Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Gifts and Fly Fishing Trips

Celebrating over thirty years of singularly distinguished flyfishing adventure

Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Holiday Gift Trips

Wild autumn sea-run Coastal Cutthroat Trout

 This Holiday season give someone special in your life the enduring gift of an outdoors adventure. Personalized Gift Cards are sent out, to be presented to the recipient. Fly fishing trips may be arranged for spring through fall; Offering a day of saltwater beach fishing for sea run wild Coastal Cutthroat Trout, A river trip for Summer or Winter Steelhead, Or we can take a walk up a small Olympic Mountain stream trail to fly fish for trout. These trips are done by appointment in advance, when your gifted friend is ready to go, and we can arrange a date. I offer these trips for one or two anglers of any level of ability or experience. Catch & Release Only. A healthy, fresh, and locally sourced picnic lunch, featuring organic fruit and produce, with savory snacks and chilled soft beverages, and piping hot tea or coffee is included. Equipment provided as needed. Additional anglers are negotiable.$400.00

Summer Steelhead  fly fishing on the Sol Duc River.

Fly Casting Lessons 

 Fly Casting Instruction is offered for one or two students at a time in a single two-hour session. I have been trained in the Wulff Method of fly casting, and I was certified by Joan Wulff under her Wulff Instructor School program in 1999. I was also Certified by the F.F.F. as a Casting Instructor in 2000. From beginners to seasoned experts- I can tailor the session to your individual needs. Learn the basics of casting, presentation of the fly and fly line control. Or tune up your double haul, or improve your distance and accuracy casting. Two- Handed Salmon rods or Spey and Skagit Style casting is also offered in this opportunity, by prior discussion. Equipment provided. Refreshment served. Offered in the Port Townsend area, by appointment. Additional students or travel to an outside area are negotiable.  $100.00

Rowboat Picnics


 Come with me for a leisurely ride in a restored vintage design Swampscott Dory. We will idle away a few lazy afternoon hours, and I will do the rowing, along the shoreline. Riding the rising tide up a small estuary; smelling the roses and wildflowers, and watching the wild birds and wildlife along the way, Seals, Otters, Loons, Osprey, Kingfishers and Eagles, Sea Birds and Waterfowl- all may join us to tag along at some point. Birdwatching?- Bring along your binoculars and cameras! We might even see a wild salmon leaping! Our picnic basket will include chilled sparkling soft beverages, locally grown fresh organic fruit and produce from our own community Farmer's Market, and select, savory treats and organic crackers and cheese from our local Food Co-op. Refresh your body and your soul. This picnic is offered for one or two adult guests only. By appointment. One half of the proceeds of this trip will go to our local salmon restoration group: The North Olympic Salmon Coalition  $200.00

 In all cases it is my goal to provide you with a quality outdoors experience. Should changeable weather or travel conditions, or personal circumstances, cause us to cancel your reserved date: I will be happy to reschedule you for another mutually agreeable date. There are no refunds. These gift trips are paid in advance, then your gift card is inscribed, and sent out to yourself, or to the address and recipient of your choice.  

I will be happy to discuss these holiday gift opportunities with you: 



Or call Toll Free:  866-793-3595  

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Fecal Matters

 With our Olympic Peninsula winter steelhead fly fishing on hold during this period of high water, though there may be a few smaller areas to fish here and there, most of us are waiting for the bigger rivers to come back into shape; the Hoh, Bogachiele and Sol Duc in particular. Thanksgiving day was pretty rough around here for wind, and the bay was white capped and blowing, by evening it was a full on gale. So the hoped for alternative of a sea run Cutthroat fishing Thanksgiving day morning was out of the question. This morning was not too bad, and by mid day it had softened considerably, so a few hours at most would be possible in some locations. Overall the weekend forecast is kind of rough, making planning very hard. But this coming Monday looks like the perfect brief window for weather, wind and sea conditions, tides etc, and I am hoping to be on a beach by then, soothing my fishing starved nerves. With the "Olympic Mountain Rainshadow" being what it is around here, many forecasts do not have as much impact on us locally as much as they do on places just outside of that protection. So one thing we have learned around here is to watch local conditions closely. Often we have a decent fishing day when everyone else is blown off of the water. This offers us a respite from the winter storms that have torn up our rivers.

 One thing that saltwater fishers do not seem to talk about much is the hazards of water pollution, especially in the less developed shoreline areas around Puget Sound. But there are some significant health risks associated with surf and wade fishing our beaches- the same dangers that threaten surfers, divers, shellfishers, crabbers and swimmers. Most often we hear of Public Health warnings and Beach Closures during the warmer months, and these are often Red Tide warnings, Shellfish Poisoning and fecal coliform hazards, and  oil, fuel or other possible chemical spills. Even wearing modern fabric waders and protective clothing, you can be exposed to unhealthy levels of contaminants at times. Someone enjoying a mild winter day on the beaches, maybe because the rivers are too high to fish for now, fly fishing for sea run Cutthroat or Chum salmon, probably does not give water pollution dangers a second thought.

 Of course our winters are rainy here in western Washington- especially during November- the wettest month. And this gets our rivers running high, sometimes flooding etc, and this can happen repeatedly throughout the entire winter. Storm water runoff from streets, parking lots, rooftops etc is one hazard of toxicity, and we know now that this can be a significant danger to shellfish, marine life, fish and wildlife. Additionally there can be combined outflows and overflows of treated and untreated sewerage and storm water from many sources. And obviously more urban or developed areas may be at greater risk for this. But even in rural areas this can be an issue, especially with regard to agricultural runoff, regional airports, highways, shopping areas, housing developments etc. And some rural areas are less financially able to upgrade or reconfigure their sewerage systems to avoid the impacts of very high storm water flows. During the winter months the ground can become saturated with water and older, defective or less effective private septic systems can simply leak out raw untreated contamination directly into the groundwater, the streams and marine waters. This can create unhealthy conditions for beach fishing.

 A good resource for staying abreast of  regional beach fishing health and safety hazards is via the Washington Department of Ecology Beach Blog, which can also provide you with an email notification of warnings and closures on regional beaches and shorelines as they are discovered. People actually sample water quality all year round here. And there are some pretty ugly events during the wintertime, usually during periods of high water in the rivers due to heavy rains. And this is usually our same time to go beach fishing. It only takes a moment to check in on the Beach Blog for recent notifications, or you may get an email subscription for free. The blog is updated often and they also have an active Facebook page. In either case there is a wealth of information there that many beach fishermen will benefit from studying. Those of you who may be familiar with the Surfrider Foundation will appreciate the value of this kind of real-time information.

Washington Dept of Ecology Beach Blog

Wa Dept of Ecology Beach Program on Facebook

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Few Nice Days, A Little Sunshine, and A River In The Sky!

A Few Nice Days...

Morning Commute Coffee Break
These are native cedar carvings.

Guardians of the Jamestown S'Klallam Longhouse Market

Good Morning Hoh River Spirits!
This is a lovely shade of jade green. We like a little color to the water.

A Little Sunshine...
By early afternoon the sun has had an impact on the snow and glaciers upriver.

Another Green water Morning

Jim came here from Texas for a few days.

After lunch, no cigar, no nap...
Yes, I can sleep standing up, hip deep in ice water!

                                                       The White Mouse, Skagit Style.

Working tight to a bank

Winter Green

Back To The Saltchuck!

Tom came over  for Sea Run Cutthroat

Sweet ending to a beautiful day.

A River In The Sky!

Heavy November Rain!

NWRFC  NW River Forecasting Center 10 day Forecast

 Actually, this is good news for our rivers and fish, and not at all unusual for November hereabouts. These rains and expected increased flows may be just what the winter runs of Steelhead need to come home upon. Eh, once the trees, mud and debris clears... When it rains here it often pours! Seems like a month's worth of rain in a week or so. 

 Let us hope that the freezing levels in the Olympic Mountains can stay at low enough altitudes to buffer the impacts of the melt water and runoff into the rivers. Right now the soils are saturating and it won't be long before the rains hit. This weekend will likely get slammed, and I'm not optimistic about a Thanksgiving steelhead trip either. Were still catching sea run Coastal Cutthroat in the salt on area beaches and the Chum Salmon are coming home now too. Once the storm breaks that may be all of the fishing that we will have for a time. Happy Holidays!

And you can visit me on Facebook: Little Stone Flyfisher- Guide

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Things are shaping up!

Just another Monday at the office.

For the past few weeks it has been touch and go as far as river flows and fishing conditions here. A few small areas here and there were fishing, though most reports were slow. Our beaches had some good breaks in the weather and winds and sea run cutthroat are robust and strong this time of year. On the milder days we will fish for them this winter, certainly through November. And the Coho and Chum are offering some unique beach fishing challenges too, especially on a six weight. But it is not unusual at all that we experience winter warm fronts, extreme high altitude freezing and snow levels above 8000 feet, and high river flows. These cycles will melt any accumulated snow, and even ice and glaciers, and the waters can become very turbid.

 Happily these days pass on and we get a return of cold arctic air from the northwest, pushing down from Canada and Alaska, and our freezing levels drop to lower altitudes, the rains freeze up into snow and ice, and the rivers come back into good fishing shape quickly. This is what is occurring here now, and by the end of this week the west end Olympic Peninsula coastal rivers and streams will be in beautiful shape, flows and color should be near perfect, and we are due for a sunny and drier break out here too.

Note: With freezing levels dropping from 11,000 feet to 2000 feet in just a few days there is a good chance of black ice on our roads. Be extra careful!

 This NOAA forecasting tool is very accurate to within a few days to a week. And although I usually hesitate to rely on it for anything more than 72 hours, I have to say that it is looking very good ahead. Take a look at it, learn how to use it. It will become another good tool in your winter steelhead fishing planning toolbox.

Northwest River Forecasting Center

See you on the rivers!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

When The Rains Of November Come Early


 Statistically speaking we know that November is our wettest month of the year out here. And while it is not uncommon for us to get some rain in mid October, usually a welcome relief to the summer's long drought, it is uncommon for us to have rain for fully half of October running into November. We got lucky for most of the past few weeks of precipitation here, as a big cold front pushed down from Arctic Alaska, and along with all of that moisture we got freezing temperatures as low as 2000-2500 feet in the Olympic Mountains, and some good snow accumulation, which reduced the impacts of the rain on the rivers, and provided many days of good fishing flows. Summer run Steelhead, fall Salmon and Cutthroat are being caught all over the Peninsula. and the saltwater beaches have been fishing well for fall Coho Salmon, the Chum are showing up now, and Cutthroat too are at their best this time of year. In fact the hardest thing has been deciding which direction to head off in on a fishing trip lately.

Here Comes The Bear!

  Now this weekend we are seeing a warm front move across the Olympic Peninsula, with some significant winds in the forecast, and the rivers are just beginning to react with a spike in flows. Depending upon how warm it gets at lower altitudes, and how much rain we get, will set the stage for the coming weeks of fishing opportunity. So for those already on the rivers at dawn today might be a good day, at least for the first half of the day, as far as flows and fishing goes, especially on the bigger waters. And by carefully checking around, you might find a few niches of respectable fly water left on some smaller rivers as well. Unless we have a catastrophic huge area wide storm event, that hits all at once, one can always find a little fishable water. Especially early in the game of weather changes.

 I was booked for a sea run Cutthroat trip today, and I often get up very early before a trip if the conditions are unstable, just to confirm the possibilities for the day. Sometimes we change the meeting location based on local impacts of wind, waves, tides etc. This can often buy us hours of time. At dawn this morning my favorite beach was as calm as a Hindu Cow: quiet water, no appreciable wind, no waves, light misting rain and overcast. One would think this would be a perfect day to fish that beach.

 I sat in the dark, sipping hot coffee in the truck, using the phone to check the coming day; the winds on Puget Sound via the Washington Ferry Service weather pages, the new NOAA coastal radar views, the west end and southwest coastal rivers gauges, the freezing levels in the Olympic Mountains and the marine synopsis and forecasts. Everything pointed to things going to hell in a hand basket- as far as beach fishing was concerned- by about 11:00 a.m. to Noon. I got out of the truck as the morning light began to gather in a pale white haze, and stood in the light rain, watching the visibility utterly disappear.

 The winds were forecast for a Small Craft Warning on Admiralty Inlet, with 2-4 foot wind waves by early afternoon. The NOAA coastal radar showed a huge rain pattern, already making landfall, coming from the west-southwest and moving  across the Olympic Peninsula. The Hoko and Sooes rivers gauges were showing significant spiking, and The Hoh and Queets were beginning to react, and it was still very early in the rainfall. The Olympic Mountains freezing / snow levels  were rising from 2000-2500 feet to well above 7000 feet,(in a very short span of time). So I made the call and rescheduled the trip.

      "Sometimes you get the bear, 
         Sometimes the bear gets you."                                   

 The forecasts have held true so far, and the bay is now romping along with some nifty winds, and the waves are easily at the predicted 2-4 feet, blowing white foam and marl colored. And the rivers will continue to rise. So I am sorting my winter gear; organizing shooting / sinking lines, Skagit heads, running lines, backing- all knots and connections, leader butts and standing loops etc., and organizing and tying my Winter Steelhead flies. For now. Keeping an eye on things. Waiting out The Bear.

"You should have been here yesterday."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shifting To Neutral, or how to get worried.

This is the seasonal forecast that I worry about the most:

 The closer we get to the heart of winter the more accurate the El Nino / La Nina forecasting gets. This is the earliest reliable prediction of the oncoming trends in this coming winter, and whatever the impacts, they will be felt throughout the winter steelheading season here. I still try to take it one week, one day at a time. but these forecasts are generally true. How they will shake out in terms of on-the-water experience is always an alchemy of the moment; local conditions, incoming marine, tropical and arctic weather systems colliding with mountain weather, temperatures, flows etc, and whatever prayers we may offer for mercy. I 'm not saying you should let any of this change your plans though. just make sure you pack your rain gear and an extra sweater. No matter what happens, the fish do not read the forecasts- I will be fishing this winter every chance that I get.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10/17 First Autumn Storm Update

Counting Winter Coho Salmon on a small coastal creek, north Olympic Peninsula coast, with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition.

 An example of the value of monitoring river flows, marine weather and mountain weather online, via NOAA and the National Weather Service, (links provided below previously), take a look at the river flows this morning! We began this storm cycle a few days ago with freezing levels at and above 10,000 feet, which means that most of the warm rain melted snow and ice in the high peaks, and there was significant runoff into the rivers. So it did not take very long for the rivers to jump up in flows. But in the last day or so the mountain freezing levels have dropped to around half of that height, the mountains are getting some snow and ice again,( just take a look at the Hurricane Ridge Web cam via the National Park Service linked to NOAA/NWS), and... VOILA!- the rivers are dropping into shape!  This could be a coin toss by the weekend if the mountains warm up again with the next push of rain. But for a day or so anyway, we could get some good conditions on the Olympic Peninsula rivers. Yesterday the beaches were in beautiful shape, not too windy, and the nearshore waters had returned to that sweet jade-green color that we like to see. I will be fishing the salt every chance that I get right through November, and scouting the rivers too!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"A Chance Of Rain"

 After nearly 100 days of drought here in western Washington we are finally getting the annual first autumn rains. As of this morning our sun parched, boney-stoned, West End Olympic Peninsula rivers were just beginning to respond to the first bands of showers that came up the coast in the last 24 hours. A relatively mild beginning to the winter cycle here so far. But there is more in the forecast, including heavier rains over the next 24 to 48 hours, and significant winds up to gale force predicted. With this warmer weather, and freezing levels forecast for 10,000 feet in the mountains, we will see some heavy river flows for a little while. Rarely do we get it the way that we would like it. So we take it as it comes. Now would be a good time to sit down with your fly boxes and look over your autumn and winter selections. Once these rivers begin to drop back into shape there will likely be some fish spread through every system: Cutthroat, Steelhead and Salmon. All of this is right on time as this is the time of year we expect to see this kind of event.

 This is the time that the rainforest returns to it's magically green, dripping wet beauty, revived with life and color and scent. All summer drought long the leaves and fronds gathered an accumulation of fine silty dust, coloring the under story plants with a pale grey mantle. A strange looking landscape compared to the Sierra Club calendar pictures we are so familiar with. To my mind this is the most beautiful time of year; the rivers are coming back to life, ducks will stop here along their flyway, the elk and deer will be moving into the valleys, (a welcome visitation on a cold winter steelheading day), the mushrooms will be coming into their own, and the fish are coming home on the rising flows.

 Now would also be a good time to makes sure that your winter fishing tackle is in order; checking flyrods, hardware, ferrules, reels, backing and knots, lines, tips, fresh new leaders etc. If you need to brush up on your casting try to do it before a trip to the rivers if you can.Using "grass leaders" on a clean mown area is an option for city dwellers. Why waste time on a trip trying to get your cast right? If you work at it a little you can eliminate over one half of the number of strokes that it takes to fish through a winter day here. That means your fly will be working, fishing, a whole lot more. That is the name of the game. And if you need help  get a good coach. Do not practice the same bad, unproductive moves over and over until you are very good at doing it badly! With a little good coaching and practice anyone can improve.

 Two handed salmon rods, (Spey Rods), have proven most effective on our waters. Most of us use some version of the popular Skagit Rods and Skagit Heads that were developed and hand fabricated by northwest regional fly fishermen on the water long before line makers got in on the game. I will drop a plug here for Rio Products- -Spey lines and Skagit Heads and shooting / running here though, because most of us mere mortals can not easily make a better line than they do. For a great tutorial on Skagit Casting- which differs significantly from "traditional spey casting"- I like the video featuring Pacific Northwest master guide Ed Ward.: "Skagit Master volume 1". Ed originated this cast and played a significant role in the development of the modern rods and lines we use today. He does an excellent job of explaining his methods. Good casting is the foundation for successful fly fishing. Without good line control and the ability to get the fly out there, in front of the fish, slowly and deeply in the wintertime, you aren't going to enjoy the benefits of the game. Here is a video trailer link:   Also see:

 Winter Forecasting

 As for the weather. here are a few good links to forecasting tools that I rely on in planning my winter fishing here on The Olympic Peninsula rivers. The more often you refer to these resources, and the more familiar you are with the options available, the better you will get at predicting fishable weather and river flows. None of this will replace time on the water! 

Dr Cliff Mass, University of Washington,  is one of my first go-to forecasters. His book: "The Weather of The Pacific Northwest" is valuable reading for anyone who works and lives in the outdoors and on the water here. Just studying his blog is an education, but I find real value in his forecasting skills. Blog updated at least weekly:  

For pinpoint accuracy in forecasting:
University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences Probability Forecast: This service is most accurate for our purposes to within 72 hours.

Of course N.O.A.A. and The National Weather Service play an important role. And the new coastal radar here in western Washington is really going to improve the forecasting and models. Here are a few good links to support your own fishing trip forecasting.

Western Regional Headquarters NOAA / National Weather Service:   
This provides general regional forecasting, with links to many other valuable tools including marine weather, coastal radar and regional satellite and radar, river flows, mountain weather etc. With practice you can become very good at forecasting for your own trips.

N.O.A.A. Northwest River Forecasting Center:
The Northwest River Forecasting page is very useful, especially for short range plans of under a week. I rely on the 72 hour models and forecasts most of all for this region. Weather here is heavily influenced by the volatile interplay of mountain weather and marine weather. Play with these tools and learn how to use them!

For live up link regional U.S.G.S. river flows I go to:

Washington Dept of Ecology also has good real-time river gauge information:  
Not just for river flows, this website has some great information for fishermen if you take the time to seek it out. The Sold Duc River gauge seems to be off  . So I use the the adjacent Calawah and Bogachiele rivers gauges, and my own real-time-on-the-water-experience, as an adjunct. You can't beat local knowledge.)

Privately maintained webcams:

The Sol Duc River Webcam: 
(Sometimes helpful when the camera is working in real time images and maintained).

Quillayute River Webcam:

Right now it is raining pretty hard out here on the Olympic Peninsula, and our rivers are filling up. So use this time ahead to study on how the rivers flows are responding to these precipitation and temperature impacts. Pay particular attention to freezing level altitudes, incoming Pacific Ocean marine weather systems, flow rates etc. I will be tying some nice Waddington Shank and Spey Flies myself...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"October Caddis"

Low water on the Sol Duc River

 September brought us the Autumnal Equinox, and the Harvest Moon, so named for the farmers of old gaining the opportunity to work the fields well  after sundown, harvesting by the silvery moonlight. Imagine what that must have been like; long before diesel tractors and halogen work lights, when the harvest season was most laborious, and entire families would work together, from sunrise to sunset, and into the moonlit nights, harvesting everything by hand. This moon cycle is an annual harbinger of the great turning of things, the endings and beginnings of seasons, life cycles, migrations- all dependent upon sunlight. For our Pacific Northwest wild Salmonids- Salmon, Char, sea-run Coastal Cutthroat Trout and Steelhead- the change of light portends their return to natal waters. A time of completion and closure that shifts subtly, each day, with the tilting axis of the earth. Good things come after the Harvest Moon.

A pretty little wild river Coastal Cutthroat

 Here on the Olympic Peninsula rivers and creeks the sea-run Cutthroat are once again moving up into fresh waters from the saltchuck. Not all at once, but a trickling few fish, here and there, through late summer and fall in almost every significant system that hosts them. And more waters hold these wild trout than most anglers know of. Along with the Cutthroat are our few wild resident Rainbow Trout, though the regional biologists refer to them as "Risidualized Steelhead". And summer run Steelhead fishing is an opportunity here now as well, as the bigger glacially influenced rivers have receded to lower flows and clearer visibility. Dawn and dusk may afford the best circumstances for some runs, while mid day fishing in shaded water can be productive. Stealthy, quiet presentations, longer drifts, greased line presentations, stalking holding fish in the deeper pools, wet flies, soft hackles, Steelhead Caddis etc. It is all about not letting them see you or hear you. In low water and daylight your presence will likely distract them, enough to stop them cold.

Summer Steelhead fly fishing on the Sol Duc River

 Our fall salmon are also arriving this time of year, Coho, Chum and Kings, a few early fish, then a run of them that may last well through November. We all hope for the salmon. The salmon are hoping for rain. Only time will tell. But they too are gathering now, toward the mouth of a river, lying out there beneath the surf, in the moonlight. Waiting. The first good pulse of rain, when it comes, will carry them in on cool rising flows, an autumn freshet from the mountains to the sea. And the run will be on.

 In any case, we don't have to wait for the rain to go fishing. Dry line fly fishing for Cutthroat and Summer run Steelhead is often superb this time of year, and under precisely these low water conditions. Here is my own sparsely tied variation on the theme of the October Caddis. This is a prolific autumn hatch that we will see on almost every stream and river here, right into the hard freeze we usually get near November. I like to skate and drift this fly on the surface, greased a bit to aid in flotation. But this fly will work beneath the surface, just, and sometimes that is enough. And it has worked well, catching fish on the swing. I use this fly in saltwater too with good results on sea runs.

Little Stone's October Caddis
  And let us not forget that some of the best sea run Coastal Cutthroat fly fishing of the year is still going on in our salt waters; across the north coast, on the east end of the Olympic Peninsula and south into Hood Canal and Puget Sound. Some years we will fish for them in the Saltchuck right through Thanksgiving. The fish in the photo below was caught on one of my favorite saltwater Cutthroat flies: "The Muddler Minnow". Greased and stripped across the surface: Shake, Twitch, Wiggle and Pop!

A sea run Coastal Cutthroat Trout caught in saltwater

Master on the fly Leland Miyawaki, fishing dept manager for the Orvis Bellevue Store, conjured up this shallow running Coho on the beach here last Friday, using his magical Miyawaki Beach Popper right on the surface, under a bright sun, in the late morning on an ebbing tide.
Orvis Access 9 foot 6 weight rod and Orvis All Arounder fly line, 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Autumnal Equinox

Keith's Autumn Cutthroat
(The whole point!)

 The first day of fall. It sneaked up on us behind weeks of dry weather, bluebird skies, and a summer of warmth and sun. With the distraction of so many bright wild sea run Cutthroat trout caught from the beaches since spring, and the enduring weeks of good Coho fishing having continued through September, we have been busy living like beach bums, too busy to think about fall. This summer was especially dry and warm here, and all summer the rivers have drawn down to their bones as the last of the winter snows have melted to a trickle. All of my attention has been on the Salt chuck. The combination of warm sunny weather, and shallow wading in cold waters, is thoroughly refreshing. And just enough fishing surprises along the way to keep me excited about each day on the beaches. You may have an idea of how it is going, with the bait and the fish, and the fishing. But as they say, "Mother Nature always bats last". And often she hits us a home run. So when the leaves begin to curl, and the mornings come a little later, and the evenings begin to chill, and the wood smoke wafts in the air, I begin to get a hint that things are changing again. And all through September a kind of anticipation builds.

 Fall has always been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. And here on the Olympic Peninsula it seems that this great annual turning of things brings a kind of rush of opportunities for us, and we are often hard put to know which way to go first in our fly fishing adventures. Of course when it comes to fresh waters, and river fishing, September and October here have to be among the best months for Cutthroat trout and Summer Steelhead fishing, even during times of low water. The bigger glacially influenced rivers are clearing up in these scant flows, and that means there is dry line fishing to be had there finally. Termites, Caddis, Beetles, Stimulators, waking flies, all viable options for skating across the surface of a glassy run at dawn or dusk. For some the more accessible lowland lakes are still a focus, as the evenings lengthen and the waters cool, and those fish go on an energetic feed in the last light of summer. This is also true of the higher elevation lakes, and this time of year one could camp and fish with almost no one else on the trails. Personally I best like hiking and camping here after labor day. Sometimes you can have an entire campground to yourself for days.

 The Autumnal Equinox still steers me straight for the saltwater beaches though. Once we get a nice punch of rain out on the west end rivers and streams, and the flows spike up a bit, then will resume more regular visits to those waters. But the Coho salmon are still coming, the sea run Cutthroat Trout have been feeding for months on bait fish and other forage, and they are as fat as they are going to be by the end of October. Some of the biggest, hardest fighting fish of the year are the autumn Cutthroat on the beaches. And now would not be the time to eschew dry fly fishing either. Just because these wild fish spend a few months in the salt chuck does not mean that they have forgotten the value of feeding on insects. September brings some very big hatches of termites out of the woods along our shores, and skittering a big rusty colored Stimulator, maybe a size six or eight, on a nine foot tapered leader, along the edges of the shoreline could be your ticket to a dream fish. These trout are on the feed this time of year, and a fly that is active on or in the water will get the most attention. Even using a wet fly or streamer I will give the fly "pulses" of movement through a swing. And I will change up my presentations often. Using everything from dry flies to poppers to streamers in the course of a day is a strong tactic. Speaking of poppers, you have to try fishing with Leland Miyawaki's Beach Popper. This is a thoroughly fun and  addictive approach, and once you get a few fish on this fly you will want to fish it all of the time!  Having Coho around means that there is always a chance that your fly could get grabbed by something bigger than you had planned for. Most of the salmon that we do catch are caught coincidentally to sea run fishing, on trout flies and leaders, and a few of them do get away unscathed aside from having a piece of fly fishing jewelry in their jaw.

Leland Miyawaki fishing his Miyawaki Beach Poppers on the salt chuck

George came fishing on a foggy fall day to benefit The Wild Fish Conservancy
 A good example of the real sense of seasonal changes came this week with cool, cloudy, foggy weather moving across the Puget Sound region on a wind shifting from the south and west. This morning was drizzly wet, misting all morning, grey and overcast, and foggy. The visibility was around one mile at best all morning, and barely lifted until late in the day. One thing I like is overcast weather when I am fishing. We had trout and Coho salmon jumping in front of us on and off all day. All of this moisture, coming off of the Pacific Ocean, is but a harbinger of what is to come over the next few months. Once the summer wind patterns shift from northwest to southerlies, that is the real game changer. And this year it is right on time. We may get weeks of mild weather ahead. And we sometimes do not get significant rains until well into late October or almost certainly by  November. But it is a done deal that we will be getting cooler and wetter here for some time to come. I always find this to be a refreshing time, and an exciting time. Because I know that someone is going to catch a few big strong Cutthroat this time of year- And by November there are Steelhead in the mix on some of our beaches- and I won't mind a bit if it turns out to be me. So I dress with another layer, and a warmer hat too. I make sure my camp stove is ready for hot tea anytime, and I keep on tying sea run Cutthroat flies right through Thanksgiving time some years. This is the propitious moment.

This is my fly pattern that Keith caught his beautiful autumn Cutthroat on: "Little Stone's Beach Baby"

Friday, June 8, 2012


Welcome to my Washington Fly Fishing Blog.

I will be sharing some of my experiences here for you, from my guided fly fishing trips, and my own outdoors experiences around the Olympic Peninsula trails and waters of Washington. I will try to keep this specific to fly fishing as many of my friends have asked me for a way to stay in touch regarding fishing resources, access, management issues, tackle and techniques, flys, fishing conditions and reports etc. 


 We are well into mid "June-U-Ary" on the Olympic Peninsula flyfishing scene. Our mountains here in western Washington have over 200% snowpack this year, which has our rivers running with cold water, and the frequent brief low pressure fronts coming in off of the Pacific Ocean have spiked the river flows often enough that Spring Chinook Salmon and Summer Steelhead fishing here are well underway, and we should see good, fishable flows here well along into mid summer. Milder temperatures in May, part of another record breaking warm spring season this year, had some hatches coming off earlier than expected, and activated the resident fish fish to feed in the shallows of both lakes and rivers. Winged Ants made a strong, unexpected early appearance and a few large Black Stoneflys came along ahead of schedule. In some western regions they expect greater than normal Salmon Fly hatches this spring. Expect good dry fly action later in the day, especially if you have solid sun break after a rain. And on our rivers the trout will like your smaller flies too, like size 18-20 Griffith's Gnats, Midges, Blue Winged Olives, smaller Elk Hair Caddis etc. Maybe because the water is cold. Maybe because they have seen larger flies presented poorly and been hooked by them. That is your riddle to solve.

 After a long winter of swinging wet flies and streamers for Wild Steelhead on the coastal rivers here, many of us forget that a big fluffly Bill McMillan's Steelhead Caddis, or a size #4 Stimulator, greased and skated across a shallow tailout at the break of day, just might get you the fish of the year. With such variable flows here this time of year it is vital to stay in touch with the weather, the flows, and changing conditions when planning your trip. And do not forget that the water is very cold this time of year, and that daytime sunlight may cause snowmelt all day, which will have the rivers rising all day. Don't get stuck on the wrong side of a river at dusk! Once the water starts dropping into good shape here it often gets very clear quickly. So you really have to focus on dusk and dawn for these wary fish of summer. I like the Old-School wet flies too, Soft Hackles and Spade Flies, Summer Speys etc. It is time to put away the big, dark ugly flies of winter and break out the Summer Run box. I like a 7 weight medium fast action  flyrod, nine feet long. Many guests are coming with spey and Switch Rods now too. I usually start with a nine foot tapered mono leader, 3X to 4X to begin with, adjusting tippet etc as needed. I prefer the Rio Powerflex leader and tippet materials.

 On most of the days when the coastal rivers are not approachable with a flyrod we will head to the smaller waters, like the upriver sections of the Sol Duc River, the Bogachiele, the Calawah and some smaller streams etc. And we are finding good conditions on some of our regional lakes and beaches too. Note here that some few of our local area lakes are periodically closed due to an poisonous neurotoxin being created by lake algae. Our Jefferson County Health Department monitors this issue and updates are posted weekly. Gibbs Lake and Anderson Lake State Park are two examples of frequently closed waters.

 For flyfishing Sea Run Coastal Cutthroat Trout we head to the beaches! And we have many miles of public access here. From Port Townsend you can have a real day of it, with very little driving time, some of it just minutes from downtown. But certainly within an half hour of your lodging. Longer day trips would have you driving down Hood Canal to fish some great public access spots, but still well within an hour's drive. Walking and wading on these firm, fairly flat, gravel and sand beaches, we wade shallow, often just knee deep, casting dry flies, wet flies, streamers etc to spunky wild fish. By now these fish are getting fatter than a tick from feeding on the huge outmigrations of salmon fry and smolt that pass through here on their way to the sea. And the juvenile Herring, Sandlance and Surf Smelt are plentiful along our shores. Some of the flies that we use are often a surprise to visiting anglers; Stimulators, Muddler Minnows, Zonkers, Mickey Finn, Royal Wulff, Steelhead Caddis, Winged Ants, Hoppers, Wooly Boogers, etc- all considered to be freshwater trout flies.

 Yet we know that these wild Cutthroat Trout live in their natal streams for several years before solidly moving off into saltwaters for months at a time, and that they rear on a broad range of forage species in those freshwater streams; aquatic insects, baitfish, salmon fry, terrestrials etc. And there is no reason for them to turn down a meal that they recognize just because it appears in saltwater. Along most of our shorelines there are miles of undeveloped, heavily vegetated and forested growth, and logs, woody debris etc, and all of it hosts the kinds of critters that trout like to eat, especially winged insects, beetles, ants, termites, moths etc., and even mice! Bring your river boxes! And of course we are using many locally proven fly patterns on the beaches too, like my Little Stone's Chum Baby and Leland Miyawaki's Beach Popper, and many differing Clouser styles, with some old stand-bys like the Knudson Spider and countless marine forage imitations. Just remember to use barbless, medium to short shank hooks, around size six or smaller is best. More on all of that stuff later.

 I'm using a 5 or 6 weight rod on the beaches, from 8 to 10 feet long, medium to fast action, and most of the time I am using a simple Rio Double Taper floating fly line. For leaders I like the Rio Powerflex Trout  leaders, factory tapered to a 3X or 4X tippet. I don't go lighter than this because I do not want to overplay these fish, and there is always the chance that an over 20" bruiser will come along and smack you good! How likely? Well, it is Summer run Steelhead season here on our rivers, and they have been migrating in for the past few months from late winter on, and they all migrate from saltwater back to the freshwaters to spawn. So that means a few of them are hugging the same shorelines that we flyfish for Sea Run Cutthroat.

 Along the way each season we have seen some beautiful Cutthroat X Steelhead hybrid trout, many of them around 20" and very tough fish. Even a 12" wild Cutthroat can make your wrist hurt. people who have never fished before have come here and caught beautiful wild Cutthroat at their feet from the beach. It is a very lucky thing to catch a wild trout of any kind in saltwater anywhere today. If we take good care of them we should be able to conserve them for the future. All of my fishing is done with barbless hooks and is strictly Catch & Release for this reason. And the law here requires that we do so as well.

 So even though its dark and cool many days here now, our north east side Olympic Peninsula beaches are in the "rain shadow" of the Olympic Mountains, and often we get some dry sunny days while every one else is soaking wet! We do have plenty of options. And as each day passes we are getting closer to our annual summer salmon season on our salt waters, the river and beach fishing is great, and the year is just getting started. By early July it will be sunny on the beaches and rivers here, with cooling ocean breezes all day. Every spring and summer we see whales, eagles, osprey, otters, seals, sea birds and wildlife from our fishing locations. Come fishing. You'll love it.