Wow, I could go on for…forget it, let’s bid 2020 adieu!
So long and so on to what I hope is a beloved 2021 and what to look forward to here in the Seattle area, the greater PNW and beyond. A decidedly paltry understatement would be there is much anticipation for 2021 on nearly every front…obviously!
I live, guide, photograph and travel from Seattle, WA. I have broken rods, reels, lines some laws and bones in 40 countries and because of this I have come to greatly appreciate the incredible diversity of our surrounding fisheries. My friends, we have some extraordinary fly angling here and maybe for better than worse, little of it receives much time in any spotlight. Well here is a bit less than 15 minutes for some of them.
First and most immediately we are smack dab in the middle of our winter, wild steelhead season. Within 150 miles of Seattle lie some epic names in steelhead angling such as the Skagit, Sauk, Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Hoh, Queets and Sol Duc but we have others too!
However, this season comes with fishing restrictions unlike we have ever seen before and sadly, for good reason. Numbers of fish on many of these rivers continue to decline, enough so, we should count ourselves lucky to be fishing them at all this year. New restrictions affecting Olympic Peninsula rivers that would impact some fly anglers is no fishing from a floating device and all rivers closing at the end of March. For me and the rest of us here at EWA, this bears little impact as we have always used boats for transport and fishing upon arrival at our next run.
That said, our rivers here in WA and OR are stunning. Arrival in the rainforest should be cherished for the soulful experience it provides. Regardless of fish or no fish, we should be grateful for the time spent here.
Following closely and nipping at its heels will be the arrival of Chum salmon fry into the salty waters of Puget Sound. Every year, sometime in late February or early March, these migratory fry exit their birth rivers to enter the dangerous hunting grounds of the Clarki Clarki or sea run, Coastal Cutthroat trout.
Puget Sound has over 2000 miles of shoreline but as luck, or actually nature would have it, their safe haven is very near shore, the shallow water beaches of the Sound attracting our beloved SRC’s within striking distance of us, the overwhelmed by its magnitude but otherwise dauntless fly angler.
Having toted a fly rod around the world over the past 10 years, I can say with experience and some degree of favoritism that when all 3 of these elements collide it’s just silly.
Small pods of SRC’s from 12-20 inches, aggressively pursue these fry, scattering them with wreckless abandon. Hook ups are often within 20ft and surface flies imitating injured bait draw regular attention. When it really goes off, multiple pods are going about their business all around, you have a fish on and more are jumping around you and at times it feels like a mini Nat Geo episode and you are smack in the middle, shin deep. Did I mention migratory Coho salmon during the later summer and fall, yeah, that happens too!
Should the Sound be a bit much to wrap the mind around, our one and only year around trout river, the Yakima is awakening as well. BWO’s, Skwala and March Browns will challenge and delight. If flows are down, take the to banks, plenty of walk and wade access on this river and experiencing the high desert from a boat can be equally rewarding so choose your destiny and prepare accordingly for Mother Nature, you never know what’s in store in February, March and April.
As the Yakima moves into May however, still be prepared but have those summer shirts and pant waders available, spring can show its face on occasion and it shouldn’t be missed. Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch is on everyone in this regions calendar and while seasonally it shifts around, just plan on throwing PMD’s and Caddis from mid May through mid July and with luck, for most or all of the day.
When most fly anglers fly into Seattle on a sunny day, the obtuse amount of water visible from the air typically incites childlike anticipation of getting on the ground and stepping in, somewhere, now!
We do have a ton of water here in Washington, no doubt but it is not all created equal. We are not Montana or Colorado on steriods, at least not in the way most would think. Washington’s true treasure trove is our small creeks and streams. Those often times nameless blue lines littered across Google Earth in absurd quantities through the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges.
It’s silly. I have lived here for over 20 years and every year I make myself go learn a new blue line. I mean why not? The Yakima garners nearly all the airwaves of attention while many of these small streams boast serenity on a level I have seen people pay many thousands of dollars to experience elsewhere. Crystal clear water, spotting rising or resting native trout, surrounded by old growth forest with few if no other anglers around and within 90 minutes of Seattle…meh, forget I said anything!
We won the lottery in this respect, we really did. I always tell people around here, if you are looking for an excuse to buy a new rod, here go, you NEED a 2-3wt.
Some of the water we consider “creeks” would be in the top 10 rivers size wise in other states so you should see them regularly or you could feel out of sorts from one month to the next, as if it is new water each time, which is wonderful too!
And there it is, the excuse to go fish, often.
Mid summer here is ridiculous. All the creeks, Puget Sound, summer steelhead, carp in a myriad of lakes, bass in the same, high alpine lakes, pike, muskie and should you really desire it, let’s toss in a bit a Pacific Albacore of our coast. Have a 12wt with some dust on it? Bring it!
Tuna is the epitome of putting your skills to the test. Balance while casting a 12wt with 500 grain sinking head and big fly, playing a 20lb fish trying to swim to China through the bottom of the Pacific without ripping the fly out of its mouth and keeping your lunch down while 3-5 others do the same around you keeping in mind, none of you actually have control over your fish for the first 10 minutes or so…it’s good practice!
All the above stay with us into fall until we reach November when creeks close, cold precip returns and my mind circles back to winter steelhead.
Sprinting Out of 2020…Slowing to Enjoy 2021!
Somewhere in that crazy schedule of changing tactics, location, species and equipment I usually slip away to somewhere new. This is the tick in my brain I am unable shake…new water!
This past year has been rough to say the least on all of us. Looking ahead I can see NZ, Seychelles, Costa Rica, BC, AK and Russia doing their little dance in front of me like a tease. My hope for everyone in this sport is they find a way to fuel their engine to get on the water and if there is a way to do so without the liability of whether or not a fish is caught making the experience, then you have truly succeeded.
It is the adventure, the road, all the sideways occurrences from flat tires to no plug in the boat, diverted airplanes, bears/cats/elephants/shark, broken rods, lost passports, language barriers, hurricanes and the lot that are going to make up the bulk of any fish story. Think about it…
Here’s to a safe and vibrant fishing year in 2021!
Wow, I could go on for…forget it, let’s bid 2020 adieu!