It's hard to believe another year has nearly passed us by and we're winding down into the final few weeks. There's still fishing to be had amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday activities. Fishing isn't always red hot this time of year, but some pretty decent opportunities remain despite the sometimes crummy weather.
Our local chum run was pretty poor along with the rest of the state and chum retention is closed in the Nooksack and beyond as a result. Bull trout are here and there and on the prowl, our late coho are still in the game and some of our year round lakes have continued to fish surprisingly well for this late into the season. The South Sound and Hood Canal are reliably putting out some nice cutthroat and we're waiting to see the first good push of winter steelhead into our rivers, which ought to get started before too long.
Honestly, this is as good a time as any to split town and go somewhere warm for a few days. If there's water and fish in the general vicinity, all the better. My family and I spent Thanksgiving with a few friends near Orlando. While my redfish and sea trout plans were thwarted by windy conditions that blew up at the eleventh hour, I did get a chance to check out some urban ponds with a fly rod. Florida is a different place to say the least. There seem to be brim (Floridian for bluegill and other assorted panfish) and largemouth bass in nearly every lake, canal and swamp from the golf courses to hotel waterways if you can get public access, not to mention tilapia, cichlids and a bunch of weird looking fish that may well have swam from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. It was definitely a nice change of pace to fish poppers at the end of November and experience fish exploding on surface bugs amidst 80 degree temps and sunny skies.
If you've had it with the cold and drizzle in our neck of the woods, we still have a couple of openings for our Christmas Island trip in February, as well as some spots for next November. Beyond the fishing, we have some fun events coming up in the next few weeks, from fly tying nights to Speyapalooza, so we hope to see you there joining in the festivities. Please note that the Confluence will be closed all day on Saturday, December 7th helping out at Speyapalooza on the Skagit.
Lastly, thanks to everyone who came out for the International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the Lincoln Theatre last month, it was a terrific night with some great movies to get us fired up for more fishing, adventure and camaraderie down the road.
It's a mixed bag out there of bull trout and late coho in the Skagit watershed, a bit of the same in the Nooksack and the odd chum around until we see the first of our winter steelhead showing up in our local waters. If you just can't wait for steelhead, odds are more favorable on the coast, with the Quillayute and Queets systems generally getting a little earlier return of hatchery winter steelhead than we see in Puget Sound.
The days are short and there's a lot of water to cover. Your best bets are to pick a short float on a section of river where you can maximize your fishing time with limited daylight or walk and wade to cover some good runs. If you can find areas where spawning salmon are concentrated, fishing a bead under an indicator or swinging a flesh fly, Dali Llama or Egg Sucking Leech are effective tactics for bull trout with the odd rainbow and whitefish in the mix. For winter steelhead, flies matter less than simply finding fish, but you still want to match up with the water conditions. For low clear water, Hoh Bo Speys, Caballeros and smaller Egg Sucking Leeches do the trick, in higher water, Intruders, Pick Yr Pockets and String Leeches are some of our favorite flies.
Pass and Lone Lakes have both continued to fish pretty well for this far into the season. On Pass, minnow imitations like Micro Zonkers, Marabou Clousers and Zoo Cougars have been working well. Boobies, Balanced Leeches and Micro Leeches have been catching fish on both Pass and Lone. Focus on the warmer parts of the day like late afternoon and concentrate on the lake edge. These year round lakes can fish decent right through the heart of winter provided the air temps don't go below freezing for weeks at a time. If the aforementioned flies aren't producing, bloodworm patterns or San Juan Worms fished slowly close to the bottom can be effective. Lake Padden remains open through the end of the month, so that can be a decent option too.
While we don't spend a ton of time on our North Sound and Whidbey beaches during the winter it's a great time to explore the beaches of South Puget Sound and Hood Canal for sea run cutthroat and resident coho. We continue to catch fish on small baitfish patterns this time of year like Marabou Clousers, but you'll definitely want to carry some euphasid and small shrimpy stuff with you too as these become staple food items during the winter months.