I’ve always loved those years when summer seamlessly bleeds into fall. Lots of lingering sunshine and discernable warmth permeates the heart of the day. The leaves turn gradually, the breeze is light and occasional and those buckets of rain we all know will come sooner or later seem to take their sweet time. This doesn’t appear to be one of those years.
September was a wet one indeed and October seems to be following suit. While the long bouts of precipitation make planning a trip and finding the river in shape more of a challenge, we really can use the water, and so can the fish. When it’s not so stormy out, it’s a fairly pleasant time of year to fish and there’s no shortage of fishing opportunities to enjoy around these parts.
Fall means salmon and there are certainly some around. The pinks are quickly moving towards zombie phase and doing their thing to seed the 2021 pink run. In any event, they’ll be done before long and we can freely pursue coho, steelhead and sea run cutthroat without further fear of landing a fly into a fungus-encrusted, humped-out dorsal. There appears to be a fair number of coho around in our streams and the run is reminiscent of what we saw in 2015, with a decent number of fish to be found, but a much smaller average size. Chum will start showing later in October and into November. If you’re not into chasing anadromous fish in moving water, autumn is a great time for a last crack at the high country streams or a favorite lake. Resident fish are fattening up for the winter and you can have a pretty good time out there if you hit it right.
Brandon and I just got back from separate trips to Southeast Alaska. As always, it was a fun late season getaway with friends with plenty of fish to hand though the coho run up there was well below forecast. It’s all relative though. Even a slow day in Alaska tends to surpass your wildest expectations for just about anywhere else. On the plus side, nobody got gored by a moose or accosted by a bear, though several members of Brandon’s party managed to incapacitate one another with pepper spray.
Aside from the fishing, we have some fun events coming up. Be sure to stop by for our next open tying night on Wednesday, October 30th at Chuckanut Brewery. In November we have the International Fly Fishing Film Festival on the 21st at the Lincoln Theatre and the third annual Speyapalooza happening at Howard Miller Steelhead Park on December 7th. Stay dry, stay warm and tight lines!
It’s predominantly coho and cutties right now on the Nooksack, Skagit and Stillaguamish Rivers. The SF Nooksack opened October 1st and there’ve been plenty of coho in the upper end if you can catch it in shape. The mainstem is continuing to see some new fish as well. The Skagit has coho throughout and the Stilly below the forks is seeing fish too, though the SF Stilly is pumping a lot more clay color into the system than usual this year. Remember the forks of the Stilly are not open to salmon, but can be a fine place to chase sea run cutthroat. There are a few summer steelhead around in the NF Stilly as well.
Sea run cutthroat offer the best of all worlds, at times placating a host of anglers wishing to employ their favorite tactics. One minute they’re gobbling Mickey Finns and Spruce Flies stripped past an undercut bank, the next they’re sipping blue winged olives in a current seam on a blustery day. Some would say they have a personality disorder, but they’re beautiful, scrappy and more often than not, quite willing to play.
Now’s also a great time to venture over to the Yakima or up north for one last hurrah on the Skagit above Ross Lake. October caddis, blue winged olives, midges and crane flies are working up top, with swung soft hackles, double nymph rigs and streamer tactics producing fish subsurface. The Skagit, along with most west side trout streams will close at the end of the month. BC rivers draining into the Fraser are seeing some coho along with the first pulses of chum salmon showing up. If you’ve never fished the lower mainland for salmon during the fall, there’s no shortage of options from the Vedder to the Harrison and many points in between. It’s a wonderland worth exploring and not terribly far from home for most of us.
Lake fishing is back on. We’ve had excellent reports from Squalicum, Pass and Lone Lake on Whidbey. Minnow imitations like Rolled Muddlers, Micro Zonkers, Zoo Cougars and Slumpbusters are working well, as are various leech patterns like the black/red Simi Seal, Balanced Leech under an indicator and Woolly Buggers. It’s not too late for a foray into the BC interior Merritt/Kamloops area before the really cold weather sets in and lakes ice over for the winter. Bundle up!
We had a solid finish to the Area 9 coho fishery that ended in September with lots of fish off the beach but a much smaller than average size. Marine Area 8-1 remains open through October 31st so you still have some saltwater beach salmon opportunity for another few weeks. Craft Fur Clousers in bright attractor colors are our go to flies at this point in the year as fish tend to move more quickly toward the rivers and are less intent on feeding. Most of our North Sound sea run cutthroat are up in the rivers by now, but South Sound and Hood Canal are fishing pretty well for saltwater cutthroat. While you’ll still get them on the standard small baitfish imitations, Cutthroat Spiders, Mickey Finns, BH Raccoons and other colorful attractor patterns can really shine in the fall off the beaches.