Here we are on election day, something we’ve either been waiting on all year or silently dreading. I imagine for many folks it’s a mixture of both. 2020 has been a challenging time for too many people and I think most of the world will be content to see it behind us. There’s a vast cloud of stress and anxiety permeating the planet with pandemic concerns, political strife and civil unrest. You can’t exactly escape any of it, but you can certainly take a respite now and again to recharge your batteries. Fishing for many, has transformed throughout the year from just the usual strong pervasive desire to an outright need. It is a time to feel normal, unfettered from the weight of problems, bills and responsibility; a time to piece back together your spirit in the face of much uncertainty. In any event, I thought an election day Confluence newsletter might serve as a helpful diversion and allow your mind to drift somewhere closer to where you’d rather to be.
The good news is that even with the steady changing of the season, the shift to darker days and cold, wet clouds there are still plenty of opportunities to put your woes aside for a few hours and enjoy the water. Coho continue to pour into local rivers along with the early vanguard of chum salmon. Cutthroat are around, big bull trout should be making their timely re-appearence from the snow lined, high country spawning grounds where they’ve been doing their thing and looking to regain some weight. Even the handful of year-round lakes around Whatcom, Skagit and Island Counties are fishing pretty well this late in the season and should continue to produce nice trout until it gets truly gnarly out there.
Thanks for your continued support in an especially difficult year. We love be able to have you come by the shop and share your stories on the water or meld minds to creatively solve those fishing problems we all encounter from time to time. If you’re not fishing this time of year, it’s a fine time to tie flies in preparation for next season and maybe even watch a football game or two while you’re at it. It’s a good time to be thinking about investing in the skills to make you a better fisher person as well. Hard goods and the right flies only get you so far. Whether it’s improving your spey cast for the winter season or finally learning the double haul to blast that perfect cast to a tailing bonefish 70′ away, we offer a variety of one on one instructional options to help make you more successful. In the meantime, be safe and healthy out there and we’ll see you on the water.
Fish are on the move, as are the river levels, so it’s always worth checking the USGS River Levels site prior to venturing to your destination this time of year. We didn’t really get that low water dry October finish to the creek season this year. I drove by Clearwater Creek toward the end of the month on my way to hunt for chanterelles and it looked like Niagara Falls at the time. The Nooksack and Skagit have followed suit, with a lot of ups and downs according to the weather. With temperatures generally dropping and the rain abating for a few days at a time, your odds of catching rivers in shape will improve greatly. The SF Nooksack coho fishery is winding down, but we’re still seeing coho in the mainstem and NF Nooksack. This run typically continues in spurts through the end of the year, somewhat in unison with the chum salmon return, which appears to be in its beginning stages.
The story is much the same on the Skagit, where there seems to be no shortage of nice bright coho entering into the system. The fishery was originally supposed to last through October 31st, but has been extended to the end of December with a coho forecast substantially increased mid season. We’ve been focusing on the Skagit and seeing coho throughout the system. The trick seems to be finding them in areas where they’re slowing down and not continuously on the move. Finding slow water above a fast cataract of current will often force fish to settle in a little longer and they tend to be a little more grabby in these areas. In clear water, as you’ll most often find above the Sauk and Baker Rivers, smaller Woolly Buggers, Egg Sucking Leeches and Christmas Trees work well. Break out your big Popsicles, Starlight Leeches, Dirk Wigglers, Deuce Wigalos and Coho Kryptonite patterns when you’ve got 2-3′ of visibility.
We mostly fish floating or intermediate lines for coho with weighted flies and strip the fly back through slower water since these fish tend to prefer to chase a moving fly. The same presentation works pretty well for chum salmon, but our favorite is to simply drift a weighted fly under a strike indicator big enough to support the weight of the fly, just like you’re nymphing for trout. We also use a lot of short Skagit style heads like the OPST Commando Heads or Scientific Anglers Skagit Lites for salmon fishing these days, coupled with a floating or intermediate MOW tip. These really come in handy in tight quarters and the extra mass to the head and tip turn over gaudy weighted flies with ease. Just our annual reminder that if you plan to pursue chum, you should take anything less than an 8 wt. rod to the battlefront. We see a slurry of broken 6 wts. every season that got ravaged by these toothy salmon. Check our sales section below for some exceptional deals on closeout 8 weights.
If you’re on the lookout for char and trout or whitefish in the river system, it’s definitely time to toss some egg patterns or beads as these fish are accustomed to feeding heavily on nature’s most efficient form of protein this time of year. I recently had a great day euro nymphing a Slush Egg pattern for trout in the upper reaches of the Skagit. Trout, char and a gazillion whitefish took the egg to the exclusion of any other pattern I fished in conjunction with it.
While a lot of our lowland lakes closed at the end of October, some of our year round lakes like Squalicum, Pass, Lone and Grandy continue to fish pretty late into the system until the water cools to the point where the trout’s metabolism slows to absolute lethargy and the catch rate plummets dramatically. We’re seeing some fall midge hatches coming off regularly in the afternoons and evenings, so if you’re not afraid to toss the small stuff like CDC midge emergers, adult midges, Griffith’s Gnats and Stillborn Midges in the film on 6X it’s a pretty fun way to cap off the day. Aside from that, Mini Leeches, Simi Seal Leeches, White Bunny Leeches and Balanced Leeches have been good. On Pass in particular, the daily menu includes a healthy serving of fathead minnows. Fish Mini Zonkers, White Zonkers, Zoo Cougars and Muddlers near the edges of weedbeds from late afternoon until dark. We just got a shipment of Phil Rowley’s Balanced Fathead Minnow pattern in recently that should work fantastic under an indicator. If the aforementioned flies aren’t working, Boobies and Blobs on a full sink line will often produce well during the fall months. Pass and Lone still have a pretty significant algae bloom going on. It doesn’t seem to hamper the fishing, but don’t allow pets to drink the water or drink it yourself.
Cutty fishing in the South Sound with Spiders, Marabou Clousers in attractor colors and Sea Run Buggers is decent right now. Not much is happening in the North Sound salt this time of year.