Spring has most certainly sprung and along with it came one of the nicest Marches I can remember. Day upon day of T-shirt weather, birds chirping, buds blossoming and lots and lots of sun. Depending on your choice of fisheries, the weather has been both good and bad. Lakes are certainly warming, chironomid hatches are happening, chum fry are popping out of the gravel and things are coming alive. On the other hand, the onslaught of prolonged low clear water in our spring steelhead rivers from the Olympic Peninsula to the Skagit has made the fishing quite pleasurable but the catching pretty slow. I see rain in yonder forecast so if we’re lucky we’ll wrap up our April steelhead fisheries with a bang.
With the afterglow of Christmas Island and a significant spring cleaning project behind me, I’m once again drawn to our local waters and the prospects of stillwater trout fisheries, saltwater beaches for cutts and bulls and a few more swing sessions on the Skagit and Sauk has me excited. The general lowland lake opener happens the last Saturday in April and with the extended daylight hours, the potential to fish a few hours after work means something to look forward to.
Beyond the fishing, there are a ton of great events coming up quickly in the community. The 2019 Fly Fishing Film Tour will be at the Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon on April 11th and we have tickets at the shop. Our 6th Annual Anniversary BBQ is slated for Saturday, May 11th at the Confluence. Yes indeed, big trailered BBQ, juicy pork shoulders masterminded by chef Frank Koterba, Sage, Redington and Echo fly casting demos on the lawn in front of the shop. It’s a free lunch and thank you for supporting your local fly shop over the years. If you’ve attended our anniversary BBQ in the past, you know the drill. If you’ve not yet experienced the rip roaring great time that always accompanies this event, you’d better clear your calendar and make it happen.
Please also note that there’s a ton of road construction happening along Roeder Ave. on the waterfront which can make getting to the Confluence Fly Shop a real pain in the tush these days. If you already know the super secret back way into Squalicum Harbor, you’re golden. If not, try these alternatives. If you’re coming from I-5, take the Meridian exit and head south on Meridian toward town. Turn west on Squalicum Pkwy and follow till you see LFS on your right. Take a right here on Coho Way and you’re in business. The other option is to follow Holly St. to Eldridge St. and then hang a left on Seaview Ln. This short arterial connects you to lower Squalicum Pkwy and will bring you to our doorstep sans the interminable wait time when you try to take Roeder. We understand the work will be done in late May. Sheesh, we can’t wait!
In the meantime, dust off your gear, clean your fly lines, restock your fly boxes and get out there. Fishing is on! Don’t forget to purchase your new fishing license for the year while you’re at it. Both Washington and BC licenses expired March 31st.
The Skagit and Sauk remain open through the end of April or until we reach our impacts. I talked to one of the creel census folks when I was up fishing last week and the catch rate has been low enough that it’s pretty likely we’ll continue to fish through the end of the month. Both rivers are uncharacteristically low right now until we get some decent rain. While there’s certainly more than enough water to allow fish passage, fish are tending to move in pulses for a short period and then hunkering down. One week the Sauk lights up, another it’s the Skagit and then the next week very little going on. That seems to be the way of it, but there are some fish around when you can find them.
As clear as both rivers are, you can fish your summer flies and smaller stuff. Natural colors like olive, white or brown come into play and sculpin patterns and more subdued flies look a whole lot less out of place than the 4.5″ Squidro right now. Deep boulder strewn runs and choppy riffles and heads are the name of the game with these water conditions. Conditions are much the same throughout the open water on the Peninsula, the Vedder and Squamish in BC. Somebody start their rain dance.
WDFW is having a strong presence on the river monitoring the fishery on the Skagit. Please remember that the Skagit is only open from the Dalles Bridge in Concrete to the Marblemount Bridge upriver and the Sauk up to the Darrington Bridge. Enforcement has busted a number of people fishing below Concrete. The department, along with Seattle City Light is also conducting spawning surveys in the mainstem. They will frequently place a brightly painted rock over a steelhead redd to mark the location and conduct an aging study on the redd. If you see one of these painted rocks while you’re fishing, please don’t move it or take it home for your pretty rock collection. They are not damaging the redd and need to be left in place.
It’s always kind of a sleeper, but the Skagit is also open below the Memorial Highway (Hwy 536) bridge in Mount Vernon and in the forks down to the mouth of the river for trout. A few folks have been poking around down there and doing quite well for cutthroat and bull trout using fry patterns, Rolled Muddlers and Marabou Clousers. Fish the woody structure along the river’s edge. Good water clarity and height and lots of fish makes this a very viable fishery until the river goes out.
Pass, Squalicum and other local year round lakes are starting to fish reasonably well. Chironomids are hatching and the fish are becoming more active after a long winter. #14 Black Ice Cream Cones, #16-18 Olive Brown UT Chironomids and Brown/Black Ribs as well as the standard Chromies are working well. Small Maroon Leeches produced a number of cutthroat at Squalicum the week before last and there’s been some evening surface midge activity as well when the wind isn’t ripping through the basin. Eastside lakes that opened March 1st got off to a slow start as many were still frozen. Look for improved conditions as we boogey into April.
Some of the shallow warm water lakes like Terrell are beginning to produce some nice bass. If the warm weather continues through April, we’ll have good fishing on Fazon and Wiser as well. It’s nice to see more people getting interested in our warm water species and looking at tailoring their equipment to the target at hand. Small bass and bluegill aren’t much to write home about on a 6 wt. but become formidable quarry on a short 2 wt. fiberglass fly rod and they’re available in so many waters around town. The same rod also shines in our opening day trout fisheries later this month. A cookie cutter 10″ trout has a much better opportunity to show its stuff on these little rods, especially when many of these hatchery reared clones tend to be fight-challenged to begin with. Let the good times roll.
If you’re stocking up on flies for the lowland lake opener, Carey Specials in green, peacock and red, Spratleys in black, green and red and a variety of small Woolly Buggers, like Colt 45, work every time. If you’re tying your own lake stuff, we’re excited to say we just stocked the Fritz Jelly material popular in flies like the Booby, Blob and FAB and have a great variety of colors to choose from.
We have chum fry moving along the North Sound beaches now and with them, hungry cutts and bulls hunting them down. It’s a good time to get out and explore the eastside Whidbey beaches and Strait of Georgia north of Bellingham. The salt should get even better as we get farther into April and May.