Welcome back summer, our old friend. My how we've missed you! Along with the sunny skies, heat and days that linger long into the witching hour, our Northwest Washington summers bless us with a exciting array of fisheries, some in full swing, some just on the horizon. The shop bustles with people coming and going, lots of fisheries are open and we all get to spread out and enjoy a little taste of good times on the water.
I've admittedly crossed the line to become a full blown bass-a-holic this year, plying the ponds and tepid swamps around Whatcom county well past dark on warm evenings after work. It's all about top water now, poppers, sliders, mice...you name it and there've been some true hawgs coming out to play.
I also just got back from a few days in the in the BC interior and certainly renewed my passion for the way a big, brawly, deep-shouldered rainbow puts up a fight. It is nothing short of spectacular. Even a big bass tends to throw a quick sucker punch. There's plenty of hoopla and fireworks, but it's essentially over in a few seconds. BC was awesome as it most always is. Good food, friendship and considerably better fishing than we probably deserved with steady and varied chironomid hatches from early in the morning until the sun was just a faint dull light to the west. It's not hard to understand how some folks tent it and RV it for months on end, jumping from lake to lake as the weather and hatches dictate.
Speaking of weather, I'd all but abandoned the notion of Junuary this year, that cold, wet unseasonable pariah that so often descends upon us with the onset of summer. It was an entirely different story on the high plateaus above Merritt, BC, where high winds, torrential afternoon squalls and a freak hailstorm of biblical proportions has us bundled in bibs and winter jackets through much of the trip. Still can't wait until the next one though.
Please note we will be closed on July 4th all day to celebrate Independence Day. Have a safe and happy holiday. We'll be back with normal business hours on July 5th.
Locally, bass and panfish continue to rule, the Hex hatch is kicking off at Whatcom and with little snow piled up in the hills, rivers and creeks are already erring on the low side on both slopes of the Cascades. Saltwater salmon will start up on the beaches in the North Sound shortly and there's plenty of good stuff to come.
We're getting lots of reports from the mountain creeks, Methow and some action on the Skagit as well. Creeks are usually still running full bore with snowmelt, but there isn't much white stuff remaining in the hills so it's happening now. If you're planning a trip to the Methow this summer, this month is probably going to be the time to go. August will likely have water temps outside of the trout's comfort zone, not to mention a little crispy for us bipedal hominids as well. Yellow sally stones, caddis, some PMD and PED mayflies are coming off in the moving waters, with a few terrestrials around. If your on water like the Methow or Yakima that see their share of angling pressure, the fish know what these bugs are and so should you. Matching the hatch typically pays off in these waters.
If you're fishing some thin blue line high in the Cascades, general high floating attractor dry flies still get the job done day in and day out. Royal Wulffs, Humpys, Stimulators, Elk Hair Caddis and Royal Trudes continue to the carry their weight in gold on the mountain streams. If it floats, isn't too big and you can see it you'll be into fish most of the day. If it isn't floating so well, shake it up in a bottle of Loon Easy Dry and re-apply your favorite floatant and you'll be good as new.
The streamer game for bull trout is underway on the Skagit with various sculpin patterns, Dali Llama's, Flash Fry and Double Bunnies working well. Remind yourself that the Skagit char population is not such that you can stand on the same rock the better part of the day and catch fish to your heart's desire. Put some miles on those felt or rubber soles and cover water. These big native char are pretty honest when you find them. In clear water, go smaller with flies like Wounded Sculpins or Rolled Muddlers or look for water with some color below a glacial tributary and fish the big stuff where the bull trout will eat a little more recklessly. These are magnificent fish and can get very large. Treat them with respect and always keep them in the water.
The upper Skagit in BC opened July 1st and appears to be in fishable shape, so that'd be another excellent option to explore this month before she gets low and warm. Please note that there are some restrictions due to last years fires in certain areas. Also the lake level is down significantly from previous years, creating issues getting a boat on the lake. Don't forget your mosquito repellent!
The lowland lake trout game is pretty much on hold until the weather cools down but you can still find willing trout in lakes all summer long playing the temperature and elevation game. Now is a fine time to begin venturing into the high country in search of rainbows, cutthroat and brook trout. These fish are generally not super picky, so Mosquitos, Adams, Black Gnats and Renegades on the surface or Woolly Buggers, Zug Bugs and Soft Hackles subsurface are all pretty enticing to the local lake denizens. BC interior has lots of high lakes at elevations that largely keep them cool and fishing well into the heart of summer. Just remember to pack accordingly as the weather changes quickly in the mountains. Leeches, scuds, dragons, damsels, bloodworms, bomber chironomids and sedges should all hold a spot in your summer BC lake box.
On the home front, the area bass lakes that aren't too vegetated and mucky are fishing great in the evenings with a variety of poppers and sliders. Having spent a lot of time out there in the past month, you'll want to have a variety of top water offerings. Some nights it just doesn't matter and you're good to go with anything. Others the bass go nuts for something subtly waked on the surface but shy away from the noise and commotion of a popper. It's fun stuff, close to home and perfect for an after work session when the air is cool and refreshing.
The big yellow mayflies are starting to pop on Lake Whatcom. This hatch will typically last through mid August and can come off to varying degrees nightly. It's an exciting way to catch smallmouth bass and you'll encounter the odd cutthroat while you're at it. Look for hard packed mud flats on the lake and head out around 8pm. Nymphs are active prior to the hatch but once you see the swallows and cedar waxwings working and the huge mayflies take lumbering flight, a #6 Parachute Hex or Hex Emerger is the bug of choice. Padden gets some Hex hatch activity too, but to a much lesser extent these days.
We have a few cutthroat around the Area 7 beaches, as well as Whidbey and Camano to keep us enthralled before our migratory coho really start showing up in the North Sound. Chum fry have moved on and flies that imitate small sand lance and herring like the Pinhead and West's Imitator are key. Area 9, where we do most of our summer salmon fishing will open at the July 25th and run through the end of September. We usually have a few resident coho around at the end of the month, building into August and September. Time to start tying your Craft Fur Clousers!