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, April 30, 2020

Pre-shutdown Olympic Steelhead

My buddy Greg and I had been planning an outing to the Washington Coast for Steelhead for over a year, but as we got closer to the date it seemed that problems were coming our way. First was that I heard through the grapevine that the Washington Coast south of the Olympic Peninsula was going to be closing on the day that our trip was set to start. This was likely to really limit options and increase crowds on the few rivers that were open. Also with this being the first week of March 2020, rumblings of the pandemic were also making plans uncertain.

However, when the start of our trip arrived, conditions on the Olympic Peninsula looked relatively favorable and after picking Greg up from the airport we hit the road. Our first day we would only have a few hours to fish before dark so we checked out a small stream that I had fished years ago. However, after covering a good mile or two of the stream and after seeing no sign of fish we headed into town to get ready for a full day on the river the next day.

The next morning dawned gray and drizzly and given the number of folks that were in Forks at the moment, Greg and I opted for a hike in river. Based on our desire to get away from the crowds, this proved to be a good choice as there was no one else in the parking lot when we pulled up, so it looked like we would have the river to ourselves. The spot we were heading had a few nice runs several miles upstream, so we geared up and hit the muddy trail. 

Time to hit the trail

For the most part the hike was a nice flat trip through old growth Sitka Spruce. However, part of the way up to our first run, the river had taken out the trail resulting in a tough scramble over a hill and down a salmonberry and devils club choked ravine to meet back up with the trail. After that minor set back, it wasn't long before we finally reached our spot and got to fishing. We planned on swinging flies most of the day and I started our with a purple and blue intruder. I started out at the top of the run, while Greg started just below me and we got into position and started swinging flies. Just a couple casts later, I had a good tug on the end of my line and was into a fish. After a good initial take, I could tell that this fish was not that large and when I brought it to hand it turned out to be a beautiful native Coastal Cutthroat.

A native Olympic Peninsula Coastal Cutthroat

The swinging run

We worked the run for a few hours and did have a couple more takes, with Greg having one strong take that we highly suspected was a Steelhead, but unfortunately nothing stuck. After feeling satisfied with our coverage of the run, we hiked into another one, which treated us very similarly. Again, no steelhead, but one smallish Coastal Cutthroat, this time on a bead. Throughout the day it had barely stopped raining and as we had a pretty good hike ahead of us we started our way back to the trailhead with high hopes for the next day.

Again we decided to focus on a piece of water that required a bit of leg work to get to and hopefully would have some Steelhead. The morning started out fairly clear and after a nice walk through the virgin temperate rainforest we found ourselves on a beautiful stretch of water. 

The river

The first stretch of water did not look very conducive to swinging so we opted to nymph it. As Greg still hadn't gotten a fish, he took first water. It didn't take too long for Greg to get a cast into the sweet spot of the pool and hook into a nice fish. This was definitely a Steelhead and by the look of how it was pulling a heck of a nice one. The fish really made Greg work for it, but before too long he was able to get it into the shallows were I was able to tail it for him.

Greg hooked into his first steelhead


The beautiful native Olympic Peninsula Steelhead

The fish was an absolutely beautiful native buck in its spawning colors, with a deep red band and orange belly. One heck of a fish for Greg's first steelhead! After getting his steelhead, Greg took a little break and I worked the pool for a bit and briefly had a Steelhead on but lost it.  However, in it the next pool down, I got a good take and this time connected with a Steelhead. However, this fish was not quite like Greg's which had really made him work for it and within a couple minutes I had what turned out to be a little hatchery steelhead to shore. 

My hatchery steelhead

Given that this hatchery fish had WAY overshot the hatchery and was hanging out with wild fish it was destined for the smoker. After I got my fish, Greg took a shot at the hole and had a brief hookup, but unfortunately it came off. Given our success here, we had high hopes for the rest of the day, but as it would turn out this appeared to be an isolated occurrence and after covering another mile or two of river we didn't see any other signs of fish. To add to things a front had moved in and the river started to rise and by the time we stopped fishing around dusk, we were a bit worried about flows for our final day.

On our last day we only had a half day to fish before Greg had to head south to meet up with another friend in Oregon. As such, and given that the rain had really added some extra flow and color to the rivers around Forks, I picked a river that I knew was likely to hold its color and would be somewhat on the way for us. Where the weather the rest of the trip had been gray and wet, this day was beautiful and sunny and while the river was definitely cranking, it had held its color pretty well and we set to fishing. 

Our final river

A Mountain Whitefish

With the water up and wading difficult, fishing required long casts, which really made getting good drifts difficult. I did manage to get a few take down nymph, but everyone one of them ended up being Mountain Whitefish and after covering a couple of holes the river wading proved too challenging to proceed downstream so we decided it was time to call it. Within a couple weeks of the end of our trip, the pandemic had set in and turned life upside down, making me all that much more grateful for a great outing finding a few fish on some beautiful rivers with a great friend.