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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.


Saturday, June 4, 2022

A winter steelhead season in review: Part 2

With the poor returns of steelhead along the Washington coast, the season ended up being shorter than expected with an emergency closures kicking in on many streams at the beginning of March. While it was disappointing to see many of my favorite watersheds close early, it provided extra protection to the fish and also gave me the incentive I needed to check out some new waters that were open still.

My first trip out after the closure was short outing where I really didn't expect to hook anything but wanted to get my daughter Valerie out on the river for a brief introduction to winter steelheading. As there had recently been some good rain, I knew that the river was going to be high but dropping.

A promising little stream. 

As the goal of this trip was to get Valerie out on the river, we spent just as much time looking for exploring as we did casting. As usual, a handful of casts was not enough to attract any steelhead, but it was just enough for a fun morning on the river.
A fun day on the river

After my short trip to the river with my daughter, I set out to find some time to get out and explore the river some more as soon as possible. As it worked I out, I was able to pull away again the next week with my buddy Jonathan for a full day of solid fishing. Conditions we set for a repeat of the last trip, with a recent rain resulting in the river being quite high and dropping, with good clarity and weather.

We decided to start our day off high up in the watershed and then work our way downstream hitting any likely spots as we went. With the river being high still, find slower holding water proved chanllenging and the first half of the day was completely unproductive. However, around lunch time we came to a spot above the river where we could see a pod of at least half a dozen fish. Jonathan and I took turns fishing to them, but not matter our offering the fish showed no sign of interest. As we were never able to get an overly clear view of the fish, it is entirely possible that they were whitefish, which could explain the lack of interest.
A beautiful day to be on the water

With a slow day so far, Jonathan and I decided to try one or two more spot before relocating to another stream. One of these spots proved to be the most promising of the day and featured a deep pool at the top end and a solid run at the bottom. While the top end looked great for indicator fishing, the run looked like a great spot to swing a fly and was a great excuse to dust of my switch rod. Unfortunately, with the extra flow my switch rod just didn't have the backbone to quite get to the most likely pocket in the tailout. However, Jonathan was able to good land a cast in it and sure enough hooked into a nice fish. While it seemed as though he had gotten a good hook set, it must not have been good enough as after a few headshakes and a roll on the surface the fish was able to shake loose.
Prospecting for steelhead

After trying one last spot with no sign of steelhead, we decided to relocate to another nearby stream we both wanted to check out. At this point we only had a few hours of daylight left so we figured that this was going to be more of a scouting operation than anything. What immediately caught our attention with this stream, was the beauty. While high like the other river, it was a perfect steelhead green color and bordered by lush forests with a few old growth trees still remaining. Better yet there appeared to be a good amount of quality holding water as well even at the high flows. 

We tried several nice runs before the sun started to fade, indicating that the next run would be our last. I started out at the top of the run, while Jonathan took the bottom. It turned our the bottom of the run was the place to be. While I was working a nice seam at the head of the run, I noticed Jonathan appeared to be snagged on something until the "snag" started to move and I realized he had a fish on. I hurriedly reeled in and made my way down to Jonathan and after a few minutes of a rather mellow battle he brought the fish in and I was able to tail a beautiful bright hen for him.
Jonathan's bright native steelhead

After Jonathan got his fish, daylight was really not on our side and we decided it would be time to hit the road in about ten minutes if we wanted to avoid walking out in the dark. For the last ten minutes, I took the lower part of the run and had one very fishy take down, but after flogging the water for a few more minutes the weren't any other signs of fish and it was time to get on the road.
A beautiful end to a get day on the water

While the 2022 winter steelhead season was certainly a rough one with fish abundance and closures, I have a hard time complaining to much with my angling experience as it also got me out on some new water, that I may not have checked out otherwise and am excited to explore further next season.

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