Fly Fishing Report: October 2023

Fly Fishing Report: October 2023

The last few years it feels as though our extended summers have taken a rather abrupt nosedive straight into winter. This year we're getting to enjoy something more akin to the traditional notion of autumn in the Northwest. Maples ablaze in orange, yellow and red, crisp mornings and evenings and of course the inevitable return of rainy days, albeit at a quite tolerable level. Our rivers remain pretty low for the season, save for the occasional bump of water and the pervasive stench of what is left of our prolific pink salmon return is beginning to accumulate on the banks. Fall is a favored season of many around here, probably in part because we know what comes next.

Pinks still predominate in the Skagit, though they're getting a little long in the tooth. Coho are showing up in pretty decent numbers and the sea run cutthroat are reappearing from the shadows as the humpy hordes thin out. It's a good time to be fishing just about anywhere around these parts whether you're chasing anadromous fish or looking for that final trout fix before a favorite lake closes or the weather signals the end of the season. 

Last month I had the pleasure to camp and fish with friends in Northern Idaho for a few days. The cutthroat played nicely as they most often do and we found jewel after jewel of Westslopes willing to pounce on big October Caddis dry flies or succumb to a small egg pattern in the mornings fishing behind the crimson masses of spawning kokanee. There were so many kokanee around and large cutthroat ghosting in and out of the gravel flats where the salmon were spawning that it felt like a microcosm of Alaska. On the way back it rained about as hard as it can in our corner of the planet as if to say welcome to the official end of summer.


Things continue to bustle around the new shop and we've been busy ordering for next year and making plans to fill out the bigger space. We upgraded to a new point of sale system last week and while it operates pretty slick in many ways, you may occasionally hear us grumble as we navigate the process of getting used to a new system. The good news is that our card reader now processes tap as well as Apple Pay. I'm old enough to be both bewildered and impressed to see folks paying for products with their watch. Pretty neat stuff. We are working on building an online store over the next several month as well. I hope to have it up and running by the end of the year. Those of you a little farther afield to make to Bellingham will finally be able to shop easily online and support the Confluence. In the interim, our website is more or less down with limited functionality. We should have a new landing page for the shop up soon and we'll let you know when the online store goes live. It should be a great new chapter in the fly shop and enable us to bring in more products for your enjoyment. Be sure to check out our sale items this month. While we still have some lingering products to clear out, we're making way for the new Lamson Liquid and Remix reels coming out later this fall. All of our existing stock, including 3-packs is steeply discounted so come get yourself a new reel!

After 3 years of rescheduling, our shop Christmas Island trip from 2020 is finally back on track and I will be somewhat off the grid from 10/24-10/31, hopefully to return with stories of big bonefish, triggers and GT's. We try to host a few tropical trips each year so let us know if you'd like to get in on an adventure with us down the road. 

In the meantime, take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and enjoy your time on the water, wherever that may be.


Our local focus has been on fishing for coho in the rivers over the last few weeks. Both the Nooksack and Skagit seem to have decent numbers of fish this year. The Stillaguamish system is unfortunately closed for the time being. Check the WDFW emergency updates for the latest news on that one. You can sign up to get real time updates on WDFW river openers and closures to make the business of keeping up with all the changes a bit easier.

The trick to finding coho has been fishing around the remnant pinks that are still fairly abundant in both systems. Look for slower water with some depth and ideally some woody debris mixed in and you've probably found good coho water. Typically you'll see the occasional coho jump or roll to let you know they're around, but not always. Work these woody areas thoroughly and expect to lose a few flies to snags in the process. If the coho aren't present you'll often still be rewarded by the quick slash of a nice cutthroat as they favor these areas too. Egg Sucking Leeches, Rolled Muddlers, BH Chartreuse Woolly Buggers, Hot Head Buggers and Xmas Trees have been working where the water is clear. If the water is dirty, larger profiled flies like the Popsicle series, Starlight Leech and Deuce Wigalo tend to work better. We're still catching quite a few pink salmon in the process of finding coho though trying not to. Watch your wading along the shallow margins of the Skagit this time of year and really try to avoid walking through areas where you're seeing a lot of pinks actively digging in the shallows or areas where the gravel is clean and freshly scoured to avoid stepping on redds. We want to take care of these fish in the hopes of getting to enjoy another sizeable humpy return two years from now.

As for trout, we've got a few more weeks before the small streams close up at the end of the month. Beyond that, the Yakima has been fishing great this fall. October Caddis, cranefly patterns, blue winged olives and a variety of small nymphs have been working. Egg patterns are worthwhile to have on hand as well should you encounter trout laid up behind spawning salmon. Fishing streamers and sculpin patterns is also really productive during the fall months on the Yakima. Check out this month's fly of the month for a great prototype pattern to swing on the Yak.


Not much to report locally on the lake scene. Unfortunately, Pass Lake is currently closed due to high levels of toxic algae. Keep tabs on the Department of Ecology Toxic Algae site for updates on when the closures will be lifted. There's still a few more weeks to hit the high country lakes before they ice up or head to the east side for one last trip. Fall favorite stillwater patterns include leeches, scuds, sometimes waterboatman and of course Zonkers, Bunny Leeches and other meaty streamer patterns to entice trout intent on plumping up before the cold weather really kicks in.


We had one of the best saltwater seasons since back in 2015 for both coho and pink salmon this year but with the recent rains, the bulk of the runs are migrating upriver. Hood Canal and South Sound are fishing well for cutthroat with baitfish patterns, Reverse Spiders and other attractor patterns.

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