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.


Monday, December 19, 2011

A false start

Not to long ago, my buddy Craig and I got out to the Olympic Peninsula to try for some early season winter steelhead. 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 the fact that it hasn't rained in any significant amount for sometime, leaving the rivers low and clear and severely limiting our options on some of the other waters that I like to fish. 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 we were fishing, 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 committed 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 spots, which in turn showed no signs of fish. At this point we were already starting to wear out 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 familiar for me, we made a stop at a corner where a nameless tributary joins the main river. The hole had treated me well in the past at low flows so we figured we would at least take a look. It didn't take too long to spot some fish, as there was a good pod of around 10-15 Steelhead holding in the tail out. 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 they spooked.

At this point we had one more shot at try to find some sort of fish and found another promising spot downstream a ways. As I was working 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 thought. Just downstream I got another take and this time actually got a good hookset. Right away I could tell that this wasn't a Steelhead as my switch rod quickly over powered it. However, a beautiful native Coastal Cutthroat fresh from the saltwater was just as good to me at this point and was a great note to end the day on.

A flawless native Coastal Cutthroat

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, but after a few hours of fishing I hadn't had a bump and while 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 tail out, 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 else. 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 watched 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 and I was really starting to think it was a Chinook Salmon or possibly a big Bull Trout. However, finally the fish discovered that it was hooked and finally decided to show itself 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. I finally caught up with it just downstream of where we landed the first fish. After several more minutes of battling the fish, we brought another beautiful native Redband 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 wanted to act like 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.