November is usually a wet month here in the PNW and this year was'nt much different. While the rivers on the O.P. had record numbers of salmon mostly Coho returning for the big dance, the river levels had us fishing from the trees. When the rivers were in shape the fishing was amazing with fresh salmon for all !
My thing as far as being a guide is all about sea run fish . I spend most of my efforts fly fishing and guiding for Steelhead and SRC (sea run Cutthroat). I think they are just so special , their life cycles , environments they live and die in , the mind blowing power and sky high leaps . Not to mention the beauty of these fish, and the freedom and quality of life they represent for us all ! Without quality waters and clean environments we might as well take up golfing and sneaking a cast to those pond bass on hole 4. Thats not the case if you live anywhere in the PNW...and if you live by the largest city north of San Frisco , the options to throw a fly are endless. ( Yes...I have played a round of golf just to make a few casts )
Seattle , more importantly where i live, Kitsap county host miles of beaches. With the basic understanding of tides and flies, this offers fly anglers a unique fishery year round . With not much equipment , 6/7 wt rod and some waders, and a few flies ...your ready to start casting off the beach for SRC. A good idea is to grab a map and locate public beaches and access .Then, I like doing this drive by style of fishing off the beach. Fish hard and move around the beach for a half hour if nothing is going on ...no fish jumping no bait being pushed or too much shit in the water (grass etc) I will move and drive to another beach. This way you will find a beach that hold SRC and you then can start to focus on that area and start to understand feeding times witch are directly connected to the tides and seasons.
I have been guiding for over two decades and have found those beaches...and the SRC are just getting bigger and more of them ! Its a single barbless , catch and release fishery thats open year around in Puget sound. So the next time the rivers are in the trees and things are looking like you can't go fish...think again and hit the beach !
This is so frustrating...I have been casting flies at juvenile tarpon for over two and a half hours. Nothing...not a single look, sniff towards the multitudes of Tarpon flies we have put right across there wheelhouse. Between myself, Rick my buddy from Everett Wa and our guide Aberisto about twenty five different flies, different colors and sizes have been thrown at the fish rolling around the boat and cruising the shallow flat we have been parked on for most of the morning. We are in a Tarpon trance, time seems to not have passed, sun beating own on us, we are changing flies, lines and retrieves as fast as we get rejected time and time again. WTF...Rick yells out...he clears the bow and asks for lunch. Feeling the primal instinct to hunt I jump up on the vacant skiffs bow and begin one more cast, but this time I have come to the conclusion that the tarpon might eat considering the location, size and lack of interest of all "classic tarpon flies" my little crab fly.
After exactly five casts at several small schools of cruising fish, my fly gets a follow. I watch the Tarpon following inhale and spit the fly all faster than i can react or maybe its just that I am still in some kind of state of disbelief it just ate my crab. Lunch goes on hold, and as I cast to more fish I am followed and eaten again , this time if feel the hard and slight tug on the fly but can,t drive my point into the rock hard lower jaw of this fish. The boat erupts in a single cheer...Holy shit he ate it". Barely able to cast from shaking hands and knees I manage to deliver a 30ft cast that falls to the right side of two nice fish , the later fish sees the crab and in classic form follows , opens its mouth and terns away , fly in the side of his mouth, two huge leaps into the air and we part ways... crab fly sailing past my right ear and spraying a comet tail of misty salt water on my neck. It does'nt matter that I can barely stand or speak, I am off the bow and Rick is casting a small crab the guide had tied on while I was cracking the code...
This week of flats style fishing was not only a fun and productive week for the entire group but I got a special visit from an amazing friend Lori Ann Murphy. L.A. came up from El Pescador lodge that she manages just down the way from our little town of Excalak Mexico. A great couple of days and she was back at the helm in San Pedro, Belize.
I love this sleepy small town of Excalak and the amazing people that call it home. laid back, friendly, and still undiscovered as a Great flats destination in the Yucatan. The biggest Bones I have caught are here, Permit, Jacks, Cuda and Tarpon all can be cast to each and every day while you enjoy the warmth of the tropics and the solitude Chetumal bay. I host trips here in Nov. and Feb. March each season, 2400.00 is everything but airfare to and from Cancun.
With the some of the driest weather the N.W. has had in some time, i find myself searching for the cure...
The Grande ronde is on my list with flows all month pushing just above normal. Winter fish are going to holp up in the slow deep buckets of most every run from Troy to the mouth. Put your warm fleece on and a good hat as you venture out into the cold and unforgiving waters of any winter river.
My best technique is to use a type 4 ten foot tip with a short tippet of 10lbs, short for me means about 30 inches. Tie on a Purple Intruder with a little flash in it and start the Steelhead two step. Just like most dry side rivers in N.W. the temps drop during the night and regain there warmth about mid day, and thats when you will find me knee deep in my favorite run.
The other rivers on the east side, Methow, Klickitat, the Umatilla and the upper John Day. (from Service creek up) Its the same techniques , Buckets with tips and a purple spey fly...I will add that the "takes" can be very soft depending on water temps. Temps of 36, 37, are just on the edge of good fishing. Check your river temps and watch your step. I find in the winter the water can warm on a decent day by 5 to 8 degrees and that will make the difference. Its also why I am not much in a hurry in the early part of the day. If waters are too low fish a smaller fly. This of course is completely different on the west side of the Mountains where we see a much more constant water temps and air temperatures on a daily bases. The rivers on the O.P. for example move from 42 to 45 degrees on an average winter day. Rain also warms water temps as well...making for some amazing grabs ! I still fish tips but I fish the entire run while on the O.P. and lots of times with a bright Orange, Pink or Red Spey style fly. Just a little food for thought for this 2014 season. Tight lines
The last week I spent floating and fishing the Olympic Peninsulas rivers. The
rivers where mostly too low and clear to be effective . My first thoughts were to check the Queets river, as it is the largest with some color. mainly looking to see if the Salmon creek factory run had started.
As we made our way from the Outhouse parking area just shy of the Salmon river bridge we noticed about eight cars and trucks parked there as well. After the half mile walk to the river we discovered no one had caught a fish thus far.
Crossing the Queets is not recommended , but I am a big fella with some practice so across the river i went. Swinging my fly from the north shore of the river across from the salmon river confluence I felt something good would come of it. I swung the fly of choice, a large spey style Winters Hope in honor of my old friend Bill McMillan and the arrival of the winter. After moving through two huge runs and not a pluck I crossed the tailout of the second run and headed back to the salmon river confluence. I passed several anglers chucking guts and jigs , some fly guys showed up as well but nothing happening for anyone. I was there with my fellow spey bums Rick and Greg and as we made or way back to the truck , seeing a small herd of Elk, bald eagles, and bleached out bones of what was left from a good run of salmon we never spoke until we were at the truck..." Hoh river...yea I think there is enough daylight left". We fished down from G and L shake on the lower Hoh with no results.
later that night around the fire we drank and laughed until our faces hurt. The next morning with some help from Advil ,and drinking a lot of water we made our way to the Bogichield river. Just down from the hatchery and swung again for hours without a grab. Only seeing a few boats who also were having the same results we decided to head back home for the Seahawks game and watch the win over the Giants. It is the trip for me that means the most, time with friends in beautiful places, and feeling the rivers currents tug at your waders , the sounds of the river, and the thought of all the people elsewhere shopping , parking , eating mall food...I would rather be Christmas Steelheading
No matter the number of fish !
This past few seasons (2010/2011/2012) have given me time to think and also to ask some questions about the Steelhead of the Grande ronde, and Imnaha rivers. For more than 25 seasons guiding and working for the BLM, I see more and more fall Chinook and less Steelhead is there a connection ?
According to the damn counts , the Chinook numbers are going up and the steelhead numbers are declining in the upper Columbia tributaries...Imnaha , Grande ronde, Salmon and the Clearwater. This even with the fish factories in full swing, the water releases etc...all good or maybe not...Just wondering if anyone else has seen this first hand ? Is there a connection or just a cycle phase we are going through ? We are expecting huge Chinook salmon returns again this 2014 ...what about the Steelhead predictions ... if I am on track then we will be seeing less returns of Steelhead than last year, and the question remains why are we seeing more Chinook and less upper Snake and Columbia steelhead returns ? I am asking for a good answer not a fight !
6 -5-14. This is in response to Keith and Steve...My information came and continues to come from the NW fish newsletter. #333 June 5th. 2014. witch states "latest BiOp, calls for the beginning of barging of fish to start earlier , mainly to improve wild steelhead numbers. The added spill in recent years has reduced the number of fish collected for barging , and has likely had an adverse effect on Steelhead returns". Horseshit...I think not !
We started in Denver after my dads 80th Birthday celebration. Heading towards Sheridan Wyoming north straight up I -25 . Seven hours later with the help of 80 miles per hour speed limit we arrived . Sheridan is a great little town , with lots of fun , free things to do while staying there. The Fly shop of the Big Horn mts is a great place to stop and shop and gather info for this amazing over looked area. We where told by my brother Curt to fish the N. fork of the Tongue river (creek) up by the state hwy shed on hwy 14A. The upper area is a gorgeous valley full of willows and Moose , also a heck of a lot of Cut Bows...
Next we traveled the pass to the Big Horn river valley to the west and towards Cody...Oh Cody , great old west type town and talk about a over looked trout fishery. There are rivers in every direction and small off the beaten path creeks as well...too much to explore in a few days. Enter Tim Wades fly shop on Main st. Cody,(NorthFork Anglers) amazing store with a great staff ! Info , flies, everything you could need to really ask yourself why am I going into the park ? But into the park we went, and it was worth it as my son had never seen Yellowstone park. I night in The old faithful inn and amazing food at the restaurant too ! 50.00 dollars for the two of us for dinner was well worth it !
Fished the Fire Hole , the Gibbon , and the Yellowstone on the way out.
A wonderful trip and amazing fishing in Wyoming in places that I never heard of... Will go back to see Tim Wade and pick through his fly box !
I feel we might Just want a buy-out with the Hoh and WA. dept. of fish and wildlife. I feel until that happens we are applying only short term solutions to wild stocks of Steelhead and salmon. If we can't get the Natives to stop netting our last wild runs of Steelhead and salmon , whats the point of everything else...This should be the first thing done, then, new regulations on retaining wild steehead ,Like no keeping wild fish, maybe restricting the number of guides,especially guides from out of state on all Washington waters . Increase fees...and make those funds available directly to a Buy-out !