Thursday, October 17, 2019

Muddler Season

A nice sea-run cutthroat trout took my Muddler fly.

   Ordinarily I start tying my autumn muddler flies around the first week of September. But this year I was busy, so I am trying to get caught up on them now. We've been getting some crummy weather here, so there's enough time. I tie them on traditional salmon style hooks, with an upturned eye, simply because I like the way that they look. I use the TMC 7989 ("light weight dry fly") in #6 and #8, and the Gamakatsu Traditional Series T-10 6H (heavier) and 3H (lighter) in #6 and #8.  I use the smaller hooks for sea-run coastal cutthroat trout fishing on the saltchuck. From around mid September through November, the big October Caddis hatch is on out here on the Olympic Peninsula rivers. And I like the muddler for that fishing. Last Monday we had a nice mild day here, and in the afternoon I was out in the dory, fishing with a friend, and we saw a big fluffy caddis fly on the saltchuck, in shallow water. It was skittering along on and just above the surface, the same way they do in the rivers. If you're fishing on the saltchuck, near the streams, you might see this. 

Surface skating muddler flies.

I don't tie enough of these flies, often enough, to get good at them. Each one is different from the next, they are not consistent. I guess I could work at that and get there with more uniformity. But I do like all of the little variations that each one features. The fish seem to like them too. 
On the Gamakatsu T-10 6H hooks these muddlers 

get down beneath the surface right away.

     I like fishing the muddlers creatively, using  a variety of presentations and tactics. Sometimes I let them swing and swim like a little baitfish. Other times I will skate them on the surface, letting them skip and skitter along like a big caddis fly. I can cast them upstream and let them drift on the surface, and swing them out to a hang downstream, and jig them there a little before retrieving them. Most of the time I like to give these flies plenty of action, no matter what I am fishing for.

My own Hoh River Steelhead Caddis muddler.
    One spring morning I was walking on a Hoh river trail and came upon a bedding area where the elk had spent the night. There was elk hair rubbed off all over the place. I gathered some up and took it home. It turned out to be a nice color match for the October Caddis we see there in the fall. (I use  Arizona Sparkle Dubbing Skip's October Caddis #21 for the body.) This is my steelhead caddis fly. I tie these on the lighter weight TMC 7989 dry fly hooks so they skate on the surface nicely. Sometimes I grease them. Sometimes I don't. Once they get soaking wet they get under the surface a little. The secret to this fly is to keep the elk hair wing very sparse. Dry line steelhead and cutthroat fishing!

     We are getting some much needed rain here now. The Early half of October was uncommonly dry, and the rivers were too low to fish. And now the rivers are getting some seriously good flows, and a bit too high to fish in most west-end Olympic Peninsula locations. But the saltchuck has been great between big windy blasts. Yesterday was our first big wind storm here. And it was howling. Speaking of wind and waves. When these big season changing winds do come, usually out of the southwest quadrant, you can sometimes see how the wind will push bait downwind toward a lee shore.The bait can be found milling about in the surf, and right up onto the beach sometimes.

    A few days ago when this recent blow was building up in the morning, it was hitting 15 to  25+ knots and pushing some steep waves. I walked out of the coffee shop and saw hundreds of gulls all bunched up near the beach, facing into the wind, riding the waves, and feeding on the  sandlance, that were teeming in the shallow water near shore by the thousands. Lake fishermen know to fish downwind on the drift. The bugs will eventually end up on the downwind end of the lake. The same can be true of the bait on the beaches. If you can get into a small boat, and row in manageable conditions, you can work along a stretch of beach this way, just like the ghillies do on the U.K. lochs- casting and  drifting down on the bait- casting as you go. Then when you get too close to shore to cast anymore, you row back upwind and move over a few yards, and drift and cast your way back downwind to shore again. It's nice when you have a friend do the rowing. The cutthroat know where the bait are. You should too. I did this last week myself, in the dory alone, in a steady 10+ knot wind and chop, and I found a really nice 18 inch cutthroat waiting for me close to shore in surprisingly shallow water. Pay attention to the big wind changes, and the winds that last for days. That can really move the bait around.

Gulls feeding on a lee shore.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Equinox Winterish, and #dozenfordorian

Leland latches onto an autumn coho. 

    The annual October weather shift seems to have come a few weeks earlier around western Washington this year. Our lovely stint of balmy days and cool nights has given way to a full-on cold and wet reminder that it's time to break out the wool sweaters, heavy socks and rain jackets. The rivers have been getting a good soaking, with many smaller waters running high and dirty weeks ahead of the usual first punch of rain we ordinarily expect. Our Olympic Peninsula rivers were running almost dry, so no one is complaining about this much needed life sustaining watery reprieve. And the salmon are taking advantage of these freshets to move up into the rivers to spawn. Reading Dr Cliff Mass' weather blog today was surprising. The forecast for the week to ten days ahead is looking more like early winter than the first day of fall. It will be interesting to see how this affects our fishing. I don't have a serious expectation either way. But these crisp days often bring us some of the best fishing of the season. So what of it feels more like December. And I'm still getting some ripe tomatoes from my little bucket garden. I am loving that sweet pungent air of autumn.
A sweet autumn sea-run.

    Coho fishing from the beaches here in Marine Area #9 has been uneventful most of the season. Even the cut-plug herring fishermen were lamenting the long wait between too few fish. We barely saw any pink salmon. The big winds and rains that hit here in the last few weeks seems to have stirred the salmon up a bit though, And the catch rate went back up to its more usual disappointing level right away. We've got 8 days of season left here. So there's always a chance to get out there one last time. Hot thermos, Whiskey and cigars optional. And I am going to get out to the rivers for some fall dry-line cutthroat trout fishing. The October Caddis will be hatching now, so it's time for the Muddlers, Steelhead Caddis, Yak Caddis, and Hornbergs again. The colder mountain weather should help moderate river flows over the next week or more too. I'm liking it already!

A Helping hand.
     Most of you know that the Bahamas region was devastated by Hurricane Dorian a few weeks ago, The impacts have been catastrophic for most of the residents. And many of them are employed by the lodge and guiding industry there. Some of them have been completely wiped out of homes, boats, clothing and personal belongings, etc. They are threadbare. Some have lost family members. Many have been injured. The tragedy is widespread. Among many relief efforts is the Yellow Dog Community & Conservation Foundation. And there is a widespread effort coming from the fly fishing community worldwide to support this cause. All of this is inspiring to see.

    For my own part, I picked up on Josh Mills admirable offer to tie and auction off a few dozen flies for the Yellow Dog fundraiser. I have also donated a few fly fishing trips to the auctions. All of that was snapped up quickly. The widespread  response by fly tiers, guides, outfitters, shops etc., to Josh's simple and direct project, has been wonderful to witness and participate in. And it is still growing. Just look up the hashtag and see for yourself: #dozenfordorian

 And here's a little more background news:

Today Josh Mills ( @millsfly on Instagram ) announced a kind of final call for donations of flies etc for the cause. (I for one do not believe that this will close any time soon. Were having too much fun!) And I still have  some time to give for this effort. We're trying to eclipse the $40,000 threshold. Saturday 9/28 update. Today #dozenfordorian broke through the $40,000.00 goal for this relief fundraiser. And we're still pushing. I still have hooks and feathers, and my arms haven't fallen off yet. So I am just going to keep it up here.

This is a sweet ride.

So, for readers of my blog I am going to repeat my offer: 

    I am offering a full day of personally guided catch & release fly fishing on the saltchuck for sea-run coastal cutthroat trout. We'll spend the day in my beautifully restored classic wooden Swampscott Dory, casting along the shorelines for these beautiful wild trout. Some of our day will be spent walk and wade fishing too in some locations. Your day will also include receiving a selection of a dozen or more of my own hand tied sea-run cutthroat flies. I will provide a personalized picnic lunch and soft beverages. I'll even give you a nice cigar. This offer is for one angler only. Washington saltwater fishing license required. Weather permitting. (Cancellations will be re-booked for another available date.) Advance reservation required.  This autumn season is ripe for this fishing. lets get together and have  great time while we're supporting some good people in dire and immediate need. 

Auction update as of 9/30 6:00 p.m.

Congratulations to auction winner Jeff Norman!!!
He won with a top bid of $300.00

Thank you Jeff!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Autumn is whispering in our ear.

Evening row on Kilisut Harbor.

Read all about the Kilisut Harbor salmon restoration project here: 
    There's been some sweet relief from the summer heat around here, as we have gotten a few cooler and wetter days mixed in lately. It's feeling more like the end of September than the 1st of September. And somehow, despite our being some 6 inches behind for rainfall this water year here, we did not get the heavy, acrid forest fire smoke that we have had in  recent seasons. The rivers were low all summer, and they're still pitifully low. Hopefully we'll get some more rain before the October Caddis hatches begin in a few weeks. It's kind'a hard to skate big dry flies across bare rocks and gravel. But you can still find a few sweet spots with cooler water to play with. You'll do better out here hiking and wading this time of year too. Otherwise you'll be dragging your boat or raft across one dry exposed gravel bar after another all day.

   Right now I think you'll have your best opportunities for fly fishing success on the saltchuck. I have a few friends who have been catching some nice sea-run cutthroat out there. And there's a few coho and pink salmon reported being caught around here too now. (You guys are killing me with these pictures!!)  It is not surprising that it's been slow for salmon. But September has always been way better around here for coho and pink salmon fishing anyway. If we let them spawn we will have more fish. That's not the only factor affecting abundance. But it is the final factor - after everything else that we do know, and don't know about what is happening to them.  

Marty Leith's beautiful sea-run cutthroat.

   It hasn't been a very busy fishing season for me personally, as I have been sidetracked with an nagging arm injury from last spring, which made it impossible to row the dory or fly cast for over eight weeks. It's only in the last few weeks that I have been gingerly getting back to it. Taking a long healing break from fly fishing and casting, once you do go back to it- you feel like you're starting all over again. So I am working back into it all carefully. I never really planned on being this old, much less being this beat up, so it's all a lesson. Yogi Berra once said: "If you don't know where you're going, you won't know when you get there."  So now that I am almost dead, I'm trying to take better care of myself. This long break from guiding has been strange indeed.

   I am still offering fly casting instruction. I do this in two-hour sessions.  Offering instruction for beginners through advanced casters, one or two students at a time generally. Though I do sometimes offer group classes and presentations. I have over 20 years of fly casting teaching experience. I was certified by the original F.F.F. Certified Casting Instructor program in 2000. And I also trained under Joan Wulff, and I was certified by Joan at her Casting Instructor School in 1999. You can contact me for booking details.

I also offer public presentations on fly fishing, fly tying, fly casting, and related conservation topics, for groups, fly clubs, educational programs, civic groups, etc. I am also offering public readings of my personal writings, essays, poetry etc., on the fly fishing life. These presentations are perfect for fly fishing club gatherings, outings, dinner meetings etc. We can adapt the readings duration to accommodate any reasonable schedule.

     I am wishing you a great end of summer season!

Bob Triggs
Little Stone Flyfisher