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