Daffodils are popping up all around and adding a welcome touch of color to the brown and gray landscape. Spring can’t be too far around the corner. If you think you’ve survived another dreary Northwest winter, pat your self on the back and hope the worst is behind us. If you enjoy the snow sports, the season may have been a bit kinder to you and yours. For us fishermen and women, it seemed like an endless roller coaster ride of watching the hydrograph spike and the river come roiling through the alders.
Now suddenly, here we are, bugs are hatching, fry emerging and wiggling their way to sea. It seems the world is coming alive and there are once again opportunities dotting the fishing calendar. Winter steelhead, sea run cutthroat, bull trout, still water trout and soon the bass and spiny rays are calling us to the water to savor the beginning of what we hope will be another fabulous fishing year.
The Olympic Peninsula rivers are fishing well in between rain cycles. Timing is everything and if you’re retired or flexible in your schedule, a trip to the coastal rain forests in search of big bright wild steelhead should certainly be on your radar. Catch the rivers dropping and greening up and things can be simply magical. The Olympic Peninsula Steelhead School with Mike Dickson filled up quickly. If you missed out for one reason or another, drop us a line and we’ll see if we can get something going for you in the future.
All of March and early April is prime time on the coast if you hit conditions right. If you’re relegated to fishing weekends or planning well in advance and the skies open up a few days prior to your trip, bring the cribbage board and some beer. There are worse things in life than hovering around a smoldering campfire with good friends and watching the fury of a flooding river. Better yet, pack a 5 or 6 weight and retreat to the east side of the Olympics for some beach fishing. The Port Townsend area and Hood Canal have been fishing well for cutthroat.
To the north, the Vedder and Squamish Valley rivers have been producing steelhead and should continue to fish well into Spring. We have a fine selection of steelhead flies waiting to grace your boxes. Think profile and color rather than specific pattern. We have a variety to suit the broad spectrum of river conditions we experience from week to week. Pink and chum fry are just starting to show up here and there and should be full on in the coming weeks.
While most of our North Sound Rivers remain closed, Fraser tributaries like the Stave and Harrison can provide some epic cutthroat fishing during the fry outmigration and are worth putting in the time. The Skagit from the Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon to the mouth opened on March 1st and should offer similar fishing when the river recedes. Be sure to pick up a variety of patterns and sizes as cutthroat and bull trout can really key in on these attributes when they are seeing a lot of fry coming their way. If you’re lamenting the closure of a lot of Puget Sound spring river fisheries, BC is but a short drive away for most of us and with the current exchange rate, an annual license is pretty darn affordable. BC’s license year starts over on April 1st, just like ours.
We enjoyed a wonderful presentation from Phil Rowley in February and learned a lot of different tactics to employ when the fishing gets tough out on the lake. If you missed the presentation, we’ll likely welcome him back next February and still have a number of signed books on hand at the fly shop. March 1st marked the annual opener for a number of east side lakes and with a reasonably mild winter on the dry side, we should see them fishing well early on.
On the home front. The WDFW recently put a healthy number of big brood stock rainbows from the Marblemount Hatchery into Campbell, Clear and Grandy Lakes in Skagit County. Pass is beginning to see some chironomid activity and Squalicum Lake in Whatcom has been fishing surprisingly well for this time of year. Micro leeches, Balanced Leeches and white Woolly Buggers or Bunny Leeches are producing fish, as are bloodworm patterns and small black chironomid patterns. Be sure to check out this month’s flies of the month for some excellent early season chironomid patterns tied by Bruce Freet.
We are still nearly 2 months from the general lake opener at the end of April, but there are quite a few year round lakes to explore from the Chuckanut foothills to the Skagit Valley. For information on recent trout plants check the WDFW Stocking Report that’s updated weekly.
Beaches are beginning to fish really well. We are probably still several weeks away from seeing decent numbers of pink and chum fry around Skagit Bay and our North Sound waters, but we are seeing them elsewhere in the Sound. Hood Canal and South Puget Sound typically see fry earlier as many of the salmon bearing streams are short and some areas host a summer chum whose fry emerge well ahead of the rest of gang.
I had a fantastic outing for cutthroat in the South Sound last weekend and really look forward to the party moving north. Chum Babies, Epoxy Fry, Chum Fry and small gray/white or olive/white Clousers work well in matching the baby salmon hatch. Make sure to have a few beadhead or weighted patterns if you’re fishing strong tidal outflows. Conehead squid patterns in white or olive, olive Woolly Buggers and Sea Run Buggers work really well in the absence of fry. Miyawaki Poppers and Gurglers in smaller sizes worked on the surface can be a super fun way to fish, especially when cutthroat are visibly slashing at balls of fry just below the surface. It’s not too early to hit beach and should only improve as we progress toward summer. You never know what you’ll find out there.