Fly Fishing Report: December 2022

Fly Fishing Report: December 2022

As another year draws to a close, we reflect fondly on 2022, our days afloat, wading a small stream or bubbling river, hopping a plane to an exotic destination, fish stories around a campfire or perched on a bar stool. For us, what continually ties everything together is the companionship and camaraderie of the people we get to share many of these great places and experiences with. Mark Twain once said, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” For all of the pre-dawn solo slogs and adventures I’ve mustered over a lifetime of fly fishing, it remains the time spent with other people that etches the most vivid of memories. Take some time at year end to reflect on friends and family and the joy they bring you both on and off the water. We are lucky to have others in our lives and we certainly appreciate all of you for helping us continue we do what we love at the shop. We’ve been around a decade already and are looking forward to the growth and change the next one promises. Enough said, onto the fishing.

I think back to this time last year and the rampant frustration of blown rivers, serious flooding and utter lack of fishing opportunity. We’ve been fortunate to have the Nooksack, Skagit and Sauk in shape more often then not lately, along with the most robust chum salmon return we’ve seen in many years. The chum have not only provided a fantastic excuse to layer up, glove up and wander the icy local river banks, but they play such a critical role in the health of our North Sound ecosystems. Everything from the eagles to the native bull trout depend on them as the single most important food source at an otherwise lean time of the year. We certainly hope to see the chum continue to thrive in future years. It’s honestly hard to get motivated to get out of bed in the dark, scrape the ice off my windshield and soldier on toward the river when it’s in the mid-20’s, but I’m thankful each time I do and this late fall has been particularly generous on the fishing front. Looking ahead, as the chum and late season coho wind down, we are beginning to see the first winter steelhead show up. We get asked a lot about a spring Skagit steelhead fishery each year. As in the past, we won’t likely find out much until late January. The Olympic Peninsula fisheries will have some restrictions similar to the last few seasons to protect low returning wild steelhead runs. You can check out the full regulations here.

We had a great turnout for the International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the Lincoln Theatre last month and our North Sound Trout Unlimited Chapter raised a ton of money for conservation in our region. We are already looking forward to the event next year. Thanks to everyone who came out to our fly tying night at Stemma Brewing. We promise to get some more scheduled in January after the hustle and bustle of the holidays has passed and I’m not tooling around on the flats of Belize for a good chunk December. Brandon will hold down the fort and Addison will be back in the shop for part of December while he’s on break from college in Montana. We’ll be open our regular hours through the month with the following closures for the holidays.

Saturday 12/24: We’ll be open 10-2 on Christmas Eve for those last minute shoppers but closing early at 2pm. We’re closed Sunday and Monday anyway.

Saturday 1/31: We will be open our normal business hours of 10-5 for New Year’s Eve. Again, closed Sunday and Monday as usual.

Please have a safe and happy holiday and some merry times on the water. We hope to see you in the shop soon. See our full list of clearance items below if you need to do a little holiday shopping for yourself as well.


Both the Skagit and Nooksack have continued to fish very well for salmon over the last several weeks despite the unseasonably cold conditions. This arctic lock on the Northwest has at least kept everything in very fishable shape over the last few weeks. With the cold water, indicator tactics have worked very well for both chum and coho. Fish Starlights or Egg Sucking Leeches in pink or purple, Showgirls, Pixies Revenge and Deuce Wigalos and don’t leave home without your 8 wt. for the salmon unless you’re targeting trout and char. December is a good month to swing flesh flies for bulls and rainbows or nymph egg patterns or beads under an indicator. The bulls have been well fed with this year’s abundance of chum salmon.

We’re seeing a few steelhead showing up here and there, getting us excited for the months to come. Please be aware that this year, anglers are required to release hatchery steelhead on the Nooksack through the end of the year. I know, it seems counterintuitive to release hatchery fish but it is an effort to allow the Kendall Creek Hatchery to reach its escapement goals. I suppose it beats the alternative of having the river closed through most of the winter season which has typically been the case in the past.


Not much to say here. Pass still exceeded the allowable algae limits as of its last test on November 21st. Let’s hope it reopens soon as it’s one of the better local winter lake fisheries. Cranberry Lake got a plant of larger rainbows around Halloween and is open to fish. Squalicum is still open as well but with sub-freezing temperatures day in and day out, you’ve got to be a real stillwater zealot to drag yourself out there. Should the weather warm up a hair, fish small leech patterns low and slow or hang bloodworm/chironomid larva patterns under an indicator right off the bottom. The last few years, the Blob suspended above a bloodworm or Balanced Leech has worked wonders during the cold months. We’ll feature a Blob and a newer style of Balanced Leech as our fly of the month over the next few months.


Resident coho are around in the South Sound and winter sea run cutthroat has been decent in the south and Hood Canal. In the seasonal absence of lots of baitfish to eat, sculpins, euphasids, amphipods, and generic shrimpy looking patterns like the Squimp are useful to have in the cutthroat box this time of year.

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