Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Last year a good buddy and I spent our first days on a tributary of some bigger water that we had frequented.  We were pleasantly surprised by the stream, its setting and the fish it held.  There were good number of 4 - 8" fish to keep us busy between the bigger pools, where we had encounters with fish up to 15".  Coming from a ~75 CFS stream, we thought that was pretty cool.  To add to that, the fish are all wild and from what we've gathered, the cutthroat are native.  As the first Saturday in June is the season opener for this, and a number of other small waters in Washington, the same friend and I made plans a while back to return to this little gem. 

I'm still amazed of the geographic diversity in Washington: a few months ago we were swinging flies for winters in the rainforest; now we're in a high desert, fishing what feels like a southwest Colorado trout stream.  Being that I spent a couple years in the latter, it's a great change of pace.  After a winter and spring of long rods and Skagits, it's also nice to break out the small sticks and get the rust off the trout-game again.

Like many other places, we're a little short on water at the moment here in the Pacific Northwest.  The story was the same for this little stream.  Looking at flows before we arrived, we knew it would be lower than it was the last time we were there, but what that would look like or what that would do to the fishing, we didn't quite know. 

Fish Dat.
The fishing started great and only got better, but the catching started slow and declined from there.  The smaller fish we expected to find in the pocket water weren't around.  We fished our way upstream to the first deeper pool, where we had found our first bigger fish last year.  The pool itself looked pretty rough and we couldn't find any fish in it.  This was disappointing, but we kept going.  Soon after we reached a stretch of water that borders some farmland.  Massive sprinklers sprinkled as we fished by.  Upstream of the sprinklers we came to the first of two sets of pipes pulling water out of the stream.  It was a sobering moment and we passed by in silence. 

Eventually we came to the pool where we had stopped last year.  Unseen water lay ahead and we were excited, but to this point we hadn't seen any bigger fish, afternoon was coming on and it was very hot.  Hope for the bigger fish was failing, but on we went.  Finally it happened and out from the depths of a nice pool came a rise of no mistake: the distinctive, slow take of a nice cutthroat.  I was half surprised I had waited long enough, but I guess I'll say instinct took over and the hook-set was solid.  It would be the fish of the day.

Adams eater.
The walk back to the truck, for lack of a better phrase, fucking sucked.  It was very hot, pushing 90 degrees and because we got started early in the morning when it was much cooler, we were in waders.  I was also donning my fishing vest which, simply put, holds too much stuff.  I had fished four flies with two different tippet sizes that day yet carried six boxes' and eight spools worth.  Habit, possibly; stubbornness, perhaps.  My father gave me this vest for Christmas when I was nine years old; I'm 30 now.  I've worn it in countless states and five countries across four continents.  Needless to say, I'm pretty partial to it.  But as I sweated it out on the way back to the truck, I conceded that my approach to walk-and-wade trout fishing needs changing.  The next day I ditched the waders, put two fly boxes, two spools of tippet and one extra leader in a waist pack and went for it.  I fished a whopping three flies that day and the two not in use were stuck in my hat.  It felt like I had lost 50 pounds of gear.  I was a brand new man. 

The day's fishing activity was as refreshed as I was.  Instead of fishing first, hiking later, we hiked first and fished our way back to the truck.  Walking by pool after pool was a little difficult but when we did get started, two of the first three pools produced the bigger fish we were after.  The fishing turned out to be really good. 

The first good one I got was a ~14" rainbow that was super hot.  It jumped a half dozen times and ripped line off my reel.  It was a great fight on a 2-weight and a click reel.  A while later I came to a pool and started false casting while my buddy took a seat and watched.  I was fishing a parachute hopper at the time and the first cast in the pool brought up a gorgeous, healthy cutthroat around 8"; not quite the size we were looking for, but still a good one.  The very next cast, a very big fish porpoised on the fly.  We could tell it was a very nice cutthroat.  I was trigger happy though and pulled the fly away too soon.  Luckily, so soon that I hadn't stung the fish.  I made one more cast with the same fly to no avail then let the fish be.  For 10 minutes we chatted about my next move.  I finally tied on a parachute Adams, the only other dry fly I had needed that weekend, and made my way back into the pool.  The first cast nothing happened, and the second cast, the same.  Then on the third cast, the fish appeared and refused the fly.  I put the parachute hopper back on.  Again a refusal.  I then took my buddy's rod and cast his orange Stimulator several times with no sign of the fish.  I was beginning to admit defeat as I tied on a single tungsten stonefly nymph and started working the pool.  The first casts to where the fish rose came up empty.  I moved up into the eye of the pool and there, in the deepest, heaviest water the indicator went down.  I set the hook in disbelief, but the the head shakes that came next gave me no doubt what I'd found.  It was a good one, and oh so satisfying.  Ain't them cutties purdy?

This morning I received a text from a buddy in the Keys with a picture of him holding a permit pushing 30 pounds.  After exchanging expletives, I passed along the above picture, a brief recap of the encounter and added, "It's no 30 lb permit but hey."  His response:  "If you worked for it, then it's a great fish.  That's the best part."  True dat, Nat!


No wonder the orange Stimulator worked!

'Til next time...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I'm going on a trip in August.

To a place I've been once before.