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Between the blinding smoke haze and impenetrable fog over the last several weeks it’s been a challenge to see what’s going on out there and in extreme cases, even safely get outside.  Fortunately, there’ve been enough windows open here and there to enjoy a number of fine days on the water as summer passes the torch to fall.  We’ve seen some cooling temps, some lingering bluebird days, even the reappearance of blanketing rain and with these elements the return of our coho salmon, sea run cutthroat, upriver char and the last days of trout fishing on some of our favorite haunts.  It’s a tough time to make a decision on where to fish and it always feels as though the clock is winding down all too quickly.  If you were planning to take a month off work to sample the fine pot pourri of fishing opportunities that October has to offer, it’s high time to check in with your boss. 

I managed to make it over to the Methow in mid-September for one last hurrah before it closed at the end of the month.  It was a pick your poison kind of week.  Fish what you like and how you like, the trout came to play on all fronts.  Skittering October caddis and craneflies, dead drifting tiny Purple Haze as the blue winged olives floated in poorly socially distanced masses.  Check.  Ripping a big bunny and flash-adorned streamer through the deep pools and off rock walls.  Kaboom!  Euro nymphing a pair of jig style flies through the faster seams…one can lose count quickly as the sighter hesitates and another husky cutthroat is off to the races!

Being a western Washington fly fishing opportunist and chasing char, salmon, steelhead and spiny-rayed swamp denizens throughout the prime of their seasons much of the year, I admittedly sometimes forget about trout and their widespread gravitational pull over the fly fishing community.  While it’s certainly rewarding to tangle with a big coho or cagey steelhead after hours or perhaps days of methodical fishing, it’s pretty nice once in a while when every square inch of watery real estate seems to harbor a fish of some sort and the day is spent mostly catching.  All things for all people.  We are fortunate to live in a region with such variety.

Our much continued thanks to all of you for helping to make our seventh year in business the best and busiest yet. We are really looking forward to a time when we can start scheduling more events like our monthly tying nights.  We may need to figure out a way to do those virtually.  Should you find yourself with some of the evening free on Thursday, October 8th, North Sound Trout Unlimited is hosting a Zoom meeting with a presentation from Greg Shimek from the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition.  We’ve seen Greg speak a number of times and you’ll be sure to learn a lot about all the amazing projects directed at learning more about this quintessential Pugetropolis trout.  Likewise, if you’re looking to spend a bit more time outside along a river and supplement your fishing with a little bush whacking and science, North Sound Trout Unlimited can still use some volunteers to help collect environmental DNA on the Nooksack and tributaries for our bull trout study.  Contact us if you’re interested and we’ll fill you in on the details.

 In the meantime, best of fishing to you and we’ll see you on the water!

Rivers

Our moving waters currently offer a mixed bag of trout, char and coho salmon and there are certainly fish around.  As expected, a strong initial wave of coho blazed up the SF Nooksack and provided some pretty good fishing for the first several days following the October 1st opener.  They’ve since thinned out and fishing has gotten a little more challenging.  Hopefully the rain forecast over the next week will move some new fish on up.  If the water is reasonably clear, sparse Rolled Muddlers, Copper Coho Killers, Cali Neils and Xmas Trees work well.  If it dirties up, your bigger Alaskabous, Egg Sucking Leeches and Starlight Leeches are a better choice.  

The Skagit has good numbers of coho throughout the river system from the lower forks all the way up to the Cascade as well and the same fly recommendations will produce there.  Look for slow, froggy water with a lot of woody debris and some depth.  Cutthroat fishing has been decent on the Skagit and Stillaguamish, which opened in September.  For sea run cutthroat, Muddlers, Spruce Flies, Spiders and Bead Head Woolly Buggers are working well.  Don’t be afraid to throw some dries too as there’ve been good numbers of October Caddis and Craneflies out and about. 

Bull trout are making their way upriver on the Skagit and Sauk.  While you can continue to find fish throughout the system, often many of the bigger spawning class fish will be in the upper portions, staging before making the climb into higher elevation rivulets to produce the next generation.  Dali Llamas and White Zonkers are tough to beat.  We absolutely love a 6 weight single hand rod paired with an OPST Commando Smooth for presenting these flies.  Cast, let her sink until the fly is slightly downstream of you and coming under tension, then strip it back like it’s about to get T-boned by a big bull (because it probably is). 

For trout, our mountain streams remain open through the end of October as well as numerous tributaries to the Methow (check your regs for these as they can be somewhat complex), but the Methow itself is closed.  The Yakima is a fine weekend or mid-week trip as well this time of year.  The flows are down for the season and it becomes vastly more wadeable than during summer.  Sculpin patterns and other streamers are a great tactic to employ during the fall.  Twitching October Caddis and Cranefly dries on the surface is good too.  Be sure to have some small midges and blue winged olive mayfly imitations to round out you fly box as well.

Lakes

It’s getting to be that time again.  One last opportunity to hit the high lakes before the weather sets in and a good bet to start spending time on our lowland lakes too as the water cools down.  Pass, Lone and Squalicum are producing some nice trout, though the water quality leaves a little to be desired.  Pass and Lone have pretty severe algal blooms right now and look like thick pea soup.  As the weather cools, we can usually expect the algae to clear up some.  Leech and minnow patterns are fall staples.  Zonkers, Mini Zonkers, Muddlers and Zoo Cougars are our favorite streamers to strip on an intermediate or streamer tip lines.  Hale Bopps, Hot Head Leeches, Ruby Eyed Leeches and Stillwater Buggers work well casting or trolling as does dropping a Balanced Leech under an indicator just off the weed beds.  If these tactics aren’t producing, fast stripping a Booby Fly or hanging a Blob Fly under and indicator can save the day.  Trout will often gorge themselves on daphnia which boom during the algal blooms and these attractor flies either stimulate an aggressive response or may represent a daphnia cluster. Depending on the weather, Pass and Lone will often fish through November and beyond.

Salt

Well, our coho season wound down and closed at the end of September in North Puget Sound.  For the numbers of coho we’ve been seeing in the rivers, the beach just never really took off.  If you caught fish off the beach this year, you either spent a lot of time doing it or got pretty lucky as most of the coho seemed to be travelling fast, in deeper water and not terribly preoccupied with feeding.  It is what it is and we’re sure to be back at it in full force next summer season. Marine areas in the North Sound still remain open year round for cutthroat fishing, though many of our anadromous cutthroat filter into the rivers for the fall and winter in the northern Salish Sea.

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