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

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Oregon and California Redband Round-up: Part 1 Klamath Basin and Eagle Lake

Of all the rainbow trout varieties in the United States, the Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout has been the most daunting to catch. There are three primary factors why, first is that to catch them with a fly there are two short windows when these trout are shallow enough; in the spring and fall. This alone makes planning any trips more limiting. Next is the size of Eagle Lake, which is the second largest lake in California and is known for its strong winds. The final thing is just simply that it is in a lake, which I fish way less than streams and thus feel much less proficient at fishing than streams.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to fish Eagle Lake, but was unfortunately unsuccessful at catching an Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout. As this was one of my last Rainbow/ Redband Trout subspecies to catch failing to catch one was definitely a disappointment and I had hoped to make another trip down to the lake last spring. However, the pandemic made those plans fall though and my schedule during the fall didn’t allow a trip at that time. This year though, the stars aligned and I had an extended weekend come up where I could break away for four days to try to again. Add to that when I mentioned that I was planning the trip to my neighbor Dyllon he said he could join as well and with that plans were set!

Friday: June 4th 2021: After tying flies every spare moment for the the previous few weeks, it was finally time to hit the road. Our plan for the trip evolved from just going after the Eagle Lake Rainbow, to also chasing down a few varieties of Redbands as well as long as the lake treated us well. The morning of the trip, Dyllon and I planned on departing at 4:00AM, however upon getting out to the car we noticed that there had been a neighborhood wide egging overnight, so first we had to clean out cars off, which cost us a half hour. Great way to kick things off... 

Once we finally hit the road, our plan was to drive straight to a creek in the Klamath Basin to try to catch some Redbands, prior to heading to Eagle Lake. This Redband outing would have to be short, as we were on a timeline and had to make it to the marina at Eagle Lake before 6pm to reserve our rental boat for the next day. Luckily, the drive down to the creek was a smooth 6 hours with no traffic and not long after one quick stop for gas and we were at our first spot.

I had put quite a bit of research into the streams to fish on this trip, and now that we were on the water, we would find out if it paid off or not. This stream was a classic cascading mountain creek with lots of pockets and hole, but despite looking like good water, the first couple holes didn’t show any signs of life. However, in the next one I managed to rise a small trout and after a few more casts I caught a little Redband and we were on the board. 

The stream

A beautiful native Klamath Basin Redband

A little brookie

As we moved upstream and away from the road, the water and the fishing both improved, with trout holding in pretty much every likely spot. This included some Brook Trout, which I none of my research had indicated were in this stream. However, the majority of the fish were vividly colored Redbands and after a couple of hours we had caught at least a dozen trout and decided it was time to make the rest of the 4 hour drive to Eagle Lake. 

We made it to the marina with an hour to spare, got our rental boat reservation squared away, then headed back over to the campground and got our camp set up. As it turned out, another buddy of mine and native trout enthusiast Steve had been out on the lake earlier in the day and was able to swing by our camp to say hello. We spent a good hour talking native trout and Steve gave a report and some pointers on where he had luck as he had gotten a beautiful 5lb rainbow that morning. After Steve headed out and we had a quick dinner, Dyllon and I got a few quick fruitless casts in on the lake before turning in with high hopes for the morning.

Saturday: June 5th 2021: We were up before the sun to make it to the marina by 5:15 AM to get our boat. Luckily the lake was glassy calm and we decided to start out trolling flies on sink tips on 6WT rods until we found the fish. As we moved out from the marina, the boat in front of us got a fish, but otherwise we saw no sign of fish until we came close to a steep stretch of shore and started to see some fish rising. As we passed a point, finally I got a solid grab and was hooked into a nice fish. This was a strong fish and made several blistering runs and also charged the boat multiple times making me scramble to keep up. However, after a few minutes I eased the fish into the net and I finally had caught an Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout and a beautiful 3-4lb perhaps 20” fish at that!

A calm Eagle Lake morning

My first Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout

As trolling had worked once, we made another pass through the same area and right where I had hooked into the last fish, I hooked into another one. The fight was almost identical, but unfortunately as the fish neared the boat, the hook popped out. After two more passes, we only had one more short strike and as we didn’t see anyone else hooking into fish, but there were still risers, we decided to change tactics. As there were callibaetis mayflies coming off, Dyllon decided to try a dry fly, while I put on a double chironomid rig.

After fifteen or twenty minutes with no action, Dyllon asked if we should try trolling again or keep with chironomids? As if on queue, my indicator shot down and I responded chironomids. This fish was a bit smaller than the first one, but as my chironomid rig was on my 4WT it still put up one heck of a fight. Luckily this time my hook held and I managed to land it.

Another Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout

Not long after, I managed to get another, fish on the chironomid rig, which inspired Dyllon to change over his dry fly set up, which had not gotten any attention yet. Over the next half hour, we both had a couple hook ups, but lost our fish. Then the infamous Eagle Lake wind kicked up and we had to head back to the marina as we did not want to risk getting swamped.

After turning the boat back in and grabbing a quick lunch, we decided to head up to the headwaters of Pine Creek to see if we could find any fish up there while we waited out the wind. Unfortunately, the drought had not been kind to Pine Creek and what we found was barely a trickle. We probably should have checked further upstream, but we saw no sign of life here so we decided that we would head back to camp and see if the wind at the lake had calmed down at all.
Upper Pine Creek

After grabbing a quick early dinner at camp, Dyllon and I decided to brave the wind and try the lake from shore in the area where we had found fish in the boat during the morning. The beach at the lake faced right into the wind and was being lashed by 2-3 foot waves, definitely challenging conditions, but we were able to cast so we decided it was worth a try. This time it was Dyllon's turn to get into the fish and a small scud under and chironomid soon produced at solid fish. The rainbow gave Dyllon a good battle before we brought it to the net.
Dyllon's Eagle Lake Rainbow

Before it was time to turn in, Dyllon got one additional rainbow and lost another amid the surf. However, the persistent wind and fading daylight finally forced us off the water and it was time to head back to camp. It had been a great day on the lake and with both of us having caught some beautiful Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout, we could go ahead with our plans to chase down some other Redbands in the morning.
Sunset on the lake

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

New Mexico Getaway

 With the pandemic finally becoming more manageable and recently getting vaccinated, my wife Alexis and I were finally able to have a little getaway. After doing a little research, we decided to head to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had been to Santa Fe way back in 2009, when I went after Gila Trout and Rio Grande Cutthroat in New Mexico, however on that trip I was only there for one evening and had always wanted to go back. As we made plans we decided that we would visit Bandelier National Monument, check out the Santa Fe Plaza and the museums. and while this trip was a vacation first a foremost, it looked like could fit in one morning to pull away for a little fishing as well.

After over a year of limited interaction with crowds, the airport was definitely an overwhelming experience, but luckily we had a smooth flight arrived in Albuquerque safely and made the drive out to Santa Fe. The next morning we woke up early and headed out to Bandelier National Monument. I am a bit of a history nut, so this was one of those spots that really interested me and the ancient Puebloan ruins were amazing. 

Bandelier National Monument

Cliff dwellings

The next day we were in town all day and it proved to be a rather stormy one. However, between the thunderstorms we were still able to check out the awesome Farmers Market, the High Desert Angler Fly Shop (great little shop!), some museums and the Plaza.

Santa Fe Plaza between rainstorms

The next morning I was up early to head for the headwaters of the Pecos River in search of Rio Grande Cutthroat. The drive out to the stream was great as the weather had cleared and the storm of the day before had cleared out any crowds from the valley. I had fished this stream almost 12 years ago and this time I decided to fish a bit lower down to see some new water. 

The stream

As with last time I was here, the stream was rather small and fairly brushy so most casting was going to be bow and arrow style. The other thing I recalled from the previous trip was that these trout were extremely spooky and required a great deal of stealth. It seemed this was still the case, as in the first likely spot I came too I was a bit careless and spooked two small trout. The next hole that I came too, I was much more prepared and made a quick bow and arrow cast into the seam and as my dry dropper set up reached the tailout, I watch a cutthroat dart over and grab the nymph. After a quick battle, I brought a beautiful little Rio Grande Cutthroat to hand.

A beautiful Rio Grande Cutthroat

It amazed me just how many trout were in the creek this time. Every likely spot held at the least one fish and typically more. Last time that I was here I had noted that these cutthroat really seem to favor the tailouts instead of the deeper water of the pools, I usually expect to find trout in which was still the case. This added to the need for stealth as the trout we able to see me approaching from a long distance and had plenty of time to inspect flies before taking them, often putting their noses right on the dry only to refuse it after a couple of seconds. However, often sneaking up to water on hands and knees I was able to find some flies the trout found acceptable and would pick up a decent cutthroat in most pools that I came too.

Spring bloom along the creek

Another Rio Grande Cutthroat

One of the things that I love about seeking out native trout is the beautiful locations that they are often found in. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains range is one of those special beautiful spots and this time of the year extra special, as the trees were just putting on their new growth and the first spring flowers were just starting to bloom. All to soon, my allotted time was up and I had to start heading back to the car. The trek back was a bit illuminating as after running into the third group of other anglers on my way downstream it was pretty clear why these trout were so spooky and selective. 

Time to head downstream

All and all, this was an amazing little getaway and with just a couple of weeks until my next outing to hopefully catch some Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout, the trout season is of to a good start.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

2021 Steelhead Season

The 2021 steelhead season in Washington proved to be a very challenging one. Runs across the coast are in decline and Washington had to adopt my more restrictive regulations along the coast this year to deal with this. This ended up limiting what gear could be used, meant no fishing out of a boat and led to a number of rivers closing early. However, I still managed to get out a number of times and found few fish in the long run.

By January I was itching to get out and decided was able to pull of a quick morning outing with my buddy Chris. Our timing was definitely not ideal as flows were still up after a recent rain and while this one did not result in any fish but did allow me to dust some casting and presentation cobwebs off.

High water and no fish

The next trip out I joined my neighbor Dyllon on an outing to the Olympic Peninsula for a predominately swinging trip. The day was beautiful, but like the last trip, the river was still running high and made wading and fishing a bit more challenging than expected. Dyllon managed to pick up a couple of whitefish nymph, but other than that it was a long day on the water with very little attention from the fish.

A beautiful day on the water - even with no fish

After this slow start to the season, the remainder of the season for me was spent doing genetic sampling to help establish a genetic baseline to inform population dynamics and hatchery impacts on several coastal steelhead populations. This entails taking a small fin clip for genetics as well as collecting scales from each fish to determine their age. Additionally, as the is limited genetic data for Coastal Cutthroat from the coast we were also going to collect any samples we could if we got any. Compared to past years on that I have been on these rivers, this year certainly was harder to find fish. However, with a handful of outings it ended up being a relatively successful year.

A native Coastal Cutthroat

A bright hen

A big male steelhead
Another bright fish

Definitely hoping that next year will be a better year for steelhead along the coast as they have been in a rough spot for the last few seasons.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Summer in the Olympics: Part 2

 After our last trip scouting for some new water on the Olympic Peninsula, Chris and I did some additional research a found another promising stream to check out. This one was a bit more off the beaten path and would require some serious leg work but looked very promising. Per the norm in the Olympics, the morning we headed out dawned gray with a fresh marine layer rolling in off the Pacific. We started up the trail through towering old growth, but when we caught our first glimpse of the river, it was too much to resist and we decided to just start fishing right there. As it would turn out, this paid off and a few casts in, Chris caught a nice wild Spring Chinook jack. With our first taste of success on the river, we decide we would just us the river as our trail for the day and started our way upstream. From here things didn't slow down and the river was absolutely gorgeous and each hole and run seemed to have something in it.

Hooked into a fish

A beautiful native Coastal Cutthroat
A beautiful bull trout
Working a good current seam

A little after lunch, Chris was working on other best runs of the day, when he hooked into something big. This fish was a bright summer run of about 7-8lbs and was not having any of it. Chris fought it for about 10 minutes until finally he was able to get it in netting range. However, the fish decided it wanted to do one more run, and unfortunately after a tail-wagging leap it spit the hook. We worked the hole a bit longer, but nothing else wanted to bite and with our excitement high, we continued upstream.

Chris working the summer run hole

Very fresh prints from a bear we could hear running off

As day wore on we found ourselves at the best hole we had seen all day. We got pretty focused on fishing and each hooked a couple of fishing in the hole, when we started to notice that the sun was starting to get low in the sky. It was at this point that we realize we hadn't stopped moving almost all day and had covered a bit more ground than we had expected and needed to find the trail and start heading back. Unfortunately, this was more easily said than done and ended up being a rough 1/2 hour of busy whacking until we finally found the trail. The hike out made it quite apparent just how far we had gone, with us dragging by the time we reached the trailhead at dusk after what we end up figuring out was a 14 mile day trip.

A beautiful stretch of the river

A giant spruce tree on the way out.

My next adventure was to a couple of my favorite Olympic streams with one of my buddies. As summer was wearing on at this point, I was hoping that the rainbow would be starting to think about spawning salmon and the eggs that would be right around the corner. With luck this same thing and a recent rain would also draw a few sea-run cutthroat in from the salt water as well. The first stream of the day that we hit, is usually the more productive, albeit with slightly smaller fish. However, today fishing proved very slow and after covering a mile of water and only getting one small cutthroat we decided to try the other river. 

The first few holes we fished on the next river were just as slow as the last river, however when we got down to one of the "salmon tanks" on the lower river, that change. I had a large streamer on imitating a lamprey on and started with a short perhaps 20' roll cast just to get some line out. However, I watched as a big cutthroat quickly shot out from behind a log and charged my streamer. The fist seemed to hesitate, so I gave it a couple quick twitches before letting it fall and the cutthroat crushed the fly. The fight was pretty quick as the cutthroat was close to shore already and I really wanted to avoid spoking the hole. The fish was beautiful and looked as though it had only been out of the saltwater for a day or two at most. 

My big cutthroat

I gave my buddy the next shot at the hole and after floating a few feet, his indicator went down and he hooked into a big rainbow. This fish was hooked right in the heart of the hole and put up quite a battle before coming in, effective spooking the rest of the hole.

The rainbow

We figured we had one more hole we could hit before the end of the day and this one also looked promising as I could see a big cutthroat sitting in the tailout when we approached. However, before we could get more than a couple casts in a flotilla of innertubers came floating down the river and spooked the hole and with that we decided that we had gotten a couple nice fish and it was time to head back.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Summer in the Olympics: Part 1

 With the challenges that 2020 presented, I remained local over the summer and decided to explore of my old favorite spots as well as some streams in the Olympics that I had not had a chance to check out yet. 

One of the old spots that I visited for the season is one of my favorite rivers in the Northwest and without a doubt the stream that I have spent the most time on as I did much of my research for my Masters Thesis on it.  The upper river is full of great pocket water and lots of small rainbows that eagerly rise to any dry fly. 

The River

A small native rainbow

As usual the spot didn't disappoint and a couple hours yielded over a dozen 6-12" spunky native Coastal Rainbow Trout.

Since I moved to Olympia a little over a year ago, I have been trying to learn some of the local beaches a bit better. One of these is only 5 minutes from my house, so I was able get out to it a few times in July when the tides we favorable and found a few sea-run Cutthroat that were feeding on polychaete worms.

The beach

A decent sea-run cutthroat /div>

The next trip out, I wanted check out a river in Olympic National Park that I suspected might have a good rainbow trout fishery and potentially some summer steelhead. With that my buddy Chris joined me and we made the drive out to the Peninsula. Just before we arrived at the trailhead, a black bear darted across the road, as if to indicate that we had entered the wilderness. Based on our scouring over maps, there was a promising stretch of river through a small canyon about four miles up the trail so we got our waders on and hit the trail. The day had started of gray as so many on the Peninsula do and the hike through the old growth forest was a pleasant one, especially with a the bumper crop of huckleberries that this summer had presented. 

 A beautiful stretch of water deep in the Olympic 

When we got to the river, we geared up with big nymphs and streamers, the favored flies for big rainbows and summer runs in the Olympics in my experience. One of the first holes that we came to, Chris spotted what looked like a nice summer run sitting the tailout. We first tried our nymphs to no avail, however a swung streamer resulted in a ferocious take for Chris. Pretty quickly by the way the fish was fighting it became apparent that it was not a summer run but a big bull trout, which Chris quickly landed and we sent it on its way again.

Chris' big bull trout

From this point on almost every we got a take in almost every hole, but didn't find the big rainbows or summer runs we were looking for. Instead it seemed that bull trout and whitefish were the predominant fish in the stretch of river. Once we were out of the canyon, the fishing pretty much died on us, so we hit the trail and headed back with thoughts of our next outing already on our minds.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

After work outing

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

A nice evening bull trout

Friday, June 12, 2020

Fishing the New Home Stream

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

The stream

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

A greedy like female cutthroat

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

The fish of the evening

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