Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Warm And Wet, High Water Blues 1/29/13

Warm And Wet, High Water Blues 1/29/13

 Unfortunately the weather  gods have conspired to bring down a serious warm front and plenty of rain over the next few days. As the freezing levels in the mountains have risen from a very likable recent holding low of around 2000 feet, to a decidedly unforgiving 5000 feet and much higher, the rivers are jumping up in flows very quickly. With the warming trend forecast to continue, along with 90% to 100% probability of several inches of rain to come down on the Olympic Mountain slopes over the next few days as well, we can scratch our plans to fish for a while. Time to tie some flies.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter Steelhead and The Full Wolf Moon

The Full Wolf Moon

 The first full moon of the year always carries the energy of hope for me this time of winter. The moon  brings stronger ocean currents and higher tides for days. And sometimes this brings in more fish from the sea. And just like the Solstice- the first moon of the year is a harbinger of the light to come. Ever since the Solstice I have been checking the time against the sunrises and sunsets, and anticipating the longer days ahead. With the recent, noticeably longer days of sunny weather, and this impossibly bright silver moon shining down over the smokey hills here tonight, it is hard to believe that we are still in the middle of winter. After a record period of dry cold weather we are once again getting some warm, moist Pacific air moving in toward our coast, and the rain has helped to breathe life back into our rivers. In many places we have seen summer-like flows these last few weeks. The mountains have been freezing at about 2000-3000 feet lately, and so much of that new rain is turning to snow and ice, and staying put at the higher elevations. Just enough to enliven flows, yet not so much as to put off the fishing. We must have done something right in a previous life.

Hoh Valley Morning

 The week ahead looks decidedly wetter, and a bit warmer and milder, so we expect the rains will continue to gradually feed into the rivers this way. And hopefully the colder mountain temperatures will continue to moderate these flows, and provide us with good fishing through the next week to ten days. That is a long time to forecast anything around here this time of year. But for the next week anyway, we see a mix of conditions that will put most of the river flows under the mediation of  freezing levels in the mountains. And so far it looks very good. This is something to watch every day as the forecasts can change daily. I have provided some helpful links and further comments on this in earlier posts here this winter. At any rate, it looks like we can put the floating lines away and get back to slinging sink tips and sinking heads, weighted flies, and much deeper, slower swung presentations. If you are new to this game, don't hesitate to come. I have always enjoyed helping people to gain new skills and experience in fly fishing. There are some very simple ways to learn how to handle even the heaviest of sink tips and shooting heads, single-handed or spey/skagit, and you will be casting and fishing well in no time. It's supposed to be fun.

 I have been tying winter Steelhead flies tonight and getting ready for a few trips coming up next week. Some of these flies will be a little heavier and bigger now, to match the deeper presentations. I do especially like the traditional spey flies, and some of the Pacific Northwest patterns, and I also like some of the modern shank, tube and articulated flies. I try to have a mix of some of each; large and small, with and without weight in the fly, and some brightly colored, some drab, and always some purple and black flies. As the river flows improve now it gets more exciting to think of all of the places that we might be fishing, and the bright fish we might encounter. This is one of the best things about winter- the anticipation. Each new cycle of wet weather and higher tides and stronger river flows has the potential to carry in another push of bright wild fish. It is hard not to dream of them; out there in the misty rainforest, beneath the bright moon, in the shadows of the fern and moss draped maples and firs, running upriver in the night. This is winter.

Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing On The Hoh River

 I will be guiding fly fishermen here for winter steelhead all winter and spring. These are all walk and wade, catch & release, fair chase, fly fishing only trips. We do not use indicators or jigs, nymphs or floats. We fish with a single barbless hook fly only, wet fly swing. Guests are free to use single-handed or two-handed spey rods as they wish. We take a few breaks, have a nice lunch with some hot coffee or tea. And we enjoy the day as we cover a lot of good water thoroughly, sometimes on more than one river in a day. If you want to come fishing with me you will need to plan well ahead. Feel free to call, and always leave a message and return number if I don't answer. Or drop me an email. I usually return messages within a day or two at the most.

Phone: 360-385-9618

Toll Free: 866-793-3595

Email: littlestoneflyfisher@mail.com

Blog: Washington Fly Fishing

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sea Run Cutthroat Bug Blog Interview, And Some Notes On Low Water Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing

Dustin Bise recently interviewed me for: 

Click on this link > The Big R Fly Shop Bug Blog.  

 This was a fun sharing of some experiences that I have had in fishing for these wonderful wild trout here. I hope you enjoy the read. Below is a picture of the old wooden lapstrake Swampscott Dory that I restored over a few years of time. I enjoy rowing this boat around here, and I fish from it a little too.


Winter Cutthroat

 On the home front, we have had mostly mild, sunny weather here during the days and dry, freezing cold temperatures at night for over eleven straight days. The beaches have been very fish-able most days as we have had very little wind, and the winter tides have been good. We are in a near-record dry spell for this time of year. And so too our regional river flows have drawn down to perfect fly fishing conditions. A happy little stint of mid winter fly fisherman's luck. And even though it is wild winter steelhead season here now, I do enjoy putting together a little pack, with a thermos of coffee, a sandwich and piece of fruit, and maybe a good book, and just wandering the beaches, casting a fly. During the mid day hours now, even though the previous nights are bitterly freezing cold, the beaches gain a lot of heat from the sun; the mudflats and shallows heat up, the gravels get warm, and sometimes the drift wood and logs will even emit a bit of steam as they gain heat from the sun. And as the tide water rises at the edges of things, the water too gains a little heat along the way.

 On these days every kind of shore bird, sea duck, heron etc., that these waters host, will be feeding in the shallow estuaries, lagoons, shorelines and edges. And often we can find sea run Cutthroat Trout in that situation, feeding right along with the birds, on the small marine life that thrives there. Everything follows the sun. Winter Cutthroat beach fishing is a slow, easy pace. Contemplative, relaxed, and sometimes very rewarding. This is not the same work as a committed steelhead trip in harsh winter conditions. And often I just wear warm clothing and a pair of knee high boots. I use smaller flies at times; shrimp, amphipod, squid, very small sandlance patterns, soft hackles, and even the Chum Baby. And I have great faith in Leland Miyawaki's Beach Popper. After a while I will take a break, sitting up against a  log in the sun, enjoying some hot coffee and lunch, maybe a cigar. And even a good book. It's supposed to be fun. And we catch a few.

Low Water Winter Steelhead Flyfishing

Courage in a cup

 With the rivers in such good shape now, and the weather being so fair, and bound to be so for nearly another week, my focus has been shifted back to our rivers and wild winter steelhead . But it kind of nags at me sometimes, on the nice days like this, when I know that there are probably some good trout working at the edges of a tide somewhere. I am confident that the winter months ahead will afford a few more opportunities to fish on my beaches; after the warm Pacific storm driven rains cycle through the Olympic Mountains again, melting the snows, raising the rivers with silt and mud laden torrents. Low water steelheading, on sunny winter days, means that there is a need for quiet approaches, stealth, and lighter presentations. The water may be gin clear. These Olympic Peninsula wild winter steelhead are known to be very good at hiding in these conditions. And so we can expect that they might burrow into things; hugging the deeper bottom structures and gravels, hanging along submerged debris and logs and rocks, resting beneath foamy whitewater, and hiding in the shadows along the edges. And once in a while you can walk up to a run and find one, perhaps a perfectly camouflaged, chrome bright, ocean fresh beauty- lying right there in the open, smack in the middle of a shallow fast run, almost invisible. I can assure you that fishermen walk and row right past these fish every day here.

Low water winter steelhead day on the Hoh River

 Dry line steelhead fly fishing is not limited to the mid summer months. Anytime that our rivers draw down to below average flows we can see an opportunity to use  a floating line, a longer leader, and lighter flies, possibly even surface waking and skating flies. I'll have a greased Muddler thank you. At times like this, when I am using a floating line, or a floating tip section in some situations, I will use 7 to 9 foot factory tapered  monofilament leaders, down to 6 or 8 pound test tippet. And I will use smaller spey flies, size 6, 4, 2 etc. And often more drab, muted or darker in color than is often expected of a more traditional Pacific Northwest winter steelhead fly. And using a floating line I also have the option of adjusting leader length, diameter, and fly size and weight, according to conditions. Sometimes I can do much better at slowing the fly down, working deeper, swinging slower, with a floating line, than I might be able to do with a sinking head of any type. This is the beauty of using the multi-tip line systems- we can quickly and simply adapt to the varying conditions that we encounter in the changeable winter steelhead rivers. Many winter steelhead fishermen who use conventional drift rod techniques, with weighted lures or bait, and floats or strike indicators of some kind, have experienced winter steelhead coming up to the surface to take their float off of the surface, instead of the lure or bait suspended beneath the float. And sometimes these takes can be wicked good. And this does not have to be under low water conditions. So bearing this in mind, when the water does get lower, slower, cleaner etc; maybe tying on a big greased Muddler, offered on the dry line swing, along an eddy line, above the foaming white water rifles, along the edges between faster water and a slower moving water, swinging in a slow arc across a tailout at dusk or dawn...

It's supposed to be fun!

 The regional forecast looks good here for the next three to four days, with freezing levels generally remaining at lower altitudes, and returning warmer moisture, rain etc., on the radar by early to middle of next week. And that could be very good for bringing up the rivers a little bit, and moving some fish upriver. It looks like we will have rain much of mid to late week coming up, but the mountains are freezing at low altitudes too, so it could be just right. And we could be able to fish every day through that nice cold, wet winter weather. Of course we won't know for sure until it happens. The freezing temperatures at night will cause black ice and freezing fog in many places. So be careful driving in the colder hours. The roads are always freezing before the thermometer in your car indicates. I think that the rivers will only run lower through this brief period. So why not try some lighter, quieter casts, less wading, working smaller and slower. Try to get onto the water at dawn. Or begin your day late in the morning, and focus on the afternoon and sunset hours. Generally lower light conditions can help fish to move with confidence. And watch where you step, because you just might bump into the fish of a lifetime, right there at your feet.

Covering the water

 I will be guiding winter steelhead fly fishermen all winter and spring. And between winter storms, when the rivers are running high, and the sun is shining, I will be out on the beaches chasing sea run Cutthroat. These are all walk and wade, catch & release, fair chase, fly fishing only trips. We don't use indicators, jigs, nymphs or floats. We fish with a single barbless hook fly only, wet fly swing. We take a few breaks, have a nice lunch, and enjoy the day as we cover a lot of good water thoroughly, sometimes on more than one river. If you want to come fishing with me you will need to plan well ahead. Feel free to call, and always leave a message if I do not answer,  or drop me an email. I usually return messages within a day, or two at most.

Phone 360-385-9618

Toll Free 866-793-3595

Email: littlestoneflyfisher@mail.com

Blog: Washington Fly Fishing

Like me on Facebook! Little Stone Flyfisher- Guide

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Icy Countenance Of Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing


The icy countenance of winter Steelhead fly fishing

 We are now entering a normally cold period of winter here, with a high pressure ridge moving in over the eastern Pacific regional waters.This has brought freezing temperatures down to the ground level in many areas of western Washington. And happily, for Steelhead fly fishermen, this is bringing our rivers back into very good shape. As this coming week progresses our rivers could actually become low and clear. And so far the forecast is for a drier week ahead here, with beautiful skies, and a trend toward milder, warmer air through the week. By next week end they are calling for a little rain and snow here, which is perfect. As  long as it's not too much! It is wild winter Steelhead season here now!

 A very helpful Blog link for travel and trip planning is written by my favorite weather Guru- Dr Cliff Mass, at the University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences dept. If you look at his page you will see updates, on a regular, frequent basis, as to any significant weather changes. And each week there is much to learn as he shares some lessons on many aspects of meteorology. Dr Mass is widely considered to be one of the best and most qualified sources for accurate information regarding our weather. He also wrote a great book a few years ago: "The Weather of The Pacific Northwest". This weekend he is warning us about very cold conditions at ground level, and how we can avoid driving on black ice, or at least be prepared for it. In this weeks blog he also shares a useful travel safety tool, provided by the U.W., called SNOWWATCH, which displays real time data on freezing temperatures at the road and bridge surfaces- This is critical information for winter driving. The thermometer readout on your car is not this accurate! On that page the screen shows two options, one for the Seattle Greater Metro area, and one for Full Domain, which shows the entire western region, including the peninsula.

 Along with all of your other preparations, play it safe with your driving. We are in a maritime environment here, and often we get fog, freezing fog, and ice on our roads during these dry cold periods. Plan for a little extra time to drive now, take it easy. It's supposed to be fun.

Here is the link: Dr Cliff Mass weather blog.

I also like the statewide travel advisories offered by Washington State Dept of Transportation.

(These above links are nice to have bookmarked on your smartphone now too.)

  I expect that our river flows will continue to drop now here this week. And so I am going to be sure to plan for a range of variable flows and depths in just about any of the many locations that we fish. Each winter high water event that occurs here has the potential to rearrange some parts of the rivers, some reaches more than others. So as these flows recede we often find new structure, eroded gravel filled shallows and scoured depths, log jams etc., where once it had been very different. Much of my work is spent on scouting these things frequently every winter. This is also a reason why I suggest that fly fishermen bring multi tip line and head systems, with a full spread of the available sink tip and floating head sections, usually provided in some kind of wallet by the makers. For either Spey, Skagit style, Switch or single handed casters, I always recommend RIO Products fly lines, tips, heads, running line, leaders and materials. The quality and suitability of RIO products is unparalleled in this kind fly fishing opportunity. And these materials were developed and tested in some of the toughest winter Steelhead conditions that our region has to offer. If you check out their website you will see that they can help you match up your rod and your fishing to the lines etc., that you need. And do not be afraid to call them- they are there to help. (You won't be talking to someone in India).

And speaking of ice, these are the kind of cold spells that can cause ice to form on your rod guides and lines etc. This can be very vexing and interferes with normal line handling and casting work all day at times. One good solution to this icing issue is offered by Loon Outdoors Try their paste antifreeze in these conditions and you will be very glad that you did: Stanley's Ice Off Paste. They do provide instructions.

My fly box will include a wide variety of weighted and non weighted flies, (even a few surface Muddlers, wakers and skaters),some brightly colored, some drab, and always, always- some purple and black flies; Speys. Marabours, Bunnies, Leeches, Intruders, Shank flies etc. I will have flies as small as size #6, and as large as size 1/0. More on flies very soon, with some pictures etc.

If you want to come winter Steelhead fly fishing here with me, now is the time to be booking your winter Steelhead fly fishing trip for late January February, March and April.

And please remember: Catch & Release, Fair Chase, Fly Fishing Only!                                                 

For details:

Bob Triggs

email: littlestoneflyfisher@mail.com

Toll free 866-793-3595

Facebook! Little Stone Flyfisher

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To Spey or Not To Spey...

To Spey Or Not To Spey...

 One of the more prominent questions that comes up every winter Steelhead season is: 

"Do I have to use a Spey rod or can I fish with my single handed rod.?"  

And my answer is always: "Yes!". 

 My own  introduction to fishing with the two handed salmon rod came one sunny autumn day in upstate New York, on the Salmon River, during an unexpectedly early and heavy run of King salmon that had caught just about everyone by surprise. I had  just that weekend arrived home from an Alaska guiding season and I was ready for some fishing time of my own. I knew that I was early for the fall run, but I expected to find a few early fish, as we did most years. And if I got there by Monday there wouldn't be any real number of fishermen on the water. But what I did not count on was that they had held a whitewater race weekend at the same time, and this meant releasing water from the dam at Altmar, to increase the river flows from a late summer trickle, rising to technical Class III through raging Class V+ flows. One of the racers was tragically lost that weekend. And they had closed down the dam release early to facilitate the search and rescue effort. So by the time I had gotten to the river at sunrise early that week, and worked my way on a trail downstream to a favorite run, the river was coming into perfect fishing shape. And there were King salmon everywhere! The huge release of cold water from the dam had acted to move the Kings upriver, almost a month early. And there were Coho in there with them, and even a few Steelhead.

 It was more than a little ironic to be standing knee deep in a river so teeming with running King salmon that they would panic and rush at my every movement, some of them crashing into me, making it nearly impossible to wade, and my seeing easily several fold more fish in that one morning than we had seen return for the entire King salmon run back on the river we fished in Alaska that season. But as a fisherman and Guide I had grown accustomed to irony. And I knew a good thing when I saw it too. At that time I was using my Sage RPLX nine weight, nine foot rod, the same one that I had used in Alaska for salmon, and on the Atlantic near shore waters for Striped Bass, Bluefish, Sea Trout, etc., my favorite rod. I found that using a moderate length leader, a smaller fly at size #6, and a floating line, my casts were very short and my presentations were brief and sweet. A big, deep, slow wet fly swing simply would not have worked. I could sight fish to these huge chrome looking fish. I caught a lot of fish that day. More than I had in Alaska all season. And my casting arm was wearing out, and I had tweaked my back hauling in those big Kings. That's when I found out that there is actually a medical term called "King Back", at least in that region. Something to do with badly irritated discs in the spine and strained muscles etc.  

 Just a few dozen yards downriver, and over on the other side, there was a man using a Spey rod. One of the very few anglers I saw there that day. A few things immediately stood out to me in this scene. He was very obviously good at it; his relaxed form, spare movements, effortless casts, artful line control, were all the hallmark of a good caster. And he calmly played the big salmon with a low diagonal rod angle, almost perpendicular to the river, easily leading the fish to the shallow water at the edge, where he would deftly slip the hook from their jaws and just let them swim away. This was impressive in it's simplicity. And though I had watched Spey casters before, and even been introduced to a few simple strokes by Andy Murray, Hardy Rodmakers World Champion Spey caster, when he visited the Catskill Flyfishing Center and Museum one spring, Spey casting was still something of a mystery to me. But there was something about the way that this man was casting so easily, with such command over the line and the fly, each cast landing so cleanly and deliberately that it was humbling to witness. 

 At the end of the afternoon, when I found myself sharing the hike back up to the parking lot with the Spey fisherman, I had a chance to ask him all about it. And by the time we made it back to the trucks he had convinced me of the utility of Spey casting for salmon and Steelhead. And like so many others before me, I went right home and ordered a Sage 9140 rod- a 14 foot, nine weight, four piece, medium action rod- and a Rio Windcutter spey line and backing. One thing I had learned from single handed fly rod fishing was that it was very easy to become very good at casting badly. At the end of fifteen years of self taught fly casting, I had reached the zenith of my mediocrity in casting skills and abilities.It had taken me several years of concerted effort to lose most of my deeply ingrained, bad casting errors, and I had not done it alone. Much to their credit, if not a testament to their sainthood and patience, FFF Master Instructors Floyd Franke and Joan Wulff had helped me to turn my fly casting and fishing life around, and they set me on a new course of adventure. It was not easy. It took a lot of practice, repeated sessions of correction and frustration, and I ate a lot of crow. I gave up most of a fishing season just working on my casting. But by then I was guiding and I wanted to become the best caster, and the best teacher, that I could.  (I was later certified in casting instruction by Joan Wulff, and I also became an FFF Certified Instructor myself.)  

 I didn't want to follow the same grim path in learning to Spey cast. I began seeking out instruction immediately after getting my new rod. I was fortunate to have found some very good and generous teachers in those first years, who helped me to set a solid foundation in the basics of the Spey cast right away. This enabled me to get into Spey fishing competently, quickly, and it made it a lot safer and more fun too. Of course there were some videos back then, not many but a few. Mel Krieger had a gracious way of conveying the Spey cast. And Dereck Brown's classic, Old English form, was perfect for my sensibilities, and for my slower action rod. And for a few years I favored that old school approach. There were a few teachers around who still taught those methods as well. 

 But through the 1990's, and well into the 21st century now, there were serious Spey casters and rod makers in the Pacific Northwest who were working to improve the tackle, the lines and the methods, in specializing the the two handed rods to our regional waters. The greatest fundamental change came with the advent of the Skagit Style of casting, which included the use of shorter and faster rods, typically around 13 feet, casting shorter and heavier line heads, and sink tips, with greater ease and efficiency. What began with a cadre of serious fishermen and guides who simply loved the life; who worked out the line designs by hand tying them themselves, by modifying the rods themselves, by working countless hours and years to create a better way, who did not care about making a dime on it all,  has become a major industry that extends to numerous manufacturers of fly lines, reels, rods etc. And over the last twenty years what had begun as a novelty- to Spey fish for Steelhead and salmon in the Pacific Northwest- has become the most widely accepted fly fishermen's method. No one thinks twice at summer salmon fishing on the Puget Sound beaches today with a two handed rod. 

  Using the two handed rods we can cover the same water, and indeed more water, as any single hand rod caster can, with greater ease and efficiency. I am now especially fond of the shorter and faster Skagit rods and lines, now available in a stunning range of options. The line control is easier with these rods, and the work is divided between two hands all day, with fewer issues of fatigue or stress. If you are casting properly you should not be sore or injured. Two handed rod casting makes this less of an issue- if you are doing it correctly. Once you get the basics of spey and Skagit casting under your belt, you can grow in this game at your own pace. And don't miss a chance to try the Switch rods too! The opportunities to find good quality instruction are now widespread. And there are numerous gatherings of these casters, called Spey Claves, around the country. Manufacturers representatives, fly shops, instructors and casters gather at these events, most of them free, some of them are now huge multi-day affairs, to share equipment, ideas, techniques and fellowship. 

So there is no reason to miss out on learning how to use these rods, to get solid instruction, and to have an opportunity to thoroughly try any rod and reel and line combination you may be interested in. Spey fishing has turned out to be far more fun than almost anyone knew it would become 20 years ago here, and all over North America. You can't visit a B.C. Canada Steelhead river and not see Spey fishermen everywhere you go. likewise, on the Atlantic Coast, from Cape Hatteras to Montauk, to Cape Cod, Martha's Vinyard and Nantucket, Spey fishermen are using these rods on the surf thrashed beaches to successfully fish for Striped Bass, Bluefish, Bonito, Albacore etc. And of long standing tradition, the Atlantic Salmon fishermen of the Atlantic maritime provinces of Canada have used the Two handed salmon rods. 

 So again I say "Yes"! By all means, bring your single handed rods if you like. And if you want to try Spey casting, or Skagit casting, and exploring this uniquely simple and effective method on our Steelhead and Salmon rivers, I welcome you!

  Mid January marks the beginning of the wild winter run Steelhead season here on the Olympic Peninsula, though there have always been quite a few caught through the earlier winter season every year. February and March are famously considered to be "the heart of the run" here. These are the prime months for your wild winter Steelhead fly fishing opportunity. I will be guiding fly fishermen only, Fair Chase, Catch & Release Only, through the season. We walk and wade on the Olympic Peninsula  coastal rivers and streams. Advance reservations are required. 

Contact me for further details. 

Bob Triggs

Email: littlestoneflyfisher@mail.com 

Phone: 360-385-9618 

Toll Free: 866-793-3595

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