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All signs are pointing towards winter finally relinquishing its icy grip on the Pacific Northwest. Sure, it might hail one day, snow the next, dip back into the 30’s at night for a week or two, but the sun is shining a just a little more these days and we’re beginning to experience something akin to warmth in the outdoors again. Pink salmonberry blossoms adorn the forests and bright yellow skunk cabbage flowers light up the wetlands in a growing sea of green, infusing the landscape with a long absent palette of colors. The spring birds are back. Redwing Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings and of course the swallows we often look for to tell us where the bugs are hatching. And of great import to most readers of our newsletter, the fish are finally waking up too. Year round trout lakes are producing well, the Yakima is putting out some impressive rainbows and even our local bass and bluegill waters will start picking up by late April and on into May.

Our daily shop traffic is beginning to reflect the improvements in weather conditions and newly opening fisheries. It’s so good to be busy again! The supply chain seems to be getting somewhat better for certain products and still slow to recover with others. Fortunately we work with quite a few vendors so if we can’t find something through one, we may be able to get it through another. We’re really excited to be getting some boats and float tubes back in from Outcast Sporting Gear just in time for spring lake fishing. It’s been few years coming! Be sure to check out the list of what’s arriving further along in the newsletter and if you want something, let us know so we can set it aside for you.

The general lowland lake opener this year falls on Saturday, April 23rd. You can check out the WDFW stocking report to see what’s getting planted and when, though everything looks pretty similar to years prior. Don’t forget, the new license year began on April 1st. You’ll want one of those before heading out if you haven’t dropped the coin already. We’re excited to be working with North Sound Trout Unlimited to put on Speyapalooza Saturday, May 14th live and in person for the first time in a few years. Please note that Brandon and I will both be helping at the event so the shop will unfortunately be closed all day that Saturday. Please come see us at Howard Miller Steelhead park for an opportunity to demo rods from OPST, Echo, Sage and Redington, as well as enjoy free spey casting seminars and instruction. We’ll have some top notch conservation presenters like Bill McMillan joining us as well.

Happy Spring everyone and we’re looking forward to some more upcoming good times on the water!

Lakes
If you’re not a lake person, you should consider giving it a try. With most rivers in Western Washington closed for another month and a half, lakes are the best game in town right now and are fishing well. If you want to be a lake person but don’t have a floating device to get out there, check out our list of float tubes coming in and get your name on one pronto.

Squalicum, Lone and Pass are fishing well with a variety of chironomid patterns, leeches and attractors. Unfortunately the Pass Lake parking lot is still off limits, but if you can get a small inflatable launched from one of the roadside pullouts, fishing has been good. For chironomids, black red butts with a silver rib, olive with a black rib, tan red butts and chromies have been working well. We’re starting to see some larger #14’s out and about but be sure to have some #16 and #18 patterns with you as the bugs are still mostly small. Thin Mints, Stillwater Buggers, Hale Bopps and Balanced Leeches are working well too outside of the chironomid hatches. Grandy and Vogler Lakes are open year round as well and were both recently planted. Come April 23rd, numerous area lakes will be opening and while that Saturday can be a bit of a madhouse, the crowds tend to dissipate quickly after opening day and with so many waters to choose from, there are a lot of places to consider fishing on both sides of the Cascades. Remember that planted trout are typically still figuring out what constitutes food, so attractor flies like Carey Specials, Olive Willies, Crystal Buggers and Blobs can work particularly well on these fish.

Rivers
Canada became a little easier to access on April 1st with the removal of Covid testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers. We’re getting reports that the Vedder is fishing well for steelhead. With the Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula rivers closed to fishing until late May or early June, it’s one of few options for spring steelheading nearby.

The Yakima has been fishing great this spring. Skwala stoneflies, baetis and march brown mayflies have been the staples, but the first big caddis hatches of the year typically get underway in May. Fishing a bigger Skwala dry with a squirmy wormy dropper is always a good bet this time of year, as is fishing a big stonefly nymph with a smaller Rainbow Warrior or Hotspot PT on an indicator rig. If you’re into euro nymphing already or thinking about giving it a try this year, we substantially expanded our euro style nymph selection this year and there are a ton of new patterns to choose from. Top upper left drawer.

The lower Skagit forks cutthroat fishery has gotten off to a slow start. Prolonged cool temps may have delayed chum and pink fry emergence or the cutthroat are beginning to spawn in tributaries this time of year. If decent river conditions prevail, we could still see good fishing in the lower river in the coming several weeks as fry make their way downstream.

Beaches
The beaches are starting to pick up throughout the Sound. I fished a lot of beaches from Skagit Bay area to the Kitsap Peninsula last month. Early March fishing was pretty slow, but the cutthroat fishing improved considerably by the end of the month and we’re finding a few nice fish off the east side of Whidbey as well. White Conehead Squid, Chum Babies and Mini Gurglers have been working. Late April and May can be some of the best times to fish our North Sound beaches for cutthroat and sea run bull trout.

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