Once upon a time I used to keep a fishing journal. I’d diligently record notes on conditions, temperatures, hatches, general observations, successful flies, fish caught and whatever else I thought might aid in establishing seasonal patterns that could help crack the code and lead to another fine day of fishing somewhere down the road. Even at a young age, I recognized the infallible certainty that what I remember, what I thought I’d remember and even the way I remembered a day on the water were always distinctly different things. Keeping a journal seemed and still seems like a really good idea when it comes to keeping yourself both accurate and reasonably honest in your fishing pursuits.
Fast forward several decades later and I’ve kind of fallen off the journalistic wagon somewhat and am much less consistent about documenting my fishing time. I do, however, like many folks these days have an iPhone that constantly reminds me what I was doing this day a year ago today, 5 years ago and so forth. Early May of last year I was comfortably lipping smallmouth bass on Lake Whatcom in a T-shirt and sun-screened face. Bluegill fishing was red hot and we were just on the cusp of throwing topwater poppers for big largemouth. Dark tinted shades wrapped tight over my eyes and a low brimmed ball cap to block out the sun was the look in most of my photos from May 2021. This year I’m still donning wool, slipping on gloves in the mornings and evenings and know I’d better not forget the old Goretex rain jacket if I know what’s good for me. It’s a different year this year and I think most of us are ready for some sunshine at this point. Hopefully the saving grace is a summer with cooler water temps and fewer forest fires. Time will tell.
It’s been great to see traffic picking up around the shop. With the slow but steady improvements in fishing conditions and a whole bunch of new lakes and other fisheries opening up after a long winter, people seem to be embracing a “weather be damned” attitude and taking to the water anyway. All in all, fishing has been decent and quite enjoyable as always provided you dress for the occasion.
Speyapalooza is set for this weekend on Saturday, May 14th. We’re excited for our first big in-person event since the pandemic began. Please note that the Confluence will be closed on Saturday since we’ll all be down at Howard Miller Steelhead Park. Our normal shop business hours will resume next week. With a little luck, we’ll start to see some sun and warm weather towards the end of the month. We will see you out there!
Since the lowland lake opener last month, we now have an abundance of stillwater fishing opportunities on both sides of the mountains. With Hwy 20 over the North Cascades recently opened to travel, we’ll have even more stillwaters to easily access in the Winthrop area. Cain, Toad, Padden and Silver have been fishing pretty good for recently stocked trout as well as a decent number of larger holdover trout. A variety of fly patterns have been working, from Woolly Buggers and Carey Specials, to picking off evening risers with Purple Haze dry flies on the surface. In general, we’ve done very well on the stockers with a fast and flashy approach. Quick strip with a Crystal Bugger or pattern with liberal amounts of flashabou in the tail have gotten a lot of attention of late. On most lakes, chironomids continue to provide the mainstay spring of hatch activity. As the water temperatures warm, we can expect to see callibaetis mayflies and eventually damsel nymphs getting more active as well.
As for warmwater species, the operative word in that equation is warm and we are far from it. Bass and panfish aren’t quite in their element just yet. I’ve been taking water temps at Lake Whatcom and Fazon the last few weeks and we’re still barely 50 degrees in the shallows. If you think about it, how many days have we even seen air temperature climb much above 50? With a 5 degree bump in water temperature the spiny ray fishing should improve noticeably. If you wish to pursue North Sound bass and panfish right now, think low and slow in your presentations. I’ve been picking up a few of each on Balanced Leeches and small leech patterns retrieved about as slowly as you can.
Well, we’re almost there anyway. Most rivers and streams will open the Saturday before Memorial Day. Check your WDFW regs for details. If the cool weather trends continue, many of our moving waters might actually be in shape for the opener, which isn’t always the case as run off is often well underway by that point. Locally, the lower forks of the Skagit have started to produce a few more cutthroat and some nice bull trout fishing Zonkers, Skiddish Smolt and Rolled Muddlers if the water levels are down. The Lower Skagit also opened up in May for spring chinook up to the mouth of Gilligan Creek. It’s a tough fishery on the fly, but it’s good to have another stretch of river to fish.
It’s officially caddis time on the Yakima and it’s been fishing well for the most part too. If the water levels come up, the pink Squirmy Worm hatch is pretty reliable as well, coupled with a caddis pupa dropper. Hopefully all this cool weather and mountain snow translates to a good long summer river season with cold water and happy, healthy trout.
Sea run cutthroat and bull trout fishing has picked up considerably in the North Sound. Fry are around, though not in the numbers you’d expect after a very prolific pink run last fall. It’s not looking like the fall floods did them any favors. Fry patterns, larger Clouser Minnows and Rio’s Just Keep Swimming streamers have been sticking some really nice fish.
If you’ve got a nice boat and a 10 weight rod, lingcod season is once again upon us through mid June and the Sound has been fishing well when it’s not too nasty out there.