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

Monday, December 19, 2011

A false start

Not to long ago, my buddy Craig and I got out to the Olympic Peninsula for to try for the first of the winter steelhead returning to the area rivers. Unfortunately so did everyone else. In fact on the river that we had decided to fish, there was a rig in nearly every pull out and easily over three times the amount of anglers that I have ever seen there. Also unfortunate is that fact that it hasn't rained in any significant amount for sometime, leaving the rivers low and clear and severly limiting our options on some of the other waters that I know.

However if there is a will there is a way and hitching a ride with a logging crew we found our way into the upper part of the watershed above the reach of most other anglers. The water up here was a bit skinnier, and the river worked its way through a bit of a canyon so it looked like we were comitted to a spending a good portion of the day up here. However the water looked pretty good, with plenty of holding water so we got too it. The first few holes looked great and Craig and I took turns covering the prime lies, but didn't see any sign of fish.


Craig working a good looking pool

However before long we came to only of those spots that just screams steelhead and sure enough Craig spotted some. We worked this pod for a good while and I managed to get one fish to take before we lost sight of the ghostly steelhead that seemed to vanish from the hole.

Steelie holding water



Once we figured that the fish were either gone or spooked, we decided to move on and explore a bit more of this part of the river. However a great deal of hiking and exploring this part of the river only yielded one more decent looking spot, which in turn showed no signs of fish. At this point we were already starting to wear on the already short window of winter daylight that we had. So we decided to work our way out of the upper watershed and into some more familiar water.


Once we had worked our way into some waters that were a bit more familar for me, we made a stop at a corner where a nameless tribuatary joins the main river. The hole had treated me well in the past a low flows so we figured we would at least take a look. To say the least it didn't take overly long to spot some fish, as their was a good pod of around 10-15 steelhead holding in the tailout. Craig decided to act as the spotter and I made my way to the far side of the river where I would have a better approach. My first drift went right through the fish with no reaction whatsoever. My second drift got a bit more attention. While I remained out of sight and started it well upstream of the fish as soon as my fly got in range it looked as though a bomb had gone off with the affect of steelhead scattering in every direction. We wondered a the spookiness of these fish until we left the hole and found the remains of several fish in the next run downstream.


Working the pod of steelhead before the bomb went off.


At this point we had one more shot at try to find some sort of fish and found another promising spot downstream a ways. I a little long jam that had newly formed this season, I finally got a solid take from a sizeable fish, but after one initial tug the fish tossed the fly and I was out of luck.


Or so I though, however just downstream I got another take and this time actually got a good hookset on the fish. Right away I could tell that this wasn't a steelhead as my switch rod quickly over power it. However a beautiful native cutthroat fresh from the saltwater was just as good to me at this point and was a great note to end the day on.

As steelheading goes I would have to consider this trip a success, as anytime you can spot some fish and a least get a take or two you are doing something right. Plus it doesn't get much better than exploring some great water with a good friend.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Redbanded Metalheads

Several weeks ago now, my buddy Jonathan and I made a long day trip east of the Cascade Mountains to search for some redband steelhead. With fall rapidly progressing towards winter the morning started off rather brisk and a bit drizzly, but the river was in perfect shape so we were on the water shortly after sun up. Our first spot was a run that had treated Jonathan well over the past few seasons, however after a few hours of fishing I hadn't had a bump and Jonathan had found a few whitefish, but no steelhead so we decided to relocate.
The river

The second spot that we fished had a nice deep slot on the far bank and we decided to start out swinging flies. I started with an intermediate tip and little size 6 October caddis toned fly that I came up on an and within a handful of casts I got subtle take, but couldn't get the fish to come back. After that things slowed for a bit until we got to the tailout, when I got another but much more viscous strike, however once again it didn't result in an actual hook up. We covered the water for perhaps another hour, switching flies and sink tips but had no more interest.

Even though we had already cover the slot for several hours without any fish to hand, we knew there were fish there and decided to try something a bit more effective. With that we switched to nymphing rigs and what would you know within three or four casts I got a take and a solid hook up. The fish immediately came up and did a bit of thrashing and put on a nice aerial display before deciding to take off. Luckily for me the river was fairly free of obstructions for the fish to hang me up on and although I had to chase steelhead a good hundred yards downstream we finally managed to bring it to hand.
Me with a beautiful native Columbia Basin redband steelhead
Another look at the fish

After a couple of quick photos, we watch as the fish sped off into the current again. Although I love to swing flies, this was just another example at the shear effectiveness in nymphing in comparison - 4 casts vs. several hours... A fact that was more evident when about a half hour later I got another take down. Although it was evident right away that this was a fish due to a couple good head shakes, it didn't seem to want to budge for the first minute or so and I was really starting to think it was a Chinook salmon or possibly a big bull trout. However finally the fish discovered that he was hooked and finally decided to show himself as another steelhead. After a couple of leaps, it was straight into the backing for this steelhead and once again I had hurry in pursuit and finally caught up just downstream of where we landed the first fish. After several more minutes of battling the fish, we brought another beautiful native steelhead to hand.
Another beautiful steelhead

We gave the spot a little more time, with Jonathan getting another whitefish, before we decided to try another spot a little further down stream. When we arrived at our next spot things looked great as there were maybe a couple dozen salmon holding and/ or spawning, which usually means a few steelhead are likely to be around. However after putting in a good amount of time we had only managed to donate a several flies to the boulder strewn bottom.
A salmon on its redd
Jonathan checking out a huge spawned-out Chinook, this fish was well over 40".

Even though the salmon were entertaining to watch, the lack of steelhead lead us to once again relocate. Although we were starting to view daylight as a commodity at this time, there were fish around at this spot and Jonathan and I managed to have a double screw up, where we both hooked and lost steelhead shortly after arriving.
The last spot of the day

After losing a decent steelhead, I got a sort of consolation prize in the form of a good sized whitefish that decided that it wanted a stripped egg imitation. This whitefish even thought it was a steelhead and jumped several times before coming to hand.
My only whitefish of the day

I hooked one more whitefish, that popped loose before the lack of daylight finally made us start to think about the long drive home and we decided to call it a day.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Belated creek post

Although this post should be a month old by now, I finally have found some time to get back to the blog. Per my usual fishing traditions for the end of the general Washington stream season I did a bit of searching for sea-run cutthroat fresh from the salt water in my home creek.
The creek

With the first hard rains of the fall drawing coho and chum salmon in to even the smallest coastal creeks, the cutthroat are never far behind. This seasonal migration of salmon and cutthroat provides some amazing Alaska style fishing close to home fishing. However it is surprising under appreciated and it is rare if ever that one would run into another angler... A fact that you won't find me complaining about.
A wild coho salmon (under the log)

This year although the creek was a bit lower than usual, it had some of the better coho returns I have seen in years and I literally had to tip toe around salmon redds. With a 6mm or 8mm egg imitation though the cutthroat proved rather willing.
A native cutthroat

Due to the small waters short leaders are the norm and as with typical sea-run cutthroat a slightly unnatural presentation tends to get results. So swinging or twitching an egg imitation often leads to better results than dead drifting. However as usual the end of the season comes too fast and as fishing is just getting into its stride the season is over and it is time to think of salmon and steelhead.
Another look at an egg eating cutthroat

Friday, November 11, 2011

A little eastern brook fishing

Although I have done a bit of travelling around the west coast I had until this last week never been east of the Rocky Mountain states, so when the chance arose to join my Dad and sister on a trip to the east coast at the end of October, I jumped on it. The trip would see us heading to several states and while it wasn't a fishing trip per-say, I did make sure that I would at least get a little time in on the water while there.

As fishing went I planned on checking out some smaller streams in Vermont where we would be staying for some native brook trout. So after flying into JFK in New York and driving across a few states we found ourselves in Northern Vermont on the edge of the Green Mountains. As this area was completely foreign to me I made one of my first stops the local fly shop. However it was a slightly depressing visit as, I don't think I have ever been in a shop were they were less excited about the fishing. The main reason was Hurricane Irene which had swept through the area over a month prior, but combined with the fall rains had still left the rivers high and swollen waters. Luckily the smaller waters sounded to be at least slightly fishable even if the staff didn't sound so interested in them, so I picked up a few flies and headed on my way.

The next morning I got up early and headed on my way to check out some of the local waters. The first stream that I fished was a beautiful freestone river, but was still so chalky from run-off that I didn't spend much time there before moving on to something smaller. Although the next stream that I picked had picked was more of a random choice than anything, with I stumbled on one of the more beautiful places on the trip.
Fall colors on the road to the creek

With the fall colors in full effect the road with was a tunnel brightly colored leaves and the short hike into the creek was a different experience from any in the rain socked Pacific Northwest. The stream was a still high, but definitely fishable so I rigged up my 1wt with a nymph and soft hackle dropper and started working my way upstream.
The stream

The fishing was definitely not lights out and after working my way upstream I had only caught one small brook trout that I failed to get a picture of and have missed a handful of others. However the experience was more important than the fishing and the stream had a unique character compared to those I am used too. The land also had an older more settled feel a about it, a fact made more apparent by the random rock walls that had been built a long the stream in days past.
One of the walls along the creek

After cover a mile or two of stream I started my way back downstream and while drifting a nymph through a pocket spotted a decent brookie inspecting my fly. Although the fish didn't take on the first cast, I made another allowing the soft hackle trailer to swing across the pool and hooked the fish. Which ended up being a beautiful brook trout of perhaps 8".
A native brook trout
Another look at the stream

With that fish I called it an end my day on the water and figured I might as well call it a successful and enjoyable outing. I didn't get another chance to hit the water on the the trip, but had an enjoyable week taking in the sights and history on the other side other country.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Annual trip to Yellowstone

Each year I try to make it over to Yellowstone at least once, so this year as the fall was already underway I finally made the trip over to the park, even if that meant that I only had one day there. With snow dusting the upper elevations and the leaves turning colors everything definitely had an end of season feel. I started out at Mammoth Hotsprings where I got my fishing license, lunch and took in some of the sights.
Mammoth Hotsprings

Minerva Terrace at Mammoth

After my brief stop at Mammoth I headed out east towards the Lamar Valley and into Yellowstone cutthroat country. Unlike in the summer when it is hard to find a place to fish due to the amount of anglers, this time it was more of a problem of too many bison hanging out along the river.
Typical scene along the river
The Lamar Valley

Before long I did find a nice stretch of the river that was clear of wildlife and rigged up and headed to the water. With air temperatures in the lower 50's and a strong breeze blowing the air had a wintery feel to it and I decided to start out nymphing.
The river

It would be hard to say that fishing was fast paced, there was no sign of any rising fish even with a decent hatch of blue winged olives and midges coming off and my nymphing rig of a San Juan worm and BWO nymph wasn't getting much attention either. However persistence pays of and when my indicator went down I am not sure whether me or the fish was more surprised about the hook up. With the cooler water temperatures the battle seemed a bit sluggish, but the fish did have some size to him and still put a good bend in my 4wt. Before long though, I slid the beautiful 15" Yellowstone cutthroat into the net.
A beautiful 15" Yellowstone cutthroat
Another shot of the same fish

I finished fishing through the run after getting the one cutthroat and had one more brief hook up but with the cold temperatures I decided to call it a successful outing and do a bit more sight seeing before leaving the park.

The sight seeing was actually rather impressive as among the wildlife spotted there as a grizzly bear, some bighorn sheep, antelope and a couple of wolves.
A Yellowstone grizzly making his way across a small stream.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Panhandle Westslopes

Right after my trip down to the Sawtooths to do a bit of fishing, I was right back to Idaho again for the weekend, but this time up north to the Panhandle region with my buddy Bob to search for some westslope cutthroat. On Saturday we didn't get to the river till late afternoon, but upon arriving we had the place to ourselves and with fish rising things were looking up.
The river

Knowing that the fish were feeding it was just a matter of figuring out what they would be keying in on. My first guess for a fly was a hopper as they seemed to be jumping around everywhere in along the river. However upon presenting this pattern to several visable cutthroat, there was no sign of interest whatsoever so I decided to switch things up a bit. After a few changes, I finally noticed some blue winged olives coming off and switch to some 6x and a size 18 bwo dry. As Bob seemed to be getting a few fish already downstream a bit it appeared that had figured out what they wanted, so I hoped that choice would work. Luckily it did and within a couple casts I spotted a riser and although I missed the take, I at least got him to rise to my fly.
BWO time

With the next fish my timing was a bit better and when he rose to the fly I got a good hook set and had a nice fish on. Give the size of this cutthroat and the 6x tippet, I set the drag a bit loose to protect the tippet and allowed the fish to do his thing a bit more. Within a couple minutes this worked out and I eased a beautiful 16" westslope into the net.
A beautiful westslope cutthroat
Another shot of the westsloper

Although severe headache made sure that this was the only cutthroat that I got that evening, I did hook a few others before even the temptation of rising fish wasn't enough to keep me on the water. Plus after catching my largest westslope cutthroat to date it would be hard to complain about the fishing. Bob did a bit better overall, landing a total of seven cutthroat on a combination of caddis larvae and bwo patterns.
The upper river

With a good nights sleep I was rearing to go the next day and as we had a bit more time to spend on the river and with some summery weather we decided to head a bit further upstream. We found a spot where a small tributary added its flow and with the advantage of some high ground we quickly spotted some fish. Knowing that there were fish in the area we hit the water again and trying the hopper over again I found it to be a bit more successful, especially when fished with a dropper.
Hopper time

While the hopper and dropper seemed to each get a pretty even split in their catch rate at two a piece, the hopper got the larger fish a beautiful 14"er that refused to be photographed. However as the day progressed the bwo's started hatching again and the fish keyed in on them and so I rigged with my 1wt with a size 18 cdc emerger and immediately started getting into more consistent fishing although everything seemed to be in the 6" to 10" range.
Light gear and native trout = lots of fun

For the rest of the day we experienced some of the better match the hatch fishing that the west has to offer and although none of the fish were overly huge they were all beautiful natives. However all good things must come to an end and before long the road was calling us for the long drive back home.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beaver Pond Brookies

At the beginning of the week I had to make a trip to Boise, ID and while I didn't have a ton of time to fish, I made a point of getting up to the Sawtooths for a bit. For this outing I decided to head up a random creek to see what I could find and before long a series of beaver ponds caught my attention.
Looking out over the valley

Before fishing I went down to scout things out and after seeing several fish rise in a couple of minutes I decided this spot would do. I rigged up with a tandem rig, using a couple of my favorite beaver pond patterns, a zug bug and Apache special (named after a certain type of trout that love it). Within a couple of casts this set up yielded some results and a beautiful brook trout came to hand.
A beaver pond brookie

The brookies were extremely spooky, but each would produce a few fish before they would catch on to things.
A beautiful male brook trout starting to show his spawning colors
On the ponds

Although I didn't have too much time to spend here, the fast paced action and beautiful surroundings were hard to beat and made for a great few hours of fishing.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sunset sea-runs

With my recent success on the Sound, it was hard not to get out again, so when Colton called asking me join him at the local beach, I was all in. When I got there the outgoing tide was underway Colton was already fishing.
Sunset at the beach

As with my prior outing, the fish seemed to be in and Colton had already gotten into a couple and within a few minutes found another nice 10" cutthroat. While it wasn't lights out fishing, every ten minutes or so one of us would either get a hit or lock into a fish. Colton seemed to be having a bit better luck then me with the cutthroat and was up three cutthroat to my one flounder before long.
My little flounder

However as the light faded we both decided to put some larger flies on and the change up seemed to make a difference for me as I got a strong take and a solid hook up. This fish had some size to it and made my 6wt rod work for it. As several minutes of battling though I brought the beautiful 16" sea-run to hand. After this fish we had a couple more hits, but the light was fading fast and we had to call an end to the day.
A great way to end the day.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Salter cutthroat again

So in between trips, I got in a couple of outings on the Puget Sound for some sea-run cutthroat. On the first of these trips I met up with a fellow native trout enthusiast Steve from Texas to try to help him out with his first coastal cutthroat. With a promising outgoing tide we headed down to my home beach to try out luck.
Morning on the Sound

It definitely didn't take too long to see signs of fish as there were cutthroat busting on schools of perch and sandlance. However these fish seemed to be a bit finicky and for the amount of fish around, things seemed a bit slow. We each did manage to hook a few fish but they all managed to pop off right at the net. As the tide started to slow I made the call to head down the beach a ways to try a point that generally treats me well. This was the ticket as the cutthroat seemed to be much more willing biters here.
Steve's first coastal cutthroat

Steve was fishing a surface fly and it didn't take to long to start getting some action and to land his first sea-run. There were a few larger fish around as well and I managed to get a few in the 12-14" range.
A nice sea-run

As is usual with cutthroat fishing on the Sound though, the tide slacked off and so did the fishing, so we headed to another beach. We did get into a few nice fish at the other spot but it definitely took a bit more searching and after fishing through almost the entire incoming we had only brought a few more cutthroat to hand. Without a whole lot of beach left, we headed down to another point with a good tide rip and I got a short lived surprise by a coho. I was retreiving my fly at my standard speed and decided to pick up the pace a bit and within two strips; bam! I set the hook only to have nothing there and when I brought my line in I saw why... No fly and no tippet left. Just as I was thinking that this wasn't the work of a cutthroat, the dirty culprit a 7 or 8lb coho with a some line hanging out of his mouth jumped and confirmed my suspicions. No complaints, but as with last year it appears that my coho curse continues... After my incident with the coho, Steve picked up a smaller resident coho, another first for him before the tide forced us to call it a day.
Steve's resident coho

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Colorado Quicky

Last week I had a quick couple day trip to Colorado, while this trip definitely wasn't fishing centered I made sure to sneak up into the Rockies for at least one quick outing. Being one of the rarer and more beautiful salmonids, I set my sights on going after some greenback cutthroat and ran up to Rocky Mountain National Park for half a day. As this trip was a bit spurt of the moment, I decided to return to a stream that I had fished back in 2006.
The Rockies

Being the end of summer, the leaves were just beginning to change in the higher altitudes and there was plenty of wildlife out and about.
Elk
The hike into the stream was short and beautiful with glimpses of the surrounding peaks through groves of aspen, spruce and fir.
The trail in

Even being the late season, the flows were still higher then expected showing signs of the heavy snow pack that the west had this year. These conditions also seemed to treat the cutthroat well, as it didn't take long to spot some.
The stream

However spotting fish and catching them were two different things as a whole summer of fishing pressure seemed to put them on their guard. None of the fish were willing to rise recklessly to a dry fly like cutthroat are known for, but instead would track with it and inspect it for anything wrong. Luckily I had a couple patterns in my arsenal that they seemed to like and once I figured out that a little more stealth then usual was going to be required I started to get a few fish.
A dry fly eating Colorado Greenback

Given that I was on tight schedule, it wasn't long after I had figured the fish and really started getting into them that I had to start thinking of the trail back out. However one more beautiful greenback that fell for my old standby tellico nymph dropper made leaving a bit easier.
Last greenback of the day