It’s late spring in Western Washington and June 1st signals the opener for our local rivers. Summer-run steelhead fishing has finally arrived. Although the calendar might say it’s the sixth month and New Years is January 1st, I tend to count my years starting mostly with the steelhead seasons. So June 1st to me is the start of a new year for fishing tallies.
Steelhead fishing is much like the Mariners scoring runs — they come in streaks some years you cant keep them off the hook. You hook and land everything it seems. Some years, however, you have a year like I just went through. The MOST dreaded situation is when no matter what you do, where you fish, or what you’re fishing, the river seems like a barren wasteland of water — void of fish. Luckily, I have been able to avoid that for a while know (knock on wood).
To break this streak of loosing fish we shall start on one of my favorites, which has been and will always be the Skykomish. As many of you know I grew up on that river fishing with my father and sometimes with him and his friends, and I still do it to this day.
June is a great time to chase these chrome-bright beauties in all of our local rivers if one can handle the sometimes enormous amounts of runoff that come down the west slopes of the Cascades after a good warm day, or a March-like rain. For the ones that can tame the wild large river of the Skykomish, the bounty of fish can be worth the rain coats, big flies, and cold temperatures. All too often I hear in the shop, on the river, and with clients, that fishing has been tough or impossible because of the larger than life Skykomish. “It’s just too high and too dirty for me,” I hear. The part of me who loves the solitude on the river wants to just smile and agree with them. The other part of me loves to hear people catching fish and seeing people catch fish. Or… its the egotistical side of me who wants to be right all the time and send people out to the river, much to their chagrin, and hear a few days later that they did in fact find a fish or two. For the most part fishing was slow for me on the opener with only one fish to the fly (but no glorious battle to follow) in the first day floating down the upper river. The second day was spent in the upper river again and a late Sunday float provided the first native summer run of the year. The river was in perfect shape and should have produced more fish that day but unfortunately it was just the one.
After that second fish I made John reel up and start over with a quick hook change. We had some players in the riffle and they needed to be stuck. Well, we didn’t find another one in the fast water but just as it slowed down, whammy, fish on. Not the blistering little 6 lb hen that I was hoping for… you know the one that goes 0-60 in about 3 seconds as you watch your backing knot slide out your guides at what seems like mach 3. But a nice 7ish pound buck that just wanted to show that, although he was hooked, he was going to make sure that he was the strongest out of the two. Little did he know that John was just now an ex- federal correctional officer, among other things. Poor little hatchery buck didn’t know what he was dealing with on our end.
Thank you to all who have been fishing with me, stopped in our shop, or are planning or thinking of going fishing with me. For me there is no passion greater than swinging a fly for Steelhead and I love sharing that experience with everybody I meet.