Upcoming Events | May 2015

Writers on the Fly

Thursday, May 14th, 7pm, FREE

Join host Jason Rolfe for an evening of readings, art, beer and shenanigans at Writers on the Fly #4.

Our featured readers this month include Cameron Chambers, author of Chasing Rumor out soon from Patagonia Books; Cameron Scott, poet and fishing guide in Oregon and Colorado and the author of the poetry collection The Book of Ocho; and finally Catie Webster, a writer and flyfisher making her way from Montana to a new home and new job in Seattle!

We’ll see art from the inimitable Amy McMahon, and have an outdoor gear drive for our featured non-profit, YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD Outdoor Leadership Program!

Trout Unlimited Duwamish Chapter Meeting and Presentation: Flyfishing Puget Sound with Dave McCoy

Tuesday, May 19th, 6:30pm, FREE

Join the TU Duwamish Chapter for their monthly meeting and presentation by local Puget Sound flyfishing guru Dave McCoy as he shares tips and tricks for fishing the Puget Sound learned from nearly two decades on the water here!

This event is free, and great for anyone looking to learn more about Trout Unlimited and the unique and exhilarating fishery right outside our backdoor!

Fishing the Cascade Creeks Presentation with Alex Collier

Thursday, May 21st, 6:30pm, FREE

Alex Collier is no stranger to the blue line, and he’s ready to share his knowledge of fishing the many creeks and larger streams that tumble down along the Cascade slopes. From highway 2, to the I-90 corridor and beyond, Alex will show you how to find the fish, what flies they like to eat, and talk about the best equipment for chasing the beautiful, wild trout that call these streams home.

EWA Summer Fly Fest and Guide Gourmet at Lincoln Park

Saturday, May 30th, 10am-4pm, FREE

Join the EWA Staff and Guides for a fun day at the park! Product reps from Scott, Hardy, Winston and Patagonia will be on hand to show off the latest gear, rods and reels, while EWA’s own certified casting instructors will be giving free casting clinics and presentations.

We’ll be holding our annual Guide Gourmet Cookoff, as well. Come and taste the best shore lunches our guides have to offer, which will be judged by a panel of local chefs and food lovers.

This event will be a lot of fun for the whole family–we hope to see you there!

Coming up in June…

Flyfishing the Mountain West with Bobby Foster

Thursday, June 4th, 6:30pm, FREE

SUP Fly Fishing with Parker Bunbury 

Thursday, June 11th, 6:30pm, FREE

 

 

Trout Rod Reviews

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Photo and Review by Alex Collier

With Summer just around the corner (or already arrived depending on who you ask), most of us have trout squarely on our brains in Washington.  Within a few weeks all of our trout fisheries will be open, and with the low snowpack this year, a lot of them will most likely immediately be in shape.  As such, now’s the time to start assessing your gear for the wide range of water types and fishing techniques we have throughout Washington and into Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Northern California.

If you are just getting into the sport, or if you are interested in exploring a new rod that will cover a different situation better than a rod you currently own, we’ve tried to take some of the confusion out of the equation for you–or at least provide a starting point for you in your search for a new rod.  Below we have the trout rods we carry in store broken down into the water size they cover best.  You’ll also most likely notice that this also separates the rods into weight/length and rod action to a certain degree.

A quick word about what we mean by the different river size designations we’ve listed.  For the purposes of this listing we’ve broken it down into Small, Medium, and Large Water:

By “Small Water” we mean rivers and creeks where casts of 10-20 feet are the most prevalent, and where the flies of choice are mostly dry flies or lightly weighted nymphs.  The rods in this range are usually in the 2 and 3 weight full to mid flex categories (or slow to medium action), and are usually on the shorter end of the spectrum.  The small mountain creeks of Washington are a great example of this water type, as are the small brook trout streams of the East Coast.

“Medium Water” is going to be rivers where casts of 15-30 feet are more of the norm, or where dry/dropper rigs, slightly heavier nymphs, or smaller unweighted streamers are common.  These rods are often a bit more versatile because of slightly more backbone and length, which gives you the ability to mend and control line on the water easier, while also maintaining the ability to delicately present dry flies in small spaces.  Rods in this designation are going to be 3 and 4 weight mid flex (or medium to medium-fast action), and are going to be in the 8-8’6″ range.  These are great rods for the Cedar River outside of Seattle, bigger stretches of the Middle Fork of the Snoqulmie, and some of the smaller rivers of Idaho, Montana, and Oregon.  A lot of these rods would also be good dry fly rods for fishing out of drift boats.  By and large, most of these rods will handle quite a few scenarios in the trout world.

“Large Water” is going be everything else for trout–bigger, deeper water where dry/droppers, heavy stonefly nymphs, or streamers are the common fly choices and longer casts are necessary.  These rods will also handle casting in the wind better.  Most of these rods are going to be in the 4 and 5 weight mid to full flex category (or medium fast to fast action), and will be in the 8’6″ to 9′ range.  Where these rods normally excel in generating higher line speeds and longer casts, they sometimes sacrifice a bit of feel at closer ranges or when going for smaller fish.

And with that, on to the listings:

Small Water

Echo Carbon:  7’3″ 2 wt ($170) — Small, light weight rod with a lot of life that is also an absolute bargain!  This rod has a lot of life, excels at closer ranges, and is a blast as a very small stream rod.  The Carbon definitely qualifies as a slower action rod, and might take some getting used to if you’re new to casting or have a more aggressive casting stroke, but the trade off is a really fun rod to fish in small, tight situations.

Echo Glass:  6’3″ 2 wt.; 7’4″ 4 wt; 7’10” 5wt ($200) — Fiberglass is making a comeback in a big way, and these rods are a great value if you’re trying to get in on the action!  Full flex, and designed to excel fishing in tight quarters.  These rods are a bit heavier in hand than their Scott counterparts, but they have an great feel when casting them.  The 6’3″ 2 wt. makes just about any fish feel like a real bruiser!  A great WA Mountain Creek rod series.

Scott F2 (Fiberglass):  7’7″ 2wt.; 8’4″ 3 wt. ($645) — In all honesty, a remarkably smooth and lively rod that is amazingly light.  These rods feel like they’re flexing all the way into the cork when casting, and are a blast to fish.  These are real game changers when it comes to fishing the mountain creeks and other smaller trout rivers in this area!  Worth every penny when it comes to the smile you’ll have on your face fishing them.

Scott G2:  7’7″ 2 wt. and 8’4″ 3 wt. ($745) — A shop favorite!  Extremely light weight, incredible performance and feel, and a beautiful looking rod as well!  Lots of technology goes into the making of this rod, but what you need to know is that it’s amazingly smooth, tracks really well without any extra movement (even though it flexes pretty deep into the rod), and is really light in hand.

R.L. Winston WT:  7′ 2 wt. ($750) — Winston’s classic all-graphite small water rod.  Slightly heavier in hand than the BIII LS, but with a smooth medium to medium fast action.  All of the Winston feel you expect in a fully graphite package.  Really, really nice small stream rod that a lot of people consider one of the best all-graphite rods ever made.

R.L. Winston BIII LS:  7′ 2 wt.; 8’6″ 3 wt. ($795) — While technically listed as a “medium-fast” rod on Winston’s site, we find these rods to be much more “medium” than “fast” (and a bit softer than the WT).  These rods are really light in hand, have the buttery smooth action you expect from a Winston, but finish the cast without a lot of wobble in the rod.  Classic details and the boron addition to the rod blank makes up a classic Winston rod that delivers great accuracy and responsiveness.

 

Medium Water

Echo Solo:  7’6″ 3 wt. ($120) — A great entry level rod for those wanting to get into the sport, or wanting a lighter weight rod to add to their quiver.  An fairly light rod with a nice action to it.  It doesn’t have quite the feel of the Carbon, and would tend to be more on the medium action end of the spectrum, but for $120 with a lifetime warranty you can’t beat the price!

Scott A4: 8′ 3 wt. ($395) — The A4 is a nice rod series that doesn’t totally break the bank.  And while it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the G2 does, it is still a really fun rod to fish.  Even at an 8′ 3 wt., this rod still has enough backbone to cover some slightly bigger water and throw some slightly heavier flies.  Light and responsive, this rod will cover quite a few different situations for you, and will be a rod that you can grow into if you’re new to the sport.

R.L. Winston Nexus:  8’6″ 3 wt. ($475) — Don’t let the 3 wt. label fool you:  this rod is a medium-fast 4 wt. at heart.  A great rod for throwing dry/droppers, or for bigger dry flies from drift boats or on bigger water…but with the lighter weight of a 3 wt. rod.  You don’t get the classic Winston Green color, but you get a rod with the ability to fish multiple water types at the slight expense of the feel you would normally associate with both Winston rods and 3 wts. as a whole.

Hardy Zenith Sintrix:  8′ 3wt. ($599) — A nice medium action that strikes a balance between feel and strength.  A bit softer than the Scott A4, but more responsive than the Echo Solo.  Also very light in hand with a slender taper.  Still has enough backbone to turn over some dry/dropper rigs, but might struggle to step up to much more than lightly weighted nymphs.

Scott G2:  8’8″ 4wt. ($745) — A slightly faster version of the above listed G2 offerings.  Fantastic dry fly rod on bigger rivers that would also be well suited to step into dry/dropper and even some unweighted or lightly weighted streamers.  Fantastic feel and action despite a bit more backbone makes for a really good all-around trout rod.

 

Large Water

Echo Solo:  9′ 5wt. ($120) — An overall nice rod with a pleasant casting action for a great price!  This rod can cover the Yakima, Puget Sound, and other larger trout fisheries.  It doesn’t have all the technological advances and is slightly heavier in hand, but is still a rod with a lot of good things going for it.

Scott A4:  9′ 5wt. ($395) — A step up in backbone and speed from the 8′ 3wt. that maintains all of the other positives of the shorter version.  Solid value for a smooth medium to medium-fast action rod.

R.L. Winston Nexus:  9′ 5wt. ($475) — If the 3wt version is really a 4 at heart, this 5wt. is a 6.  High line speeds, bigger flies, and windy conditions are the name of the game for this medium-fast to fast version of the Nexus.  What it lacks in traditional trout feel, it makes up for in backbone, while maintaining a pretty soft tip for turning flies over and delivering them with a bit of touch.

Scott G2:  9′ 5wt. ($745) — While the bread and butter of this rod series is in the lighter weight versions, the 9′ 5wt. still delivers a nice medium to medium-fast feel that doesn’t feel too stiff or clunky.  Slightly more heavy feeling in hand than other rods in this class, but with the responsive action that runs throughout the G2 series.  Still a really nice trout rod.

R.L. Winston BIIIx:  9′ 5wt. ($795) — Simply put, a spectacular trout rod.  Buttery smooth, medium to medium-fast action but with enough backbone to handle bigger situations, this rod can handle a lot of different things:  small flies with delicate presentations, dry/dropper, and streamers alike.  The BIIIx could even step down and feel really good fishing some more medium sized waters because of the soft, but strong tip and mid section.

Scott Radian:  9′ 4wt and 9′ 5wt ($795) — Strength.  Finesse.  Feel.  Lightweight.  This rod really does a little bit of everything, and does it all really well.  The 5 wt. has enough power to make long casts on the Sound and then deliver delicate presentations with small dries in the freshwater.  Plus, the lightweight nature of this rod makes it a joy to cast, and the responsive nature makes it easy to feel the rod loading, even at short distances.  If you were only looking to invest in one rod that would cover a lot of different locations, it’d be hard to argue against either the BIIIx or the Radian in the 9′ 5wt.  range.

 

We hope this review/listing has been helpful to you as you explore new options to cover different fisheries in the area.  But, we also know that reading our thoughts on these rods will only go so far.  So if you would like to cast any of these rods at any point feel free to swing by the store where we are more than happy to throw a line on a rod and let you test cast them for yourself!

 

Thanks for reading!

Gear Review: R.L. Winston Nexus Rods

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Anyone familiar with the fly fishing industry knows the reputation of the R.L. Winston fly rod company:  buttery smooth performance labeled as the Winston “feel,” top of the line technology and quality craftsmanship, and the iconic green color of their high-end Boron rod series.  But there’s a new dog in the fight for Winston–the all new, mid-price point graphite Nexus rod series.  If the Boron rods are the older, more mature siblings that listen to Miles Davis vinyl records, the Nexus rods are the younger, more rough around the edges siblings who prefer their music a bit louder, and with a bit more funk.  Their all-black finishes serves as notice of the transition from the sensitivity and feel of the “Winston Green” Boron rods, to the bring your lunch pail to the river blue-collar Nexus rods whose graphite blanks have sacrificed a bit of feel in the pursuit of speed and power.
 

Make no mistake, however:  these are still Winstons at heart.  The burled wood inserts on the 3wt. through 9′ 6 wt. rods, the anodized aluminum reel seats on the 9’6″ 6 wt. through the 12 wt., the overall lightness in your hand, and just enough of that classic feel all let you know that you’re holding a rod built by a company that prides itself on quality.  And while these rods certainly have their flaws, they are a massive upgrade over the former entry-level price point Passport rod series, and they continue the recent movement by the classic rod companies to put a rod series on the market at the entry to mid price point, but that have a touch of the feel and look of a rod three or four hundred dollars more expensive.
 

Over the last few days, Reid Curry and I have had the chance to cast the 4 Nexus rods that we are carrying in the shop–the 4 rods that fit into Western Washington specific fisheries:  the 8’6″ 3 wt., the 9′ 5 wt., and the 9′ and 9’6″ 6 wts.  So while this review isn’t completely comprehensive since it only covers 4 out of 17 rod models, a few things have jumped to the forefront on all of these rods that make it seem possible to make a generalization or two that most likely will hold true across the spectrum.  Most notably in that regard is that these rods are definitely on the faster end of the rod action range, and we felt that each of the rods cast best when either over-lined by a full weight, or when matched with a more aggressively tapered line.  A standard trout taper of the matching weight just didn’t keep the rods loaded, and in the case of the 3 wt., you just couldn’t feel the line much at all.
 

So, without further ado, here’s our thoughts on casting these rods in front of the shop over the last 2 days (which maybe that’s an “ado” I should mention–these aren’t on the water tests, which could very well change the feel of these rods a touch):
 

 8’6″ 3 wt. ($475)–  As I mentioned above, we ended up with a 4 wt. line on this rod because the standard Airflo Elite Trout taper in a 3 wt. just wasn’t doing anything for it.  Once we over lined it, the rod began to come to life (there’s a chance that a line like the Airflo Xceed in a 3 wt., which has a slightly more aggressive taper would also do the same for you).  Either way, what you should hear in that statement is that this is a quick 3 wt.  If you’re looking for a mid flex rod to deliver dry flies in tight quarters on small creeks, this probably isn’t the rod for you.  We felt that even with a 4 wt. line on it this rod really started casting well after about 15-20 feet of line was out.  As such, we could see this rod being fun to fish on some of the larger West side trout rivers, definitely on the Yakima, or in situations where you might be needing to throw weighted nymphs or smaller streamers for trout.  This 3 wt. has enough backbone to it to really hold its own in those situations, while maintaining the lightness of a true 3 wt. rod.  (As as side note, there’s a chance that the 7’6″ 3 wt. would be a totally different rod, as we’ll talk about in a minute with the difference between the 9′ and 9’6″ 6 wt. rods having noticeably different feels–the extra length of rod could lead to a faster rod, as it does in the 6 wt.  If the 7’6″ does have a bit more bounce to it, then it could become a really good option for our smaller mountain creeks.  Hopefully we can cast one soon to find out for sure.)
 

 9′ 5 wt. ($475)–  Hands down, this was our least favorite of the 4 rods tested.  While it could be wedged into the “do it all” category that is reserved for 9′ 5 wts., we felt that it lacked a bit of the touch you normally look for in a lighter rod as well as the backbone you look for in a heavier one.  With a standard 5 wt. trout taper line, the rod performed relatively well in the 15-30 foot range, but really started to lose power once you moved past 30 feet.  When we lined it up to a 6 wt. of the same taper, the feel in the 15-30 foot range disappeared, and the troubles past 30 remained.  If you’re looking for a “do it all” rod that can handle closer casting fairly well, and longer casting with a bit of effort, this rod can do it for you.  But, there are certainly several other rods on the market that perform a lot better than this one in both of those departments.
 

 9′ 6 wt. ($485)–  Definitely our favorite of the 4 rods.  If you’re looking for a “do it all” rod from this grouping, this one would be it, and it would also stack up fairly well with other “do it all” trout rods across the market.  The action is nice and smooth throughout the casting range, and there is definitely a backbone hiding underneath of it that allows you to reach out with longer casts.  This is a rod that would fish well on Puget Sound for cutthroat, pink salmon, and most likely even have enough power to handle cohos.  On the flip side, you could also turn over dry flies pretty well, and it certainly could handle any nymph or streamer applications you would want to toss its way.  One of the draw backs of this rod for us in the Puget Sound region is that the 9′ 6wt. only comes with a burled wood reel seat and no fighting butt–you have to step up to the 9’6″ 6 wt. in order to get those.  While that obviously has no effect on rod action or performance, and if you’re only going to freshwater fisheries the wood has a more classic look, it would be nice to have the anodized option for those of us looking to fish this rod in the Sound so you don’t ding up the wood insert.  Overall this is a nice rod for those not wanting to spend $700-800 on a high-end rod, but who want the performance sometimes missing from the entry-level rods.  It will cover a lot of situations for you, and will do so well.
 

 9’6″ 6wt. ($485)–  In addition to the anodized reel seat and fighting butt, as well as the obvious length difference that gives you better mending control and clearance off of the water, the major difference in this rod is added power.  While some rods lose power when length is added to the same line weight rod, this one has more backbone than the 9′ 6 wt.  But, it comes at the expense of feel.  This is a true nymph/streamer/Puget Sound rod that allows you to launch line with a relatively smooth action, but is one that would fall short if dry flies or finesse casting are in your daily schedule.  One other thing we noted with this rod was that it cast best when matched with a true shooting head line like Airflo’s 40+.  When matched with the Airflo Xceed (which does have a slightly more aggressive taper than a standard trout line), the rod just didn’t stay loaded on longer casts.  Shooting head lines will also help in the Puget Sound/streamer/nymph situations where punching heavier flies on longer casts is crucial.  Bottom line with this rod is that power is the name of the game.  The added length can feel a bit cumbersome if you’re brand new to casting, but if the above mentioned situations are what you’re looking to do, this rod will handle them well.
 

 All in all, the Nexus rods are a nice addition to Winston’s line-up…especially at the sub $500 price point.  What they sometimes lack in feel and finesse, they make up for with power, a light weight feel in your hand, and a blank that tracks well throughout the casting range.  Add in high-end looks and components, and you have a quality addition to the ever-advancing mid price point rod market.

Find An Estuary

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Find an estuary. Walk down the long gravel path, past the rotting caddy shack, and through the low beach shrubs. There should be gulls in the air and on the water and the light should be low. The smell of dying and decaying fish must be prevalent.

The tide will be low, just beginning to turn. The high bank along the creek covered in crab grass. The creek itself, low after so little rain, running just a few inches deep over the gravel before it pushes out into the estuary.

Approach slowly, crouching low. The people sitting in their kitchens across the little bay might laugh at you, but you won’t know it if they do. The problem is you’re backlit by the low sun and the water is clear and the salmon see well, they’re skittish and wary this close to freshwater.

See the fish, their long shapes flattened by refraction in the water? In groups of 3 or 4 or 5, carefully circling the estuary? Testing out its limits with each turn, nosing up to the creek to see if they can yet slip up into it?

Watch for the pattern. Wait for the timing. After they’ve passed over that sunken log, they’ll turn briefly away and then straight back at you following some submarine path. They’re anxious and aggressive, and a well-placed fly just leading them could probably pull one from the group.

Kneel on the bank. Pull line from the reel and coil it carefully beside you. Hold the small, bright fly in your fingers. There is only a hint of their presence out there, but you see on the surface a line of pushed water as if the lightest breeze were blowing a few ripples toward you. But the air is still.

Drop the fly. Lift your arm. Make the cast.

Peeling Back the Layers

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In angling, at best, we just barely scratch the surface. We stand in the river or on a beach, yet remain on the outskirts, dashing in here or there, each new piece of understanding simply another layer beneath which we find more layers and yet more.

Of any angler past or present, Roderick Haig-Brown certainly came closer than most to discovering the deeper secrets of the world under water. He systematically explored the rivers, streams, and estuaries around his adopted home in Campbell River, on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. His writings record a lifetime of insights into the rhythms, patterns, and surprises of river life.

I recently spent two weeks on Vancouver Island, a copy of Fisherman’s Fall often open on my lap as I drank coffee each morning, doing my best to learn and see and hear the way Haig-Brown did. I waded through thousands of pinks on the Campbell, swam with Chinook salmon on the Stamp, and watched coho chase my fly in an estuary I stumbled upon by accident, and which I’ll leave unnamed.

For a two week trip, I didn’t fish incredibly hard or even that often. It wasn’t a fishing trip–it was a vacation and there was hiking and snorkeling and surfing to be done as well. But I did sit on the side of the Gold River beneath a rain canopy and read about Haig-Brown raising summer steelhead nearby on his Steelhead Bee; I pulled out my tying kit and wrapped a few up of my own, small flies with light wings and tails and bodies of brown and orange floss, tied slim because of the low water, tied with orange because of the huge October caddis flying around my headlamp as I tied them. I fished the flies the next morning and though I didn’t find a summer run in the low water, I watched yearling steelhead dash repeatedly at the fly, observed their rises intently, marveled at their tenacity and abandon and absolute determination.

And I thought of Haig-Brown, in his study overlooking the Line Fence Pool on the Campbell, watching the coho and steelhead fry in his aquarium, giving them funny names like “Number 1.” I thought of him with mask and snorkel on, drifting over spawned out pinks in the eddy near his home or watching the coho yearlings rise to insects. I imagined him sitting on a rock, changing flies, watching the water flow by, unraveling the mystery as best he could. Peeling back the layers. Scratching at the surface.

EWA New Store Grand Opening Event

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It has FINALLY happened…we have opened a full scale retail store to support our 15 year business in the guiding and fly fishing travel market.  This coming Saturday and Sunday come meet our exceptionally friendly, knowledgeable and extremely experienced staff who have guided and fished all over the world.  We will also have a host of speakers and presentations as well as some great door prizes in a raffle to support one or more of the conservation groups we work closely with.  Here is a look at what is scheduled so far:

September 6-7, 2014  Grand Opening Event at EWA Store
4502 42nd Ave. SW, Seattle, WA 98116

Raffle at the door for the following:

Pair of Costa sunglasses
Fisknat float tube net
Patagonia jacket
and more!

Saturday Presentations:
11am – Dave McCoy – Honduras – Permit and Bones
12pm – Chris Haberman, Rod Wall Artist Q&A, Art Director for Portlandia
1pm – TBA
2pm – Mike McCoy – Tying the Sound Searcher and Sound Advice Flies
3pm – Dave McCoy – Why Fly Fish Puget Sound
5pm – Abbie Schuster – EWA Women’s Fly Fishing and Travel Program
6pm – Reid Curry – Alaskan Fly Fishing

Sunday Presentations:
11am – Dave McCoy – PNW Steelhead
12pm – Parker Bunbury – SUP Fly Fishing
1pm – Abbie Schuster – EWA Women’s Fly Fishing and Travel Program
2pm – Mike McCoy – North Umpqua Steelhead Flies
3pm – WA Back Country Fly Fishing/Hiking
4pm – Paul Moinester – NO Chuit Coal Mine Campaign
5pm – Waist Deep Media – Fly Fishing Video Projects
6pm – TBA

Other:
Chris Haberman – Rod Wall Mural Artist Q&A
Chad Ash – Grape Solar, Alternative Energy for the Field and Traveling Angler
Brian Bennett – Patagonia and Moldy Chum
Eric Neufeld – Winston, Echo/Airflo, free line welding and loop fixing
Dan Marshall – Scott and Bauer
Select Patagonia, Hardy and Winston on sale, limited supply

Look forward to seeing everybody, seeing old friends and making new ones.

Dave, Reid, Abbie, Jonny, Alex, Eric, Ted, Mark, Todd and Jason

Flinging Frozen Flies

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Well its that time of year again when all of our favorite streams are getting pretty frigid. Normally we have an over abundance of rain giving us small windows of productive days on the water. This year however the Puget Sound is cold and dry. It’s keeping many anglers off the water due to the bitter cold. I have heard it for a couple weeks now, “the water is too low and too cold to fish”. It’s true that steelhead begin to hit cold water dormancy around 40 degrees and water being its heaviest at around 36 degrees. But, it by no means precludes steelhead from striking your fly. Sudden cold snaps will put fish off, but given a little time to acclimate or a couple degrees of warming on a sunny day and it is game on.

So the rains have stopped for a while now, your river is getting cold and is below what is considered the average flow for any given year. It is by no means low and clear but it is getting there. The river is still slightly green and has visibility somewhere around 6ft. It is around this point where the fish begin to anticipate that the river is going to get low and clear. The steelhead start moving from the slow, lazy water on the edges of the faster water toward deeper and slower water. During this transition is where large flies have produced well for me. You will be chucking the proverbial frozen chickens and your spey casting abilities will be tested. But hey, so long as you get it out there, it does not have to be pretty. Most of these large flies are 6 inches or so in blacks, blues or purples with some form of flash and or colored butt. I tie a lot of my own flies now but some commercial patterns that have a home in my box for these conditions would be the Skagit Minnow with a worm weight or lead eyes, Silvie’s tube snake, Scott Howells Squidro’s and Travis Johnson’s Lady Gaga.

Now we separate the men from the boys. It has been really cold and dry and your river has hit the low, clear and frigid phase. As your fingers are going numb and you wonder what you are doing out in this cold you remember that Mr. Steelhead has had time to acclimate to his new conditions and is willing to strike. He is by no means as active and full of vigor, as he is above that 40 degree mark. But he is looking ahead, with unlimited visibility, for any predators coming his way. He will now park his fins on the slowest, deepest, darkest water he can find, this way he can expend less energy and find water that is degree or two warmer. Mr. Steelhead may also be found at the beginning of pools where the riffle flattens and smoothes out if he needs more oxygen with temperatures being in the 30’s. This is where we break the mold by putting away those big, bright, gaudy intruders you were told winter steelhead just love. Steelhead can count each feather and strand of flashabou under these conditions, so its time to scale the flies down. Leave the super bright flies in the box in exchange for whites, greens, browns and tan flies in the 2 inch or so range. I like to tie various temple dog and arctic fox flies for these conditions. As far as commercial flies look online for similar flies as listed, many flies meet the criteria. I have even been known to tie some summer steelhead flies on size two hooks for uber spooky steelhead.

So grab a couple friends, some warm drinks and go have a good time. If you have any questions just let us know.

Tight lines,

Eric Sadlon

In 1969, the steelhead was declared Washington’s official “state fish.”

Somehow this seems to mean nothing to people.  In general, when an object or living species is recognized as a iconic figure of a country, region or state, it is extremely rare if not never something of human manipulation or recreation.  Yet here we are living in a state where the steelhead is quickly becoming just that, known more as a hatchery born and originated brat that the magnificent wild creature it became on its own.

Here is the latest on what might impact next years wild steelhead season here in Puget Sound:

Wild Versus Hatchery

Lawsuit Threatened Over Largest Hatchery Steelhead Program In Puget Sound

The Wild Fish Conservancy last week served notice that it, unless changes are made within the next 60 days, will sue the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for allowing what the conservation groups says are the illegal outplantings of so-called Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead in a variety of western Washington streams.

The Conservancy says that the outplantings of domesticated hatchery fish pose risk to wild stocks that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The hatchery fish are intended for harvest.

Since the 2007 listing of Puget Sound steelhead, WDFW steelhead hatchery programs that employ Chambers Creek stock have continued to operate without permission from the NOAA Fisheries Service, the conservation group says. The Chambers Creek fish are produced at numerous WDFW facilities across Washington.

“The science is definite in that the planting of these domesticated hatchery fish is detrimental to protected wild fish,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “Any release of Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead should be prohibited as incompatible with the recovery of wild Puget Sound steelhead and the perpetuation of their legacy.

“But at the very least any existing hatchery program must operate with an appropriate permit from NOAA Fisheries.”

Recent research in the Skagit River watershed confirms that Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead are mating with wild steelhead, according to the conservation group. The offspring of hatchery steelhead and wild steelhead are substantially less likely to survive in the wild, further depressing the already low numbers of wild steelhead.

The Skagit research is the latest of a growing number of studies that have concluded that the planting of domesticated hatchery steelhead has adverse effects on the health and resilience of wild steelhead, according to the Conservancy. The hatchery steelhead program of the Skagit River watershed is the largest in the Puget Sound region.

The conservation group says that, because juvenile hatchery steelhead are far larger than their wild counterparts, they prey on the juveniles of listed salmonids, compete for food, and attract predators. Hatchery facilities that block habitat and degrade water quality also cause problems for wild fish.

“WDFW has a split mandate between providing fishing opportunities and protecting wild steelhead,” Beardslee said. “Ironically, what one hand of WDFW gives, the other takes away: the publically funded fish hatcheries undermine the publically funded wild fish recovery efforts, such as habitat restoration. Fully recovered wild steelhead populations would fulfill both mandates.

The 60-day notice says that, despite that recognition, wild Puget Sound steelhead populations have declined precipitously over the past 30 years: the average region-wide abundance between 1980 and 2004 was less than 4 percent of what it was in 1900. Since being listed as threatened under the ESA in 2007, Puget Sound wild steelhead abundance has continued to decline.

The recent five-year average is less than 3 percent of what it was in 1900. In 2010, scientists from the regional science center of the NOAA Fisheries Service concluded “in our opinion. Chambers Creek steelhead have no role in the recovery of native Puget Sound steelhead.”

The unpermitted Chambers Creek steelhead hatchery programs are the sole subject of the 60-day notice letter, because rather than aiding wild steelhead, these programs harm wild steelhead and prevent their recovery, the conservation group says.

Value of a Wild Steelhead

Jonathan,

So best of luck down there this evening buddy and here is my take on what the state and WDFW should be thinking about when it comes to the importance of those wild fish:

1 angler from out of state would spend approximately this while in WA for 1 week with the idea that just 1 of these wild fish had the potential to be caught, admired and released…

Air Fare:  $300-$1500

Gas:  $100-$250

Hotel: $75-$300 per night

Guide:  $550 per day/6 days

Food and Beverage:  $25-$75 per day

Fishing License:  $60-$80

Rental Car:  $200-$500

Ferry Fees:  $40

Incidentals:  $100-$500 or more

So in a single week, 1 angler would basically at the low end of these costs would bring this much to the local economy:

$4350 for 1 angler

We have a staff and connection of 15 licensed and insured fly fishing guides that with a higher percentage of “wild” steelhead we could have booked ever single week.  Take this number above and multiply that by 15 and this is what the number looks like:

$65,250

Now if you take the notion that well managed fisheries for the survival and sustainability of these wild steelhead, our Washington state fish, could have a dual season between summer and winter where for let’s say 6 months of the year, we had a good shot at these fish, enough to keep our entire staff busy for those 6 months, this is what that number looks like:

$1,566,000

This is 24 weeks of the year, keeping 15 local Washington residents employed, paying sales tax on nearly 100% of this figure, supporting all local Washington businesses and several Washington state agencies in the process both directly and indirectly(guide license fees, special use permits on Premier Watersheds, insurance, CPR/First Aid).

This is just our business.  Imagine if all fly fishing businesses in Washington of similar size did the same thing? Imagine all FISHING businesses in Washington could do the same thing?  Imagine if that season of only 6 months was extended for another 2-3 month period as it once was?  Imagine if we valued these fish as a symbol of this awesome state and made sure not only our residents put this same value on them but also made the effort to ensure every sport angler from surrounding states and provinces understood our value of them and in return gave same consideration to them, our water, our state and our successful management of these fish as one of the single greatest game fish on the planet.

Be embarrassed about how much better the wild steelhead fishing is once you leave our state in any direction but use that as fuel to turn the table and set the tone for change, to return our state fish to glory and stature it once possessed and deserves.

Imagine…

Yakima Steelhead…Ponder This!

Bob Margulis of the Wild Steelhead Coalition just passed along a note from someone that I thought might be of interest to those in the anadromous world regarding steelhead in the Columbia Basin in particular the Yakima River region:

The 6,000 steelhead returning to the Yakima has to be put into the perspective that most of the present production is coming out of Satus Creek and Toppenish Creek.  There remains an immense amount of fine habitat in the Yakima outside those two streams.  The Naches River alone should be having returns of over 6,000 steelhead, Satus and Toppenish each 2,000 and the upper mainstem Yakima and many of its tributaries such as Big Creek, Cabin Creek, Teanaway River, and many others should have at least another 6,000-10,000 … even under present conditions.  Given the good passage conditions in the Columbia in recent years and the good overall ocean conditions, the Yakima should be having wild steelhead returns of 15,000-20,000.

During the early to mid 1980s when the then NW Power Planning Council (now NW Power and Conservation Council) began to have discussions about making the Yakima the poster child for Columbia Basin recovery, it was estimated that the Yakima Basin was second only to the Snake Basin in numbers of returning salmon and steelhead.  It was estimated that it’s historic returns were 600,000 combined total with 100,000 of those being steelhead.

However, our present work on the Columbia using amount of available gravel as found in the 1930s to estimate salmon returns suggest that there was sufficient gravel available for about 1.5-2 million spring Chinook alone in the Yakima basin … and that was the most conservative estimate.  If we had used what is a more probable redd area per spawning pair of Chinook it would have been more on the order of 3-5 million.  We have not completed our mathematical runs per gravel available for all the species, but the Yakima had large runs of coho, steelhead, fall Chinook, and sockeye — the latter having 3 large lakes available (Kachess, Keechelus, and Cle Elum) and one smaller lake (Bumping).  In 1916 there was a count made of the number of salmonid juveniles killed in one irrigation field watering of some 200 acres near Yakima.  From that count expanded to the total irrigation acreage at the time, it was computed that about 4.5 million outmigrating smolts were being killed with each watering in the Yakima basin.  Subsequently in the 1920s it was better determined how many waterings occurred per year and the final estimate was that some 20 million outmigrating salmonids were annually killed via diversion onto irrigation fields where they died.  This did not include how many juveniles were killed in the irrigation canals each year when annually dewatered each fall.  It was only a count of those that went out onto the fields being irrigated when diverted from the canals.  This was long after the sockeye runs had already been wiped out in the very early 1900s by construction of dams at the outlets of each of the lakes already mentioned that had no passage systems.  And salmon runs overall were known to have severely declined in the Columbia basin from 1883 onward.  By the 1916-1920 period of time salmon numbers (adult and juvenile) were a fraction of that when Lewis and Clark Expedition occurred.

Just for a couple comparative examples, Osoyoos Lake on the upper Okanagan this year will have a run-size of wild sockeye of about 450,000 (515,000+ have thus far passed Bonneville most of which are destined there).  That is only one lake and Osoyoos is still in recent process of recovery.  Lake Quinault historically had an estimated wild sockeye run-size of one million as late as 1941 (tribal harvest of 500,000 that year).  Obviously, the NWPPC Yakima basin estimate back in the 1980s was a lowball estimate at 600,000 total salmon and steelhead along with the historic estimate of 100,000 steelhead.  I do not have a present estimate we will eventually have for historic Yakima steelhead based on spawning gravel, but I can guarantee it will be well above 100,000.  The Yakima is an immense basin and steelhead historically used nearly all of it.

For instance, we estimated that the Snohomish basin in 1895 had steelhead runs of about 160,000 and the Nooksack 140,000 or more (Skagit about 105,000 and Stillaguamish about 75,000).  None of the Puget Sound rivers had the available basin area the Yakima historically had, and no Puget Sound river had the productivity of the Yakima.  The Clearwater River of Idaho had a count of 46,000 steelhead past Lewiston Dam in the early 1960s (before any hatchery program there) and that was after many were harvested in lower Columbia commercial and sport fisheries as well as in Snake River sport fisheries prior to Clearwater River entry (this was after The Dalles Dam inundated Celilo Falls in 1957 and tribal fisheries had yet shifted to gill netting as the former dip net fishery was eliminated).  Again, the Yakima basin size is larger than the Clearwater and greater productivity per mile of available stream.