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, September 25, 2010

Skinny water rainbows

This summer more than just about any other I can remember was all about the small water for me. A number of factors have influenced this ranging from a love affair with my new 6' 1wt Scott fiberglass rod to an ever shrinking Washington stream season and just an overall drive to be in the outdoors and explore some new water. A few days back, I returned to one of my favorite south Cascades streams to see what was happening since I had last been there a few years ago. The weather for the day couldn't have been better and the flows although a bit low overall were perfect for wading.
The creek

This creek has always had a special appeal for me, the combination of feisty native rainbows and a nearly pristine stretch of old growth forest just make it hard not to like though. I started out by first putting in a bit of leg work and hiked into a canyon that has always seemed to hold the best water on the stream and what would you know within a few casts I was into fish. Like usual the fish were very excepting of dry flies and once hooked would absolutely go nuts. On more that one occasion I was dealing with 8" to 12" rainbows tail-walking across the entire creek and putting my little 1wt to the test. An occurrence that continued to remind me what makes out of the way places like this so special.
A beautiful little native rainbow

I as evening came on some caddis started to come off and the fish got even more aggressive, but the sun goes down quickly in old growth canyon like this one and the fading light was my warning that it was time to hang up the rod for the day and make for home again.
The half light of the canyon

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Yellowstone Quicky

This past week I was invited to tag along on a quick trip over to the Yellowstone area with my sister and brother-in-law and as my schedule allowed for this to happen a few days later I was on the road. I got off work at five on Monday and next day about the same time after some red eye driving, we were in Jackson Wyoming and on the doorstep of some of the greatest trout streams in North America. Like my last trip to the Rockies, this officially wasn't a fishing trip, but once again what self respecting fly fisherman can go to the Yellowstone area and not at least wet a line.

I originally planned to sneak off and fish some of the waters around Jackson on the first day, but our arrival was greeted by a massive thunderstorm so I decided to hold off for the next day. On Wednesday the second day of the trip, we had a full day to spend in the park, but most of it was to be spent seeing the sights and doing touristy stuff. Of course anyone doing this has to stop at Old Faithful, however our timing was off so with an hour or so to blow we decide to grab some lunch first. I always find that cafeteria at Old Faithful has great food, especially the baked beans which are well worth the stop and putting up with the crowds alone. After an enjoyable lunch the geyser was ready to blow and while this was probably my tenth time seeing Old Faithful go off, it still remains an amazing thing to behold.
Old Faithful

From Old Faithful we worked our way north into Yellowstone cutthroat country where I was hoping to get a chance to pursue some of these beautiful native trout.
The wide open expanses of Northern Yellowstone

However the cutthroat weren't the only reason that we were working our way to this part of the park either. Wildlife viewing was a little slim in the rest of the park this time and in my experience the Lamar Valley has more animals than any other part of the park, so for my brother-in-law who hadn't been to the park since he was a kid this was the perfect place to go. There were some skeptics in the car about this though and so I wagered a pizza for dinner that we would see at least two herds of bison in the valley. Of course this was a bet that took me less then five minutes to win...

When we finally got to the stream that I was hoping to fish, I was amazed to see that my favorite spot was free and better yet there were no cars pulled off to fish for at least a mile above or below it! I rigged up my 4wt with hopper dropper set up and headed down to the water. Unfortunately for me my favorite spot had also changed around a bit since last time I had been there so it took me a while to find some fishy water.
The stream

While searching for the perfect pool I managed to rise a couple of fish to the hopper and had some take downs on the dropper, but didn't feel that it was quite getting their attention enough. This meant a change was in order so I re-rigged with an ever dependable royal pmx, my favorite dry and a size 18 lightning bug as a dropper. Shortly after I finally located that perfect spot on a side channel with a great deep cut bank on one side and figured that it was as good of a spot as any for a cutthroat to hang out in. Sure enough two casts in my dry went down and a good sized cutthroat had grabbed my dropper. The fish had some size to him, but Yellowstone cutthroat aren't known for being the world's best fighting trout and after a bit of thrashing and running I was able to bring the beautiful 16" native cutthroat to hand.
A native Yellowstone cutthroat

After a quick photo the fish darted back into his home pool and I head back up the top of the pool again. Two casts later another fish gulped my dry fly and within a a couple minutes I had another beautiful Yellowstone cutthroat to hand.
Another beautiful Yellowstone cutthroat

With that fish, the light started falling and it was time to make our way out of the park, fighting our way through the bison jams along the way.

The next day my fishing time was even more limited so I head to an old standby spot down in the Tetons to try for some Snake River finespotted cutthroat. Along the way the views were outstanding and we even found a few more bison as well.
The Tetons

The creek with Grand Teton in the background

The stream was as low as I have ever seen it, but the fishing was fast paced as ever. The only problem was the size of the fish was much smaller than what I am typically used to at this spot. I have never been one to get to worried about catching small fish though and these cutthroat were all beautiful and better yet native.

A beautiful albeit small finespotted cutthroat

That being said, bigger fish definitely are nice, so I continued to cover the wate through a pocket water stretch hoping for something a little larger. I did get a couple of lookers and one larger fish to flash at my nymph, but before long my time was up. Even so I got some beautiful trout in some of the most beautiful country in North America so it was great outing by my standards.
A small finespotted cutthroat in his habitat

That stream was my last chance to fish on the trip, but that was fine by me as it isn't everyday I get to hangout in the Rockies. I am now back home again with my sights set on coho and coastal cutthroat in the saltwater.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Putting together the pieces and picking them up again

Fall on the Puget Sound is a special time, with cutthroat at their grabbiest, migratory salmon returning and the best saltwater dry fly fishing of the year. This dry fly action all revolves around the annual emergence of termites from the driftwood that liters the Puget Sound's shoreline.
The forgotten hatch
The fly

When things come together with this hatch you can get both sea-run cutthroat and resident salmon just going nuts feeding on these big insects on the surface. The dead drift works great, but twitching or skating flies also works and will get some great extremely aggressive takes. Some of the key ingredients to this hatch though include timing, weather and tide.

The other day I made it out in hopes that I could put the pieces together and the cutthroat would be looking up. I got the timing factor right, it was about two hours before dark when the termites start to fly and flying they were. I got half of the weather right, termites are most likely to emerge from the driftwood on sunny evenings, but a slight breeze helps to knock a few of the weak fliers into the water for the waiting trout. This evening though the water was glass.
Termites were a flying

The other factor, probably the most important one out of the bunch was the tide and that was the one that didn't line up. High slack water... Not so ideal and as such it just ended up being a beautiful evening to practice some casting on the beach.
A great time to be on the water

This is not the end of the story though, with the stars not aligning for me during the evening I decided to give things another go in the morning with my buddy Colton. The tides were much more ideal then, even if it wasn't dry fly time. So I put on my favorite subsurface attractor pattern and gave things a go. The first hour was especially slow, then I noticed a couple of fish jump just down the beach from me and things began to change. Within a few casts I hooked a fish that came in quickly and ended up being a little 8" resident coho. This fish was by far outclassed by my 6wt rod but makes for a great sign for this next season's salmon fishery.

The very next cast I hooked another fish, but this time the odds flipped around on me and it was my 6wt that was outclassed. After a few nips the fish slammed my fly and I was locked into battle with a 7lb coho. However good things rarely last long and this was one battle I wasn't going to win. The fish immediately did an under the water roll then charged me, ending the battle with a leap out of the water 10 feet off of my rod tip and launching my fly right back at me.

To say the least I was a bit disappointed after this loss, this is the fifth coho I have locked into this year on the salt and lost and was by far the largest. However this is just the beginning of the season and hopefully this is just a sign that things are picking up. That was at least what I had to keep telling myself as I tried to keep my head on straight and kept casting. And what do you know I this thinking was rewarded! It wasn't another big coho, but instead the fish that I had come here to target a beautiful 14" heavily spotted cutthroat. After that fish though, things once again slowed down and it was time to get of the beach.

A beautiful consolation prize cutthroat

I just arrived in Wyoming today so the next report will be from Yellowstone and the Tetons. Hopefully the cutthroat over here will be willing to bite and help keep my mind off those big coho till I get back!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Olympic trout round two

August 31st marked the end of the season on three of my favorite trout streams on the Olympic Peninsula and so last week I made a point to make one last trip out there before the close. For further incentive buddy Colton was already camping out at the river so it was an easy call to make the hour and a half trek to the mountains. In this particular river, while the trout are not known for their size, they are known to be very willing risers and that it always a good thing in my book. Also being that this stream was made catch and release only last season, the population started to rebound making it a great little stream.

Colton fishing a tailout

We started our fishing on the lower part of the river and within a few casts we were getting into fish. With an average of about 7" they weren't going to win any awards for size, but what they lacked in that department they made up for in beauty.

The average dry fly eating rainbow

This stretch represented water that I had already fished on a previous trip and I was anxious to try things out a little higher up in the drainage on this trip. This was in part due to my desire to see some new water, but also largely because of rumors of some bigger fish higher up so after covering about a 1/4 mile of river and catching more than our fair share of rainbows it was time to relocate.
The "river" a bit further upstream

Upstream the river was much more "creek-like" in size but the fishing was if possible much faster paced than below. Each likely pocket was good for a trout or two and some of the pools and runs were just packed with fish. The size was a little bit bigger on average with a few more 8-9" fish popping up here and there, but nothing like the rumors I had heard of fish to 16" or so. That was until we got to a hole just above a bit log jam, where some evidence of some bigger trout finally surface. After only a couple of drifts, a thick about 15" fish came up and did a head to tail rise on my fly. Unfortunately I was a bit to slow on the trigger and I missed him. To make matters worst I got two more shots at him and blew those too.

After missing the big guy, we continued upstream where I got another surprise, this time in the form of a brook trout that no doubt dropped down from one of the alpine lakes that feed into the upper reaches.
A brookie surprise

We fished upstream just a bit more, but after a few more holes figured that we would save some water for the next trip. Of course I was also anxious to try my luck at the big guy again on our way back down. However only his smaller next door neighbors were home. Oh well maybe next time....

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back to the Olympics

Although I made several trips out to the Olympic Peninsula for trout early in the season this year, I haven't done nearly as I would have liked. Pretty much what happened is that this year the already short season for these streams was made even shorter by unusually high flows during June and July. In fact in has only been within the last few weeks that some of the streams have even become considerable options.

Unfishable conditions not so long ago on one of the Olympic streams

However that was then and this is now and with the streams lower, clearer and readily wadeable, things have became a bit more predictable. With the season winding down and conditions right my buddy Colton and I headed out with my favorite underrated Olympic streams.
The river... Slightly more fishable...

We hiked into my favorite run and found the river in perfect condition. Although this stream no longer supports viable steelhead runs, the fish still have steelie genes in them and as such similar tactics can be used. I started out swinging soft hackle nymphs with my 2wt and it didn't take long to get some results. In fact my first cast resulted in a spunky 10" rainbow that slammed the fly as I was stripping back in. A few casts later it was Colton's turn.

Colton hooked up

We worked our way down the run the same way I would if I were steelheading, placing a cast, letting the fly swing across the current, then taking a couple steps down stream and repeating the process. Once we got to the end of the tailout, we repeated he process, this time using dead drifted dries and picking up the fish that we had missed swinging. The fish weren't huge, with most being in the 6" to 8" range, but all of them were well fed and scrappy fighters. Not to say that there weren't bigger ones too and the prospect of catching something over 12" was enough to keep us going.


An average rainbow

We worked a string of about four runs that are close together by either swinging or casting dries until we were satisfied that we had divvied out enough sore lips for one day.