Opening Day 2014 Top Ten Tips!

If there is a more popular fishing “rite of passage” than the lowland lakes trout opener, I sure don’t know what it is!

The Nelson Clan at Perrygin Lake in Okanogan County a few seasons ago…

I would venture to guess that more “first fish” are caught on this final weekend of April than at any other time of year. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters all descend on the lakes of Washington, three-hundred thousand strong. In preparation of this massive effort, the State of Washington plants these lake with literally millions of rainbow and cutthroat trout which are ready, willing and more than able to provide action as well as dinner or a smoker full of a tasty treat!

To aid in their quest this weekend, I would like to offer the following ten tips for an enjoyable opening day experience!

1. Get legal!

The WDFW licensing cycle for the year runs from April 1 to March 31. In other words, if you are not sure if your license is current… it’s probably not. Which, brings us to the second item on our list:

2. Bring your crew to the store!

If you have a young bunch (and even if you don’t) it’s always worthwhile to bring the crew along to get their licenses, get a copy of the fishing regulations and do a little shopping. “There’s that new Snoopy rod Dad, Can we try this?” Let your fishing gang get a little fired up about their new gear and in all likelihood, your opening day will get a lot easier!

3. Know your fishermen!

What size raingear do they wear? Boots? Warm coats? Can they cast? What’s their favorite snack food? The correct answers to these questions are best found out well in advance of “O” day!

4. Know your gear.

Seriously now, when is the last time you opened your trout box? How old is the line on your reel? If the answer to either of those questions is “I don’t know”… You know what to do!

5. Float your boat

While a boat adds to the complexity of any fishing trip is also adds productivity, mobility, comfort and convenience. In my opinion, more than a fair trade. However, the early dawn of opening morning is a poor time to find out that the batteries are dead, the drain plug is missing, the trailer lights are burned out and the tabs are expired. Just don’t ask me how I found that out…

6. Rig all the rods

Another way to dodge Murphy’s Law is to rig all the rods in the garage the night before…or the night before that! Trust me, it’s a lot easier to tie up under a fluorescent light than a dome light.

7. Scout your location

One of my favorite opening day memories is taking my young son to our chosen opening day lake the day before the opener. The lake was stuffed to the lilly pads with rainbows that were literally jockeying for position to eat the next bug to hit the surface. Watching the surface activity was secondary to scouting out the ramp and available parking. A word to the wise: It’s time well spent!

8. Friday night load up!

Get it all in the rig the night before. If its missing, you still have time to find it or replace it… ’nuff said!

9. Get ’em up easy…

Set the alarm a little early and let the gang go through a little of their morning routine. Rushing your charges out of the house so they can sit with you in a ramp line is not going to score you any points.

10. Make it fun!

Quick limits are great and are huge braggin’ rights fodder… on the Columbia for springers!…. Nobody is going to stop the presses and roll evening news tape for your stringer full of six inchers. The goal on opening day is to provide your friends and family with an introduction to a sport, a way of life that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives! Let the kids handle the rods and play every one of the fish! Let another kid handle the net, sit back and enjoy the mayhem that ensues!

Opening day is like a fishy Christmas. The more you give, the more you get and what you get from a successful opener you’ll never forget!

Tom Nelson

The Outdoor Line

710 ESPN Seattle

www.theoutdoorline.com

Summer Steelhead – North Fork Strategies

By Dennis Dickson

As the oldest flyfishing stream in the country, The North Fork of the Stilly is steeped in tradition, known for its wild summer steelhead of Deer Creek. This is a passionate subject for me. Not only was I fortunate enough to fish this river as a youth, my first job out of college was that of a fisheries biologist working back on my home river. I have certainly seen my share of this little wild steelhead, and I am thankful for every one. There is also the hatchery fish that swim these waters.

I am not about to climb on my soapbox and expound the hype-surrounding wild versus hatchery steelhead. Instead, I am going address my remarks to poor Joe who simply doesn’t have the means to spend his time in Russia or British Columbia. He does enjoy a pretty stream with a decent chance at swimming a steelhead. Simply put, if we didn’t have a hatchery program on the Stilly, we wouldn’t have a summer fishery. Period. But I am not here to talk about that. I am going to explain where, when, and how to catch them.

Where: Just for landmarks, I will break up the river into four sections.

Confluence upstream to Deer Creek. This is actually  a two-day float. Deer Creek down to Cisero and Cisero down to Arlington. Migrational Timing: I will catch new 3 salt summer runs as early as April but June is the migrational timing these fish are primarily passing through the lower river. With many of the pools filled in from sediment produced from Deer Creek, these fish do not linger but swim directly for their natal stream, Fortson Creek. Though not quite as aggressive to the fly as a wild fish, they have a tremendous amount of stored energy to last for their year’s stay in fresh water. They are as “hot” as any fish that swims in the Stilly. Rocks are a real premium in the lower river. Pools with any boulders and logs in this section will pull steelhead in like a magnet. Fish the same flies and lines you do for the winter steelhead.

Deer Creek to Cisero has some of the best water. I like to fish this river section anytime Deer Creek allows 2 feet of visibility in the North Fork. The bulk of the Stilly steelhead run 7-12 pound 2 salt summer steelhead. July 4th is the traditional time to start looking for fish in good numbers, but the fishing can be great one day and zero the next. Summer water temperatures are coming up and fish will move to both sinking and floating line techniques. By the way, I have maintained for years that the Deer Creek fish actually prefer surface flies to wets. These lower river fish are not fussy, find the fish and get it in front of him. Bright, dark, big, small, just fish your fly right in the surface or right near the bottom. Mid water presentations are worthless.

Hazel to Deer Creek: I do not believe I have ever caught a wild summer run above Hazel. The first pulse of hatchery fish head directly for Fortson, the mid July two salt fish will start to slow up as they reach the mid river.  By August 1, the hatchery fish are settling into imprinting locations. The first arrivals are very susceptible to the usual techniques. As they start getting fished on heavily, they become more reluctant to come to the surface, then to sinktips.

Hazel to Fortson: Same thing applies here, but the upper river gets pretty skinny and fish work their way up to the few deep prominent pools. Fortson has its own fishery. The angler who would not dream of walking in downstream of another angler in the lower river doesn’t hesitate to do so at Fortson. By the same token, nobody bothers to keep stepping down through the pool either. Advantages of Fortson Hole? Fish. I swear I don’t think there is a week in the year there isn’t a fish or two in Fortson. I won’t mention how many there can be. These poor fish are chased around by legitimate flyfishers all-day and snagged by poachers at night. The Deer Creek flyboys have such a disdain for this fishery, they have a point system set up. For example, A Deer Creek and anywhere downstream fish is worth 5 points, a Fortson fish, only one. You get the idea.

Fishing Strategy: I like to get out and poke around to find few fish here, a pod of fish there. I would rather fish over three rested steelhead then fifty hard hat fish, but I will do that too, if I think its the only game in town.

“Show them something different” The one vulnerability of a summer steelhead is he can be a sucker for a change-up. A story will illustrate the point. One day I was fishing a couple good ole boys from the mid-west. The summer water at French Creek was very low and clear and the steelhead had seen about everything. We were fishing small brown nymphs on floating lines and long leaders. We were having little success. Don decides he has had enough of that, so he says he is headed downstream around the corner. I said we would be down in a few minutes. We finally decided the steelhead in front of us were not going to bite and were just coming around the corner, and here comes Don carrying a grin the size of the steelhead in his hand. He proceeded to tell me the first thing he did was lose his fly and a good portion of his leader to a sunken log. He said he was tired of fishing that little sh##t anyway. I tried not to flinch. He went on to explain he pulls out HIS box of bass flies and ties on a 1/0 black zonker. It was heavily weighted and when it splashed down, this big steelhead was all over it! Needless to say, Don wasn’t fishing any small flies for the rest of that day!

Summer time is a great time to use your trout techniques. The same steelhead that refuses to come to the surface, and is bored to tears dodging another greenbutt skunk on a sinktip, can be a real sucker for a dead drifted dark nymph. (until they have seen all those too.) Do not be afraid to experiment. Sometimes dead drifting a woolly bugger right in front of a steelhead’s nose and strip it away, like you do at Rocky Ford, can be killer!

Fall becomes a transitional time, and many of the Stilly’s hatchery steelhead holding in the lower river, start migrating for home. This October fishery is a great time to fish. If I wasn’t chasing the best rising steelhead in the pacific Northwest on the Grande Ronde River, I would be there, myself.

“Moving fish are taking fish”. Stories are told and retold about hitting the right pool when the fall migration is moving through. My biggest day anytime anywhere (Alaska doesn’t count) was hooking an even 20 steelhead and landing thirteen, on this fall migration.

Summer time is a lovely time to fish and remember not all the fish are at Fortson. Not until the late fall, anyway.

North Fork Stilly School – July 12 or 13, 2013

Dennis Dickson
Dickson’s Flyfishing
www.flyfishsteelhead.com

Northwest Outdoor Report

300,000 Anglers Expected for Trout Opener
If you’ve noticed a few more boats scurrying around Western Washington early this morning it’s because today is the lowland lake opener in Washington. With over 300,000 anglers hitting the water today it’s the single largest opener in Washington. WDFW responded to requests to plant bigger fish this year by increasing the size of the stocked trout from around 8 to 9 inches to 11 to 12 inches. They planted approximately 2.4 million of these bigger, thicker, and chunkier trout for the opener. In addition, they also planted 110,000 jumbo rainbows averaging between 13 and 16 inches and another 52,000 triploid trout averaging around one and a half pounds. Temperatures are expected to reach around 60 degrees over the weekend and outside of a few afternoon showers the forecast is excellent for the biggest fishing opener of the year.

Martinis’s Top Lake Picks on the North End
John Martinis at John’s Sporting Goods in Everett likes Lake Kye in Snohomish County, Martha Lake near Alderwood, and both Heart and Erie Lakes near Anacortes for the trout opener. Martinis says the state plants a lot of fish in all of those lakes and they produce excellent fishing every year. His go-to setup for catching a limit of stocker trout is orange Berkley Power Eggs fished on a long 3 to 6 feet leader of 4 pound test monofilament. He says the extra long leader allows the bait to float up off the bottom above the weeds where the trout are cruising.

Pollock’s Top Lake Picks on the South End
Tom Pollock at Sportco in Fife says his top pick in the Tacoma area would be Lake Spanaway which recently received a plant of over 18,000 trout. He also likes Mineral Lake, Wilderness Lake, and Bay Lake on the Key Peninsula for great opening weekend fishing. Bay Lake recently received a plant of over 7,500 rainbows in preparation for the opener.  Pollock says the fish are usually in the top three to five feet of the water column and he’ll target those shallow fish by trolling Wedding Ring spinners, Dick Nite spoons, or small Flatfish. Pollock says another fun way to catch opening day trout is to fish a small piece of cocktail shrimp on a #6 hook below a bobber. He calls it a “delicacy” for these stocked trout and says the holdover trout will also hit this bait, as well.

Dam Counts Reach 1,000 Springers  on the Columbia This Week
1,000 springers passed over Bonneville Dam on Tuesday of this past week. It’s the first time over 1,000 spring Chinook have passed over the dam all season and it seemed to encourage more springers to charge upriver. 2227 passed over the dam on Wednesday and 2541 went over Bonneville on Thursday. Reports from Drano Lake and the Wind River upstream of Bonneville are that a few springers are being caught already. These areas typically fish best for spring Chinook during the month of May. We’ll have more reports from both of these areas in the coming weeks.

Saltwater Openers up Next
Saltwater anglers are eagerly awaiting the May 1st ling cod opener in the Puget Sound. The ling opener is followed by the spot prawn opener on May 4th and a slew of areas open up for halibut the first week of May also. Recreational shrimpers will see a 70% increase in shrimp quota this year which means anywhere from an extra day or two of shrimping in some areas to an extra month of shrimping in the San Juan Islands. Anglers are urged to visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website for a full run down of the upcoming ling cod, shrimp, and halibut seasons.

Fly Fishing Fair in Ellensburg
Don’t miss the 7th Annual Fly Fishing Fair at the Ellensburg Fairgrounds on May 3rd and 4th. Over 100 fly tiers will be on hand to share their fly tying skills and there will be numerous fly casting instructors at the fair all weekend to teach both beginning and expert fly casting techniques. The Fair boasts 18 flyfishing workshops over two days featuring names like Jack Mitchell from the Evening Hatch Guide Service, Steve Worley from Worley Bugger Flies, and Jim Teeny of Teeny Fly Lines.  For more information about the Fly Fishing Fair log onto Washingtoncouncilfff.org.

Yosemite Ranks Highest for Drug Busts
Associated Press – California’s Yosemite National Park lead the way in drug busts amongst all the national parks for the last three years. Park Rangers at Yosemite arrested 2,393 people for illegal drugs over the last three years compared to just 500 at Yellowstone and 365 at Grand Canyon National Park. One park visitor said they see a lot more happy faces at Yosemite than they do at Disneyland. The drug problem has been a boone to local mini-marts, however, who can’t seem to keep Dorito’s and frozen pizza’s in stock.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
Washington Fishing Forums and Reports

Fly Fishing Bears

By Dennis Dickson

Fly fishing BC steelhead rivers is so magical. Sure, we have had our rain outs, wash-outs, busted boats, and broken vehicles. Somehow, these memories all jumble up in a warm and fuzzy place, and I can enjoy them time and time again. As I get older, I find myself pulling out these drawers of memories, for a taste of the good old days.

It would be easy if not tempting, to reduce these fishing stories to, “how many, how big” but that would simply never reveal the whole experience. In the many years of being out in a marvelous land, would you like to know what I most often reflect back on? The people. It simply wouldn’t have been the intriguing experience without the people, and for that, I am forever grateful.

I remember an invitation I accepted to fly fish the fabled waters of the North. Mick was heading North every year now. Frank was going up, too. I became  fishing buddies with both and subsequently jumped at the invitation.

It was there I met Plutonius. His  name was actually Pluto, but Frank dubbed him Plutonius, and somehow the name had stuck.
Plutonius was an artist by trade, and a full blown philanthropist at heart. His life was reduced to generating just enough money painting to spend the remainder of the year fly fishing for steelhead. A true fly fishing bum. A badge which he wore proudly.

Pluto wasn’t what you might call a great fisherman. Mick could cast farther, and Frank consistently brought more steelhead to hand, but Pluto loved his sport and loved the one Bulkley River pool he was successful in. We dubbed this drift the Maple Tree pool and it consistently held steelhead for Pluto each fall.

Instinctively, the other boys in camp seemed to know this. The rest of us fly fishers might jockey with each other to get first water on pools like “Blow Down,” or “Easy Money”, but nobody fished through “Maple Tree.” That was Pluto’s.

Maple Tree was an interesting piece of water. It was actually made up of two pools. Upper Maple had a good head, where the water would enter the pool strong enough that migrating steelhead would often hold before negotiating up through the rapids. The river currents spread beautifully, then scurried into a deep hole that was tucked in delicately close to the river bank.

A wading angler was left with no choice at the deep water but to leave the river and hike around to the downstream side of an ancient maple tree before he could wade back into the stream to fish the lower run. Hence, the Maple Tree pool. On a good day, Pluto could catch steelhead in both the upper and lower pools.

For all his many days in the wilderness, Pluto had his phobia: bears. For some reason, Pluto was deathly afraid of bears.
He bought and carried a magnum .45 pistol. Every day that he was out on the water, this gun came with him. I shudder to think what would have happened if he had ever had to use it. I almost witnessed it once.

Mick and Frank would often engage in drinking games at the end of a long day of fly fishing steelhead. These guys could get pretty soused on occasion before stumbling off to bed, of which I didn’t particularly mind. These both were expert anglers in my opinion, and a hard night of drinking meant a late morning to the water. I never drink so if I happened to fish down the river first, I naturally swam more fish. Pragmatic really. I liked it when they drank.

So this one night Mick and Frank got to drinking and playing. They came up with an idea! They should pretend they have a bear in camp! Now Frank was a big guy and stronger than a bull. Pluto was camped out in the back of his little Ford Courier pickup. Drunken Frank staggered over to Pluto’s truck and leaned his shoulder into it’s canopy.

Drunker than drunk, Frank starts rocking Pluto’s truck back and forth, while growling the most unearthly guttural bear sounds. Awakened by the noise, Pluto launches out of his bed, still in his skivvies, (not a pretty sight) and onto the cold hard ground. It took tipsy Frank all of a New York second to realize ……Pluto is not alone! He has his gun out and, though still half asleep, waving it around, ready to kill anything that moved! Right now that anything was Frank.

Do you know how long it takes to go from sloppy drunk to stone cold sober? I had no idea the human metabolic processes could move so quickly, but one look at that long barrel .45, and Frank fairly dove out into the pitch black Canadian wilderness, with un-clad, gun-waving Pluto in hot pursuit.

All we could hear was, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot! It’s me, Plutonius! It’s me!” Somewhere before dawn, Frank wandered back into camp, and, Pluto went back to bed. Eventually Mick and I stopped laughing, but that might have taken a couple days.

Somewhere in all of this, Frank came up with the idea that the whole thing must have been Pluto’s fault. He must be taught a lesson.
A couple of days later, Mick, Frank, and I spent the day fishing together. I so much enjoyed our time. Somewhere in the course of the day, the subject of Pluto and bears came up.

Now we all knew that in the daily report of who caught what, Plutonius would always innocuously ask, “So, did anybody see any bears?”  Today we thought we would be ready.

The day on the river finished up in fine fashion. I think Mick swam the most steelhead (which was very common), Frank caught the largest, and I had a good time with my friends.

Plutonius always joined in the fishing report ritual, and sure enough he piped in, “So’d, anybody see a bear today?”
Frank in his most straight-faced way answered, ”Yeah, actually Mick ran into one.”

Mick just nodded.

Although we just went on in the conversation as if nothing had happened, Pluto’s mind was smoking.

“So tell me about the bear,” he asked simply.

Mick turned to him and said, “Wow, I am not sure if you are going to believe this but you know how we saw those bear prints down at Home Run Pool the other day?”

Everyone in camp knew Pluto wouldn’t fish any pool that had had any bear activity. It’s just the way it was.

“Yeah…” Pluto hesitates.

“Well this time I stopped in to fish it, and there on the shore was a great big pile of bear pucky and it was like this!” (He is holding his hands out the size of an elephant swat). Frank and I almost lose it right there.

Pluto eyes get big and he says, “NO WAY!”
Heck, he is hooked into this story, already.

“Yup,” Mick continues, “ and guess what? It was still steaming!”

“NO WAY!” Pluto exclaims.

Now Mick is really getting into this. He leans forward as he lies.
He says emphatically, “TOTALLY WAY.”

Plutonius urges, “So what did you do?”

“I did what I came to do,” Mick answered, “I got out and fished.”

“So then what happened?” begged Plutonius.

“At first, I am thinking nothing, and then I hear something in the brush behind me!” Mick says.

“NO WAY!” Pluto yelled. You didn’t stay!”

I swear I thought this poor man was going to have a heart attack right there in camp!

Mick continues, “Absolutely. I see this really big steelhead just roll, right out in front of me. I mean, how could I pass that up? Right?”

“So what did you do?” Pluto kind of whimpered.

“I did what I always do,” Mick stated matter-of-factly, “I went back to fishing, until…..”

“I thought I hung up my fly on the brush in my backcast.” He continued.  “I turn to look, and I hear a huge ‘Woof!’” “Suddenly my fly line is peeling off my reel! Next thing I know, all my fly line, all my backing, is gone….!” Mick leaned back, sucking on his teeth.

“So did you get back in your boat?” Plutonius asks weakly. He is about spent just listening to this tale.

“Heck no. That’s an expensive fly line!” Mick proclaims.  “I went back into that brush to find my fly line, by darn!”

I interrupted, “Did you find it?”  Okay, even I was getting into the fabrication by this time, but it was a great story!

Mick turns from Pluto to me, and says “Yes. I did!  But guess what?”

Everyone in the group says, “What!?”

Mark leans closer to his audience and says really quietly, “When I bent over to pick up the line… it moved.”

Pluto all but screams, “NO WAY!”

Mick can’t hold it anymore, he busts up laughing! Pretty soon everyone is howling with laughter…..everyone but Plutonius. He is still wondering how much of the story is true. We all head off to bed.

Now Pluto was never known as an early riser, partly because he knew that nobody was going to fish Maple Tree before he got there. I really don’t think Pluto’s  gun slinging had anything to do with it, but I may be wrong.

Anyway, so next morning Frank heads his little pontoon raft off down the river like it is just another Bulkley River fishing day. What Plutonius doesn’t realize is that Frank is headed straight for the Maple Tree pool.

Knowing he is at least ten minutes ahead of Pluto, Frank rows his little boat into the shore at the lower end of the pool, pulls in, and stows his little boat and gear in the brush. He hides behind the Maple Tree. It isn’t long before he can see Pluto rowing his own little craft downstream. Pluto is headed directly for Maple Tree.

When you fish a piece of water, day after day, you kind of get it down to a routine. Pluto’s ritual was to park his craft at the head of the pool, wade and fish his way downstream, wade out and around the maple tree, then wade back into the river and fish through to the lower end of the pool. He wouldn’t hike back up to his boat until he finished. He went through this same drill, day after day.

The wading here could get a little deep, especially as one neared the water adjacent to the maple tree, so this was the one and only pool Pluto would unbuckle his gun and holster and leave them on the seat of his raft.

After fishing his way down through the upper run, Pluto did what he always did. He hiked out around the big tree and back into the water. Unbeknownst to him, he had walked within ten feet of the hiding Frank, lurking in the bushes.

Plutonius was still cursing his fishing luck. Although he had had a good grab in the upper pool, the steelhead hadn’t stuck. He recalled that he was contemplating fishing through the pool again.

As the events unfolded, Plutonius began reeling in, and walking back up along the shoreline as he finished the pool. He was about to enter back into the woods near the tree on his way to his raft.

Within his hiding place, Frank held a tree branch in his hands. He waited until Pluto got close. Frank broke it with a loud “snap!” Plutonius, not 20 feet away, froze in his tracks. He looked around. Instinctively, he reached for his gun. It was not there! He realized it was still lying on the seat of his raft…

Plutonius took a tentative step forward. Frank let out a low growl. Pluto had to get to his gun! Safety was only and all about getting back to the raft and his gun! He stepped forward again.

The woods rang louder, “Grrrowl”. Pluto simply could not go back through the woods, and the water here was too deep to wade. Poor Plutonius had another secret that only he and he alone knew…. he couldn’t swim.

Plutonius never made a big deal of this. Ever since Cabela’sTM came out with their water activated SOS CO2 Inflatable Life Jacket, he felt he could take on his worse-than-bear fear – – water!  As rivers may be the epitome of water, with his Cabela vest on, he felt he had conquered life in it’s most rudimentary form; rivers actually made him feel alive.

So how did life take such a cruel twist of fate? Bears and water at the same time?!  Plutonius looked around checking his options. He began cursing his late start. As all the other anglers from camp were already fishing downstream, there was simply no one left to rescue him in his predicament. Plutonius took a small feeble step towards the sound in the woods. Frank immediately let out his loudest growl, and rattled the brush, to boot.

Pluto later confessed he was ready to wet himself. Was he to die from drowning, or simply become B.C. bear fodder?  Which would be the least painful? With the despair of complete hopelessness, he waded back into the river.

Frank later confessed he didn’t actually make Plutonius swim. Starting with a snicker, he exploded into laughter so hard he couldn’t stand it.

It took Pluto a moment to realize what had just happened. To be honest, his first thought was his good friend Frank had somehow magically appeared, scaring away the monster bear in the process. He was saved!

When he realized he was nothing more than the butt of a most sadistically practical joke, Pluto became incensed.

“You are really sick,” he muttered.  Casting his eyes in the distance, he headed towards his boat.

Frank caught up with me while I was fishing the home run pool later that afternoon. He told me everything. We ran into some fish that kept us busy until evening. Neither noticed that Pluto had floated on down to the take-out. As we arrived at the boat launch, Pluto’s little truck was gone. He had left.

“Jeez,” Frank said, What happens if Pluto takes the prank poorly?” “A guys B.C. experience is kind of a sacred thing.

We shouldn’t have worried.

As we rolled into camp there was quite a gathering of anglers huddled around Plutonius. As we neared the group we could hear him say, “Yup, it was all I could do to make it back to my raft and gun, before that bear was all over me!” Frank and I decided, all is well. Pluto is just fine.

Such is life in the Canadian wilderness.

Dennis Dickson
Dickson’s Flyfishing
www.flyfishsteelhead.com

Steelhead Flies – Fact and Fiction

By Dennis Dickson

I would venture to guess, one of my most asked questions, the most misunderstood answers in steelhead flyfishing is; “So what is the hot fly?”

Steelhead has an allure as an illegitimate son. His noble cousin Salmo Salar, the Atlantic Salmon has a rich and traditional past, fished by kings and nobleman. Steelhead was almost found by accident and early flyfishers knew very little of this great fish’s behavior and life history.

When we approach the topic of “Fly Effectiveness”, I always think of the words of the great steelhead flyfishing pioneer, Roderick Haig-Brown.

He said ” It is good to remember there will be a lot more steelhead caught on a piece of yarn, than all the fanciest flies ever fished”.

This is sage advice, for the angler that comes to me is looking to catch a steelhead, which means he is looking for a fly that will be successful and assumes that some flies, like lures, are more effective than others. He may even be hopefully assuming that the reason for his lack success to this point was, he is simply fishing with the wrong fly. Let me explain something. Flies don’t catch fish…people do. You see, steelhead have a disposition just this side of a large mouth bass. If a lure or fly is presented well, and Mr. Steelhead is in the mood, he will hit just about anything!

Does such a thing as a magic fly exist? Sorry, generally no. Can he prefer types and colors? Sometimes. My point here is not to lead you farther down the path of finding a “Mystery” fly, but rather to teach you to recognize a better constructed fly, coupled with better presentation and more confidence.

I am reminded of an incidence that happened to me up on the North Fork Stilly. I was standing up on a high bank watching a pair of anglers fishing their way down through a popular run at Boulder Creek. The dozen or so steelhead holding here, looked absolutely mesmerized, literally frozen in place. These poor anglers apparently had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at these fish to no avail. A small alder leaf happened to fall to the surface and tumbled in the current. A very nice hen just lifted to the surface, ate the leaf and coasted back down into her holding position. Now I am not advocating fishing with Alder leaves, but rather to make the point, its not the fly.

My guide flies tend to reflect the parameters of the waters I fish. Seasons, water temperature, sexual maturity, (the fish silly, not me), lighting, water clarity, fishing pressure and presentation are but a few parameters that may dictate the fly I choose. Now, before you become overwhelmed trying to compute all these variables into a logical decision let me simplify.

For each river I fish, in a particular water condition, I will fish maybe two or three different fly patterns. Here is a general overview, but before we go there let me re-emphasize….its not the fly.

Early Season Native winter steelhead.

The steelhead that swim our northwest waters in late winter are the large, wild, sexually maturing steelhead (even though he may be rock hard and nickel bright). He is a big brawley, aggressive steelhead. He enters when the rivers are generally running full, and the water is cold. A larger fly will not scare him. Number 2’s and 1/0 are about right. I like to fish flies that swim well. I tell my anglers that if they ever loose confidence in the fly just bring in next to them and watch it play in the currents. A well balanced fly should look alive in the water. Unless I am fishing really dirty water I believe that less is more. The greatest knock that I see with the guys that meet me on the river is the flies they have bought or tied are so overdressed the thing looks more like a lure than a fly. Easy on the flash.

I tend to fish subtle colors like purple, cherise, and blue when the water is clear and bright and black colors when the water is off color. Stiff patterns like the General Practitioner, Poacher, Skunks, and other hair wings are good in the streamy currents that provide lots of action and a good silhouette of the bug. Marabou, bunny leeches, and spey patterns are excellent in the softer flows.

I pay particular attention to fly construction and I will admit, some of my ties are a little unorthodox. Why? Because many flies on the market today are tied to please the angler. The fly I hand to a client, well, it better please the steelhead. Different tying materials will react differently in the river currents and it’s good to know, what does what. For example, marabou plays seductively in mild currents but tends to collapse to strong flows. Hair wing patterns show very little action in soft water, but maintain a great profile and a lively action in streamy flows. Fly construction then is important to fly action, and fly action triggers fish.

I am reminded of an experience on the Skykomish River some ten years ago. I used to spend my March guiding anglers there. It was catch and release and the Sky steelhead enter early. I was fishing a couple gentlemen along this popular gravel bar pool when I happened to look down and find a fly that had fallen off someone’s vest. (I personally think these fly patches are a flyshop conspiracy because there is a lot more flies lost falling off the drying patch than from the river, itself).

I am always curious of other angler ties and I picked it up. I could tell immediately this fly was from a serious flyfisher. This fly was tied on a 2/0 iron, traditional upturned eye hook. (I don’t particularly like these hooks because the angle of attack is wrong at the eye, and the diameter of the metal is too fat) This cagey guy answered both these problems by breaking off the eye and tying in his own braided loop eye. He had also filed his hook point down to a long taper edged on three sides. This angler was good. I then began to examine the fly for color and action. I noticed it was tied fairly sparsely and instead of the long webby marabou that is so popular, but fouls in the hook so easily, he used the shorter chickabou.

The number one knock in materials like spey feathers and marabou is it fouls easily around the hook in the water. This kills the action of the fly. Any time you have a feather that extends beyond the bend of the hook, you risk fouling your material. Some of the most artsy twenty-hour flies are poor fish producers because they foul when fishing.

What should you do? Get to know your fly material. Different fly materials react differently in river flows. I mentioned a couple characteristics of marabou. Bunny fur tends to pooch out, shlappen feathers breath nicely but can also foul. I have swam many a fly (to my patient wife’s chagrin), in the bath tub while the water is turned on. It works really well. If the fly is going to foul it will do it here.

I like to think of the fly in two parts. Any material tied at the rear end of the hook is not going to foul. That’s why most tarpon patterns are tied in this fashion. Epoxy bait fish flies carry a good silhouette but are anti fouling because of the material – it’s hard to the bend of the hook. You should realize that any free flowing material ahead of the hook bend can and will foul if it extends past the rear of the hook. Try the bathtub test. You can see what your flies are actually doing as you nose it up to the turbulent flow.

Another Guide Trick:

“Show them something different.” The popular Blue/Purple marabou that you see in the shops today, is a fly I developed in the early days of the Sauk River, C&R. There was at that time, a goodly number of gear fisherman throwing the tradition bright colors of orange and florescent green in those days. Flyfishing winter fish was new. Even the most ardent flyfishers would often choose their gear rods over their fly rods at this time of year.I noticed that when the water was clear a guide buddy of mine was doing very well with a blue/purple Hot Shot plug. Now that was different. I simply copied the color combination in a marabou pattern. You talk about work. Those clear water fish went nuts for it. To this day, if I don’t mention what fly to start with, many of my long time clients will fish the blue/purple. Why? Shows the steelhead something a bit different from all that color everybody else is chucking.

Here are a few of my pet winter steelhead fly patterns:

Cop Car

Intruder

Articulated Flies

General Practitioner

Popsicle

Will steelhead ever show preferences in color and construction? Occasionally, but even for all these trick fly patterns you are generally better off to simply look for a fly that swims well for the waters you are fishing. Have just enough color to get his attention, fish it well, and let Mr. Steelhead do the rest.

Please feel free to check out more of our steelhead flies at Streamsideflyshop.com

Best of fishing!

Dennis Dickson
Dickson Flyfishing Steelhead Guides
www.flyfishsteelhead.com

Flyfishing Leaders – The Steelhead Connection

By Dennis Dickson

I would like to think my success in helping anglers find and catch steelhead has improved over time. I will openly admit, as a biologist I study  “cause and effect”, “stimulus and response”. I don’t mind adhering to tradition as long as my personal experience concludes that it is the most effective way to fish. My assignment as a flyfishing guide is quite simple, attach angler to fish.

There are elements of flyfishing equipment I am fairly flexible on. For example, I was a G Loomis pro staff and so are some of my rods. I personally don’t care if the rods you fish are Sage, Scott, Loomis, or whatever. Single-handed, double, it doesn’t really matter. Waders: You should be comfortable, and they shouldn’t leak.

I do get fussy about items that can determine the outcome in hooking and or landing steelhead. These components are; hooks, leaders, flylines, and reels.

Today I will talk specifically about the leaders for sink-tip lines.The sink-tip leader has several functions but the three critical parameters for steelhead are; abrasion, tinsel strength, and camouflage.

Let me preface these remarks by saying I am going to speak speak from personal experience of teaching fly fishing hundreds of days a year. Ever want to find out how good you really are? Spend one week taking a new angler out each day, try and coach them into a steelhead. You will find out real quick, what you know, and what you think you know. I don’t say, what I teach is the only way to approach steelhead, but these techniques must be effective, because we do find the fish.

Leaders are broken down into two categories: Those on floating lines, for fishing in or on the surface and leaders attached to a sinktip. Today, I am only going to address sink-tip leaders.

Sinktip Leaders: Tradition in steelhead fly fishing says that to fish close to the river bottom, leaders must be short. (Less than 5 feet in length). Tradition also says steelhead are not leader shy and you can fish leaders as thick as you want.

On the other hand, experience has taught me to adapt to the river conditions I fish. If fishing during spring runoff with less than 3 feet visibility, I know I could probably tie the fly on the end of the fly-line and these new fish  wouldn’t care. My dirty water leaders are usually less than 4 feet long.

Do steelhead ever find conditions where they do care? Yep. A good example may be the time was fishing the Sauk river a few years ago. Conditions found the water that day both low and clear. Fish were skittish at best.

You see, steelhead didn’t grow to maturity by being stupid, they know when conditions are such where they feel secure. They also catch on fast and know when they feel “exposed”.

Low lighting such as found at daylight and dusk find steelhead holding and moving through soft and or shallow waters. They know predators can’t see them. Dirty water does the same thing. Why do I enjoy fishing off colored water for native steelhead? Because that’s when the really big boys feel comfortable about lying in close to shore. Why can the Dawn Patrol fish with light sinktips and thick dark leaders? Because at first light, the unmolested steelhead are lying in soft shallows and these fish can’t see the leaders.

As conditions in the day change to bright and sunny, the water clears and angling pressure increases, steelhead naturally move to waters that are deeper and faster. Line shadow and boat shadow can both produce hide and seek conditions.

I grew up fishing the Stilly North Fork. This little river becomes gin clear through the summer and angling pressure can really wise these fish up. That same leader that did just fine in the security conditions can send these mid day gin clear fish a scurrying. (My low lighting summer time sink-tip leader is generally about 6 feet.) So what does Joe angler think when sun gets high and his short leaders won’t work?  “Fish won’t bite”.

Solution: You can extend your fishing day significantly by changing your leader length and material. How long will I go? Out to nine feet. I can almost hear you now. “A nine foot sink-tip leader? You must be nuts! you can’t get a fly down on a 9 foot leader.”

It used to be a trade secret, but I learned long ago, these longer leaders accomplish depths simply by using compact weighted flies. By the by, that new fluorocarbon mono leader material that was originally built for lakes, and saltwater flats is awesome camouflage in clear water conditions. Same principle.

Now here is the rub:

These same leader materials that have smaller diameter and camo so well are not what I prefer to use in sink-tips conditions. Many tend to be brittle and have little abrasion tolerance. – not good for fishing your flies in and around the rocks. But if and when the water goes to clear that new fluorocarbon that has revolutionized gill netting is getting the bite, I will take my chances on a broken leader.

What leader gives me good abrasion factor and camouflages well? For sinktips I fish Maxima Ultra Green, until the water goes to 15 feet visibility, then I go to Max. Clear. Max. The camouflage is hopefully fine under normal “feel secure” conditions.

If you are having trouble hooking steelhead in “exposed conditions”, instead of telling yourself “they just aren’t biting”, try changing your leader up a little. What do you have to lose?

Here is a summary of my favorite knots for steelhead sink-tipping:

Knots

Nail Knot:  

This description shows tying directly into the fly line end. For steelhead & tarpon, I prefer doubling the fly line end into a loop and whip finishing it with the nail knot thus making this fly line/leader connection twice as strong.  Its only down-side is that the connection is also twice as bulky going thru the rod tip guide, while landing a fish. A solution: If you find yourself pulling the fly line/leader connection into the rod while your big fish is in close and he decides to make that one last run, try rolling your rod over (reel up) thus inverting the guides, and the connection should pass easily through the rod tip. “Knot Sense” or better yet, “Aquaseal” over the knot will both protect the knot and build a smooth line/leader transition.

Butt Leader Knot: Instead of tying a round perfection loop on the leader butt, try the double surgeon loop. It’s faster and easier to tie, especially with cold hands. Makes a nice loop-to-loop connection with the fly line in my opinion.

Leader/leader connection: Double Surgeon Knot

I know, I know. There is a myriad of leader to leader connections. The blood knot being the most popular. It’s not the knot I use and this is why. My son Mike and I teach some 300-500 new anglers the sport of flyfishing each year. Couple that with a full guiding itinerary and you are talking some busy guys. Sorry, I digress. Anyway, when you spend this much time teaching, you have to break it down. …Keep it simple. The only leader to leader knot we teach is the double (and triple) surgeon. Why? Its simple, strong and anglers pick it right up. Blood knots are nice, maybe a little straighter, but not stronger, and not easier to tie.

Leader/fly connections:

Duncan Loop [Uni-Knot]:

Ok, for all you clinch knot people, listen up, I am about to show you a knot that has not failed me in the past 30 years. (all the clinch knots have) fly-boys call it the “Duncan Loop’  everybody else calls it the “Uni-knot”.

I use this connection on all my steelhead sink-tipping, but I do it with a modification. Tie the knot as normal, but instead of cinching it all the way to the fly, pinch the leader with thumb and finger, right in front of the fly. pull the knot down to your thumbnail and you have a n open loop. Fly will swim more naturally until the fish grabs it, loop closes, and knot holds. I don’t bother to fish this open loop with an articulated or marabou streamer because the back end the fly is wiggling independently, anyway.

Non Slip Loop Knot:

I like the loop knot anytime I am fishing a nymph or wet fly that isn’t imparting action to the fly. Sometimes I want a weighted wet to have a certain “hang”. It is not as easy to tie as the Duncan Loop, but it is never a bad idea, if you want to take the time to tie it.

No doubt you will come up with your own favorite knots, but until then, feel free to use these, I do.

Best of fishing,
Dennis Dickson
www.flyfishsteelhead.com

Northwest Outdoor Report

“B” Run Steelhead Trickling into the Cowlitz
Phil Stephens from Mystical Legends Guide Service says there’s some really big three-salt hatchery steelhead cruising up the Cowlitz River right now. The “B” run on the Cowlitz just got started and while most of the guides are only picking up a few fish a day it won’t be long before the run gets into full swing. Stephens says these late steelhead hit a yarnie really well and he fishes them almost exclusively when he’s sidedrifting. He suggests using a 4 to 5 foot leader and using a little shrimp scent on the yarn sometimes helps to draw strikes. The Cowlitz “B” run starts to hit the river in earnest in early March and runs strong thru the end of April.

Lake Washington Still Productive for Cutties
Todd Daniels from Tall Tails Guide Service says he’s still catching around a half a dozen nice cutthroat a day on Lake Washington. Daniels says the fish have moved a little deeper and he’s been getting most of his bites trolling 20 to 35 feet deep. His best lures have been orange label cut plug herring and fire tiger needlefish spoons trolled at least 100 feet behind the boat. Daniels said the area between the Cedar River, Mercer Island, and the Boeing plant is where most of the action is occurring.

Skwala Hatch Nearing on the Yakima
Josh Holt from Red’s Fly Shop on the Yakima River says there’s been a few Skwala’s around, but overall the fish are still in their winter feeding mode. He says most of the trout are being caught nymphing with size 16 to 20 red or black brassy’s. The guides working out of Red’s have been getting a couple of trout a day on dries and he suspects that the Skwala hatch should get into full swing in the next couple of weeks when the weather starts to warm up. The forecast is for 60 degrees in the Yakima Canyon tomorrow and if that weather pattern continues the hatches should start to come off soon.

Puget Sound Salmon Forecasts Released
The salmon forecasts for the Puget Sound and the Washington coast were just released and numbers for Puget Sound look very good for the summer of 2013. Salmon runs of note are the Nooksack with a forecast of 46,500 Chinook. The Nooksack run has increased steadily from 23,000 king salmon in 2009 to this year’s forecast of over 46,000 fish. Hood Canal will also see an increase of Chinook with a combination of wild and hatchery Chinook making up the 69,000 Chinook projected to head back to the Canal. On the coho front the Skagit is forecast for 137,200 wild coho this fall, up from just 48,300 last year and the ever-solid Snohomish system is forecast to get just over 163,000 silvers. And the pink salmon forecast for the Puget Sound is for an astonishing 6 million pink salmon to stream into Puget Sound. While it’s too early to tell what the seasons will look like many think that with the rock-solid forecasts for both Chinook and coho they should be much the same as last year on Puget Sound. A more detailed look at the salmon run forecasts is posted in the Outdoor Line forums.

Spring Chinook Seminar at Outdoor Emporium Today
Don’t miss the yearly spring Chinook seminar today from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Outdoor Emporium in downtown Seattle. The seminar features longtime Columbia River guides Eric Linde and Steve Leonard along with Outdoor Line host Tom Nelson. They’ll be covering everything from run timing, where to fish, and how to rig up for spring Chinook. Outdoor Emporium provides a free lunch and there will be a ton of tackle giveaways, as well.

Duck Dynasty Crew Runs off Singer Morissey
Grammy award winning singer Morrissey cancelled a performance on the Jimmy Kimmel show this past week after finding out that the cast of A&E’s hit show “Duck Dynasty” was also booked as a guest on the show. The former front man for the Smiths is an ardent animal rights activist and said he couldn’t take the risk of being on a show alongside people who amount to animal serial killers. The publicity didn’t hurt Duck Dynasty one bit either, as it posted the largest viewing audience in A&E’s history the night after the Morissey/Kimmel catfight with 9 million viewers.

Squirrel Cookoff World Championships Announced
Joe Wilson of Squirrel’s Unlimited just announced the 2013 World Champion Squirrel Cook Off to be held on September 7th. The event will be held in Bentonville, Arkansas and will feature hundreds of contestants from across the country that are the best of the best at whoopin’ up a mean batch of squirrel. Squirrel’s Unlimited president Joe Wilson says the event will draw an estimated 10,000 people to the area. Last years squirrel cook off will be televised on Bizarre Foods on the Cooking channel on April 1st. Interested parties should log onto squirrelcookoff.com for more information.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

River Etiquette 101

By Dennis Dickson

I was floating a popular run on the Sauk River one spring day. The April morning found the river in prime shape and I knew the flyboys were going to be out in numbers. As we rounded the corner of a long bar, there near the bottom of the half mile run, was another fly guide boat I hadn’t seen for a while. There is a nice slot in the tailout, so I figured they probably had already fished the upper drift, and were about to fish the lower. The day was still young and there could be new fish moving in so why not give this upper pool a go anyway? The guide and his client were just chatting in their boat. Couldn’t really tell if they were climbing in or getting out, and as they were not within shouting distance, I thought I would drop down and talk, after I got the boys fishing.

My guys had been fishing for a few minutes, and the guide heads up the gravel bar towards me so I waded out of the river to talk.

“How come you stole my water!” He demanded.

Gee, I am sorry,” I apologized. ” I saw you parked down in the lower run so I assumed you had either passed on this water to fish the lower pool, or had already fished it.”

“Everybody knows I always park my boat at the bottom of this run” He said. ” You should have asked.”

“No,” I said, “Obviously I didn’t know, (I had been on the water every day for the last month) and its not river etiquette to have ask permission, to fish the water behind someone, particularly, when they are not even in the river. Now, if it’s a really big deal, you take the pool, and we will slip on down the next pool.”

He declined.

Contrast this episode with an experience a few weeks before.

I was fishing some new water in early season, and we passed another guide with a couple clients. They were pulling plugs so I gave them a wide berth so not to disturb their water.

“Good morning Dennis!” Rod yelled. ” Swam anything this morning?”

Not yet,” I answered. “You?”

“Lost one in the upper run” He said. “Say, have you fished that new fly water down in the tailout?” “We hit two in here yesterday.”

I had to admit, it looked fishy. I shook my head, No.

“Tell you what,” He continued, ” Why don’t you fish it today, and tell me how you do?”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

I wanted it bad but it was his water.

“Yeah, What the hell.” He answered.

We hooked three steelhead that morning……all from that pool. I made it a point to thank Rod the next morning. As more and more anglers hit the rivers, it seems this fishing pressure brings out the aggressiveness in some anglers. It’s a little like driving in freeway traffic. We are all trying to get somewhere, but we sometimes forget we are All trying to get somewhere. The rules of the road get forgotten.

Here is a rundown on some of fishing rules on our local rivers.

Rule # One: First Comes First:
Anglers know that a steelhead undisturbed is probably going to hit the first thing that is presented reasonably. The Dawn Patrol is the angler that gets on the water in the wee hours of the morning to take advantage of “new fish”. The rule is ” If you are first on the water, you get to fish down through first, provided, you are on the pool ready to fish, and you are stepping downstream in a reasonable manner, so the next angler also has a chance to fish.” Standing at the head of a run and fiddling with your gear, in hopes that the angler who showed up, a few minutes after you, will finally get frustrated and go away, is not good etiquette. Neither is any reason that hinders or prevents an upstream angler from fishing down through the run.

My assistant Jackson said he was following a fellow down through the Buck Island Pool, on the Skykomish, when this downstream angler sees another fly boy walk up. By the number of patches on each of their vests, you would think they were in the armed services. This fishing angler wades out of the pool and begins a conversation with the new arrival.

Jackson continues to step down. The boys keep talking and Jackson keeps
stepping down.  When Jack gets even with these boys, the guy that was fishing, yells out, ” Don’t you be fishing down through my water, buddy!”

Fortunately for him, he caught Jackson in a good mood. He breaks people. The rule implies that, if he begins fishing upstream of you, he has every right to be there. If you get out of the water long enough to slow the progress of the upstream angler, let him fish through. The key, be reasonable.

Rule # Two: Don’t Crowd;
Just as you do not appreciate it when you have someone come up and tailgate you, when your driving, try to maintain a reasonable distance between you and your downstream buddy. Downstream buddy – read rule # one.

Rule # Three: Be reasonable about your concept of the pool. Little rivers tend to have little pools. Sometimes when I am fishing even two anglers, I will space them, allowing each to fish his own pool, if the waters are strategically close.

By contrast, a river the size of the Skagit may have pools a half-mile long, if you were to fish the whole thing. The Mixer on the Skagit comes to mind….but the taking water may be only about one hundred yards in length. If you know you won’t be fishing the lower waters for a least a half hour, and a guy walks up to ask if he can fish, let him. If you are looking forward to fishing that water yourself, and you know you are fishing iffy water, you should reel up and go down and fish the prime stuff yourself, but do not hoard the whole pool, simply because you happen to get there first. IT’S NOT YOUR POOL! You just have the right to fish it first.

Don’t pull this crap about ” We consider this to be two pools”, which is your excuse to step down in front of someone into prime water. If there is a question about what the fishing anglers intentions are, ASK, but permission is only necessary, if they are downstream of where you want to fish.

Rule # Four: Hooked fish goes to the back of the line.
You really see this get abused on the popular waters. The idea here is, If you are lucky enough to play a fish and you are in front of somebody fishing through, give him a chance at the next fish. I once saw an angler get on a Grande Ronde pool and proceed to play and release five steelhead, always going back to the front of a long line of anglers after each fish! What was he thinking?

Rule # five When in Rome…..
Different rules apply to different waters. All these rules don’t mean jack to a combat fishery like Hoodsport ,or around a bunch of gear guys, or even a crowded morning at Fortson Hole. If you go waltzing in and start in on the locals as to where and how they can fish…You Are Out Of Line. Not only that, but you are probably going to get thumped.

Rule # Six No Sponging or Bragging
I was just pulling into the Ben Howard boat launch. It was the same two guys I had seen the day before, and the day before that. The conversation would start off innocuous enough with a “So how was fishing today?” and then they would launch into the twenty questions, about where, when, how many, which fly and yada yada…….. As soon as they would sponge as much information from one boat, they wouldn’t even say thank you, they were off to the next boat. I actually witnessed one guy sponge the new arrivals and walk back up and get on his cell phone to pass on the information, like he was doing the flyfishing kingdom this great service! I finally got so irritated by the third day, (didn’t these guys have a life?) that as sponge # one came up while I am pulling my raft up, before he could even open his mouth, I said, “look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I will make you a deal. If you don’t ask me the questions, I won’t lie about them.”

At first he was shocked, then he just laughed, and ambled over to the next boat. Some fellows want desperately for everyone to know, just what a wonderful fisherman they are, they can’t wait to tell everybody about it. Young guide want-a-be’s are bad for this. They will start by asking how the day is going, and before you can hardly answer the question, they will start in about all the amazing fishing they have had that day. If they are really feeling their oats, they will hang around the takeout and drill the guide boats as they come in. Kind of their way of saying ” Boy, now if you were in my boat today, you could have had thissss much fun. You could term this as “Reverse Sponging”. Very annoying.

You see, the problem with all the rule breakers are, they simply don’t care about anyone but themselves. The problem is, even if they read this, they won’t get it. Nothing tries my patience more than some flyboy that will scream bloody murder when they think someone else steps out of line, but will do the same thing, given the opportunity, and never even think twice.

The Golden Rule is still the best rule:
Simply treat others the way you would want to be treated, and we can all get along.

Best of fishing
Dennis Dickson
www.flyfishsteelhead.com

“There are only two types of anglers in this part of the world, those that catch steelhead on a fly and those that want to.”

Dickson’s Flyfishing Report

Skagit Steelhead

By Dennis Dickson

The Bitter Sweet

The good news is: A very nice pulse of late winter native steelhead have shown up in the lower Skagit river, just before the season closure. Big brawly steelhead. The kind that when you see them you think,

“Must be Sauk fish with their thick caudal peduncles and broad shoulders.” The kind of steelhead you can’t get your hand around the wrist of their tail, nor take your eyes off that big male shovel nose. The kind of fish, you are willing to stomp the twilight chill just to make it onto first water. Where anticipation is pumping  adrenalin so hard through your veins, you don’t just feel, you can taste it.

February has always been a big fish month for me. Of the seven Washington state steelhead I have taken over twenty pounds on a fly, five have come from February 10 to March 10. God created large dominant male steelhead to enter first, it’s just the way it is.

It used to be; Valentines was the unofficial kick off for another great Skagit River Catch & Release season. Life just didn’t do better than March & April. That is why nature built the season Spring right?

But a Skagit steelhead’s life has reduced itself into a political football. Those that destroy it’s habitat still blame the harvesters, the harvesters still blame habitat. The hapless angler stares from the shore at the vacant memory of another lost opportunity. The burden is so painful, he can barely drive along the river roads during those early months of the year. It simply hurts too much.

He tells himself it’s for the best. Certainly for the greater good. Even as I point my truck & trailer towards the coast, I try to convince myself, it’s better for business. Maybe someday I may even believe it.

I hear the Skagit numbers finally came in over escapement for last year. I don’t know. It’s what I’ve heard. I know this. I didn’t fish. Perhaps the final tally will come in well again for 13.

So I wish I could explain to the powers-to-be, that my being out on the water, transcends the dragging around a hook with feathers. Maybe if you and I could get out on the river, we could call it fishing, or hookless casting. I do find myself conjuring up in my head, hookless fly patterns that would take the pull, but hold no fish. Would that be enough? I wonder.

So maybe this pulse of fish means the ocean survival is up and it will bode well for the few Washington rivers that remain open. That would be nice.

And what does that do for the fish that swim in Beaver Flats or White Creek along the Sauk? The Mixer, Larsons, Chapel or the Power Line pool on the Skagit. Oh don’t mind him. He just doesn’t get it.

So as I ready for a trip to the coast, I get on line to get a beat on what’s going on. I stumbled onto a site that was so foul in language, so rude in commentary, it prompted me in digging up a piece I wrote, River Etiquette, but that is another story.

So there you have it. The North Sound rivers are closed, the coastal waters will be heating up. Watch for that next good rain. The  O.P. rivers shouldn’t have anything less.

The shameless plug. Son Mike, me and a whole bunch of my long time fishing cronies will be on hand for our Flyfishing winter steelhead seminar/workshop coming up February 23 @ Cabelas (Tulalip) 5-7pm.

Come join us, maybe we can share a story about the days on the Skagit.

Best of fishing,

Dennis & Mike Dickson
www.flyfishsteelhead.com

 

Dickson’s Flyfishing Report

By Dennis Dickson

And so it goes.

Well, I am back to writing weekly fishing reports again. I hope you find them informative if not entertaining.

The Puget Sound river season is coming to a close early, again. The bright news is, The Queets on the Olympic Peninsula is posed to have another stellar year. If you have a large steelhead in your horizon, you might want to hook up with Mike ASAP. His dates are booking fast. 425 330 9506

Me? I get to guard the home front conducting the Casting classes & Lakes Schools for the next few months. You can read all about it in the Flyfishing Made Easy program. Teaching 300-500 fly anglers a year. Guiding isn’t All we do!

So the river reports:   The Skagit in the Rockport area is fishing the best. (5000-6000 cfs. @ Marblemount). Hatchery winter steelhead was short lived at best but the Dolly fishing has held up. Its hard to beat Cop Car for taking these fish, but anything big and wiggly will get a bite.

So many fly anglers have gone to swing fishing with tips but I maintain it is still the most misunderstood technique for taking winter fish. Here is an updated article I originally wrote some 10 years ago called Flylines are what catch fish.

Next reports will be relayed from Mike out on the coast.

Speaking of which:

Dickson Flyfishing will host a second seminar at Cabelas Topic: Swing Fishing for winter Steelhead, Olympic Peninsula and beyond.

We have decided to make this one into a workshop with 10 different displays covering everything from fly-tying to spey rods & equipment. We will have plenty of experts there to answer your questions, plus lots of hands on do-dads. Mike will be on hand to show his Queets River video, while I will host the show. Here’s the Scoop.

Where: Cabelas @ Tulalip

When: February 23 Time: 5-7 PM

Come as you are. It’s free!

Best of fishing,
Dennis & Mike Dickson
www.flyfishsteelhead.com