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.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

June on the Olympic Peninsula - Part 2

The second leg of my work trip put me on the other side of the Peninsula and limited my fishing options by a fair bit. While the flows on the west-end streams had ranged from ideal to low, the stream in this part of the Peninsula were still swollen with snowmelt and some major spring run-off. However, the draw of the mountains was to great for me to ignore and even though I figured I would probably just be going on a hiking trip I made for one of my favorite streams. The flows on the stream were double what they should be this time of the year, even with run-off but sometimes nymphing the soft spots can still produce a fish or two even in these conditions.

The snow swollen river

I rigged up my rod at the trailhead with a heavy soft hackled stonefly and a sink tip and started my search for fishable water. The river was definitely higher than I had ever seen it was carrying a heavy load of silt, however I still found a couple nice pockets at the first spot that I came to. Dead drifting didn't seem to get a lot of results, but as soon as I tried swinging my fly I got some results. The fish hit hard and with the aid of the current put up a hard fight, although it seemed quite unwilling to jump. When I got it in I saw that I had a char and not trout on my fly, in fact likely the rarest of char in the lower 48 a stream resident Southern Dolly Varden.

No bull about it, a beautiful native Dolly Varden

From fisheries reports I know that this stream holds Dolly Varden and no Bull Trout due to a barrier waterfall, external differences do make it possible to discern the two similar species but require a trained eye. The Dolly's heads tend to be less predatory looking and their mouths are much smaller for instance.
Dolly water

I let my next cast drift downstream into another good pocket and my fly was nabbed by another Dolly. With the gray hew to the silty water it these little char seem perfectly adapted to this stream, the way that native trout often seem to perfectly blend into their surroundings.

Another beautiful Dolly Varden

With my early success, I decided to hit the trail and head downstream in search of some more water. However, after covering a solid mile and a half of river and fishing every slow spot I could find, there was no sign of fish anywhere. Since the fish I got right off the bat were more than I expected in the first place and the fresh mountain air and a good hike were hard to beat, I wasn't going to be complaining.

The forest of the northern Olympic Mountains

The forest in the part of the Peninsula are much less luxuriant than those of the coastal rainforests, but they are still very beautiful with moss covered slopes and giant Douglas Firs. Add the the blooming rhododendron, salmonberries and trillium and views of the mountains and it is a great place for an evening hike.


While it was peaceful wandering the woods and searching the river for slow pockets, daylight only lasts so long and light fades fast in the forest, so I found myself racing back to the trailhead before I would have liked. Catching a few rare native char and hiking a few miles in some of the finest forest in the state after work is about as good of a way to spend an evening as I can imagine. Although I didn't manage to sneak out again during the week, the two char and the stunning views of the mountains on the drive out were enough to keep me happy until next time.

Sunset over the Olympic Mountains

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June on the Olympic Peninsula - Part 1

My last job assignment was a three week stint on the Olympic Peninsula and despite the long hours, I was able to find a bit of time to get out after work and do a bit of exploring and fishing. My first two weeks of this assignment were spent out in Forks, WA, a place that I have spent plenty of time in the winter, but seldom make it too in the summer. My first place to explore was a small and exceptionally beautiful coastal stream that I have fished several times for winter Steelhead but have never gotten to try once the weather warms and the flows drop. Although as fishing goes my timing was off by a fair bit as most Cutthroat are out to sea during summer and don't return till the first fall rains. However, being able to see the stream at low water will pay dividends once the winter storms roll in and the Steelhead with them.

The stream

Just because my timing wasn't ideal, didn't mean that the stream was vacant of fish, it just meant that those that were there were a bit on the small side. Most of these were native Coastal Cutthroat, but there were a few Steelhead smolts hanging around too. Dries and nymphs got the attention of the trout, but it seemed like these fish really wanted something that was moving and a basic soft hackle fly fit that bill. Each pool or log jam would produce a Cutthroat or two for a couple of hours before the sun started falling towards the Pacific. Although I wasn't able to find anything over 8", the fish were all beautiful, native and very feisty making for a great first outing of the trip.

A small native Coastal Cutthroat

My next venture to the river was for something slightly larger, with summer-run Steelhead in mind. Armed with my switch rod and a spey-style fly that I came up with I headed one of the many rivers in the Fork area. With the heavy snow pack in the mountains the flows were still a bit high, but the clarity was good. However, as is typical with Steelhead and especially with swinging flies for Steelhead the stars often need to align get one.

Great swinging water

The stars almost aligned for me as about half-way down the run an unseen force intercepted my fly and attempted to rip my rod out of my hand before vanishing into nothingness. This incident resulted in several more fruitless outings on the same stretch of river before I finally decided to trying something different.

For my last fishing outing on the west-end of the Peninsula, I headed down the rainforest to swing some flies. So armed with my switch rod and an articulated leech I headed for one of the wettest places on the west coast.

The Olympic rainforest

While this place receives over 80" of rain a year, I caught it on of those rare sunny beautiful evenings and stunning surrounding made it difficult to pay much attention to fishing.

The river

The flows were great, the clarity was great, the weather was great, and the scenery was amazing, but the fish just didn't seem to be overly cooperative. I wandered a good mile of river and fished several extremely fishy looking runs, but in the end only came away with one bump. In other words it couldn't have been time better spent! However, when you only have a couple of hours to spend in such a beautiful place time seems to like to pick up the pace a bit too much and before I knew it I was enjoying a beautiful sunset and the end of the first leg of my work trip.

A great way to end any day

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Home stream startup

Being home for the stream opener weekend this year, I decided to kick things off at a local Coastal Cutthroat stream. While this stream is close to home, it is it is very small and the last couple of winters have not been kind to what was once my favorite stretch. Last year blow-downs were the big issue, this year I found that the high flows of winter had all but eliminated all of the holding water in the section.

Brushy, but beautiful

While this stream is a lot of work, without a ton of reward, the fish beautiful and will rise to dries at times and an ten minute drive and an hour of fishing resulted in a handful of beautiful small native Cutthroat.

Native trout 10 min from home... Doesn't get much better...

This time of the year is always tough on this little creek, with only small resident or juvenile sea-run fish present. In the fall the anadromous cutthroat will be returning and if things go as the usually do I will be ending my stream season where I started it.

A spot to look forward to for fall...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Central Oregon Escape - Salmonflies Part 3 of 3

This post has definitely gotten held up by my busy schedule of late, with 3 weeks on the Olympic Peninsula for work bit of fishing, being the primary culprits. However here it finally is.

With fishing on the Metolius River a little slow and the Deschutes finally starting to drop, catching the Salmonfly hatch was on our priority list. We arrived at the river in the late afternoon and found that the wind was howling and from talking to other anglers it sounded like the weather had really slowed the hatch and fishing down, so we decided to just hangout at our campsite, enjoy dinner and maybe do a little hiking up the river before dark to scout things out for the next day.

The mighty Deschutes

After dinner we headed up the river (without our rods) to do a little scouting. After walking about a mile upstream we came to a descent looking spot and upon walking to the water's edge it was clear that the hatch was in progress as the grass along the bank was filled with adult Salmonflies. Unsurprisingly Colton couldn't help himself and tossed one of the big bugs in the river.

A Salmonfly

It drifted maybe fifteen feet before disappearing with a swirl of water. Seeing a trout eat a big bug on the surface is exciting, but after we witnessed this phenomena repeat itself several more times with different fish we couldn't resist the draw of fishing anymore. Unfortunately, for us it was almost sunset already and we left the rods back at the campsite. So by the time that we got back and rigged up, we just ended up fishing at camp.  However, for just a few minutes of fishing we each got one on top, with Colton getting a smallish fish and me getting a nice about 15"Redband. This was enough to get us psyched for the coming day and we made a plan to be up at the crack of dawn to have our choice of water in the morning.

A beautiful last light Columbia Basin Redband Trout

As planned we were up at first light and headed straight to the stretch that we had found the night before. With the chilly morning temperatures, the hatch typically doesn't kick in till around 10:00 AM or 11:00 AM, so we started out fishing nymphs and attractor dries and managed to get a few small fish including a Northern Pikeminnow. However, we found this stretch extremely difficult to fish from the bank and to deep to wade, so we kept moving on in search of better water.

A dry fly eating Northern Pikeminnow

About another mile upstream we found what we were looking for, with a run that had a nice riffle at the top, great structure along the bank and Salmon Flies everywhere. While the Salmonflies were definitely abundant in this stretch, it was still early and the hatch really hadn't fully kicked into gear yet.

Salmonflies everywhere

As with the night before Colton tried the swimming Salmonfly trick and flung one in the water and pretty much right away a fish rose and gulped it. Next we tried the same thing with an artificial and once again the fish rose to the fly, but after a short battle the fish came loose. Seeing the results of this and given that the Salmonflies were starting the land on us left and right, I picked one off my neck and tossed it in. This one didn't get grabbed right away and just as I was about to give up on watching it a trout finally nailed it. The only problem was that the fish was in a pretty darn tough spot being under a tree with a couple of branches hanging down that made present a fly drag-free quite difficult. After a few tries though I got a good drift and hooked up with the trout. This fish put up a heck of a battle, but after a few runs the fish tired and I slid it into the net.

Me with a beautiful Redband

Next it was Colton's turn and after working a feeding trout for a while, the fish finally rose to his fly and took it. This was a hot fish and made Colton work for it, but he had a good hookset and after a few minutes we netted a beautiful 16" Redband.

Colton with his big Redband

Fishing was good in this stretch, but after a few fish and with most of the day still ahead of us we decided to do a bit more exploring. Even though we found a few nice fish along the way, this ended up being more leg work than fishing and it seems that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence.
Great scenery upstream, not as good of fishing

After our little bit of exploring upstream, we headed back to the stretch that we had been working. By the time that we got back the hatch was in full swing, with Salmonflies everywhere and plenty of egg-laying adults in the air.

Trout's eye view

I started upstream at some water we had passed over in the morning and quickly found a pod of feeding fish. I got one nice one off the bat, but the rest of the fish seemed to be a bit picky and were keying in on fluttering Salmonflies.

A nice Deschutes Redband

With the fish being a bit finicky I switch to a PMX that would ride a little lower in the water, but also pulled the deer hair for the wing off to the sides so it looked like a fluttering adult. This did the trick after singling out a nice fish that rose just upstream against the bank I got a rise and hooked into a nice trout. This fish immediately took off downstream and stopped a couple of times, but kept turning and heading downstream. However, after chasing it several hundred feet downstream it finally tired out I managed to land a beautiful about 17" fat Redband.

My big trout for the day.

While we fished for a little longer and picked up a few more fish, before long the drift boat armada started to show up and while we had this stretch to ourselves pretty much all day now we were finding ourselves getting low-holed and crowded out. This was our sign to call an end to a great fishing trip and a great weekend.

Watch your step

While we were ready to go, the excitement wasn't over as nothing gets my heart racing quite like surprise visit by a rattlesnake in the middle of the trail.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Central Oregon Escape Part 2 of 3 - Metolius

The Metolius River has to be one of the most famous streams in Oregon and one that somehow I had never managed to make it over to for any fishing. However, when Colton and I planned our trip out that was something that I had hoped to change. With high flows and rough weather on the first stream we had fished, we hoped that the Metolius would be a little more accommodating. Being in essence a large spring creek flows were not an issue. In fact the Metolius is a bit unique in that comes out of the ground as a full fledged river.

The source of the Metolius

Although there was some wild weather with a bit of a nasty hail storm before we got to the river, We were able to wait it out with a stop at the local fly shop and an awesome BBQ joint in Sisters' Oregon and by the time we got to the river the weather didn't look half bad. The crowds however seemed to be the bigger concern, as we got one of the last two camp spots left where we stayed. Without a whole lot of daylight on our side, we decided that we would just hang around camp wait for the morning to fish the river.

The River

With the rising sun we set out upstream and before long we found a decent looking stretch of water. However, after literally covering it top to bottom by doing everything from swinging streamers for Bull Trout, nymphing and fishing dries we were unable to find anything in the area so we headed further upstream. After hiking for about a mile, we came upon some promising water and once again started covering it as thoroughly as possible. Hoping for a Bull Trout I started off swinging a big Rainbow Trout imitation, while Colton tried his luck nymphing. Not surprisingly Colton's luck seemed to be a bit better nymphing and although he didn't land any, he did manage to hook into three decent fish, while the bull's seemed to make a complete no show. While I love nymphing, I would rather fish dries if it is worth it and with some good hatches that were "supposed" to be happening this time of the year it looked like a good possibility. It seemed that the other fisherman also preferred dries and most didn't even consider nymphing an option as the favored strategy was sitting on the bank waiting for the the hatch to happen. However, after hours of fishing and not seeing a single rising fish and no Green Drakes and just a few PMDs nymphing seemed like a much better option than sitting on the bank. After covering our section of the river I gave up on the Bulls and started nymphing like Colton and within a few casts I had a good take and got a nice solid hookset.

Hooked up

Although the fish felt decent sized, it wasn't fighting like a trout and before long I had a beautifully colored Whitefish in the net.

My Whitefish

And underwater

After landing the Whitey we gave the river another hour for things to pick up, but when they didn't we decided to head out on the road again, this time making for the Deschutes River. Next Part 3 - Salmonfly time....

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Central Oregon Escape Part 1 of 3

With water conditions less then ideal in eastern Washington where I was working, I talked to my buddy Colton and we made a plan for him to come down for Memorial Day weekend for a little fishing escape to central Oregon. Even down in Oregon the flows were still high, but at least fishable, so we made for one of my favorite Columbia Basin Redband streams. We didn't get to the river until about 10:00 PM and by the time that we set up camp, it was time to crash for the night. When we awoke in the morning, we found a river that was flowing about double what I am used too for this time of the year, but the clarity was there, so we got to fishing.

High water

We started at a side channel that I had done well at a couple of years ago and it didn't take long to see result as on my first cast a decent fish grabbed my size 18 Copper John, but it popped off after a short battle. A few casts later Colton had a similar experience, but with a larger fish. The next fish that I hooked into I got a better hookset on and after a little game of tug of war I slid a nice sized Mountain Whitefish into the net.

Whitefish time

I have never understood why Whitefish have so little respect among anglers, as they fight well, aren't a half bad looking fish and being native to the watershed's they are found in definitely gains them some bonus points in my book. I was glad to get the Whitefish as it got the skunk off for the trip, however after the one whitey we couldn't manage to find any other fish in the stretch.

With that we decided to relocate, so we hopped in the car and drove a few miles downstream until we spotted a likely looking run with a few boulders breaking the current. At this point it was about mid-day and the weather, which had been grey in the morning was now sunny and starting to warm up. Once we got on the water there were some size 14 and 16 tan Caddisflies coming off, but the trout didn't seem to be keying into them on top yet so we started out nymphing. We got a few takes and another whitefish doing that before the rises started in earnest and we decided to switch to dries.

Colton hooked up with a Redband

Once the hatch kicked into gear, the fishing was fast and furious for a couple of hours with the little Redbands greedily feasting on caddisflies.

Colton's beautiful Redband

During the early part of the hatch the fish didn't seem overly picky, but as it progressed the weather started getting grey and threatened to rain and the takes also started getting fewer and further between. To try to counteract the slowly fishing I switched to a lower ridding egg-laying caddis and the fish seemed to respond a bit better to that.

Another Caddis eating Redband

While the switch in flies made a difference for a while, the changing weather was something that it couldn't fight and once the wind and the rain picked up that hatch died like somebody had flipped a switch and dry fly time was at an end. We went back to nymphing for a while and I got another ~16" Whitefish before we decided to call it quits and head back to camp.

My big Whitey

A sign that it's time to leave

We got back to camp just in time to save our tent from blowing away and with worst weather on the horizon we decided to make to for the Metolius River with hopes of better weather and some good fishing in the morning. Coming soon Part II - Metolius

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eastside wanderings

My recent drought of blog posts has been accompanied with an equal drought of fishing for me. Oddly enough this is despite being stationed on one of Washington's better Steelhead and salmon streams for my job at WDFW. Part of this is due to the long hours I have been working with 12+ hour shifts the normal. The other half is that during the month of May the only open water on this particular river was the lower two miles and it was only open two days a week while I was there. So between gale force winds, high flows and working late I only managed to fish the lower river once during my time there. However, that one time will go down as one of the most memorable outings of my life. With only a few hours of daylight left after work I made the hour drive down to the river only to find that of the two miles of open water only about a 1/4 mile was actually accessible due to the rugged terrain.

However, that 1/4 mile held some pretty enticing water, being situated between a rapid and a series of falls, it was clearly a place where migratory fish would keg up. When I arrived there were a couple fisherman working the upper part of the run, who said that fishing had been decent and a few salmon and Steelhead had been caught earlier in the day. With that I headed downstream to the tail out. It didn't take long once I started fishing to see signs of fish. These included rising trout, a school of suckers holding on the bottom and every now and again the tell tail roll of a spring Chinook Salmon.

The lower river

With Steelhead around and I rigged up my nymph rod and started working the closest seam. Within a few casts I started to see results too, as I had a few good takes and a brief hook up, before solidly locking into a fish. While it wasn't a Steelhead like I was hoping for it was a nice sized sucker fish and I was just happy to catch something.

The sucker fish

I hooked into a few more sucker fish, before deciding to try out the next run downstream. The water was quite a bit faster in this section of river, but the fastest water was on the far side and the near water looked like great traveling water and the type of place that I would expect an anadromous fish to hold. My fish cast was in a little too close and it resulted in my indicator going down me snagging up with the bottom. I put the next cast a few feet further out and once again my indicator went down in just about the same spot. However, the take down was followed by a couple good head shakes and line peeling off my reel. I didn't realize how big the fish was at first, but as my line got into the backing a huge spring Chinook breached on the opposite side of the river. This was easily the biggest fish that I have ever hooked and my conservative estimate was 30lbs. The fish held in the run for a couple of minutes, with me doing my best to try to control it. During this time it jumped a few more times giving me a rather good look at it. However, before long it started to work its way into the rapid below me and I knew that I was in trouble. I held the fish on the edge of a back eddy for a short bit before I could tell that it was going to make a run for it. To counter this I gave just a couple more turns to my drag in hopes of tiring the salmon faster. However, this turned out to be my undoing. As the fish turned downstream it came up and did one more slash on the surface and in doing so snapped my 20lb tippet like it was nothing, leaving shaken and in awe of what had just happened.

The springer run

After a few minutes to collect my wits, I went back to fishing the run again and although I spotted a few rolling fish I wasn't able to hook into another monster. I left as the sunset with hopes of returning on the next open day, however with the higher than average spring the flows just didn't allow it again.

Mt. Adams

However, there was plenty to explore in the area and hiking around and scouting out the watershed kept me pretty occupied in the evenings...

Plenty of water to explore next time