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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, November 11, 2023

Fall in the North Cascades: Part 2

After the amazing fishing of the previous day, we decided to shake things up a bit a try out another stream to see if we couldn't capture magic in a bottle once again. This stream had been on my hit list for years as it hosts a run of Sockeye Salmon and spawning Sockeye typically attract hungry trout and char. On top of that the area is noted for its amazing scenery, so even if the fishing didn’t live up to expectations, the scenery was bound to make it worthwhile. As such, by first light we found ourselves at the trailhead rigged up and ready to go.

A misty morning in the mountains

Upon reaching the river, we saw few signs of life and the first few bends failed to produce any fish.  That finally started to change once we finally spotted some bright red Sockeye holding a tailout. Not far upstream we found another group of Sockeye actively spawning and just downstream Dyllon caught a small Rainbow Trout on an egg imitation. 

A group of Sockeye holding in the river

While Dyllon and TJ were fishing egg imitations, I decided to bring my streamer rod. That choice ended making my day when a Sockeye surprised me and latched onto my black sculpin pattern as I stripped across a run. After a short fight, I slid the beautiful red male Sockeye into the shallows and tailed it. When it comes to catching salmon on a fly rod in the Pacific Northwest, Sockeye are by far the most challenging, with this only being the second anadromous Sockeye I have ever caught.

My fish of the day a bright red Sockeye

Not far upstream from where I caught my Sockeye, we ran into another solid spawning aggregation and it didn’t take long for Dyllon to hook into and land a beautiful Bull Trout.

Dyllon with a nice Bull Trout

As we continued working our way upstream, the river proved to be every bit as beautiful as we expected with aquamarine waters, surrounded by old growth forest and towering glaciated peaks that where cloaked in clouds giving things an ethereal feel. While both Dyllon and TJ hooked into a few more fish no additional trout were landed and as the spawning salmon appeared to be thinning out as we headed upstream, we finally made the call to make our way back downstream.

Dyllon working a beautiful piece of water

On the way downstream, luck favored me again as I got a solid grab on my streamer in a deep hole and landed my first native Rainbow of the trip. While this fish was large by any means, it was spunky and gorgeous.

A beautiful native Rainbow Trout caught on a streamer

Despite fishing our way down to the trail, we didn’t get any more attention after that Rainbow and before we knew it we were leaving the river back on the trail again.

One last look at the river

On the trail out and off to the next stream 

With how well we had done the day before, we made the call to go fish in the same area, albeit a little further upstream to explore some new water. So after a short drive and a bit of bushwhacking to reach the water we found ourselves back on the water again. As we reached the river, the smell of dead salmon was strong in the air and there active spawners digging or sitting on redds throughout the shallows. Just like the previous day, it didn't take us long to find some hungry Bull Trout either, with Dyllon catching a nice mid-teens Bull Trout within the first few minutes. The main attraction for this spot was a nice deep run that was filled with boulders and deep pockets just upstream from where we hit the river.

Dyllon and TJ working a good run

Dyllon and TJ started at the top of the run, while I started a little ways downstream and worked my way up to them. After covering a short distance, I spotted and fishy looking pocket behind a boulder and when I got a good drift in I was rewarded with my first Bull Trout of the day - a 20” pink spotted beauty.

My first Bull Trout of the day

Shortly after releasing my Bull Trout, Dyllon got into a couple of decent Bulls at the top of the run and TJ lost one as well. After covering the lower part of the hole thoroughly, I traded spots with Dyllon and TJ and my egg imitation got the attention of the Bull Trout as I pulled two more out before the fishing slowed down. 
With a treacherous river crossing upstream, we decided to head downriver next and found a spot where two fast side channels merged. While TJ and Dyllon headed to the lower part of this run, I opted to cross to the island between the side channels to hit a particularly fishy piece of water. After a few casts my indicator shot under and seconds later a nice Rainbow came shooting out of the water. While I am always over the moon to catch Bull Trout, the difference in the fight between them and this Rainbow was startling. While Bull Trout stay down and deep with slow but powerful runs, this energetic Rainbow made multiple leaps and lightning fast runs, but even that wasn’t enough and within a couple of minutes I was able to bring the chunky fish to my net.

A chunky native Coastal Rainbow Trout

I turned out that this fish wasn’t the only Rainbow in the hole either and few casts later, I caught its twin. However, after that the action died down again and it was time to catch up with Dyllon and TJ and head further downstream.

The river

When we reached the next spot, we found it thick with spawning salmon and sure enough there were plenty of hungry Bull Trout behind them.

Pink Salmon spawning

As with the previous day, once we found the Bull Trout the fishing was fast a furious, with each hole or riffle producing one or more Bull Trout. At one point we were all three fishing a run and Dyllon and TJ hooked into a double, I jokingly said let’s make it a triple and as fate would have it when I tossed my line in I almost immediately hooked into a Bull Tout. With triples on the table, the fishing over the next couple hours once again exceeded expectations with each of us landing our fair share of beautiful Bull Trout.

Another Bull Trout

While the fishing was amazing, before I knew it, it was late afternoon and time for me to hit the road if I wanted to get back home at a reasonable hour. While it was time for me to head out, Dyllon and TJ were staying for another day, so we said our goodbyes and I hit the road bound for home.

Fall colors along the river

All I can say is that this trip made me feel extremely privileged to call the Pacific Northwest home. It is easy to focus and countless challenges facing threatened populations of salmon and Bull Trout, but it is heartening to know that with quality habitat are still places where they are found in abundance. As such I can’t wait for my next opportunity to get back up north in pursuit of these beautiful char.