Fly Fishing Report: April 2024

Fly Fishing Report: April 2024

As winter shrinks to a speck in the rear view mirror, Western Washington is coming alive with new greenery; colorful flowers blossoming along with stinky skunk cabbage blooms and of course, the birds are back in town.  My favorite among them is the varied thrush.  Nothing reminds me that we're in the thick of spring like the haunting whistle of the varied thrush fading out in a dense, wet hemlock forest.  A close second in the world of welcoming Spring sounds is the muffled drumming of a ruffed grouse.  While recently surveying a Skagit River tributary for steelhead redds, a survey companion told me that you eventually lose your ability to hear that sound when you get older.  Whether that was true or not, I was immensely relieved that I could still hear it, however faintly.

Change often seems to come at the most perfect of times and is a natural buffer against boredom or complacency.  We had an exciting winter steelhead season on the Skagit and Sauk, but as the water warms and fish turn their attention towards proliferating the next generation, it's time to switch focus to lakes and beaches and take advantage of everything happening, or about to happen there.  The general lowland lake opener is next Saturday, April 27th.  While we have a number of year round options that have been fishing well of late, it's never a bad thing to have more options and give people the ability to spread themselves out, giving us each a little more room to breathe. 

The North Cascades Highway is expected to open this week, making intrastate travel for those of us here on the north end of the map a little easier without having to brave the rigors of Everett or Seattle traffic.  Salmon fry are finally beginning to appear off the North Sound beaches and the cutthroat and bull trout are predictably there looking for them.  If you can't quite pull yourself away from the river, the lower Skagit below the Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon remains open and as long as the river stays relatively low and clear, should continue to provide some great fishing options for cutts and bulls.

In other shop news, we've added a bunch of products in the last month, from Simms Solarflex Hoodies to new Rep Your Water hat designs to trick new flies that should produce well on our local waters.  The shop space always seems to be a work in progress but we've put a lot of finishing touches on the place over the last several weeks and now have some cool artwork up on the walls.  Some of it is even on consignment so if you see something you like, please inquire.   Don't forget that our Speyapalooza event with North Sound Trout Unlimited is right around the corner.  Speyapalooza gets bigger and better every year and we've added several new vendors, including Bridge Spey Lines, which we now stock at the Confluence.  Saturday, May 4th at Howard Miller Steelhead Park on the Skagit is the place to be and we hope to see you there!  Also, as Brandon and I will both be working the event, The Confluence Fly Shop will be closed all day on Saturday, May 4th.  We apologize for any inconvenience.  Lastly, with Mother's Day coming right up, don't forget about that special fishing mom in your life.  Even if she doesn't fish, she may well have helped you become the fishy person you've grown into along the way and deserves some special recognition.  I know mine certainly played a huge role in fostering my love and obsession with water and the finned creatures that inhabit it. 

In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine when it's around, tolerate the gray days and make the most of your time on the water.  We may well see you out there!



With the Washington lowland lake opener just days away, it's time to dust off your rod, clean your fly line and make sure your leaders and tippet aren't relics from a decade ago.  You can check the WDFW trout plant report for details but figure most of our local lakes are going to have decent numbers of rainbow trout to pursue and they make for enough of an excuse to take in the nice weather as one could possibly need.  One of our favorite things about the lake opener is having a variety of fishing options available within a 20 minute drive of home or work.  Sure it's nice to pack the camping stuff,  fill a cooler with hot dogs and beer (or occasionally something more upscale) and head north or east or both for a fabulous weekend of fishing for big plentiful trout somewhere but it's also really relaxing to knock off a long day at work, hop in the car and quickly unwind in a float tube.  You can be catching fish just minutes away from the daily grind when you just can't work that multi-day fishing bender into the eclectic schedule.

For stocked trout, we have a superb selection of Woolly Bugger variations that will usually get the job done.  Get some drab ones, get some flashy ones, some big, some small and you'll typically find cooperative fish.  Other excellent planter options are Carey Specials, Olive Willies, Blobs, Boobies and Simi Seal Leeches.  You can even fish dry flies when the fish appear to be feeding near the surface.  The Tom Thumb is one of our favorites this time of year.  Does it look like a crippled or emerging chironomid?  Does it look a little like the hatchery pellets these fish subsist on through the entirely of their confined youth?  The answer can be yes to both questions.

Pass and Lone have been on and off from day to day but there have been some exceptional days in there when the big rainbows are feeding heavily on chironomids.  Lately, bloodworm patterns fished near the bottom have been effective, but at times, Vid Mids, Chromies, Black Red Butts with a silver rib and Ice Cream Cones have done well.  In general, chironomids in smaller sizes like 16 and 18 have been most productive


Well, we bid farewell to another local winter steelhead season as that fishery on the Skagit and Sauk rivers closed on April 17th.  In general, it seemed to be a decent return return of wild fish this year.  The rivers were busy, but folks found fish here and there and it was super awesome to congratulate a number of relatively new steelheaders on swinging up their first steelhead this season.  It's certainly an accomplishment that few ever forget.  The general stream opener for most rivers and creeks will be the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.  Between now and then, you've got blue winged olives, some March browns and very soon, a ton of caddis hatching on the Yakima.  Beyond that, we have the lower portion of the Skagit below the Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon down to the mouth as an option closer to home.  We're starting to see lots of cutthroat and bull trout down there, so it's worth a float in the next few weeks.  Lord of the Frys, Chumpy Fry, Chumbody's Baby and Little McFry will match the scores of out-migrating pink and chum fry heading downstream.  Larger patterns like Sir Sticks A Lot, Dali Llamas and Skiddish Smolt on a sink tip line and even Morrish's Waking Wounded fished on the surface are solid additions to have in your fly box.



As the salmon fry exit the rivers and creeks, they stage along our Puget Sound beaches looking to grow a few inches before heading out to the great big ocean we're they'll spend the next few years.  The fry will tend to hug the shallows as they're weak swimmers and are very vulnerable to predation.  Under the right tidal conditions, usually an outgoing tide, some of them will get swept out of their comfort zone and into the mouths of eager predators.  The same fry patterns working in the lower Skagit will get the job done in the salt.  In addition, larger patterns like Psychedelic Shock and Awes, Just Keep Swimming and Flash Drives remain very appealing to larger anadromous bull trout that favor a big meal.

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