Fishing has been fantastic for the most part, though just being outdoors, bobbing on the water in a float tube and free from the confines of quarantine life is as fine a measure of success as one could possibly hope for. It is a chance to break away, take a deep breath and rejuvenate before diving headlong back into the craziness and widespread tension that now defines our world. I can't imagine life without this escape and know that others feel much the same way. It's been different not really traveling afar to fish much. I'm a camper at heart, and without this draw, have been less than motivated to drive much beyond and hour or two. I'm looking forward to an extended stay in the woods or the desert soon, widely dispersed with a couple buddies around a spacious fire ring, a chorus of bull frogs filling the stillness and silence of the night, a pack of coyotes yipping somewhere off in the distance beyond our crackling fire.
For the time being though, staying close to home has had its own rewards. I've fished places I haven't visited in years, explored many new ones and gotten to know some waters with an intimacy that only comes with frequent attendance. It's pretty cool to know which drop off the trout like best, which miniscule break in the lily pads always holds a bragging-size bass and lingering well past the dwindling twilight because you know home is only a 20 minute drive away. I hope some of you are finding a similar experience in these challenging times and appreciating every minute of it. Here's what's happening on the fly fishing front:
While our rivers and streams are largely open now, a lot of them are still running high and our primary focus continues to be on stillwater opportunities. Our lowland trout lakes have been fishing well and are still producing planted trout. Most of this year's fish are 9-10", perfect on a 2 or 3 weight, but we are seeing some nicer holdovers into the 17-18" range and beyond. Make sure you have a variety of lines on hand. Your shallow lakes like Squalicum can be pretty effectively fished with a floating line almost all of the time, but as the waters warm, trout often seek cooler refuge in the lower levels of the lake. An intermediate sinking line is great for water up to around 12' deep, a type 3, 5 or 6 is going to cover water better beyond that depth. The Chuckanut lakes have been fishing well if you're up for a hike to find a little solitude. Pass and Lone have been the busier prospects out there but folks are catching some nice trout. With the long days try fishing later into the evening as a lot of the people who've been on the water all day begin thinning out.
As for flies, the olive or brown Pumpkin Head, olive Woolly Bugger, black or olive Bead Head Hale Bopp, Peacock Carey and Hot Head Squirrel Leeches in black, brown or natural have been productive searching patterns. As for bug hatches, we're still seeing various chironomids, some callibaetis mayflies, damsels and dragonflies are coming off and small grey/olive caddis are hatching in the evenings. Grey Elk Hair Caddis, Griffiths Gnats, Parachute Black Gnats, Adams and Adult Midges are working well in the evenings into dusk when the wind is light. We are getting reports that folks venturing east over Hwy. 20 are finding excellent trout fishing in the lakes surrounding Winthrop.
For warmwater fisheries the topwater bite has gotten progressively better over the past several weeks. Medium sized hard-bodied poppers in black or chartreuse, Frog Divers, Olive Rabbit Divers and Hair Mice are go to patterns. Most have weed guards and come in handy when fishing around a lot of vegetation. You want to fish your flies tight to the lily pads, often crawling them over the tops of the pads and letting them glide into the open water pockets. Occasionally you'll have something explode on your popper in fairly open water, but you'll find a lot more fish around dense cover where bass can best capitalize on their prowess as ambush predators.
Bluegill are on the bite too and beginning to amass to spawn. Typically where you find one you'll discover countless others so search until you find them. Pheasant Tail Nymphs, Olive Hare's Ears, Slight Leeches, Bully's and small Woolly Buggers are working. Later in the evening, small Mini Poppers on the surface can spell success. It's about as much fun with a 2 or 3 wt. as one could hope to have. Fazon and Terrell have both been really good, along with Campbell, Clear and Big Lakes in Skagit County.
Smallmouth on Whatcom are just wrapping up the spawn in most areas of the lake. Fish have been taking yellow or white Zonkers, Zoo Cougars, Beldar Buggers, Marabou Muddlers and Crazy Dads. It may be just my perception, but it seems the number of really big smallies in the 3+ pound range is exceptional this year. The occasional cutthroat we encounter while bass fishing Whatcom on the other hand, looks like Kate Moss with fins. Release them gently and hope they find something substantial to eat. Late June and early July should see the big hexagenia mayflies starting to hatch over the hard packed silt shoals of the lake. You'll definitely want to have a stock of Hex Nymphs, Hex Cripples and Parachute Hex patterns on hand should you explore the lake towards the end of this month. These bugs are almost the size of small birds and are a sight to behold.
Not a whole lot to report on rivers and streams as of yet. Whatcom Creek and the Samish remain in good shape and classic nymphs like the Prince, Pheasant Tail and Hare's Ear are working well. Caddis and a few PMD's are hatching too, so have some Elk Hairs, yellow Humpies and Light Cahill and Parachute Adams around if you go. The Methow Valley streams are running cold and high at the moment. We're looking forward to seeing the water drop later this month. Likewise, the NF Nooksack tanked just before the anticipated June 1st spring chinook opener. Let's hope some dry mild weather gets things dropping back into shape, although we've got some rain in the forecast for next week. Look forward to more tales from the river as we head into July.
Haven't heard a whole ton from the salt lately. If staying away from crowds is your focus, the beaches are one of the better places to do it. There've been some sea run bulls getting caught around the northeast end of Whidbey and the sea run cutthroat fishing has been better further south along the island. Ling cod season wraps up June 15th, so you've only got a few weeks left to find that beast on the 10 wt.