Usually when we get weather like we have had. Torrential deluges’, Flooded rivers and 2ft of vis in the river for weeks. Every Saturday while in the shop talking fish, the topic always comes up about how bad of shape the rivers are in. Last week I was in total agreeance with all that came in. Yesterday after seeing the river on the way into work, and the silted steelhead green that it was flowing my mind began to wander all day about searching for the chrome that the pools and runs of the Skykomish holds. Curious to see what changes mother nature has brought us with the second major flood of the year, looking for that magical run that holds more fish that one could possibly endure (she didn’t bring us that, but its always fun to hope), I set my sights on the upper sky come dawn this morning. Fishing with my first fishing partner of my life, like many times I do in scouting the changes, we spent the day looking for the Skys’ bounty from sun up to sun down.
Staring at about 2.5 ft of vis cloudy but not wet nor too cold of a day the only boat meandering down the river optimism and excitement filled the first part of the voyage. Fishing the second run which has changed nicely for the fly every cast held the chance of finding the fish that was going to make the day that much better. Walking back to the boat with our tails between our legs scratching are heads trying to figure out why there wasn’t a fish in that water we moved on the the dirty water beyond the slide. On the third cast in about 1ft of vis 5ft from the bank and in about 2ft of water the cries of “Fish On” filled the air. To be honest I pulled the Lani Waller and tried to dislodge the fly from the fish because I thought it was the bottom. After a short battle the chrome bright hatchery fish was ready for the beach and then the BBQ. He had other plans sensing his imminent doom, he fled the scene with a roll and a flip of the tail to say “F* you, not me” as the fly came flying out of his mouth. Heartbroken and frustrated I handed the hole over to dad to see if he could entice that bucks better half. Although the spot has changed some over the past few floods it still had the feeling of being able to find a fish on every cast much like it has in the past.
Many spots later we ran into the only bank angler that we saw all day. Telling us that he thought that he felt something fishy in the top of the run we decided to run our bugs through it. As we were getting our rods from the boat a small boil right next to the boat in the soft seam. Pointing it out to me was my dad and to that I replied “glad I picked above the boat” with a smile on my face. Doing everything that I could to make my fly swing in that foot and a half deep water right up next to the boat trying to hook the purple peril with my fly (one hook in the side is enough right now thanks) the line draws violently tight and line comes off my reel. The thought of fish on flashes through my mind I come back on the rod to set the hook deep in the corner of the mouth and there was nothing there except disappointment. It could have been a dolly it could have been a cutty but there has never been an occasion with the big rod in hand where those have taken line off the reel in the initial take. We will never know exactly what it was but if I was in Vegas I’d put money on the steelhead.
I write this to tell those who give me the funny looks when I talk about love of the sky running at 8000 cfs and above and two and a half feet of visability that finding fish in those conditions can be very easy. You are not needed to make a booming cast you do not need to chuck a big weighted fly with 7ft of T-14 to find fish. You do not need to cast 30ft to catch these fish, these fish are where they are supposed to be they are sitting at your feet and if you are wading past your shins in most cases you are way to far out in the river and the fish are most likely behind you. Anybody can be a steelheader if they want to when the conditions are like this if they are willing to trust what they know and dont overfish these beautiful creatures.
Joe Ewing, PFF, Northwest Steelheading guide