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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.


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Washington Wanderings

 After my last native trout trip, it has been time for me to stick closer to home for a while, as well as to hunt down some local native trout with a couple friends from out of state.

My first outing after getting back was a short trip to my home river after some resident Coastal Cutthroat. As with everywhere around the west, Washington is feeling the exceptionally dry summer and the river was particularly low. On my favorite stretch of the river, the first riffle is usually extremely productive this time of the year, but barely had enough water to even hold fish. Despite this, I did manage to get one small Cutthroat and one Shiner, both on my dropper. Interestingly the Cutthroat had quite a bit more speckling than normal and appeared to have black spot disease, something I had not seen before in this stream.

A small resident Coastal Cutthroat with blackspot disease
A small shiner caught on a dropper

Fishing my way upstream, I found a deeper run and managed to pick up a few more Cutthroat around 6-8” on my dry and while I am usually able to find a few fish in the 10-12” range on most trips, it wasn’t happening this time and after a couple of hours and perhaps a dozen small Cutthroat I figured I had seen enough and called it for the day.

The river

A healthy little Coastal Cutthroat

About a week after my Cutthroat outing, my buddies from Utah, Dan and Paul flew in for three days of fishing. The first fish that they were hoping to check off was a Coastal Cutthroat and as the local river had been producing mainly small fish, we decided to start on the Puget Sound to see if wee could find some sea-runs. 

We arrived at our first beach shortly after the low tide and at a beach with a good constricted passage, prime Cutthroat water. However, after a couple hours we had only had a few short strikes and follows but no fish landed and we decided to move on. The next beach we went too was at its ideal tide, and Paul got one Coho smolt, but again the Cutthroat were nowhere to be seen, so we decided to try one last beach. Unfortunately, this one also gave us a blank. It seemed to be one of those days where the fish didn’t want to bite... As I was out of time for the day, Dan and Paul ran to the local river and found the Cutthroat right where I had found them the week before.

A beautiful day on the water, regardless of slow fishing

The next day we were headed deep into the Olympics after native Coastal Rainbows. The stream that we were heading too is one of the more unique ones in Washington. This river has a set of barrier falls in its mid-section and as a result has Rainbows with colorations that I have not seen in other local populations. These fish are and almost pure white color, with prominent part marks and a vibrant pink/red band down the lateral line. The other interesting thing about this river, is that it is one of the only places in the lower 48 states with a true native population of Dolly Varden. These Dollies fit a different niche than the Rainbows, being more of benthic feeders, but are mixed in a about a 50/50 ratio and are known to rise to dries from time to time.

The shady river

After making the drive several hours to the river, we geared up and hiked upstream another couple of miles to a stretch that has treated me well in the past. Paul took the first crack at the river and after a few casts caught a small Dolly Varden on his nymph and in the next hole he got a nice about 10” Rainbow. Not long after, Dan too caught a small Dolly this time on a dry fly. 

A small native stream resident Southern Dolly Varden

The greatest challenge with this stream is that it is very high gradient and it can be a long distance between holding water. After Dan and Paul got into their fish, spent some time working along the river before I found a decent little run wit a few nice pockets thrown in. I started out in the soft water near the top of the run and as I picked up my line to make another cast I noticed a fish holding in the soft water side of the seam. On my next cast I got the fly right where I saw the fish and it instantly grabbed my dropper and I pulled in a nice little Dolly. After few more casts, there didn’t seem to be any other takers so I worked down the run a bit. Where the water picked turned into a bit of a riffle, a decent fish rose and this time I brought in a Rainbow. After landing that fish, I cast a couple few feet further back and rose another nicer fish. This one ended up being about 10” and was beautifully colored.

A beautiful pale white native Coastal Rainbow Trout
The fast flowing stream

We worked the stream for most of the afternoon, with each of us getting in a handful of Dollies and Rainbows, before heading back towards Olympia.

For the last day with Dan and Paul, we were heading east to the crest of the Cascade Mountains to search for some Eastern Cascades-Clearwater Westslope Cutthroat. This stream was quite a bit smaller than the last one, but holds a pure population of some of the most beautiful Cutthroat I have encountered. 

Cascade Mountain Cutthroat country

Paul headed up the road to try fishing upstream a ways, while Dan and I started right by the car. Just as with previous trips to this stream, the Cutthroat were plentiful, if not all that large. Within a few minutes Dan had his first Westslope of the day and not too long after that I had mine. As we worked our way upstream and further from the car, the holding water improved and so did the size of the fish, with a few running up to 10”.

A vibrantly colored native Cutthroat

After covering about a 1/2 mile of the creek, we decided to use our last couple hours before Dan and Paul flew out to visit my one of favorite streams in Washington. This other stream is stunningly beautiful and has equally beautiful Cutthroat. I had fished this other spot a number of times of the years, a rarely ran into other anglers, although within the last few years, a Seattle area fly shop started doing guided trips and pressure has gone up significantly since. Unfortunately, this was meant that when we got to the stream, there was already someone else fishing my favorite stretch and while we got a few minutes of fishing in upstream, it took longer to get to the water and we only had time to get a few casts in, catching a single fish before it was time to head out.

Another native Cutthroat

Despite a set back on our last spot, it was a great trip and excellent to spend time on the water with Dan and Paul, touring some of Washington's unique native trout locations. I am hoping that next year, I will be able to make it out to Utah to visit with them and hopefully check the Bonneville Cutthroat off of my list as well.