Friday, March 22, 2013

Cold Is Good!

Cold Is Good!
 By this first week of spring every year most of us are praying for warmer, sunnier weather. After so many weeks of scattered storms and warm rain events, and losing fishing days to high water, we are finally getting a serious cold snap that has the river gauges plummeting into reasonable numbers that represent some days of good fishing conditions ahead. It is snowing here as I write this, on the third day of spring. And the Sol Duc is turning that deep, jade green color again now too. Very little precipitation ahead in the short term forecast, and freezing levels at or below 1000 feet. After the last spike in flows this is one of those times when you want to be there- for the pregnant possibility of ocean bright wild fish that have taken the express ride up the rivers, unfettered by boats and nets in the higher flows. So we'll bundle up, stay warm, and go steelhead fishing.

Counting Spawning Coho (late December)

 Here is Dr Cliff Mass recent blog on this cold event:

 Dr Cliff Mass Pacific Northwest Weather Blog  This is a good page to be aware of as he posts interesting stuff on our regional weather, and he tries to keep up with significant events as they occur.

 The later we get these cold weather periods in spring time the better our snow pack will be in the mountains all summer. We get some prolonged dry weather here, often the driest place in the country each summer. It is kind of ironic considering that the Olympics get some 140-180 inches of precipitation every year. This new snow and ice in the higher elevations is vital to spring spawners, cutthroat and steelhead and salmon redds, and just about everything else. Adding energy and life to river flows well into late summer.

 There has been some light insect hatching activity observed on occasion, blue winged olives mostly, some smaller stone flies, and quite a few crane flies at times. And even out here on the Olympic Peninsula we see some skwalas each spring. It wont be long before we see the cutthroat chasing them, once it warms up again that is. But I can wait for that day. We have fully a month of winter steelhead season ahead of us here now, and I can wait for cutthroat fishing until late April anyway. By then we'll be chasing them on the beaches again, as they converge to feed  on the chum salmon fry in the shallows. Right now I have that urgency of mind over the last weeks of winter steelhead season, which always comes too soon. Some winters are like that.

The Cutthroat are spawning here now.

 The water is cold here now, so your fly needs to be moving deep and slow. Line handling skills and reading the water will be the key. Sometimes you might need to mend your cast to slow down the fly. Other times you might need to keep a fairly tight line to the fly throughout the swing. It all depends upon the flows that you are in at the moment. And around here each run has many changes in depth, speed, etc. You really do have to pay attention to depth and speed all day. Let that be the best part of the work. And it will be far more helpful, and enjoyable, if you allow yourself to cast comfortably, whatever range of distance you can handle, rather than stressing out over a perceived need to cast across the river on every presentation. Covering thoroughly, whatever water that you can, is by far the best strategy. You would be amazed at how much wasted time all of those extra casts and strokes can take up in a day.  And your fly needs to be in the water working, not zipping back and forth in the air all day.

 I do carry some of the big, ugly winter flies in my fly box, ones that have become so popular at this time of year here. But it does not hurt to have a few smaller flies too, down to size 6 and even size 8. You might hit a soft spot that will allow you a very light presentation, even before the flows have dropped significantly below the averages. I like the soft hackled flies and hair wing patterns for this. This time of year I am using #12 to #16 tippet as we do see some bruiser big fish in late winter. Sure, we could land a big fish on 10 pound test. But we do not want to over play or over stress these wild winter steelhead. We want to release them without avoidable injury, and allow them to spawn successfully. Learning how to play and land big fish on a fly rod takes time and experience. Be patient. Fly fishing is a life game, a practice, not a lottery payout. Still: " You can't win if you don't play."

Easter on the Sol Duc.

If you want to come, give me a call or an email. We need to plan it ahead of time. I will usually get back to you within a day. I am happy to help you make your plans for Olympic Peninsula winter steelhead fly fishing. We walk and wade on a few nice locations in a day, fishing them well and enjoying it thoroughly. We might fish on more than one river depending upon conditions. This is very easy to accomplish as we simply drive to a new location, often within minutes. Most of our rivers do have roads nearby. We fish on the swing, traditional fair chase fly fishing only; Catch & Release, Single Barbless Hook Fly, No indicators, No Bobbers, No added weights etc. If you want to make the commitment, I am willing to help you. Spey fishermen are especially welcome. Full support assured in any case, with over 33 years of fly fishing experience.

 Bob Triggs
 Telephone: 360-385-9618 / Intl Toll Free: 866-793-3595


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Saturday, March 16, 2013


 I took a drive over to the beach yesterday, I rigged up my rod with a new intermediate sink tip line, and I tied on a Chum Baby fly to try out on the incoming tide. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, with a soft and balmy southwest breeze coming in, and the water was in good shape. I was thinking about Doug Rose most of the time, remembering so many good moments and great shared conversations, and wishing that we had spent more time together, and that we had more time to share. I don't think that I will ever be able to fish a pacific northwest  beach without thinking of him now. I swung the fly in the current for a few hours, not catching anything, but thoroughly enjoying the warming sunlight and the sweet pungent smells of the rising tide as it pushed into the gravel shores and mudflats. That is a great sign of spring- the fresh smell of of the saltchuck coming to life beneath the warming sun under the mid-day low tides. Each tide ahead will bring a freshening energy of nutrients to our near shore and inter tidal areas, into the great pocket estuaries and lagoons. You can feel it in the air- the great expectancy for the coming season of renewal, life and hope. I find myself clinging to Doug's wise admonition- that we remember to seek Grace in our time on the water. In my own experience, you can not find it by seeking. You have to be open to it. And when it comes, it is a memory of something True that was always there. And you find yourself wondering how the hell you ever missed that.

Tying Chum Baby flies on the steering wheel vise

 Wading the shallow edges I poked around along the way, turning over shells and debris and seaweed, looking at the myriad lives emerging into the season. There were plenty of starfish, sculpin, snails, crabs, shrimp, squirting clams, midges and gnats, and the birds are everywhere. I have known 13 generations of eagles here. Wading way back in the big lagoon I saw no Chum salmon fry yet. But they will be here soon. And no doubt there could be a few that I simply missed. I see them dropping out of the Hood Canal rivers as early as the first week or so of March. And I have a hunch that after milder winters, like this one, when we have had so much more sunlight, they may get out of the smaller waters a bit earlier. One advantage to living here is that during winter steelhead season, between the storms and spates, when my spey fishing river trips are on hold, I can walk these Olympic Mountain Rainshadow beaches, often in remarkably calm and relatively dry weather. Doug and I have swapped stories on the good sea runs that we have caught in the dead of winter this way.

Between Tides

 Everywhere I went yesterday were the signs of recent winter storms that change everything each year; New logs drifted in and settled  as older logs were carried away on high water, large drifts of stone, gravel and sand have overturned in the crashing waves and currents of the strong southwesterly blasts, reshaping the shoreline, revealing new patches of peat layers, filling in the deep places and scouring out the shallows. Every spring the beaches here change, creating new flows and new fishing opportunities. I like to walk the beaches at the lowest water, during the incoming tide, and find the nuances to these often subtle changes. The fish will find them all too. It is impressive how little a change in the topography of these beaches can lead to an entirely new approach to our fishing all summer and fall.

 The last time that I saw Doug was on this beach last fall. We sat on a great old weathered beach log and talked a while. We shared a mutual passion for this vast wild place, and for the fish, and the fly fishing, the history and the people, and so much more. And likewise we agreed on the observation that our regional wild fish management policies were significantly behind the times. One thing that Doug did not do was hold back when it came to his acerbic observations on the ironies of how our wild fish are "being loved to death now", even by the "fly fishing industry". As much as he was at the core of the celebrity life of professional fly fishing, and his seriously qualified authorship of so many widely read works, he thoroughly disdained the hype. Doug's life here encompassed a great breadth of involvement and experience on many levels. His enthusiasm was inspiring. His contributions to our lives here will be felt forever.

 When I first came here to live, Doug was one of the few fishermen to welcome me and to so generously share his appreciation and experience of fly fishing here with me. And in the ensuing years, as I grew in my own experiences here, we were always trading ideas on fly fishing, especially for sea runs; sharing observations on seasonal shifts, forage, flies, and more- all of that nitty-gritty stuff that keeps fly fishermen awake at night. It seems that all of our friendship was spent in brief stints of intense conversation. There was always a sense of urgency, that we had so much to share and hear between us, and just a little time to do it. We were usually both busy. Even when he was guiding on these same waters, or leading a small group outing, he always made time to stop and connect with me. And sometimes we quickly worked out the immediate etiquette of guiding our fishermen together, in the same place, with never a hitch. Doug had a very solid way of being, with integrity, and depth. He valued the simple things, and worked within the deeper things as well. No one has done a better job of lassoing the Olympic Peninsula fly fishing experience than he has- through his decades of adventurous angling, his many books, articles and essays, and his impressive blog.

 Doug Rose was our brother angler. And he was our great Champion of the wild waters and wild fish here, and a strident voice for ethical management and wise stewardship. If you have not read him, get started now- his words have a forever living soul:

New Life

 And the more that I think about it now, It seems like most of our best conversations were held right there on the very same beach. Sometimes we were fishing. Sometimes we were just being there. So many good words and thoughts, laughter and musing. That log that is so good for sitting and sharing has not moved, despite having been pounded by over a decade of winter storms. Maybe you too will find your way out to that beach one day, just to sit in the sun and remember Doug. And if you love the wild fish and bright waters as we do, you will be welcome here anytime. Gratitude.

Bob Triggs
Little Stone Flyfisher
On Facebook: Little Stone Flyfisher- Guide

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Doug Rose Has Died

 This is likely one of the harder notes I have to write here. Good friend and mentor, Author and Guide, our champion of wild fish and bright waters- Doug  Rose has died after a brief illness. I need a little time to digest all of this. And I will share some thoughts and feelings of Doug's friendship and generous spirit here soon. For now I will say that the outstanding impression that I have always had of Doug Rose was that he sought Grace in all things. I will miss his frequent blog postings and fishing reports, and his articles on the fishing, natural history and lore of this region. And I will especially miss seeing him on our waters. You can read Doug's many blog offerings on his website at :

Sunday, March 3, 2013

It's Chum Baby Time!!!

Little Stone's Chum Baby

 Chum Baby flies are Now available at the

Orvis Bellevue Fly Shop.

 This fly has become a very well known, popular and successful pattern for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout fly fishing on Puget Sound regional waters and beyond. I worked this fly up over several seasons of trial and error on my local beaches. After catching many sea runs on it from late winter through early summer, from the north Olympic Peninsula and Admiralty Inlet to the Hood Canal beaches, I knew it was a winner. I originally intended the Chum Baby as an imitation of our out migrating juvenile Chum salmon, which are plentiful here along the shallow and warmer near shore areas, pocket lagoons and estuaries in early spring, and the trout eat them aggressively.

 What has come as a happy surprise is how well this fly can work at other times of year here, even when there are no Chum salmon fry around. And I use it in our rivers and streams too. Even in the fall. Some people are using this fly on the Skagit system for Dolly Varden in the spring  And now many of my fly angling friends and fellow guides are using this as an all-around fry pattern; in Alaska for Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Char and Grayling, and on the Atlantic Coast for "Coaster" Brook Trout and Striped Bass. We are also using them on Snook, Redfish and Sea trout down south. This has been a very fun thing to watch evolving. And sometimes we need to remember that this whole fly fishing thing is supposed to be fun.

 The Chum Baby fly can be presented using a wet fly swing, dead drift, cast and strip, fast, slow, shallow or deep- as needed. One thing that you will notice about it is that the wing really lights up under water with even a small amount of sunlight. And the sparser you tie them the better this works. Juvenile salmon and other forage fish are not opaque underwater, they are semi transparent. The distinct dark peacock herl collar on this fly is meant to emulate the eye of  a chum fry. The glittering tinsel body is to imitate the gut and the two crystal flash strips represent the lateral line. The barring of the natural Fox Squirrel tail wing seems to work very well, even though most of the Chum salmon fry and older juveniles you see will be subtler in color, spotted, and usually more on the green, olive brown side. The peacock herl topping is simply because I am old fashioned, and I try to include some of the more traditional features of old world patterns in my flies. All in an impressionistic effort. Strictly speaking we can call this fly an "attractor" pattern.

 I tie them sparsely in the early spring, March and April, at under two inches long overall. By May and June I tie them much longer, and with a larger bead. They can be tied with a smaller hook, size # 8 or #10, and with a much smaller wing etc. But if I am tying it larger I do not increase the hook size above #6 as we are trying to avoid injury to these precious wild trout. I like these medium shank length hooks as we tend to get good hook ups, with only very rarely any deep hooking or tongue injuries this way.

 The Chum Baby Challenge! Every year for some years running since I created it, I have shared this fly with my fishing guests and friends. And I make this offer: Take this fly and fish with it- wherever you go, whatever you fish for. And take some pictures of these fish. Send me the pictures, with your information and fishing story. Each new species caught gets entered into the annual Chum Baby Challenge. And at the end of the year I draw from those names, and  the winner gets a box of my own hand tied flies. And I will post the picture and your story here at the end of the year.

 If you want to tie your own Chum Baby flies, and if you would like to have a tying recipe and model flies to begin with:

Send me $5.00 and a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope, and I will send you back two original Chum Baby flies, hand tied by myself- one early season fly and one later season fly- along with a tying instruction page that you can work from to tie your own. And if you would like me to send you an email version of the tying instructions please include your email address as well. Print all neatly and clearly.

Send To:

Bob Triggs
P.O. Box 261
Port Townsend, Wa

 Time to start tying our spring sea run Cutthroat flies! I can taste the salt already. More of my original fly patterns will be shared here soon.

For trip information contact:

Bob Triggs

Phone: 360-385-9618 / International Toll free: 866-793-3595


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Friday, March 1, 2013

Short and Sweet: Too Warm, Too Wet

Pineapple Express

This most recent incoming south Pacific "Pineapple Express" slammed through here over the last 24 hours, nudging into the Olympic Mountains on it's way to Vancouver Island and B.C., and spanked us with plenty of warm rain. This has affected all of our Olympic Peninsula coastal rivers and left us with dirty and high flows, and no immediate fishing plans for a little while as we wait for colder temperatures in the lower elevations to return. For your interest and toward a better understanding of how these things work, here below is a link to Dr Cliff Mass's blog and his comments on this unusually strong and sudden event. I will be tying flies for now. Maybe we will be fishing again later next week. Stay tuned.