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

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Evergreen State Salmonid Slam

Washington State has twelve species/ subspecies of native salmonids. Over the last weekend I caught my the twelfth and final species of native salmonid that I hadn't yet encountered in Washington State

Pacific Salmon

All five species of Pacific salmon are native to Washington State.

Chinook Salmon: Puget Sound


Coho Salmon: Puget Sound

Chum Salmon: Puget Sound

Sockeye Salmon: Olympic Peninsula

Pink Salmon: Puget Sound

Rainbow Trout

Two subspecies of rainbow/ redband trout are native to the state of Washington.

Coastal Rainbow trout: Olympic Peninsula

Columbia Basin Redband: Yakima River watershed

Cutthroat Trout

There are two subspecies of these fish native to Washington.

Coastal Cutthroat: Puget Sound

Westslope Cutthroat: Yakima River watershed


Char

A lot of fish in Washington like to come in twos and as such there are two species of char native to Washington State, although genetic testing is typically needed to tell them apart. Southern Dolly Varden the rarer of the two are only found in the few isolated stream resident populations above barrier falls.

Bull Trout: Olympic Peninsula

Southern Dolly Varden: Olympic Peninsula

Other Salmonids

The only other salmonid native to Washington are the Mountain Whitefish, a close relative of trout, salmon and char.

Mountain Whitefish: Olympic Peninsula

Unfortunately unlike Wyoming and California, Washington does not have an official program to recognize anglers for catching the state's native salmonids. The next step of my quest in Washington would be to complete the Washington "Anadromous Challenge". In other words to catch all of the native salmonids in their anadromous form. To complete this I still need catch some coastal steelhead and Columbia basin redband steelhead and sea-run bull trout. I will have to save that one for another time though....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An Olympic Surprise

Finding myself with a little bit of free time, I made plans for an impromptu camping trip to the Olympic Mountains over Sunday and Monday with my dad and brother-in-law Mike. While just getting out and camping was a big part of the draw, the river flowing through the valley is what really had me interested. Especially since my last attempt at getting in some mountain stream fishing had failed so miserably.

Due to some prior obligations on Sunday, we got out of Gig Harbor later than I would have liked and didn't end up getting up to the campground till late-afternoon. After quickly setting up camp, Mike and I headed out to try some fishing. I had heard tell of some large rainbows, cutthroat in this drainage, as well as the off chance of running across a bull trout or two as such I rigged us up with some flies that have treated me well on Olympic Mountain streams before. I was using a small streamer, while Mike put on a Jumbo John.

We first tried out some pocket water downstream of our campsite, but had no luck. I knew of a couple of great looking holes upstream of the campground though and decided that we should head up there. I found a small gravel bar on the edge of some fast deep water and started fishing with a standard downstream swing, which I have found Olympic rainbows to be very receptive of in the past. On my second cast into the hole my line stopped mid swing and I instinctively set the hook. The second that I did so, I knew that I had a good fish on as my 6wt doubled over and line started peeling off of my reel. This was a down and dogged battle, with lots of head shakes and a few strong runs but no jumps. Not very typical for a rainbow trout...

As soon as I got the fish close I saw that I wasn't hooked up with a rainbow, but instead there was a huge bull trout on the end of my line. I was shocked but extremely excited, as bull trout were the only native species of salmonid that I have not caught in Washington state. Over the past five years I have made number of trips up to the Skagit River system, which is noted for its healthy population of these fish. However had never had any luck and here while fishing for rainbow trout I finally caught one. Thankfully Mike was right there to assist with netting the bull and snapping a few photos.

The big bull trout

This was one heck of a big bull too. The basket of my net is 16" and this fish a half a net length on that, pegging it in at right around 24".

Another shot of the bull showing off his spots and colors a little better

From here we head downstream a little ways to a pool with a couple of downed old growth trees across it. At the head of the pool right under the logs I caught a small white fish, which I quickly released. Mike took a great looking seem near the base of the pool and after a couple of dozen casts he got a perfect drift and a fish came out from under the logs and grabbed his fly. As Mike brought the fish in I the colors showed that it was a decent little bull trout at about 14". Unfortunately as I went to net if for him it made one last bid for freedom and the barbless hook popped loose.

Mike fishing the pool along the log.

After hooking up with the little bull trout Mike decided to head back to camp, while I decided to head even further upstream and try out some new water. I covered a good half mile of river before finding a great looking pool. However after about a half an hour of fishing I only had one take so I decided to work my way back downstream.

Some good looking but fruitless water

A little ways downstream in another good looking pool I was swinging my fly through the middle pool while I finally got another fish. My fly had completed its swing and I let it sit in the current for about 30 seconds before stripping it in. One the second strip the fish grabbed my fly and when I brought it in I saw that I had another slightly larger whitefish.

The whitefish

With the light failing at this point I called it quits for the day with plans to explore some promising looking water downstream in the morning.

The next morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to a drizzily fog and made my way down river. This pool was only fishable from the far bank, so I crossed the river then brush whacked through the old growth forest until I emerged on the gravel bar at the pool. This was a classic Olympic Peninsula run, which looked like it should hold some steelhead if only they were still in this river. There was a deep slot on the far bank with some nice large boulders here or there. Over the last few seasons I have found a great technique for rainbows in this type of water, where I cast upstream and high-stick nymph the first part. As the line gets below me I though, toss a big upstream mend in the line and then allow the fly to swing across the deep slot until it gets below me. The strike can come at any part of this drift and by including the high-stick method it ensures that your fly is down on the bottom where it needs to be as the swing begins.

Good looking rainbow water

I don't know what was going on in this pool. Every three or four casts I would feel a tug from a fish, but just couldn't hook up with anything. I covered the pool twice using two different flies, but even with one fish that hit so hard it almost yanked the rod out of my hand I couldn't get the hook to stick in anything. After this I headed down even further to a similar pool where the same thing seemed to be happening. I did get a few fish to hold on a little longer including a 16" to 18" rainbow or cutthroat, but they all still managed to shake loose before I got them in. This was the last pool that I had time for though and I was sure glad that Sunday had been such an amazing day because Monday was sure a bust.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rainout and redemption

Sometimes I wonder why I go to the lengths that I do to catch fish when there are so many options so close to home. Beyond that sometimes I just flat out just wonder why I don't listen to my better judgment more often. This was definitely one of those times. Having the day off and with streams finally open, I decided that I wanted to try out a small stream up in the Cascades for some native rainbow trout. When I left home the weather was beautiful and all I could think of was casting my 2wt to some willing fish. However mother nature had other plans...

As I drove past the countless clear cuts and closed in on the stream I could see some dark clouds in the distance, but just figured that they would either be blown to the east or just hangout over the Cascade crest. Of course even when I got out of the car and heard the distant roar of thunder I didn't for a second contemplate bagging it and heading to another spot.

I had never fished this stream and actually wasn't planning on it as I was initially on my way to a bigger piece of water and it just caught my eye and I couldn't pass it up. This sudden interest in this little creek was only increase by masses of size 10 brown mayflies flying around at the road crossing.

The creek as it flows through a little grove of alders

I rigged up and made my way upstream casting a dry and nymph dropper rig in every piece of likely looking holding water. It took about a 1/4 mile of vacant water before I finally found a great little pool and finally caught a small 6" rainbow on my nymph. As I let this fish go the warning signs that I ignored finally caught up with me and the rain started. I was far enough upstream that I wasn't going to turn around for a "little" rain. I figured that this rain would most likely pass through the area quickly and some nicer weather would return. So as the rain got increasingly worse I continued to fish and did manage pick up another small rainbow. I had just found a great pool with a downed tree across the middle and a decent sized fish in front of it, when the "little" bit of rain turned into a torrential downpour. This had the effect of spooking all of the fish in the creek, turning the previously clear creek into chocolate milk (I am sure that the local logging practices had nothing to do with this one), and completely drenching me with in seconds. By the time that I got back to the car, the water in the creek was up a foot and I felt like I had been on the losing end of a massive water war.

Soaked I finally threw in the towel and made my way back home, with the rainstorm chasing me all of the way to the foothills of the Cascades ensuring that I wouldn't make any unscheduled stops to check out any more streams. Once back in the Puget Sound low lands it was still sunny and in the upper 70's and you never would have known that pouring in the mountains.

I got home and started unloading my soaking gear from the car, but when I got to my rod which was still rigged up from my hasty retreat from the Cascades, I decided that I might as well go try a local stream that is walking distance from home and see if I couldn't catch a few fish.

This was the part that made me really wonder why I drove all of the way up to the mountains for a couple small fish and a thorough soaking. On my first cast I was rewarded with a beautiful little cutthroat in a creek that is as good as in my backyard.

Not to big but still loads of fun on a light rod and dry flies

By no means did the action stop there either and for the next hour or so I covered the water with my dry fly, catching fish on most every cast.

Each of these pools were good for a fish or two.

The fish here started out very receptive to a dead drift, but as they started to shy away from that I began skating my fly and they went crazy for it again. I found that if I would strip it a few times then pause it a cutthroat would dart out of the shadows and pounce on it at once.


Beautiful native coastal cutthroat

This was one of those times were size didn't mean a thing to me. The coloration on these little cutthroat was stunning and and the relaxation brought by small streams and small willing fish has a value all of its own.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Central Oregon Redbands

A few weeks ago I was invited by my sister on a trip to Sunriver Oregon and of course I jumped on the opportunity. Sunriver lies near the headwaters of the Deschutes River in central Oregon, placing it smack dab in the heart of Columbia Basin redband territory. As such I was looking forward to getting back into a little stream fishing for native trout, especially since beyond steelheading I haven't had the opportunity since streams closed in Washington last fall.

Thursday May 28th 2009: I got off work at the fly shop at 6:00PM and my sister and I were on the road by 7:00PM. We decided to drive as far as The Dalles the first night as it would break the driving up a bit and put me within striking distance of the lower Deschutes River.

Friday May 29th 2009: We got off to a bit of a later start than what I would have liked, but by mid morning we were in Maupin where I got my fishing license and swung by The DeschutesAngler where I picked up a couple of flies and some very useful information on the current conditions. From what it sounded like if I was lucky I would get a couple of hours of try fly action before the fish would go down and it would become a nymphing game. That worked for me, so from Maupin it was a straight shot to the Deschutes River to test out some new water and try my luck for some Columbia Basin redbands.

The end of May is salmonfly season on the Deschutes River, but from everything that I had heard made it sound like the hatch was starting to dwindle down. As such I decided to rig up my 4wt with a double nymph rig to start things out. After a few minutes on the river though, it was evident that there were still plenty of salmonflies around and that the trout were on to them. Slashy rises could be heard echoing up and down the river as the trout attacked the clumsysalmonflies.

The banks were lined with salmonflies...

After a couple minutes of not so successful nymphing I heard a slashy rise not far downstream of my position and stopped to see if I could locate the source. It didn't take long to figure out where it came from, as the ~20" redband came up again and smashed another salmonflies from under an over hanging tree directly below me. I decided that I was going to go after this fish so I changed to a BC Hopper in salmonfly colors. I tried to drift a cast underneath the tree from above, but the trout was lying in a bit of a back eddy making an upstream approach impossible so I would have to get below him.

The Deschutes River

Once I got downstream of the tree where the fish was hanging out I found a nice rock outcropping to stand on, which shortened my casting distance to about twenty or twenty-five feet. Even so this was not going to be an easy cast as the tree branches came down to within 6" of the surface of the river in places with only a couple of gaps to get my fly through. To make matters worse the back eddy ended before it got to my position so I wouldn't be able to just drift my fly into position. I made my first cast tight to the water, but my fly was still riding a little bit high and hit a leaf as the loop of the line was unraveling. Miraculously the fly simply bounced off the leaf and landed smack dab in front of the trout, which was now tucked about four feet under the tree. The fly only had a couple of seconds to rest on the water before the trout exploded on it. Seeing this explosive take though I immediately set the hook and pulled the fly right out of the fishes mouth. I was pretty ticked off at myself at this point thinking that I had blown my chance at this hog of a trout.

My next cast fell short of the big trout's position but a second slightly smaller fish came up and rose to my fly. This time I was a little more patient and feel the fish for a second before the fly came shooting back at me. I had a couple of dead casts before I got one more underneath the tree in the big redband's feeding lane. Apparently my first attempt at this fish hadn't spooked it as he came right back up the surface and smash my fly again. It gave a slight pause before setting the hook this time and felt my line go tight, then there was a head shake and then nothing...

This time it was definitely over for the big guy, as he had definitely felt my hook and tucked his tail and ran for it. With in a couple of minutes I saw another much smaller fish rise on the seem of the back eddy and put my fly in front of him. I saw this redband on the side of the fish as he rose, but missed him. On my next cast I put my fly right back in the same spot and this a fish rose to it and I got a solid hook up. I tried to move the fish out of the feeding lane quickly but even the same his thrashing likely spooked the rest of the fish in the area. After a quick battle I brought the fish to my net and was shocked to see that it was not a trout but a NorthernPikeminnow also known as a Squawfish.

The Salmonfly eating Squawfish

After a few more fruitless casts I moved downstream to try another stretch of the river. I found a few rising fish but within a few minutes it was like somebody flipped a switch and the fish turned off to dries. It looked like the info that I had gotten from the fly shop was good so I switched back to a nymphing set up and started working a seam along a drop off. I got a couple of strikes that I was unable to act on in time, and then a I got a solid hook up. I could tell what I had was decent sized, but it sure wasn't fighting very good. When I got the fish in I quickly became evident why...

Post spawn redband

I guess sometimes when you get down and dirty nymphing you dredge up something dirty as well. Don't ask me why this fish decided to eat my fly as it did look long for the world, but I made sure to quick release it so if it is planning some miraculous recovery its chances will be a little better.

Just after releasing the fish a drift boat with two sheriffs pulled in next to me and they asked see my fishing license. I handed them my license and with everything in order they handed it back to me, asked me how fishing was and headed downstream. Two things happened though after being checked, the first was that the presence of the drift boat they were in spooked all of the fish that I was working. The second was that a thunderstorm that had been lurking in the distance finally closed in on my position, telling me it was time to go. From the Deschutes we drove to Sunriver and checked into our hotel room and made plans for the next day.

Saturday May 30th 2009: I decided that I really wanted to try to catch some more KlamathBasin redband trout and as their native range was only a couple of hours from us it looked pretty doable. From the research that I had done it looked like the there were some streams draining the southern slopes of Crater Lake that held these fish and as my sister had never been to Crater Lake what better way would there be to get there then cutting through Crater Lake National Park.

We got to Crater Lake around 10:30AM and found it to be just as beautiful if not more so then I remember it the last time I was there. I had never gotten to see the lake with some around it and it definitely added to the beauty. We spent about an hour hiking around the park taking in our surroundings before some rain moved in and we decided to get on the road again.

Crater Lake

The headwaters of a Klamath Basin redband stream in Crater Lake NP

One the way out of the Park we drove past the headwaters of a redband stream that I had cut itself an amazing canyon through the volcanic soil. I would have liked to try some fishing down in that canyon, but from what I could see there were no safe ways to the bottom and I wasn't about to risk life and limb getting down there so we kept moving.

When we pulled in to my the first stream that I had chosen to try out, the water was high and of color, but there was a great hatch of brown drakes coming off. Unfortunately there was also a great hatch of mosquitoes coming off as well. Mosquitoes usually don't bother me too much so I rigged up and started fishing anyways. However this spot was ridiculous and everytime that I would stop to may a cast I would get mobbed by hundreds of the little bloodsuckers. On a couple of occasions I killed around 15 of the little buggers with one swat on my arm. I will put up with a lot in the pursuit of native trout, but this crossed a line and for the first time in my life I was driven from a stream by mosquitoes.

The mosquito creek

With my defeat on the mosquito creek I set my sites at a spring creek a little further down the valley. When I arrived at the spring creek the water was a bit high and off color so I decided to start out with a flashy woolly bugger to try to get down to the fish. However after cover a sizable stretch of the stream with out so much as a bump I decided that it was time to switch things up a bit.
The spring creek

While walking along the bank I finally spotted a rising fish in a back eddy. It was unclear what this fish was feeding on, but every time that the sun would get blocked by a cloud he would invariably rise a few times before things got bright again. As there were a few caddis around I put on a small caddis emerger and threw a few casts to him. Nothing. Next I tried a double nymph rig. Nothing. A small mayfly dun and emerger followed this. Still nothing. I even resorted to try some midges, but even these couldn't get his attention. Finally I went back to a nymph, trying a small copper john this time and had a quick hit but didn't hook up. I don't know if my timing with the sun was off on this fish out what, but with the frustration that he was causing me and an encroaching thunderstorm it was time to call it a day.

Me getting frustrated on a super picky trout

Sunday May 31st 2009: With my crushing defeat on Saturday, I decided that it was time to regroup and get some information at on of the Sunriver fly shops. I had been thinking about head to a stream that drained the Oregon high desert and oddly enough this is exactly where the guy at the fly shop suggested that I should try. So I got a few courtesy flies and hit the road for the desert.


Upon arriving at the river I found a good looking stretch with some nice pools and pocket water and a very promising looking side channel. I decided that I would use my 2 wt here as I had been itching to get some fish on it for a while. I started out with a double nymph rig, using a size 16 pheasant tail trailed by a size 20 black and white copper john. As I was rigging up my rod I also started watching the side channel and to my delight I could clearly see several decent trout holding in a pocket not far from me.

The river

I decided that I would start at the bottom of the side channel and work my way around before trying the main channel. At the bottom of the channel I found decent little pool and after a few cast I hooked up with a fish but lost it. I got a few more casts in here and missed a few more fish before heading up stream to where I had spotted the fish while rigging up. I found that the fish were still there, but the water was much shallower than I had originally though, at about 6" deep or less making getting a good drift a little difficult, but I still managed to hook up with a 16" trout that thrashed around scattering the rest of the fish before tossing my tiny nymph. With the fish in here spooked I moved up to the top of the side channel where there was a nice deep piece of pocket water and it was here that I finally got a solid hook up with a redband. After a short fight I brought the little 9" trout to my net, got a couple photos and sent it on its way again.
Columbia Basin redband trout

On my next cast I briefly hooked up with a much larger fish, but he spit my hook so I headed back down the bottom of the channel again. This time I had a bit more luck and got two redbands on consecutive casts, both of which jumped several times and put of a considerable fight on my little 2wt.

A darkly colored redband

From here I decided that head out to the main channel, so I added on little weight and started covering the water. After a couple of casts my indicated shot down and a 20+ inch redband rocketed out of the water. I had a solid hook up on this fish and he jumped several more times and made a few blistering runs out in the main channel before I was able to work him into the slower water. I got the fish directly below me and was slowly easing him back upstream when the combo of a 2wt, size 20 fly and 6x finally caught up with me as the fish shook his head at the wrong time and with a little pop snapped my line and was gone. I can't say that I wasn't a bit bummed to lose this fish, but I had gotten the best part of him and won't forget that battle anytime soon.
The stretch where the big guy was hanging out.

By this time the daily thunder storm was starting to approach, so I knew that I didn't have much more time to fish so I headed upstream to try a couple of pools above where I hooked the bruiser. I found the first pool to be vacant, but in the second one I hooked up with a nice 16" fish which I had on for a minute or so before he managed to get out in the current and through my fly. This was the final straw and with thunder rumbling in the distance it was time to head out.

Monday June 1st 2009: There wasn't going to be any time for fishing today as my it was time to head out. However I did have time to run the Fall River check out a stream for my next trip. This has to be one of the nicest looking streams that I have ever seen as trout to its character it is a crystal clear spring creek.


Something to look forward to on the next trip

After checking out the Fall River we headed back to Sunriver to take care of a few things before making the long drive back home.