Well, we’ve blazed past the summer solstice and are a few weeks into summer. At least that’s what the calendar tells us. You wouldn’t necessarily know that by looking outside. I can only hope the cool weather and extra rain we’re getting now will prolong some of our fisheries during the hotter months of summer. That’s what the optimist in me keeps thinking anyhow. Thanks for all the continued support through the thick of this pandemic. Thanks to you we had our busiest June ever. There’ve been a handful of really busy days but everything’s kept very orderly around the shop most of the time. Thanks for sanitizing and for wearing a face mask when you come in and for being cognizant of anyone else waiting to get in. It’s been great to have customers back in the store and to see your smiling faces. We just have to assume you’re smiling beneath the cloth, as I know we generally are.
I had the good fortune to leave Whatcom County for the first time in a great while and fish and camp on the dry side for several days. A few friends and I floated the Yakima from bottom to top, concentrating on smallmouth bass in the slower reaches around Horn Rapids and then migrating up to the canyon for one day and Cle Elum the next to pursue rainbow, cutthroat, whitefish and even a few burly suckers. Ok, the suckers just sort of happen accidentally but they’ll really rip some line off the reel in the higher summer flows. I pretty well ruined a pair of sun gloves posing for a cheesy sucker grip and grin. Three washings later and they still stink. I could say my boat mate forced me to do it, but it was admittedly my own bad idea to run with. We found really good bass fishing on streamers, poppers and divers in the lower river and some decent trout fishing above. With a spike in water from dam releases the last two days, the dry fly game was lackluster, but sculpin patterns on sink tips and double nymph rigs produced some chunky trout throughout the day.
The overall schedule is a bit off compared to previous years, in both the fishing and our shop activities. Look for waters to recede in our rivers and streams as we get further into July and for the real show to begin on our moving waters around the mountains. Lots of folks have asked about Spey Nights and classes. We are back to doing one on one and small group instruction, following CDC guidelines and requiring face masks. We have a couple of spey nights coming up as well with details in our classes and events section so read on. Hope your summer is filled with responsible adventures and lots of nice fish. It’s great to be out there once again and enjoying some of what our northwest outdoors has to offer.
The report is that most of them still have a lot of water coming down, but appear to be trending towards summer flows. The Methow is getting close as are many of the mountain streams that drain both sides of the Cascades. July bug hatches will include yellow sally and golden stones, evening caddis as well as PMD, pale evening dun and even a few green drakes in some drainages. Your classic dry dropper combos are in order and it’s tough to beat a big Stimulator, Amy’s Ant or Chubby Chernobyl with a Rainbow Warrior, Lightning Bug or Flashback Pheasant in #16 or #18 trailing 2-3′ below it. Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis and Purple Haze are excellent patterns when you’re seeing an abundance of rising fish in the afternoons and evenings. Swinging a #14-#16 soft hackle during the dusky hours when you observe lots of caddis fluttering around can be gangbusters too. It’s also a great solution when you have a hard time seeing your dry fly in the low light as you’ll be feeling the take rather than having to rely on sight. If the fish aren’t looking up, double nymph rigs with a Pat’s Rubber Legs and smaller beadhead nymph under an indicator can be really good.
If matching the bug hatch isn’t your cup of tea, Sculpzillas, Dali Llamas, Kiwi Muddlers and Wounded Sculpins on a streamer tip or OPST Commando Head will produce some of the larger fish in the system. Likewise, you can fish small general attractor patterns on the smaller creeks with a lot of success. Royal Wulffs, PMX’s, Para Wulffs, Stimulators and Humpies work on top, with Prince, Hare’s Ears and Zug Bug nymphs effective for prospecting subsurface.
The Skagit and Sauk are still pushing a lot of water. While you can find some soft edges around these flows, bank access becomes difficult in a lot of places and floating opens up a bit more options. Look for bull trout to be holding in the softer slower inside seams and tailouts. Dali Llamas, Zonkers, big Sculpzillas and Flash Fry swung and stripped on a sink tip are the ticket. As always you’ll need to cover a lot of water to find fish. This fishery should get a lot better when the flows drop. On the upper Skagit, 6000-7000 cfs on the Marblemount gauge or lower is a very fishy level.
A lot of our lowland lakes are getting on the warm side for trout. We generally leave Pass and Lone and other local lakes until the fall when the waters cool. Yes, you can continue to find trout in deeper water below the thermocline, but when you have to drag them through the surface column that may be in the high sixties or warmer, it can be lethal due to depleted oxygen levels. Imagine running a marathon then getting smothered with a pillow for a couple of minutes at the finish line. Not fun or terribly conducive to survival. This is however, a fine time to begin exploring our high country lakes that are just icing off in many areas and will fish through the summer. Soft hackles, small leeches, chironomids, blood worms, Hare’s Ears and Zug Bugs are good subsurface. Mosquitos, Parachute Adams, Black Gnats and Griffith’s Gnats are good on the surface.
Warmwater fishing continues to be good for bass and panfish when we get a period of warm stable weather. Fishing tends to be much slower when the barometer is all over the map and the weather gets squirrely. We should begin seeing Hexagenia mayflies coming off Lake Whatcom towards dusk and the nymphs, emergers and Parachute Hex patterns can be good around last light. Take some dark colored poppers and Zoo Cougars to fish the rocky shallows just in case the bugs aren’t lighting it up. That’s the magic hour for smallmouth on the prowl during the hot months.
New 2020-2021 fishing regs are available online and it looks like we’ll get another salmon season off the west side of Whidbey similar to last year. We’re still hearing of some cutthroat and a few sea run bull trout being caught around the east side of the island, with the southern tip of Whidbey being most productive for cutthroat. If you want to brush up on your coho beach tactics for August and September I wrote an article on Whidbey Beach Coho a few months back that’s worth a read.