About this blog

This blog is all about fly fishing for native trout. On it I cover trip reports, fishing tactics, conservation, the latest news about native trout species and much more. This site provides a companion to my web page Nativetroutflyfishing.com.

Gary

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

After work outing

With things settling down a bit here in Washington after a crazy spring, I have had a bit more time to get out for some after work outings. One thing that has been nice with moving to Olympia for me besides being much closer to work, is that I am also much closer to a number of fishing spots ranging from beaches to mountain and coastal streams. Yesterday I had the opportunity to fish a nearby stream after work. I had a dry dropper set up to try, but the just wasn't any surface activity going on so I decided to prospect with a small streamer that has worked well for coastal cutthroat for me in the past. While I did have a few hits with the streamer while working through some likely runs, it wasn't until I got to the last hole of the day that it actually produced with a solid take. The fish has some serious power behind it, putting a serious bend in my fly rod and staying deep right until the very end. Once the fish came up to the net I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a nice bull trout coming in at about 17". Not bad for a quick evening outing.

A nice evening bull trout

Friday, June 12, 2020

Fishing the New Home Stream

Last year my family and to be closer to our jobs and after a busy first year getting settled and all of the craziness with the pandemic this spring I have finally had some time to start exploring one of my new home streams a bit more. Prior to moving I had fished this stream a few times over the years and it supports a robust native population of stream resident coastal cutthroat. However, now I am able to spend a bit more time exploring it and took a couple of hours in the evening to ply its waters with my 2wt and a trusty royal pmx and lightning bug dropper rig.

The stream

The stream is largely rain driven, meaning that it comes into shape much sooner than most other watersheds in the area. When I arrived there were a few caddis and pmd spinners around, but based on my past experience the fish here have not been to picky and attractors usually do the job. This time was no different it didn't take long to find some nice little cutthroat. The first one I got was a little female with a spawning scar tail and was a bit greedy and took both the dry and the dropper. 

A greedy like female cutthroat

Not to far upstream I landed my fish of the evening a nice chunky 12" native cutthroat on the pmx. 

The fish of the evening

All and all I worked about a 2/3 of mile of the stream and caught plenty of 6-8" cutthroat the one at 12" and lost one that was slightly better than that right at the net. Definitely a great evening on the new home stream and I am looking forward to many more.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Back on the Road Again: Native Redbands and Cutthroat of Eastern Oregon

With all of the changes that life has thrown my way over the last few years. For the first time in years I headed out on the road (along with my cousin Derek who has joined me on several other past trips) with some new native trout to target as well as some old ones to revisit. This trip was all revolving around the American Fisheries Society in Reno, Nevada at which I was presenting but I was able to add a couple of days on each side of the conference to target some native trout.  The main targets of the trip were the White River redband, John Day Westslope cutthroat, Willow-Whitehorse Basin cutthroat, Quinn River cutthroat, Eagle Lake rainbow trout and possibly some McCloud River redband trout.

Day 1: Friday September 27th 2019: Derek and I hit the road bright and early, heading south from my home in Olympia, Washington towards the White River watershed in north-central Oregon. The White River flows from the glaciers of Mt. Hood into the of the Deschutes River just downstream of Maupin, OR.  While the Deschutes River holds Columbia Basin redband trout, the redband trout found above a series of waterfalls on the White River are genetically distinct from fish in the Deschutes and identify more closely to Fort Rock redbands in the Great Basin, with recent studies indicating that they likely warrant a subspecies designation. As the White River is glacially fed it has very poor visibility so I selected a couple of tributary streams to fish for these trout. Unfortunately when we arrived the first of these streams had no public access on the lower end and the flows on the second stream were so low that we could not find any holding water and only managed to rise one small fish. Luckily we were able to find a small irrigation impoundment on the second stream that offered some great looking holding water.
The irrigation pond

This spot called for beaver pond tactics, so Derek and I tied on some zug bugs and started fishing. Letting the zug bugs sink for several seconds and retrieving them with short twitches proved quite effective and in short order I had caught a a few beautiful redbands including a10" beauty.
A White River redband trout

While we were successful on our first fish of the day, it took longer than planned and we still had a long drive to the upper John Day River for westslope cutthroat and it looked like with the shorter days of fall every minute of daylight was going to count.
The middle John Day River from the road

We arrived at the stream with about an hour of daylight to spare and got to fishing with a dry dropper rig right away. We were able to locate a good piece of holding water almost right away, and on one of the first cast I hooked a fish. Could it be that easy? Unfortunately not, it turned out the fish was a small Columbia Basin redband - likely a juvenile steelhead and the next fish out of the hole also turned out to be a redband.
A small redband from the stream

After the second fish, the hole shut down so we started heading downstream. Unfortunately it seemed that this stream was lacking in good holding water and while we found a couple more small redbands and a juvenile Chinook, there was no sign of any cutthroat nor any water that was likely to hold them. After trudging downstream close to a half mile and watching the daylight fade, I finally came across a great looking piece of holding water where a tributary entered the stream. However while the first spot had produced fish right away, this spot which looked even better showed no sign of life. After a number of a great drifts through every inch of the hole, I crept closer for a better look. Right where I figured a trout should be holding, there was a nice summer run steelhead, which also saw me and decided it was time to head for cover.
Steelhead holding water

At this point the daylight was fading fast and it was time to head back upstream. While it seemed that I was going to have to admit defeat on the John Day cutthroat, I figured a couple more casts in the first spot I tried wouldn't hurt. On the second cast I was rewarded with a rise and after solid hookup and after a short fight I brought a nice little John Day cutthroat to hand!
A John Day westslope cutthroat

By the time I let the cutthroat go, it was clear that there wasn't enough light to continue fish so we hit the road for Burns, Oregon where we were staying the night.

Day 2: Saturday September 28th 2019: Overnight a cold front had blown in an we woke to a frosty morning in Burns with the possibility or rain and snow in the forecast. Our goal for the day was to fish for Willow-Whitehorse cutthroat in southeastern Oregon before crossing to border into Nevada and trying for Quinn River cutthroat. I had fished for and caught Willow-Whitehorse cutthroat in 2006 (over 13 years ago already - yikes!), but fire had ravaged the area in 2012 and I wanted to return and see how it was looking and if I could find a few trout. By the time we got to the stream it was mid-morning and the temperature had warmed to the mid 40's F although a stiff wind was blowing. Luckily the fire had missed this stretch of stream and looked almost exactly how I remembered, so it was time to look for some trout.
Desert cutthroat water

Looking for trout didn't take too long, and the first spot that I came to, the outflow a beaver pond produced two nice Willow-Whitehorse basin cutthroat.
 Willow-Whitehorse basin cutthroat

Just like the last time that I had been to this stream a dry dropper rig with a black copper john appeared to be the ticket. We fished up and down the stream for a couple hours, running into on lethargic rattlesnake and catching a bunch more cutthroat in the 6-10" range before the weather started to turn on us, with snow clouds visible on the hills just a few miles off and it was time to hit the road again.
The rattlesnake
Another Willow-Whitehorse cutthroat

While we were doing to just fine on daylight this time, the weather was whole other matter was turning fast. By the time that we hit the Nevada border, it was snowing in earnest and the Quinn River cutthroat which was up in the mountains was going to have to wait for another trip, so we headed on for Winnemuca, NV to grab a hotel for the night.
Snowed out of for the day

Day 3: Sunday September 29th 2019: With a good coat of snow on all of the hills around Winnemuca in the morning there was no way we were going to have any luck fishing so we headed for Reno, NV for the conference.

Day 4: Monday September 30 - Day 7: Thursday: October 3rd 2019: These days were all spent at the conference. Lots of great talks!
Also picked up a new book at the conference

Day 8: Friday October 4th 2019: We got up in the morning and made the drive out to Eagle Lake, California to try for Eagle Lake Rainbow trout. We were still a bit early as the trout are known to move into the shallows in mid-October as the water cools, however I was hoping that recent cold front might have done the trick.This proved to be wishful thinking. We fished for the better part the day, trying everything we could think of, from casting into the tules to trolling flies deep. However, we only saw one fish rise and may have had one soft take but other than that lots and lots of fruitless casting.
Eagle Lake, California
Fishing Eagle Lake
The Eagle Lake Rainbow had been the fish I was most keen on getting on this trip as I have had a number of potential trips planned over the years but had never been able to make it happen. Hopefully I will be able to make another try at the Eagle Lake rainbow next spring, but regardless it is always hard getting skunked on a trout so far from home. After trying Eagle, we headed north towards home and ended up camping on a McCloud River redband stream near the slopes of Mount Shasta that I had fished back in 2007. We got camp set up right before dark and temperatures plummeted quickly on us dropping into the 20's F and proving to be one chilly night in a tent.

Day 9: Saturday October 5th 2019: It was quite chilly in the morning, but the sun was out and it warmed up rather quickly. Once it was warm enough to feel our fingers, we got the rods rigged up and went to check out the creek. The last time that I had been to this stream, the fishing had been great, with every likely looking spot holding a trout. However, a lot can change in 12 years, and unfortunately for this stream those changes were not good. Upon checking out the stream, it was clear that cattle had been unleashed on the watershed and had done serious damage.
Cattle caused erosion

We covered more than double the water I had fished last time, but the habitat was absolutely destroyed, with caved in banks and erosion and we saw not a single sign of trout. 
Incised stream channels

I would be a miracle if we would have found a trout in this stream and as we had a long drive home still we decided that it was best to cut our losses and get on the road again. Along the way we stopped at Crater Lake National Park and had a nice quite drive back to Olympia. 
Crater Lake

All and all it was a great trip, with us getting 3 of the 6 fish that we had hoped to catch. Hopefully next year I will be able to get out again, as it felt great to get out for another native trout road trip after such a long time.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

5 Years in review

For the last five years, this blog has remained inactive due to a variety of reasons. During this period my wife and I started a family, I completed graduate school, started a new job and moved twice. Needless to say this has not left a lot of free time to pursue native trout. However, that does not mean that I have not made any outings over the last few years. As I made a one trip to the Rocky Mountains and two to Alaska, as well as a number of trips around Washington State. Given the long gap in activity, I may do some back posts to fill in the blanks for the last few years, but a few highlights are shown below.

I Wrapped up my thesis looking at steelhead and rainbow trout interactions on the Olympic Peninsula, with a particular focus on food-web dynamics in above and below barrier populations.

A rainbow trout diet sample from my Master's thesis work - it ate ~800 salmon eggs.

In 2015 I did a trip through the Northern Rockies to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and was able to get a little fishing in along the way.
A Yellowstone cutthroat from a 2015 trip Yellowstone National Park
 A beaver on a lake in Teton National Park
A Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat from the lake

In 2015 I also managed to make a trip to the Kenai Peninsula and got some fishing for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden.
 A Large Dolly Varden from the Kenai River.
Fishing the Kenai Peninsula
A sea-run Dolly Varden from the Kenai Peninsula

In 2018 I did another trip to Alaska with my sister, my niece and nephew and my daughter and tried a couple lakes from Taranets Char (Salvelinus alpinus taranetzi) unsuccessfully due to not being able to get through stocked rainbow trout to the char. However, I did have luck for rainbows and dollies on the Kenai once again.
 A Taranets Char Lake
Fishing with my daughter

I have started to update the website once again with more up to date information on native trout and salmon species and new pictures that I have available. Additionally, I also just completed a trip through Oregon, Nevada and California for White River Redband trout, John Day River Westslope cutthroat, Willow-Whitehorse Basin cutthroat, Eagle Lake Rainbow trout and McCloud River Redbands and will be adding details about the trip in the near future.



Saturday, September 8, 2018

End of Summer Alaska

After having to cancel a trip to Alaska in 2017, I was able to reschedule for late-August of 2018. This was more of a vacation than a fishing trip as my daughter and I were joining my sister (who had a conference to attend) and her two kids. However as much of the trip was taking place on the Kenai Peninsula I did have some time to get out fishing. The primary thing that I was hoping to do was catch my first Arctic char as the Kenai Peninsula has several lakes with the Taranets subspecies (Salvelinus alpinus taranetzi). However, getting some fishing in for some salmon, Dollies and Rainbows with Valerie was also in the plans.

The first spot that we hit was a little stream where the coho where running and it didn't take long to find a willing biter- one cast to be precise. However, with Valerie being just shy of her second birthday, we didn't spend to much time on the water as and instead redirected efforts to enjoying some streamside raspberries.

The Kenai River trib

A first cast coho and an excited Valerie

On our second day, I was able to break away for a bit and try my luck for the Arctic char. I knew from the start that this was going to be a long shot as these char usually hang out in the depths until early October, but as I was here I was going to try. 

The first spot I tried was Cooper Lake, which has a robust population of both Arctic char and rainbows. The conditions on the lake were beautiful and I did manage to get a couple of takes, but this was big water and I just couldn't connect with anything so I decided to relocate.

Cooper Lake

The second lake that I fished was much small and is known to have a decent char population. However, it was accidently stocked with rainbows destined for another lake a few years prior. This along with being shore bound proved to be the deal breaker with this lake. There were only a few spots along the shore where I could get a good cast in and every cast resulted in a 8" rainbow prior to the fly sinking deep enough to get down the to char. However, you couldn't ask for a more beautiful spot and if I can pull an October trip in the future - and bring a float tube, I think that this lake will be a good candidate for finding an Arctic char.

The Arctic char lake

The final spot that we were able to fish before having to leave the Kenai Peninsula was on the Kenai River. I had fished this same spot a couple of years prior and found it to be lights out. This time the flows were significantly higher and the river more crowded, however the sockeye were spawning and once I found a spot with some back cast room the fish were there just like before.

The Kenai


Spawning sockeye salmon

A spawned out salmon

The sockeye were in the river and starting to dig redds so I fished beads imitating sockeye eggs and just like my previous trip the first cast produced a nice fish.
 
A nice first cast rainbow - with a curious onlooker

After this first rainbow, the action did not slow down and I got a couple more smaller rainbows before I started getting into a some nice Dolly Varden. These Dollies averaged 16-18" and while they didn't put on the same show of acrobatics that a rainbow might, were scrappy fighters.

An egg eating Dolly Varden

Another Dolly

A Dolly Varden starting to show its spawning colors

After couple of hours of fishing, it was time to call it quits and hopefully I will be able to schedule another trip to Alaska to check some more fish (2 subspecies of Arctic char; Northern Dolly Varden and Lake Trout) off the native trout list in the future.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Long overdue update - fishing for science



The last few years for me have been marked by some of the best and busiest times of my life. During this time, I finally started my career as a fisheries biologist for the Washington Department of Wildlife, met my wonderful wife and started Graduate School at the University of Washington. To a large extent fishing has taken a back seat during this time, as has my search for native trout. However this is not to say that I haven't been working with fish. Since starting my Masters degree program, I have been very involved with native trout and currently I am right in the midst of a project looking at the interactions between native coastal rainbow trout and steelhead. As these are two life history forms of the same species (Oncorhynchus mykiss), this will help to tease apart the relationship between these fish.
Research time
A native coastal rainbow for the study

The project is occurring on two rivers Olympic Peninsula rivers that have seen precipitous declines in their steelhead returns in the last two decades, with lows in the 10's of fish (lowest years had 3 and 6 fish respectively). Due to this a restoration program was initiated 1998 (http://www.lltk.org/rebuilding-populations/hcsp/summary) leading to some improvements in steelhead abundance. While steelhead returns have been relatively low in the watershed, the resident rainbow trout population appears to be healthy, making unclear what role rainbow trout may play in the success of the restoration.
Study River A
Study River B
As both watersheds have natural waterfalls that bar all anadromous fish from the upper reaches where resident fish are the sole inhabitants, we are interested in a) if the these resident fish are passing downstream over the falls b) whether they still may have the ability to migrate out to sea and c) the food web interactions and growth patterns of fish both above and below the falls. To do so we are using a mark recapture study where we are catching fish via hook and line and electrofishing, tagging them with PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) Tags, which allow us to identify individual fish and detect fish at antenna arrays near the mouths of the rivers. This allows us to see who is staying and who is going.
At the PIT Tag Antenna Array
While tagging the fish we also collect a fin clip (for DNA analysis), a scale samples (to determine age and growth patterns), a diet sample (food web interactions) and length and weight.
Stream side sampling gear

I am aiming to wrap up work on this project in late spring of 2016, so updates will be forthcoming. Needless to say this post is long long overdue, and I hope to most more in the future.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back in Business...

To say that this past year has been busy is a major understatement and to say the least when compared to everything else in life, fishing and blogging for that matter dropped down the priority list. However after a long break in things I finally got back after some sea-run cutthroat at one of my favorite spots.
The estuary

I arrived at estuary at low tide, in hopes that the cutthroat would be pushing into the river mouth behind the salmon. As it would have it, while the salmon weren't moving in quite yet the cutthroat were waiting for them. I started out with a prawn pattern and within a couple of casts I got my first cutthroat, a chunky 12" trout that fought valiantly on my 6 weight. I spent a good half an hour in this spot and landed another three cutthroat before the fish seemed to wisen up. I decided to head upstream. I switched to my one of my ever dependable sea-run buggers on the way upstream and in the next hole up I missed another decent cutthroat, then hooked into an even nicer one that looked to be about 18" to 20". However I didn't get a very good hookset after a few jumps he got the better of me.

Salmon season is underway (spawned out summer chum)

As I got upstream the cutthroat were tucked along the undercut banks seemed pretty interested in the sea-run bugger. Even when they were already full of salmon smolts they were still couldn't help themselves, such as this beauty below.

Still hungry...
 Gotta love cutthroat, they just don't know when enough is enough

By the time I was working my way downstream, the tide was flooding in earnest and sure enough the salmons started pushing. Working my way down a side channel I would see a wake coming upstream toward me as a school of coho worked its way over a bar. I cast my sea-run bugger downstream and gave it a couple of twitches just in front of the school and as fate would have it, one of the coho broke away from the pack and grabbed my fly. This coho was big, and seemed to use its brute strength to its advantage make several good runs and putting my 6 wt to a real test before finally coming to hand. This definitely felt quite rewarding as last year I hooked 7 or so without landing a single one and the year before I went one for thirteen. One for one, not bad!

 My first coho in two years.

As luck would have it right as I got my fly out of this coho and got him on his way, another school pushed through the shallows. As fate would have it, the previous situation replayed itself, this time the coho was a little bit smaller, but what is was lacking in size it made up for in fight and put up quite an aerial display. Luckily I got a good hookset on it and after a few minutes of tug of war, I was able to bring the beautiful 26" buck in. With the tide in at this point the coho seemed to be done push and I needed to get out before being stranded. So I cut my losses (or gains) and got out while I still could.
2 for 2!! Great way to end the day!
Time to head home!