried to cast to a fish that is holding in fast water, only a few yards away from you, you will understand the frustration of how difficult it is to get a decent presentation of the fly that way, without spooking the fish.  We stood stock still, barely moving at all, as Jeff deftly flicked and flipped one fly after another, with barely more than his leader out of the rod tip, try after try, just showing that steelhead his flies, which we changed with every few “casts.” It felt like an eternity. The fish was marvelous, so bright and fresh from the sea, it’s chrome sides reflected the gravel and sky so well, it would fade into and out of view randomly. It was almost invisible at times, except for the shadow on the gravel bottom beneath the fish.
  
   We were acting on faith. The fish that we had hoped for was right there at our feet. (It was a little more than we had hoped for actually.)  A fish like that can be very hard to catch. With some drifts of the fly the fish would veer off, avoiding the drift. And with the next cast it seemed to be chasing the fly, briefly, only to go back to its holding position in the flows.. And at other times Jeff actually bounced the fly right off of the fish’s nose. And the fish did not flinch. We tried all kinds of northwest steelhead patterns: big, small, dark, light, etc. We even skated a few greased-liners right across the bow. Nothing doing. With each successive cast, I began to feel like I was in some kind of weird karmic dream. And this whole time, cast after cast, we had not moved our feet an inch. We didn’t dare. At one point the fish was within a yard of us, seemingly taking shelter in our shadow. Probably to avoid those pesky little flies that we were incessantly drifting at it. 

   There’s an Alaska fly called the “Ice Worm.” It was originated by Ted Gerkin at Iliaska Lodge, on Lake Ilaimna. It is intended for the big rainbow trout on the Lake Iliamna and Katmai Park tributaries in the fall. I still had a few in my fly box, left over from the summer guiding season. Imagine a Woolly Booger fly, with a pink shrimp colored chenille body, pink shrimp colored body hackle, and a cream colored collar hackle and marabou tail. Spawning colors. One swing was all it took with that fly. And we went from a catatonic stupor to a shallow water brawl instantly. Both of us were kind of amazed to see the fish actually take the fly. 

    I mean, geez . . . Hundreds of swings, and a dozen flies later?!
   
    I wish that I could tell you here that the fish put up an electrifying fight, taking the line and all of the backing and going way downstream, leaping into the air, it’s bright flanks flashing in the sun, and that the fish dove downriver - "the reel drag screaming!" - and we had to run, full-tilt over the slippery rocks, leaping over mossy logs and half swimming through deep holes, heroically keeping that bruising brawler on the hook . . . 

   But it didn’t go that way.

   Inexplicablythis beautiful steelhead simply swam around in the shallow water, pulling a little here and there for a few minutes, and then it pretty much just lied down on the gravel at Jeff’s feet and it gave up. It was about 36 inches long, chrome bright, and an early wild hen. It was one of the most beautiful steelhead I have ever seen. 
  
  You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to come out to the Olympic Peninsula rivers to catch a steelhead. There are summer-run steelhead and cutthroat trout in most of these rivers year-round. And we often see early winter-run hatchery steelhead well before Thanksgiving. These autumn rains will get them moving, and stir them up. This year we have had some special rules put in place, to protect the wild coho spawning runs. This closed almost all of our good autumn trout fishing waters, especially the big rivers, until mid-November. Ordinarily we would be fishing for summer runs and cutthroat by September. I am guessing that the fishing this November is going to be superb out here. And if the rivers get too dirty and high again, don’t miss out on the good sea-run cutthroat trout fishing on the beaches. We do that all winter. I do not guide on the Olympic Peninsula rivers for steelhead after January 1st.


The most relaxing way to fish for sea-run cutthroat.
One angler, maybe two,  Call or write for details.

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide and Instructor
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!

    I am guiding fly fishers on the Olympic Peninsula beaches, rivers and streams. We walk and wade, or row along the shorelines in the dory, fly fishing for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout in freshwater and saltwater, and in the rivers for Cutthroat trout and summer and fall steelhead. This is all strictly catch and release, traditional, barbless single hook, fly fishing only. Lunch, snacks, soft beverages, and use of some equipment is included. I also offer personalized and private fly fishing and fly casting instruction for beginners through advanced casters. I would be happy to help you plan your Olympic Peninsula fly fishing adventure, for all levels of ability, beginner to expert. Public presentations, Naturalist Guide, rowboat picnics, tide pool and  river trail day trips. Please call, write or email for booking details. Now booking through October, and beyond. Booking on short notice in the fall and winter is welcome.

Bob Triggs
Little Stone Flyfisher
P.O. Box 261
Port Townsend, WA
98368

Licensed Washington State Guide 
Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Trout Unlimited Aquatic Educator Award
2006 W.S.U.Beach Watcher / Water Watcher graduate
U.S.C.G First Aid/CPR/BLS/AED/BBP/HIV Certified

Phone: 360-385-9618


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Day You Want


Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide.
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!



Madrona Berries

     This time of year it can be hard to get a clear forecast for our fishing days. More than a few days ahead of time and you'll probably be off by a country mile. I have had some days planned, months in advance, and gotten lucky at the last minute with a decent day of fall fishing. But most of the time in the fall here, we are watching the screens daily, sometimes hourly. It has been like that for the last few weeks here, as one huge cold front after another moved up our coast. So it's not unusual for me to be checking the forecast every day, repeatedly, and in the days ahead, late in the night before a trip, and even before dawn on the day of the trip. I was doing that last Saturday, at 2 in the morning. The wind forecasts had been all over the charts for the days leading up to our fishing day. And we had been getting very strong winds and heavy rains on and off. But there were some breaks in the lows and highs, as they passed through. And we were lucky enough to to get a nearly perfect day in every way: Very light winds, no rain, clearing all day, and almost no waves. And it had been quiet all night. The the beaches were in perfect shape. 


Heading South.
    So we headed out in the dory to fish for sea-run cutthroat trout. When we launched the boat the bay was quiet, flat and slick. The tide was coming in all morning, the air was balmy. I had a sense of apprehension, as if it was too good to be true. I have been ducking from storms, wind and rain for weeks. But these really are the conditions I pray for.  It wasn't long before we ran into some trout. And it's always great to catch that first trout of the day, first thing in the morning. And then it happened again, within a few minutes. And we then proceeded to catch one bright, willing wild cutthroat trout after another, for most of the day. We had lunch in the sun, while a seal watched us from a  few yards away. An eagle was working over the bay, sea birds feeding. There was bait everywhere. And the trout knew it.  


One after another they took our flies . . .

Full of color and fire . . .

One bright, robust sea-run cutthroat trout after another . . .

   They say that you should be careful about what you ask for.  I have always asked for the best day that we could have, no matter what happened along the way. It's pretty hard to fail when you leave yourself wide open to the experience. And I will admit that often my underlying motive is to have a truly great day, full of fish and sunshine. But it is rare that it happens that way. Saturday was our lucky day. That's how it is in the fall. You pick your days, between the raindrops and winds and waves, and you hope for the best. Honestly, it never has to get any better than this.  



The most relaxing way to fish for sea-run cutthroat.
One angler, maybe two,  Call or write for details.

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide and Instructor
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!

    I am guiding fly fishers on the Olympic Peninsula beaches, rivers and streams. We walk and wade, or row along the shorelines in the dory, fly fishing for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout in freshwater and saltwater, and in the rivers for Cutthroat trout and summer and fall steelhead. This is all strictly catch and release, traditional, barbless single hook, fly fishing only. Lunch, snacks, soft beverages, and use of some equipment is included. I also offer personalized and private fly fishing and fly casting instruction for beginners through advanced casters. I would be happy to help you plan your Olympic Peninsula fly fishing adventure, for all levels of ability, beginner to expert. Public presentations, Naturalist Guide, rowboat picnics, tide pool and  river trail day trips. Please call, write or email for booking details. Now booking through October, and beyond. Booking on short notice in the fall and winter is welcome.

Bob Triggs
Little Stone Flyfisher
P.O. Box 261
Port Townsend, WA
98368

Licensed Washington State Guide 
Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Trout Unlimited Aquatic Educator Award
2006 W.S.U.Beach Watcher / Water Watcher graduate
U.S.C.G First Aid/CPR/BLS/AED/BBP/HIV Certified

Phone: 360-385-9618



   

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

After The Storms.



Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide.
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!


After the storm.

    We had a wild few days of wind and rain out here last weekend on Admiralty Inlet and the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula. Thankfully the storm did not pass directly over us, as was feared. It veered out to sea, miles off of the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There were some serious gusts of wind though, and some damages. There were only a few power outages scattered around. It could have been much worse. The beaches here get torn up pretty good during these southerly wind storms. You wouldn't want to be standing there when it's blowing 40 knots, wind waves to six feet, and logs, stumps, rocks, clams etc, flying through the air. So enters the first real, serious weather changes of autumn, heading into winter.


#6 October Caddis. A great autumn fly for sea-run cutthroat,
in freshwater or saltwater, and for summer steelhead in the rivers.

    The rivers out here are getting some much needed rains, and the Olympic Mountains have only begun to get some snow in the higher elevations. After last weekend we are seeing the first new light dustings of snow, up around 6000 to 8000 feet and above. By the end of the month the freezing levels are supposed to fall again, to down around 4000 feet in altitude. So even though we have been getting some pretty good rains on and off over the last few weeks, with some big spikes in flows too, the mountains are getting colder, and the river flows are moderating. And this should be perfect for fishing. The only problem with that is that there is almost no river fishing available out here until mid November, when the rivers reopen. If you study your wdfw annual sportsfishing regulations, you will find a few smaller waters are still open to trout fishing. And there have been some re openings of some rivers around the Puget Sound region too. The October Caddis is going to be your go-to fly for cutthroat trout and summer steelhead now. And I like those soft hackles this time of year too; The Partridge & Orange is my favorite. I use that one in the saltwater too. With all of the wind and rain we are getting, and with the leaves still on most of the trees, there's a lot of leaves and debris in the rivers and lakes now. But that will clear up fairly quickly as it gets colder.  


"Moon Shot"

    It is remarkable how quickly and well the beaches here have cleaned up, even with some wind and rain continuing on and off here, and in the forecast for all week ahead. This is a wet October so far. Last Saturday night was the Full Hunter Moon, which was an especially powerful influence on tides, and considering the storms too, it put  a lot of weeds and other debris in the water. It was another "Super Moon," too, but it was hard to see through the overcast night sky. This really brought the high tides way up around here. But the last few mornings have been eminently fishable from our beaches. The water cleans up quickly here once the wind and waves settle down.We'll be playing Cat-And-Mouse with the weather for the months ahead, as we get these nice breaks to fish here between storms. With some heavy flows in the streams right now, that will bring turbidity. Trout like clean water. Expect to find them near the beaches, where you would find them in September, still feeding, in the saltchuck. There tons of bait around here too. Last week I was out on the bay in the dory with a fisherman, and we drifted over a school of thousands of herring. The saltwater temperatures here are around 50 degrees right now. That's pretty much perfect for trout fishing anywhere. And trout love herring.


Some Clouser Minnows.
Left to right: Anchovy, Herring, and "attractor pink"
.


   I like fishing with some bigger streamers this time of year, some weighted flies too. And I will use sink tip lines, and sinking poly-leaders, etc., too. I do like Clouser Minnows, especially as an herring imitation. But I know two guys who like to fish all winter for sea-runs, with nothing but Woolly Boogers. And they catch a LOT of cutthroat! Try weighted and unweighted flies, like the Matuka, the Zonker, Sculpin, etc. One of the biggest sea-run cutthroat trout that I ever caught- at 23-1/2 inches- was caught on a black #6 Mike Lawson's Wool Head Muddler. One note on streamer flies in general, for sea-runs: I try to limit my fly hooks to size #6, and I avoid extra long hooks- It's too easy to hook these trout deeply, in the tongue or the heart.

   I'm loving the colder mornings and hint of frost. The big, rude power boats have all but been put away for the winter, and the waters are much quieter now. Our rowing trips are much more peaceful. And the beaches are almost abandoned. October and November is the time for big fat trout, hard hitting fighters, hot coffee in the thermos. Maybe you'll start wearing your gloves again too. Give me a call and we'll go fishing.   


The most relaxing way to fish for sea-run cutthroat.
One angler, maybe two,  Call or write for details.

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide and Instructor
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!

    I am guiding fly fishers on the Olympic Peninsula beaches, rivers and streams. We walk and wade, or row along the shorelines in the dory, fly fishing for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout in freshwater and saltwater, and in the rivers for Cutthroat trout and summer and fall steelhead. This is all strictly catch and release, traditional, barbless single hook, fly fishing only. Lunch, snacks, soft beverages, and use of some equipment is included. I also offer personalized and private fly fishing and fly casting instruction for beginners through advanced casters. I would be happy to help you plan your Olympic Peninsula fly fishing adventure, for all levels of ability, beginner to expert. Public presentations, Naturalist Guide, rowboat picnics, tide pool and  river trail day trips. Please call, write or email for booking details. Now booking through October, and beyond. 

Bob Triggs
Little Stone Flyfisher
P.O. Box 261
Port Townsend, WA
98368

Licensed Washington State Guide 
Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Trout Unlimited Aquatic Educator Award
2006 W.S.U.Beach Watcher / Water Watcher graduate
U.S.C.G First Aid/CPR/BLS/AED/BBP/HIV Certified

Phone: 360-385-9618


Thursday, October 13, 2016

"A Big October Slap" II

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide.
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!


   
   This is an update to my October 8th blog, with links for the current multi-stage storm that is moving in to our coast today. Check Dr Cliff Mass blog page, (linked below), frequently for updates, as he is actively tracking the storm. If you had plans to fish out here this weekend, you might want to reconsider. There are potentially dangerous winds expected, out on the coast and in the Puget Sound region as well. And with the rivers blowing out too, this is a bad time to be in the Olympic Peninsula rainforest, much less driving around out here with trees and branches falling, power lines coming down, etc. We have already had some power outages. More expected. Stay home and tie flies.
http://cliffmass.blogspot.com



A series of potentially dangerous storms are hitting the Pacific Northwest.
Updates here: http://cliffmass.blogspot.com 


The most relaxing way to fish for sea-run cutthroat.
One angler, maybe two,  Call or write for details.

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide and Instructor

    I am guiding fly fishers on the Olympic Peninsula beaches, rivers and streams. We walk and wade, or row along the shorelines in the dory, fly fishing for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout in freshwater and saltwater, and in the rivers for Cutthroat trout and summer and fall steelhead. This is all strictly catch and release, traditional, barbless single hook, fly fishing only. Lunch, snacks, soft beverages, and use of some equipment is included. I also offer personalized and private fly fishing and fly casting instruction for beginners through advanced casters. I would be happy to help you plan your Olympic Peninsula fly fishing adventure, for all levels of ability, beginner to expert. Public presentations, Naturalist Guide, rowboat picnics, tide pool and  river trail day trips. Please call, write or email for booking details. Now booking through October, and beyond. 

Bob Triggs
Little Stone Flyfisher
P.O. Box 261
Port Townsend, WA
98368

Licensed Washington State Guide 
Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Trout Unlimited Aquatic Educator Award
2006 W.S.U.Beach Watcher / Water Watcher graduate
U.S.C.G First Aid/CPR/BLS/AED/BBP/HIV Certified

Phone: 360-385-9618