The last few weeks have provided the perfect combination of motivation and opportunity, landing me on the water more often than not. I thought about heading east for Memorial Day weekend, then pictured the procession of RV’s, armada of SUV’s and weary line of SOB’s crawling over the North Cascades to flood the campgrounds and thought the better of it. I fished close to home and mixed it up thoroughly every day. So it was somewhat of a “staycation” if you will. One day catching big jumbo rainbows on a mystery lake, chasing cutthroat in the salt the next, and rounding things out with a “basstastic” evening on Fazon. We have some really good fishing right in our backyard and it was nice to avoid the traffic, though getting on and off Whidbey gave me a healthy taste of what I was probably missing elsewhere on the highway. The weather cooperated, the fish certainly did their part and catching up with several friends was the frosting on the cake.
Right now is one of my favorite times of year. The weather is agreeable most of the time, lots of fisheries are open and fishing well and the sun lingers long in the sky, allowing us to squeeze in several hours after work during the week. Capping off the work day with some peace and quiet on the water is a pretty special thing not to be taken for granted. I definitely notice that most folks have their particular fancy when it comes to fisheries. Some are exclusive river and stream fanatics, others embrace the stillwater scene, and some just crave the briny air while fishing a good tide on a favorite beach. There’s something for everyone out there at the moment so we’ve been pretty busy at the shop lately.
I’m excited to welcome a part time employee to the shop this summer to help out Brandon and I. He’s about the fishiest 17-year-old I’ve ever met and has lots of great info to share. We’re into our spey Wednesday season again. The first two sessions filled, but we have some space on June 23rd and our July dates as well if you want to sign up and give it a go. Things are trucking along, despite the pandemic production slow downs and shipping delays. We are pretty well stocked on gear and flies all things considered. Thanks for keeping us busy. On the same Covid note, Brandon, Addison and I are all fully vaccinated. If you are as well and prefer not to wear a mask when you come in, we are totally fine with that and promise not to tackle you when you walk through the door. If you’re not vaccinated you still need to mask up. If you would prefer that we wear masks too, just ask and we’ll happily accommodate. I think we’re all pretty used to it at this point.
Despite most rivers and streams being open and available to fish, June remains largely a lake month in my mind. Check the USGS water data sites where available for sure and get out when the flows allow, but remember all that snow that made for epic winter skiing is going to melt at some point and is well underway with the recent hot weather we’ve been experiencing. Some years the lowland lake trout fishing is starting to wane by this time. The long cold Spring seems to be extending things a fair amount and local lake temps are still really conducive to finding active trout and being able to practice safe catch and release. Squalicum, Lone and Pass are fishing decent. Bugs you’ll encounter on the water right now are damsels, dragons, a few callibaetis mayflies and continued chironomids. A couple of staple chironomids we run into a lot as we move towards summer are the tiny little lime greens and the big June bombers in black or maroon. We’ve added a lot of new fly patterns to the mix so peruse those drawers a bit longer or simply ask us what’s new and we’ll point the way. On the eastside, you’re looking at much the same in the way of June lake hatches, with some lakes seeing a few caddis and some bigger brown drakes or miniscule caenis mayflies as well.
If you like warmwater fly fishing it’s go time. The Lake Whatcom smallies are wrapping up the spawn and it’s time to transition from hunting beds to working the docks, drop offs and shady areas to locate bass. Crayfish patterns like the Crazy Dad and Clouser Crayfish slow crawled across the bottom on a full sink or sink tip work well, as do Zonkers, Zoo Cougars, Drunk and Disorderly’s and Clouser Minnows fished higher in the water column. If you’re out a last light, don’t be afraid to work a popper around rocky structure as these fish go on the hunt in the shallows around dusk. Largemouth topwater fishing is pretty consistent now, and while you’ll still get fish tossing Gully Worms, Bassmasters and even Woolly Buggers, it’s hard to beat the excitement of a topwater take. Lastly, those cottonwood seeds have been piling up on the spiny ray lakes for the past several weeks so you know what that means…
We talk to folks everyday who are on their way to fish Canyon Creek or the upper NF Nooksack now that they are open. Be careful out there. With runoff going full tilt, you have a lot of water to contend with. This not only makes the fishing tougher, but wading can be pretty treacherous at times. Be safe. Most rivers are definitely on the high side and some, like the Nooksack, Sauk and Skagit below the Sauk are running dirty right now. Look for flows to stabilize towards the end of the month. The Methow fished really well for the opener but is pretty full right now.
We got another season fishing for hatchery spring chinook in the NF Nooksack through the end of June, which is pretty neat. When the temps cool and you can find 1-2’ visibility, grab your 8-9 weight, some pink or chartreuse Guide Intruders and give it a go. These fish will tend to hold in faster, deeper water than our steelhead, so rig accordingly. You’ll fish a lot of T-14 to get after the kings. Skagit bulls are another fun target this month. You’ll have some resident fish and also some bigger anadromous bulls navigating the river. I look for the Skagit to be under 10,000 cfs on the Marblemount gauge and prefer a 4 or 5 weight trout spey this time of year. If the river is too dirty below the Sauk confluence, fish from Rockport on up. Sculpzillas, Flash Fry, Double Bunnies and Dali Llamas are go to patterns, as well as some light unweighted flies like the Burnt Chicken for fishing soft flows and inside seams.
North Sound Cutthroat fishing has really improved, with most sea run cutty populations out of the river and feeding in the salt. There are still some hefty sea run bull trout around in Skagit Bay as well, though a lot of the bulls start migrating up the river in late June. Clouser Half & Halfs, Gray/White Mini Ceivers, Foul Free Herring, Pinheads and the like are working well. The chum fry have pretty well made their way in the Straits, so your staple baitfish patterns are back in play. Look for good tide rips over mixed rocky structure and you have a solid cutthroat feeding area at some point during the exchange.