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

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

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A summer's end backcountry trek

Last week with summer coming to a rapid close and fall sneaking into the air, Colton and I made for the mountains for a backcountry trout excursion. While I had fished the lower reaches of this particular watershed several times and always been treated fairly well by the fishery, I had never made it into the upper reaches of the watershed. With a fair trek to get to the upper river and being that this area is hemmed in by canyons and rough and tumble rapids Colton and I opted for a multi-day backpacking trip.

We arrived at the trailhead early and had a nice even hike for the first bit through some second growth forest with scattered views of the surrounding peaks before the trail descended into the river valley and massive old growth cedars and firs dominated the landscape.
The uplands on the way in

We made good timing into the river but as a trail crew had pretty much taken over the camping area we had been planning on using we had to do a little hunting for our own spot. After putting in a bit of extra leg work past our original destination, we noticed a side trail down to a flat along the river and decided to look for a spot to camp.
Looking down on the river from above the flat

The trail into the flat was relatively steep, and unfortunately for me it was also guarded by some rather agitated wasps that decided to put their nest smack dab in the middle of the trail. Somehow Colton escaped unscathed, while I got a pretty nasty sting that started swelling almost right away. Apparently sometimes you have to pay your dues for fishing... Needless to say we found our campsite at the bottom, along with some nice water.
Our fishin' camp
Some old growth

Upon arriving we set up camp and made a quick lunch, but our minds were on fishing so before long we each had a couple rods rigged up and made a V-line for the river. Luckily we didn't have to go far after our hike in, to find good water as their was an awesome corner pool right next to our camp, however these fish seemed to want to play hard to get. Colton started out with dries and couldn't get any to even look at them, while I started out with a stream and got one strike from a 6-8" trout. After hiking several miles into the river then scrambling a few hundred feet down into the flat this was not a very good sign. I wish I could say things improved that day, but they didn't. After covering the first hole, we worked our way further downstream and I got a decent rainbow on a dry out of a pocket not to far below camp but the river seemed oddly fished out in the section. We probably fished downstream a good mile and got one more rainbow, but things didn't look promising. Given that it is supposed to be a catch and release fishery this was not something I would have expected. My original thought was that given that the pink salmon were running, maybe the fish all were keying in on eggs where the pinks were at. However after finding an empty packet of bait hooks and about a 6" juvenile bull trout stuck in a snag pile (alive luckily) with a baithook still in its jaw we had a pretty good idea what the problem was. The bull trout was cut loose and released from its poacher inflicted torture, but we needed a new game plan. At camp that even we discussed options for the next day, which included checking out the river upstream and hiking out and going somewhere else but decided to sleep on things.

With the light of the new day we decided to stick it out and try to get into a more remote part of the watershed, so we made for the trail upstream. This section of the river was hemmed in by cliff walls on our side of the river, but after a bit of hiking we found a bit of a ravine that led down into the river. This route was not for the faint of heart and it was several hundred feet of very steep terrain overgrown with nettles and devils club before we reach the bottom of the valley. This route was not something I would wish on my worst enemies and was something that would definitely deter most anglers and left us feeling rather battered.

At the bottom we found a beautiful river riddled ice blue pools and pocket water and lined with virgin stands of massive Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars. Apparently this untouched canyon offered the trout some refuge as it didn't take long before we found some willing 6-10" rainbows in the pocket water. While the smaller fish seemed willing enough, we still had to work pretty hard for the fish we got and Colton was the first one to find a fish of some size and managed to rise a beautiful 14" rainbow in a side channel pool.
Colton's rainbow

This fish put up a great battle on his 2wt, taking line and getting a fair bit of air time as well. In the next stretch of pocketwater upstream Colton also got the first surprise from a bull trout, a little juvenile that couldn't say no to a dry fly.
Dry fly bull trout
The river in the canyon

While the fish in the pocketwater seemed willing enough to rise to dries, most of the deeper pools were a different story and at first glance seemed devoid of life. On the first on of these pools that we came upon we put decided to put our efforts into streamers however even that didn't didn't seem to get any reaction and if it weren't for Colton seeing a good sized fish cruise into the hole from the tailout, we would have assumed it was empty. After a good half hour of fishing this hole, I drifted my fly into a drop off behind a boulder and as soon as I started retrieving I felt a good resistance. My first assumption was that this was the boulder so I didn't set hard on it however a sizeable flash made me realize my mistake, but it was already to late.

We worked the hole for another twenty minutes or so and I had just told Colton that we should head upstream and rest it for later when I got my second chance as another sizable fish grabbed my fly. This fish had some size to it and put the hurt on my 4wt, but before long I was able to get the upper hand and slide a beautiful 16" native rainbow into my net.
My big streamer eating rainbow

After my big fish we headed upstream again and found fishing to remain good, hard work but good. The river was a bit fast in this stretch and required a bit of brushwacking and climbing over log jams to get between the decent stretches of water. It was in one of these log jams that I ran into a problem, as I jumped off of the last log and onto the bank, my net got wedged between my back and the log and didn't fair well from the event.
End of the line for an old friend...

I have had this net for over ten years and it has been with me every step of the way on my native trout quest and seeing it shattered was quite the blow. However I wasn't willing to abandon this old fishing buddy and will Colton fished the next hole I used some 40lb test line to make some repairs. I will say the net is no longer pretty, but it is functional again and served its purpose for the rest of the trip. About a half mile above where I got my rainbow we found a string of deep pools and I got a surprise by a little bull trout that took a soft hackle in the first pool.
A post release shot of my little bull trout

The next hole up yielded a little bull for Colton as well and while Colton continued to work this spot I headed upstream and found a little bull trout as well that I got on a dry out of a pocket. I also found the end of the line as the combo of a cliff and some deep fast water barred the way upstream just above. It was getting late at this point, so we needed to be heading back anyways so this just gave me the sign that it was time to turn around. As I got back to the pool where Colton hooked into a nice sized rainbow, that could have been the twin to the one that I caught earlier in turns of size and the battle.

Another beautiful rainbow

With Colton's big rainbow spooking that hole, we decided to head back to the hole that I had gotten my fish out of as quickly as possible to see if we could find anything else in there. To cover ground more quickly we took to a game trail and were making good time until I found bee's nest number two of the trip. This led to us making even better time as we were both running to get away from bee's however the still got me pretty good. I added another 6 or 7 bee stings my already swollen leg, which now felt like it was on fire, while Colton got away scott free again. Finally we made it to the hole that I had gotten my big rainbow out of and after just a few casts Colton found one of the other residents of the spot...

Colton's surprise 18" bull trout

Given all of the juvenile bulls that we had run into, we shouldn't have been find a fish this size in here but bulls are not the most common fish either. In typical bull trout still this fish stayed deep and made several good runs before coming in. By the time that the bull trout was swimming back into the depths, daylight was fading fast so we figured we just had time for one more hole each. Colton took the spot that he got his 14"er out of, while I opted for a hole right where we had dropped into the canyon. On my first cast it became apparent that my choice had been a good one as another good sized fish slammed my fly. This fish put up a pretty good aerial display and made me work pretty hard even with my 4wt, before coming to the net.
Another 16" rainbow

While the canyon had been hard to get down into earlier in the day, climbing out with next to no light, a few more bee strings and after fishing several miles of the stream was flat out grueling. However we battled our way out and made it back to camp just as the very last vestiges of light faded away.
Pink salmon spawning grounds... Several pinks can be seen in the middle of the picture
Spawned out pink

The next day we had our hike out to look forward to, but we decided to check out the river further downstream and got lucky and found where the pinks were spawning. With the pinks in the area, we switched to egg imitations and fished the river Alaska style. Colton fished a deep hole while I went upstream to the next run and got a few of the smaller rainbows. When I got down to where Colton was he had hooked one larger fish but lost it, I decided to take to a seam at the upper part of the pool above where he was and was instantly rewarded with a hook up. This sizable fish turned out to be a beautifully colored 18" bull trout that couldn't say no to an egg imitation.
My bull trout

A couple casts later I hooked a larger bull, which I lost trying to keep out of some fast water but I was able to get another about 10" rainbow a few casts after that and Colton got a smaller bull. We tried another stretch above to rest the hole, but didn't have much luck so we head back to the first hole. With the hole rested the fish seemed to want to bite again and I got yet another 18" bull trout before the fish seemed to catch onto us again and we called it quits.
Hikin' out

Given all of the canyon climbing and fishing that we had done the hike out of the valley was a bit of work, but not as bad as I would have expected. While this trip was not for the faint of heart given killer bees that had it in for me and the all out rugged terrain, the fishing was unforgettable. This fishery definitely isn't water one would expect of western Washington, but it a sign of what things can be like when you native trout in a pristine environment that requires more effort to fish then the average Joe would want to put in.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Olympics Top to Bottom

This past Thursday my buddies Colton, Jonathan and I along with Jonathan's father-in-law Gene headed over to the Olympic Peninsula to try out luck for some coho salmon. With a good coho run forecasted this year we were hoping that we might be able to find a few hatchery fish to remove from the gene pool and relocate to our BBQ's. So with high hopes we planned our dawn patrol out and by first light we were hiking out to the mouth of the river to try our luck with these silver bullets. We all started out fishing the tidewater with 8wt and intermediate lines and it didn't take long to spot some fish. Now the problem with coho is typically not finding them it is finding what they want to bite. As these fish stop feeding in fresh water, sometimes that is much easier said than done.
The mouth of the stream

Persistence generally pays off in cases like this, but this day the coho just didn't seem to want to cooperate. After numerous fly changes I had a couple grabs during the outgoing tide, but Colton was the only one to actually catch anything. Just it wasn't a coho, instead was a much rarer summer run chum.
Colton's first chum on the fly

As the tide started pushing in we had a few more grabs from coho and even a couple of short hook ups but couldn't put it all together. Finally we moved upstream to where the stream was flowing a bit and found a corner that was holding some fish. At this point I had switched over to a nymphing setup and it didn't take long to find a fish that wanted to grab. The only surprise was that it wasn't a coho, but a pink. Another rarity for this part of the state.

An Olympic pink salmon

These pinks seemed to have a thing for egg patterns and while there were also coho and chum in this spot, the pinks seemed much more grabby. However this is not to say that the coho and chum weren't biting either, just once again we couldn't put things together with to coho. This seems like the revival of my old curse from last year where I landed the last one out of the 13 or so coho I hooked. At this point of the outing I was probably at around 0 for 5 coho hook this season. As it would be the next fish I hooked was a chum...
My first chum of the year
At this point Jonathan and Gene who had been fishing another area caught up with us and we turned the hole over to them. Within a half hour everybody had caught and released a pink salmon for the day and the skunk was off.
A nice buck pink salmon
Gene with the big pink of the day

After catching their fish for the day Jonathan and Gene decided to call it quits, while Colton and I just decided it was time for a venue change. So we changed from salmon to trout and headed in to the mountains to fish the headwaters of one of the Olympic streams. The stream was high gradient, rough and tumble, and flowed through a beautiful old growth canyon making any fish a bonus.
Olympic native trout waters

However the would be plenty of bonus's as there were plenty of trout to go around. After the lock-jawed salmon these small but willing trout were a nice change and every little pocket had at least a few of the dry fly loving feisty little natives.
An average rainbow

We worked our way upstream catch plenty of trout until the canyon became to tight and we decided to head back to the car.

Ever the diehards though we decided to give one more try at the coho thing. This time we fished the river itself instead of the estuary. While there were some fish in the river, the numbers were not as impressive as at the mouth, so we decided to head downstream to some better holding water that I had found a few year back. The were a few fish down here and while Colton didn't have any luck I had a several minute encounter with another chum that used a log across the river to get out of a photo op. I also got my shot at that coho, which gave my a good run followed by a fair-well jump before throwing the fly bringing my total up to 0 for 6. Oh well next time. All and all I would call it a great day!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back home - August in review part 2

The last couple weeks of August were a rash of fishing trip after fishing trip. The first thing on the agenda was a trip for pink salmon. The smallest of the Pacific salmon, pinks are only around in Washington during odd years, so I always try to at least get out a few times for them when they are running. So the night before my first outing for them Colton and I did a little fly tying challenge, with only a handful of materials at our disposal, we had to invent a fly and then try to catch something on it and whoever caught the most on their fly won. Won what exactly, I still have no idea but still I wanted to win.
My fly tying concoction

So in the morning we meant up with another buddy of mine (Eric) at the dock and headed out for some pink fishing. While the run was predicted to be around 6 million fish for the Sound this year, the numbers have been a little less then what I am used to. Due to that it took us a bit of hunting to find some fish, but finally we got into some. For about an hour we had some decent fishing and my fly fished on a fast sinking line got the first pink of the day.
My first pink of 2011

However the fish just didn't seem to be overly thick or in much of a bitting mood so before long we had to go hunting for more. We found some good numbers after about a half hour of searching and while the fish still required some work we managed to pick up a few more. Unfortunately for Colton his fish popped loose after a solid battle and while he hooked a fish on the next cast and landed it, the competition only applied to salmon and not flounders.
Colton's flounder

While it wasn't lights out pink fishing like I have seen in the past, it was still a great day on the water.

After the pink salmon outing, my buddy Wayne invited me out to Sekiu on the Olympic Peninsula for another salmon trip. While I tried hard to get something on the fly, the fish just weren't up top and with only a brief hook up for a day's effort I finally switch to conventional gear and started getting results. Fact of the matter was this was a meat hunting mission and the conventional gear could get the results with the fish at 50' to 75'.
Morning on the water
Wayne with a nice fish (pink)
Some BBQ and smoker guests
End of a beautiful day on the water

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A little bit of everything - August in review part 1


August was a bit of a busy month for me, the first half was spent on the road for work while the second half saw me back home, but somehow ended up being just as busy after so much time on the road. With the first half of the month my fishing time was pretty much spent exploring a couple small streams in Eastern Washington. I sampled these watersheds from top to bottom and found a variety of fishing options.

With day time temperatures in the mid to upper 90's the mid and lower reaches of the streams that I was fishing were home to warm-water species, bass, carp, perch, pikeminnow and such. Although a few steelhead were likely to be passing through these areas, none showed up in my catch.
The mid-watershed
This section of the river was hard work fishing, the river wasn't overly swift, but was slick and just didn't seemed to hold many fish. Dries produced no interest and nymphing only resulted in a few hook-ups. However throwing streamers did produce some results with the less desirable species and I had fun with some nice sized pikeminnow on my 4wt.
Northern Pikeminnow

While the mid-river didn't seem to have a ton of fish in it the lower river was another story. This area was literally teeming with bass and carp and I spent a good amount of time testing out this fishery, which was quiet new to me.
The lower river

The lower river was slow and slough like as it finally made its way to the Snake River and being that I had never fished for smallmouth bass before I simply approached it like I would fishing for sea-run cutthroat in estuaries back home. A 6wt, intermediate line and Clousers got quick results.
My first smallmouth bass

Like I said I had never fished smallmouth bass before and it was definitely a kick. The bass which ranged from 10-16" jumped, took line and just generally fought hard. They also seemed to have very different reactions to different colors. Black and red was a knock out fished slow, while yellow and white was killer stripped fast. A salmon smolt imitation seemed to get their attention on short twitches. Being that this fishery was within a few minutes of work I became a bit of an evening hangout, while it wasn't trout fishing, it was a fun change up.

Before long though I got the desire to fish trout and again and while the drive was a bit long and out of the way for after work, I made a few forays into the colder waters of the Blue Mountains. My first trip I made the mistake of going to high up and found that the term "river" can tend to be thrown around pretty lightly. While I checked things out and even caught a couple small redbands, fishing a brushy 2' wide stream just wasn't doing it for me and I went downstream till the "river" got a bit more river like.
The upper river trout country

I hit things right in this stretch as the river absolutely packed with trout. I started with a dry and dropper setup, but with the amount of fish I switch to a larger hopper to keep the smaller trout off. The trout ran any size from about 6" to 14" and were quite willing risers and although I only had about an hour to fish before dark I gave the 1wt a good workout.
A upper river rainbow

To be continued...