I think a lot of us are officially done with winter, though it may not quite be done with us. I usually look forward to the dark dreary days of January and February, knowing I’ll spend as many of them as I can knee deep in the cold flows of the Nooksack or Skagit, swinging flies and looking for those elusive early steelhead. Just one fish and I’m warm and content for weeks on end.
This year, the unrelenting cycle of low snow, pineapple expresses and sheets of rain pounding the hillsides day after day has made the prospect of finding much water in any kind of fishable shape pretty difficult at best. Even plans Q through Z, involving various saltwater beaches and year-round lakes have been repeatedly thwarted by the nasty weather, high winds or some weeks, arctic temperatures. I think it’s just time for Spring. According to Brandon, it’s a great time to be heading to Christmas Island. I would tend to agree. He’s pretty stoked to be chasing the sunshine along with an impressive variety of pretty awesome flats and bluewater fish species. For those of us sticking around here, we’ll continue to hold out for a decent day or two to take to the water. If nothing else, we can still dream about someplace warm.
We joke often that it’s been a fantastic winter to tie flies and that’s as true as it’s ever been. If you feel like getting out of the house and socializing a bit, we have our next scheduled Confluence Tying Night at Brandywine Kitchen on Wednesday, February 26th. A huge thanks to everyone who came out to the 2020 Fly Fishing Film Tour at the Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon last week. The turnout was spectacular, the films were as awesome as ever and the energy was beyond words. North Sound Trout Unlimited had a stellar fundraiser at the event as well, raising lots of money to put towards bettering our local native coldwater fish and fisheries. In the meantime, hang in there. Winter doesn’t last forever. We’ll have bugs hatching, fry emerging and hungry fish doing their thing shortly.
Net pens, closed rivers and inconsistency across the board. Sometimes it’s tough to put oneself in the mindset of WDFW and understand the rationale behind their decision making. If you’re as miffed as we are about the latest WDFW decision to permit more fish farming monkey business from Cooke Aquaculture in our public Puget Sound waters, check out the Wild Fish Conservancy’s response and let your local representatives know how you feel.
As of right now, the few remaining sections of Puget Sound rivers that are open for fishing will close on February 15th. For those of us in the North Sound, our river fishing becomes pretty much a BC or Olympic Peninsula show from here until the very end of May. Steelhead fishing on the OP is a viable option if you can time your trip with dropping water and a good push of fish. It’s hardly been gangbusters for steelhead anywhere in the region this year but remember, it only takes one fish connecting with your bright bundle of feathers and fur to make magic happen.
Steelhead are showing up on the Vedder and other lower mainland streams as well, though the runs seem to be below average up north too. The 2015 drought appears to have taken a toll on juvenile steelhead that would be returning as adults this year. Let’s hope that some of the surplus water that’s been falling from the sky over the last many weeks can stick around through the summer this year. If you’re into char, bull trout fishing on the Squamish area rivers has been okay with sculpin patterns and big white streamers. We typically begin to see some pink fry showing up in even years toward the end of March and early April, shortly followed by emerging chum fry, which can be an outstanding fishery on the Fraser and Squamish systems for char and cutthroat.
It’s been tough to think about spending time on a lake with the weather mostly being what it has been, but if get a period of reasonably pleasant conditions Pass, Lone or Squalicum can fish decent in the later part of February. Bloodworm patterns fished near the bottom are productive, as are a variety of small leech patterns.
Still not much happening in the North Sound but further south, resident coho and sea run cutthroat fishing has been decent. Look for the first of the early chum fry to appear in Hood Canal in a few weeks. For winter fishing, Disco Amphipods, Euphasids and Olive or White Conehead Squid have been our mainstays.