Summer shines full steam ahead towards a seemingly distant fall, but the harbingers of the next season are beginning to pop up around our local waters. Pink salmon are streaming into Puget Sound with coho eventually on their heels. We even got a good old fashioned soaking within the last few weeks, a welcome reminder that it can and does rain around here despite the sea of browned lawns and oily mirages rising up from the asphalt. It’s otherwise been a long dry haul and unless you’re a bass or carp, a lot of waters are getting a little toasty for our salmonid friends.
It’s definitely time to be venturing into the high country where the waters are comparatively cool or focusing on the upper reaches of tailwaters before the rivers start to crank up the thermostat. Nights have generally remained cooler, so early morning fishing is reasonable, but a lot of rivers and lakes, particularly on the eastside of the mountains, are reaching the 70’s by afternoon and are simply too warm for trout. If in doubt, carry a stream thermometer with you and stop fishing when the water hits 67 degrees or move to a different fishery where the water is likely to be cooler. It’s also a great time to focus on a spiny ray fishery where the fish have a much higher warm water tolerance. Play fish quickly and keep them in the water.
We’ll go further in depth on our fishing prospects for August down the line but the biggest news around the shop this month is that we are moving to a new location! After 10 years we’ve amassed enough rods, waders, boots and tying materials that it’s pretty darn tough to walk ten feet without the likelihood of bumping into something or someone. We are ready for more space! The good news is that we’re not moving terribly far from our current location. We will still be in the Harbor Mall but are moving into suite 17, a corner space roughly twice the square footage of our current location. While I can’t say we’re exactly looking forward to moving all of our inventory and fixtures, we are very excited at the prospects and opportunities for growth that a larger space will offer. We are expecting the move will take place while we’re closed next Sunday and Monday and we should be somewhat settled in the new space and open for business on Tuesday, August 15th. The primary shop entrance will be on the other side of the building from where we are now on the same side as City Mac. We expect the shop layout to shift around organically over the next several months but are pretty stoked to actually have the room to make that possible. Definitely stop by and check out the new digs soon! We’re going to miss some of those one of a kind window stickers we collected over the years. Not sure we can find another “No One Cares You’re a River Guide” but we’ll certainly remember it for years to come.
How low can you go? If our rivers were a limbo contest, it’d take a pretty impressive human to make it under the bar. Mountain creeks are generally low as well, but holding at reasonable temperatures and providing a great place to escape the heat and find some willing trout. With lower flows, we generally advocate dialing down the profile of your flies and tend to do better with Parachute Adams, Purple Haze, Foam Beetles, Slickwater Caddis and Parachute Sallies over the bigger PMX’s, Stimulators, small Chubbies and Dry Humpers we were fishing a month ago. The lower riding patterns just seem to connect with a few more fish when the water is down. Tight line nymphing Perdigons, Frenchies and Hot Ribbed Hare’s Ears through the faster slots is also really effective.
If you’re heading east of the mountains, be sure to take a stream thermometer and monitor water temps throughout the day. The Methow has been getting pretty hot in the afternoons. If you’re fishing over there, please concentrate your fishing activities early in the morning. The heat of the afternoon is primetime for a cooling swim anyway. Still some caddis coming off along with PMD’s in the morning over there and big Chubbies and Hopper patterns will get some attention as well.
Pinks are bound for the rivers. We’ve already seen a number of them in the Nooksack, which tends to get an early return. Please note that the Nooksack is not open to pink salmon retention this year due to lower numbers projected. The Skagit should be a far better bet with a decent run forecast. We are well stocked on pink salmon flies for the upcoming season. While some days they’ll go for a variety of offerings, a small pink fly on a floating, intermediate or light sink tip line is generally the ticket. Hot Shot Comets, the Pink Fink, Cohort, Capital Punishment and our own proprietary Confluence Humpy Fly are tried and true patterns to have in your bag of tricks. Let the fun begin!
Until the pinks really build in numbers, bulls and resident trout in the Skagit have been a great staple all summer long. Sculpzillas, Bunny Sculpins, Slumpbusters and Muddlers fished on a 3 or 4 weight trout spey set up has been a productive way to spend the day close to home. If you are heading east to fish in the near future, please be aware that Highway 20 is closed between Newhalem and Rainy Pass due to the Sourdough Mountain Fire near Ross Lake until further notice.
Spiny ray fishing around town continues to be really good both early and late in the day. Mid-day generally seems to be siesta time in August for bass and bluegill but Fazon, Terrell and Wiser make for great before or after work topwater sessions with popper and slider patterns. I find this time of year that a fairly quick, active retrieve with a surface pattern seems to get the most attention and I’m fishing my poppers much faster right now than I was a month ago to get fish interested. Our lowland lakes are still far too warm for trout fishing right now. Wait for longer nights cooler temperatures to get them in better condition in September and October. It’s primetime to lace up the hiking boots and get into the alpine country. August is a great month to fish terrestrials like ants and beetles in addition to mosquito and midge patterns.
Lots of pink salmon are moving by the west side of Whidbey Island right now and beach fishing the mid-island points like Fort Casey and Bush Point has been really productive. It’s tough to find resident coho amongst the endless schools of pinks migrating by but there have been some nice ones around here and there. Look for migratory ocean coho to begin filtering in around late August and all through September. A great resource is the WDFW Puget Sound Creel Reports. By following the catch numbers from the Strait of Juan de Fuca over to Port Angeles and into the Sound you can get a really strong sense of what’s headed our way. For beach pink fishing, we like 6-8 weight rods, intermediate lines to match and a handful of #4-6 Pink Clousers and other small pink patterns with weighted eyes. Don’t forget your stripping basket either. If you need one we have them at the shop.