With barely a week and a half until the Summer Solstice it’s still hard to trust the calendar after a casual glance outside. It feels a little like crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon and being told you just have another 5 miles to go. Nevertheless, in spite of the continual onslaught of less than seasonable weather conditions, many of our typical fishing opportunities for June in western Washington still hold true. Rivers and streams are finally back open, though the majority of them are running cold and high. Bass are done spawning on some lakes and are just beginning on others. Trout lakes continue to fish well and may fish a little longer yet as daytime temperatures still struggle to hit 60 degrees much of the time.
I decided years ago that you can wait for the ideal conditions or you can get out after it when you have the time and accept what comes your way. With the longer daylight hours, I’m happy to be fishing regularly. You’ll find those golden nugget evenings if you go often enough, like the other night when the wind finally laid down on Whatcom, the bass were extra aggressive and even a little larger than average. For a couple of precious hours I forgot all about the preceding days of rain, cold and the annoyingly stiff breeze that made casting a lead eyed fly more challenging than usual.
I got to experience the salmon fly hatch on the Deschutes for a few days in mid-May with a couple of old college buddies and get a solid taste of great river fishing and strong wild river trout. That definitely stoked the fire for getting back on the moving water this summer a little closer to home. Like many, I’m already dreaming of hot July evenings on the Methow, clouds of caddis and happy fish. The flipside to all this cooler weather and lots of mountain snow is that we’ll hopefully make it through much of summer with plenty of cold water in our wild trout streams.
With the astronomical cost of gas these days, there’s never been a better year to explore your local fisheries and see what’s out there close to home. We’ve been getting tons of flies in for the season along with various other fly fishing goods. I’m happy to report that we are pretty well stocked on most things these days, so come on down and get geared up for a great summer of fishing. Thanks to all who showed up at Speyapalooza 4.0 last month to help make it a super fun event. While the day started off a little damp, the sun poked out in the afternoon and folks got a chance to demo a ton of new spey gear along with participating in a number of other great presentations and raffle. If you missed out, we’re already planning next year’s Speyapalooza, otherwise we’ll have some more spey casting nights this summer if you want to try equipment out or simply learn more about the benefits of two-handed casting. Be sure to check out our June and July spey night schedule later in the newsletter.
Lastly, Father’s Day is just around the corner. Don’t forget to celebrate that special fly fisherman in the family with a gift certificate or special box of flies from the Confluence or any number of other great products. Here’s to slugging through a few more days of rain and getting ready enjoy all that summer in the Northwest has to offer!
We are still well in the heart of lake season across the Northwest right now and we’re getting good reports out of BC, eastern Washington as well as most of our local waters. For trout, fishing chironomids remains a staple tactic, however we have mayflies (callibaetis), some damselflies and even a few caddis coming off this time of year as well. It’s also a stellar time of year to fish a dragonfly nymph pattern on a full sink line. Just be sure to have a firm grip on your rod as the takes on the dragonfly nymph patterns are seldom subtle. We have a fantastic supply of stillwater trout flies to match your destination so be sure to pick up some flies before heading out.
Warmwater season got off to a slow start this year as the water for the most part has taken longer than usual to well…get warm. Smallmouth fishing on Lake Whatcom has really improved in the last week and folks are running into more largemouth on Terrell and Fazon as well. We’re of course finding panfish with some consistency on these same waters most days. One of the keys to finding decent warmwater fishing is getting fairly stable weather conditions. I like to look for a string of days where the weather patterns have remained somewhat consistent. While we’d all probably prefer a stretch of 70 degrees and bluebird afternoons, this can also translate to a few days of grey skies and drizzle. Much of the time the fishing is actually better on the crummy weather days. We’re seeing some topwater action of late, with Frog Divers and Luna Poppers working for bass or smaller Bream Poppers and Chernobyl Ants for bluegill. Yellow streamers like the Zoo Cougar and Zonker have been great for smallies, along with Jawbreakers and Bassmasters. For the largemouth, a black or white Bass Turd is a good option, with olive working better in clear water.
Although we’re all excited to have our streams and rivers open again, the majority of them are pretty high right now from a combination of rain and snowmelt. Typically our streams will begin to shape up somewhat better by early July and offer months of great trout fishing until the fall rains take hold. Early in the season, fishing small streamers like Woolly Buggers and Slumpbusters can work well, or using nymph tactics with Prince Nymphs, Copper Johns, Hare’s Ears and Iron Sallies. As the water warms, dry and dropper combos become really effective with Bugmiesters, PMX’s, Stimulators coupled with a small caddis pupa or Rainbow Warrior. Lower elevation options like Whatcom Creek or the Samish River tend to be better early options as they are not really affected by snow melt, though even those two are running rather high at the moment with all the recent rain.
The upper Skagit above the Sauk is currently in shape and often remains one of the better options for June fishing. Swinging and retrieving streamers for bull trout is our main focus this time of year. Flash Fry, Zonkers, Sculpzillas and Dali Llamas are effective choices for bull trout flies. The spring chinook fishery on the NF Nooksack has been extended through the end of June. If the river drops into shape there has been a good number of chinook around. They are not the easiest salmon on the fly, but make a worthwhile target and are strong as strong can be. 8 weight spey rods or bigger, T-14 sink tips and some large profile black/purple or pink flies are in order.
A lot of your North Sound sea run bulls turn tail and start heading up the Skagit this time of year, however June, July and August yield higher numbers of sea run cutthroat off our beaches. Small Clouser Minnows, Imitators and Pinheads are your summer go to patterns. Just think, in a couple of months we’ll be targeting returning coho off the Whidbey beaches again.