Happy New Year everyone and thanks for a strong finish to 2019. We hope you all enjoyed a warm, safe and fun-filled Holiday season. While it’d be a bald-faced lie to say fishing in the North Sound region is anytime approaching red hot right now, there’s still some opportunity and with a little patience, determination and smidgeon of good karma there’s a few fish to be found.
If standing in an icy, off-color, windblown river in 34 degree rain and sleet isn’t your idea of a good time, we’re happy to announce there are some pretty exciting events happening in the next several weeks where it’s sure to be toasty and dry. If you’re a glutton for punishment, the best news is that Mother Nature has a full barrage of challenging elements to throw your way when you take to the water this month, starting with an arctic blast next week. Personally, as much as I love being out there and do it every chance I get in whatever conditions come my way, I’m at an age where there’s got to be a carrot on the other end of the stick. In a perfect world, that carrot is a big wild steelhead cartwheeling at the end of my line. That’s mostly not the case, however, so that carrot becomes a rich creamy stout and hot pizza at the North Fork Beer Shrine or the Atomic Mushroom Burger at Skagit Valley Burgers. We all need motivators right?
In any event, we have a couple of long anticipated movie nights coming up shortly. We’re excited to host the 2020 Fly Fishing Film Tour on February 6th and even more excited that Mount Vernon is now an official stop on the National Tour. That means it’ll be bigger, with more giveaways, more excitement, and more stoke than ever. North Sound Trout Unlimited will have their annual fundraiser raffle again during the F3T with some huge raffle prizes including a Dogfish Boat from Cypress Designs and a Sage X rod from Sage. January 30th Kulshan Brewing will host an F3T pre funk in their Roosevelt Brew Room showing last year’s F3T. They’re generously donating a $1/pint to North Sound TU so come out and get fired up for the upcoming fishing year.
We’re looking forward to getting another year on the water underway, exploring new places, cherishing old ones and building another season of memories doing what we love. Just remember, it can’t stay cold, dark and damp forever and if you really need some sunshine in a bad way, Brandon has two spots open on his February Christmas Island Trip that are yours for the taking.
Water was pretty low, now it’s pretty high, probably going to get low again as we dip into the teens next week. It’s the usual rollercoaster ride of our winter streamflows and can make catching things in ideal shape a tall order, but when the stars align there’s a few fish out there. The Nooksack and Skagit have been producing some bull trout here and there and the odd, odd steelhead, but the early steelhead showing has been decidedly lackluster throughout Puget Sound and even on the coast.
Please note that as of now, pretty much all North Sound rivers, including the Sky, Stilly and Nooksack are currently closed to retaining hatchery steelhead. The good news is that they remain open to fishing, most of them through the end of January. Please gently release any steelhead you are fortunate enough to find whether or not they have an adipose fin. You can keep an eye on the WDFW website for updates. Better yet, if you’ve not already subscribed to their rule change alerts, it’s a pretty effective way to stay abreast of what’s happening out there.
Fly-wise, Hohbo Speys, Pick Yer Pockets, Miles Davis and assorted String Leeches and Intruders are all productive flies. As always, our winter fishing is far more a function of effectively covering a lot of water to find fish than having the magic bullet on the end of your sink tip. We get questions daily about the Skagit Spring Catch and Release Steelhead season this year. The truth is, we’ll know when you know. It’s seeming pretty likely we’ll get some sort of opportunity, we just don’t know the details yet. Things of the Olympic Peninsula have remained relatively slow, but we’re hoping for a good shot of wild winter steelhead making an appearance as we get further into the month and beyond.
Hard to think about fishing lakes this time of year, especially in the aftermath of the last few tree toppling wind storms we’ve seen. If the weather is mild and the temperatures remain stable you can still find decent fishing on the few year round quality lakes we have in our area. I had a fantastic day fishing Lone Lake on Whidbey just before Christmas with chironomids hatching, fishing taking pupa in the surface and not a shred of a breeze all afternoon. I caught fish on deep chironomids in brown, black or red #16, Boobies on a full sinking line and the venerable White Bunny Leech that never seems to fail. Pass is another option and we had decent minnow pattern fishing into December. Concentrate on the warmest hours of the day and try bloodworm patterns fished near the bottom, Blobs, Boobies, Balanced Leeches and fish slow. Remember that cold water winter trout can be every bit as lethargic as you getting out of bed on a frosty morning.
Well, I did a Skagit Bay end of the year foray looking for cutts or salty bulls and came up empty, other than a bunch of red rock crab and a few Dungies from the pots we threw while exploring various points and tide rips. It was pretty quiet out there. Meanwhile some buddies fished the Gig Harbor area and Hood Canal, doing pretty well on sea run cutthroat with some large healthy specimens to boot. Sea Run Buggers, Olive and White Cone Head Squids all produced. I wish we had better winter fishing in the northern portions of Puget Sound but it’s often a tough go until we get some chum and pink fry outmigrating from the rivers in the spring. If you feel like taking a drive, deeper in the Sound and Hood Canal can be pretty worthwhile this time of year and the nice thing about the saltwater is that it’s almost always in shape. Just look for good tide movement and low wind conditions and you’re fishing. Even if it’s windier, it’s pretty easy to put yourself in the lee on any number of beaches. Happy hunting!