Brrrr! That about sums it up for our little corner of the country. In spite of our abysmally cold winter, we’ve enjoyed some fantastic time on the water, shook fins with some amazing fish and been endowed with atypical blasts of sunshine instead of the usual dark and dreary winter. We’ve been enjoying the heck out our few open rivers in the North Sound through the season close with a dash of success on the Olympic Peninsula as well. While several of our year round quality lakes can fish surprisingly well at time during the winter season, they’ve literally been ice skating rinks and playgrounds for hockey pick up games until just recently. We got a decent dose of steelhead in the Skagit and Sauk and on the Olympic Peninsula the second week of the year and have had some really good days and a few fishless ones. The Skagit and Sauk, got about as busy as we’ve seen them during the last week of the season, being the only open rivers besides the Skykomish. Hopefully our state can find some creative ways to conserve and limit impacts on our wild fish but provide a greater medley of angling opportunity around the Sound during the late winter and spring. We’re really looking forward to the proposed spring catch and release season on the Skagit next year, but have a hard time imagining the pressure of Pugetropolis spread over a handful of miles when it’s the only game in town. I think a lot of folks have figured this out about fly fishing already, but if you adjust your expectations from merely catching fish to learning or discovering something new during your precious time on the water, you’ll always come away with a modicum of success. Speaking of personal fulfillment and enjoying your time on the moving water, our North Sound TU Chapter is getting ready to kick off the 2017 Skagit steelhead spawner survey season. If you’re interested in getting involved let us know and we’ll get you connected with TU and our growing survey crew. There’s some pretty cool events coming up this month and down the road. Get your flies tied and gear in order now as we’ll have a few more fishing opportunities coming down the pike with salt and still water in March. We’re moving some things around at the Confluence these days, making more space to add the stuff you want and changing the layout. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, we’ll gladly show you where it is and are always open to feedback on the changes. By the way, we overdid it on Fly Fishing Dreams 2017 calendars this year. Any purchase over $100 this month earns you a free calendar until they’re gone.
Well, February is a rough month for fishing rivers outside of getting in the car and driving several hours. All have either closed for the regular season or are closed under emergency regulation in our neck of the woods. We know the regulations are confusing. While the pamphlet is a good starting point, it’s imperative to check the emergency regulations on the WDFW website as any in-season changes are listed there. The easiest way to stay abreast of the regulation changes is to sign up for the WDFW email alerts. That way you can be perpetually bombarded with disappointing news just like when you listen to NPR on the way to work. Sorry for the downer folks. We like to think it can only get better from here. As a US bound angler, you’ve got the Olympic Peninsula rivers to explore. If you’ve never experienced the OP, it’s strikingly beautiful, relatively wild, has lots of diverse watersheds to choose from that all get a pretty decent push of large, bright, aggressive winter steelhead over the next several months. You’ve got everything from the broad, sweeping low gradient rivers like the Hoh, Queets and Bogachiel to the tumbling technical boulder fields of the Sol Duc and Calawah and many others to choose from. You can float much of the water, duck in along roadside access runs or do parking lot calisthenics before hiking miles and miles above the highest boat launch on moss lined trails to find your little piece of solitude. A buddy of ours clocked 15 miles one day on his pedometer last year hiking trails in search of steelhead. He did not catch any fish (read fishing to hiking ratio markedly skewed in favor of blisters) but enjoyed the heck out of every footstep. It’s a magical place worth visiting. If you’ve never been, go. If you’re an OP veteran, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. A spey rod isn’t an absolute necessity for the OP, but it’ll sure make your life a lot easier and will allow you to fish places that are frustrating at best to take on with a single hander. If the tax return check is a few months off and you want to bring the short rod, talk to us about the OPST Commando Heads. They will change your life. Seriously. We’ve got a solid selection of winter steelhead flies and sink tips to round out your trip for the water you want to fish.
Closer to home, if you’ve got your BC freshwater license, the Vedder is producing some steelhead, the Fraser and Harrison are in great shape for winter cutthroat fishing and the rivers around Whistler are doing well for bull trout. Living so close to the Canadian border, we rely on our ability to spend significant chunks of the season getting our fishing fix when the opportunities in our backyard are limited. The new license year in BC starts April 1st, same as ours. If you don’t already have yours for this year, consider it come the next season. It’s money well spent.
If you’re new to steelheading and want to learn more about reading water and presentation in a day than you’d likely figure out in a year on your own, check out Mike Dickson’s OP class in March.