Fly Fishing Report: January 2024

Fly Fishing Report: January 2024

Houston...we have ignition!  After many long and tedious months staring at a computer screen on into the wee hours of the night our new website and online store are now live!  We are pretty excited to have this project up and running.  And while we'll continue to add features, new products and more content, there's already plenty available for you to digest and enjoy.  We will ship anywhere in the US and even have an in-store pick up feature if you're local and want us to gather up your order in advance of your visit.  We value your feedback so absolutely let us know what you think in order to help us improve the store experience.

Fishing has been relatively productive for this time of the year, at least up until the mercury took an extreme nose dive and many of our lakes and even rivers began to freeze over.  Hopefully as the weather warms up in the coming week we'll get back on track in kicking off the new year with some nice fish.  When the arctic conditions subside, we've got some winter steelhead showing up in our local rivers, lots of nice bull trout, and plenty of hungry whitefish.  Some of our year round lakes have fished quite well too provided the water remains in liquid form.

If you're not quite ready to brave the cold, there's some fun upcoming events around town you should consider checking out.  On Tuesday, January 16th North Sound Trout Unlimited will kick off 2024 with a membership meeting at Mi Mexico from 7-9pm.  The meeting will feature a presentation from board member Steve Kopp on the results of our Nooksack eDNA study.  If you're curious about the distribution of various salmonid species throughout the entire Nooksack basin you'll want to see this comprehensive presentation on the results of this multi-year study.  The rest of the meeting will comprise chapter board elections.  You need not be a TU member to attend the meeting but we would strongly encourage you to become a part of this vibrant, conservation-focused and very active North Sound chapter.

Also coming up next month is the 2024 Fly Fishing Film Tour on Sunday, February 25th at the Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon.  The F3T is always a great event to elevate your fishing stoke level and this year should be no different.  You can scan the poster we have in the shop next time you drop by to purchase discounted tickets through the F3T.  We hope to see you there!

We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and thank you for keeping ours pretty busy.  As we begin another year, I often find myself looking back on the previous one as much as planning out the next.  What was your last fish of 2023?  Your favorite trip?  Any new fishing pals that joined the cadre of anglers that you're especially thankful for?  What are your goals for the coming season?   These are all personal questions with personal answers but help to give our lives a smooth directional flow. 

I was helping out with a fly fishing class at SVCC last week and one of the instructors shared with the class his thoughts on the progression of a fly fisher from starting out to years down the road and I very much agree.  We begin the journey just wanting to catch something, a fish or if we're lucky, several.  Next we become enamored with catching a big fish or very specific species and that quest consumes our every thought.  Then we come to a point where we just enjoy the opportunity to be out there in nature, making the odd connection here and there with something from the aquatic realm.  I wholeheartedly agree with Ty, but also cherish the connections made with people along the way, whether it's your longtime buddies that make you spew hot coffee out of your nostrils when the cab of the truck erupts in laughter en route to the river or that kind stranger that offers you a couple of the fly du jour when they see you striking out.  That's the part I think I enjoy most, the sharing with others.  But yes, to be entirely  honest I do still like catching big fish and lots of them too!

Enjoy the prospects of a new year, stay warm out there and if you're just not quite ready to venture out into the elements, take a moment to check out our new website and tell us what you think.  Like everything else, it promises to evolve over time.

Here's what has been going on out there in the watery world of the North Sound:



After the big flood event in early December, rivers dropped back into shape pretty nicely and with relatively mild day time temperatures, fishing had been pretty good.  As Jack Frost nips at a big chunk of the Northwest, however, cold water temps tend to slow things down.  Expect fishing to improve as everything becomes unfrozen. The Skagit has been really productive, especially for bull trout, both in numbers and size.  Surprisingly, we're still finding chrome B-run coho throughout the river, though their presence should diminish as we move through the month.  We've heard of several early wild steelhead caught here and there as well.  With salmon spawning activity winding down, bull trout have been a little more dispersed of late.  White Zonkers, Dali Llamas and Soft Hackle Streamers in olive or white have been working well. 


Following the high water last month, the NF Nooksack is a considerably different river.  There have been a number of changes on the mainstem as well.  It's a tough system to keep up with when your favorite pockets of last year become dry fishless channels but that's half the fun of exploring, right?   Please note that the WDFW announced some changes to the winter season with the SF Nooksack closed effective January 1st and the NF closing at the end of January.   There have been some hatchery steelhead in the NF but the fishing has been tough so far this season.  Winter whitefish has been pretty good with Glo Bugs, Pink Tags and Blowtorches working well.  Typically where you find one you'll find several.

This is the traditional time of year time of year when we field a lot of questions on whether or not we'll get a spring C&R season on the Skagit.  Look for an announcement in late January.  With large fall Puget Sound salmon runs pointing towards favorable ocean conditions, we're hoping for a promising wild steelhead return this winter and spring.


Up until the cold snap, Pass Lake water temps were averaging 42 degrees, which isn't bad for this time of year.  As you might expect, the fish remained relatively active and fishing was excellent through much of December.  Some days we caught them on Baby Fat Minnows and Gold Rolled Muddlers stripped around the shorelines, other days Blobs under indicators or Bloodworm patterns fished near the bottom produced better.  Play around with presentations and depths until you find fish.  The water should warm up a little in the coming week.  Right now you'd need a tip up to effectively fish parts of the lake.  Seriously, if there's one parental admonishment I retained from my childhood growing up in western Washington it's that you do not walk out on the ice.  I don't care how cold it is out there.  This advice has served me well far into adulthood and I would encourage others to heed it as well.


We don't spend many winter days on the beaches, save for an occasional foray into the South Sound or Hood Canal for cutthroat and testing the waters locally now and again.  Generally winter in the North Sound doesn't see much happening off the beaches.  Sand Lance, however, move into to shallower water around the eel grass beds to spawn this time of year and you'll often be surprised by the larger predatory fish that come in close to feed on them.


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