Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Winter's Early!

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


     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: 

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:
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

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

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