October 2020 Fly Fishing Report & Forecast
October’s cool mornings and shorter days are certainly upon us. Great fly fishing in Washington continues in the month of October. For us anglers in the Seattle/Everett area of Washington, fly fishing opportunities peak for many different species. Here is a look at some of the popular October fly fishing options and some ideas for places to go wet a line.
October is coho time in western Washington. Puget Sound rivers, Forks area rivers, and SW Washington rivers are all receiving silvers (coho) right now. Forecasts for coho weren't great for this year but we seem to be receiving a decent number of fish in our Puget Sound rivers and the Columbia is receiving more coho than the ten-year average.
In our local area, the Skykomish and Skagit usually get the most coho attention. The Skykomish is actually closed for salmon fishing in October again this year. The Skykomish is still open to steelhead fishing and coho may be caught incidentally but not retained. The Skagit is open to coho fishing and is a trip to consider right now. If you can, float the river in a boat/raft and cast big, bright flies on a fast-sinking sink-tip line. Cast them out, give the fly a chance to sink into the zone and then strip the fly back on a fast retrieve. Cover enough water and you’ll likely get your hook-ups. Fish heavy leaders around 16lb test and have a great day while the fish are still in great shape.
If you’re walk/wade fishing the Skagit, look for silvers to be loaded up in slower water eddies and on the slow side of seams. Fish bright flies like the Hare Ball Leech in chartreuse, pink, purple, or black. Fish the fly on a slow, soft swing while the fly sinks into the pool, then strip it out with a fast retrieve to try and entice a fish to chase it down. Fish sink-tip lines with 6-foot RIO Salmon/Steelhead Leaders of 16lb. Keep those hooks sharp and change colors if you have fish in front of you that won’t eat. Move to different locations until you find fish and cover lots of water to hunt down those fish that may be willing to strike at something.
If you go up to the Skagit, keep an eye on temporary river closures when they close sections of the river for a couple days so the tribes can run gillnets.
Outside of our immediate area, the rivers around Forks, WA and rivers in SW Washington like the Chehalis and Kalama are known silver producers and will have fish in them.
Our local rivers haven't had a good year for summer steelhead. The Columbia system isn't up to the ten-year average but the numbers are quite a bit better than last year. Rivers like the Deschutes, Grand Ronde, and Klickitat are worthwhile trips and the time is right now. Parts of SW Washington sound pretty good too. So, it may be a good idea to put some miles on the truck for the local steelhead guys. The rain and cooler weather we received last week signals the time to go on many rivers like the Grand Ronde and middle sections of the Deschutes so dust off that two-hander and hit the rivers in the next few weeks.
Westside Trout Rivers
October is the last reliable month for hitting our local NW Washington trout streams with any predictability. Once the rains kick into gear by November, the fishing isn’t the same. So, get out there and wet a line while October still offers some nice low-water conditions on these streams. Also, please note, these are all wild trout and often young, wild steelhead. Please practice catch and release, use barbless hooks, and minimize handling of these fish when landing them.
South and North Forks of the Skykomish River – Super pretty, fast, clear water is what you’ll find on these rivers. They are medium-sized rivers with trout of various sizes in them. Cover lots of water on these rivers and really hunt for the fish. The fish are there, and some are big ones. Dries, nymphs and streamers all have their place here and many of the larger fish come on streamers fished in the larger, deeper pools. Being October, you’ll see the occasional steelhead, and probably quite a few coho. These rivers do not allow fishing for salmon and please be considerate of the fact that these fish are spawning or getting close to spawning. If spawning salmon are around, don’t disturb them and be sure to stay off their redds, but maybe try fishing egg patterns for egg-eating rainbows downstream of them.
South Fork of the Stillaguamish – Smaller in size than the forks of the Skykomish, the South Fork Stillaguamish is a nice stream for targeting trout in the fall and provides good walk-in access. Always keep an eye on the fishing regulations with all of these rivers, but the SF Stilly is currently open above the bridge above Granite Falls through November 30, 2020 and open until January 31, 2021 below the Granite Falls fishway outlet. It hosts decent numbers of smaller trout as well as sea-run cutthroat and is another great target for small dry flies, light nymphing techniques, and small streamers for sea-runs.
Middle or South Fork of the Snoqualmie – Small stream fishing is a blast on these rivers. The South Fork is a smaller river with smaller fish that love to eat dry flies when the water is low and clear The Middle Fork is a bit larger with more deeper areas. It offers a few more medium-sized trout and some good places to also fish light nymphing techniques. Like with all of these rivers, the trout fishing will remain viable until the rivers start running higher and colder. You can check real-time river levels and our Resources page of our website is a good place to start.
Eastside Trout Rivers
Yakima River – Cool October weather has the Yakima fishing really well. We’ve received lots of great reports from the Yak as of the writing of this blog post. This time of year, there are three main bugs on the menu. Those are October Caddis, Blue Wing Olives, and Crane Flies. Lower flows make walking/wading the Yakima very productive in October. Floating the river with a guide is always a great option as well and will have you covering miles of river during a fun, relaxing day on the water. Ask us and we’ll be happy to recommend a good guide for the Yakima.
Rocky Ford – Some of the best days I’ve ever seen or heard of on Rocky Ford have been in October. Shorter days, cooler temps and fewer weeds and the Rocky Ford streamer action typically goes bananas. White or black streamers fished on a floating line with a Slow Sinking PolyLeader can be deadly. Have your tiny nymphs, midge larva, and scuds ready, but the streamer action is where it’s at on most days. A 6wt rod with a heavy leader/tippet of around 2X is the way to go when streamer fishing the Ford. It is a nice place to have a landing net as well, and is a much nicer, faster way to land those big, fat, scud-eating fish in Rocky Ford. Flies like the Coffee’s Sparkle Minnow in Black or White, the Bead Head Electric Leech, or the Sculpzilla Jr. – White are all great choices.
October is a sneaky month for many of the great trout lakes in Washington. Hunters are off hunting. Steelheaders are off steelheading. Guys are up in Alaska… And so on. Meanwhile, a few anglers are quietly fishing our famous trout lakes and cleaning up.
Chopaka is a great lake that seems to get a renewal of interest in the fall. It is a very special lake that has it all in terms of scenery, just far enough off the beaten trail, and a great population of good-sized rainbows. If you haven’t been to Chopaka, this October might be your time to go. You will probably have company, but the fishing will make it worthwhile.
Many folks are aware of the fall fishing on Pass Lake. In the evenings especially, try casting minnow patterns like the Pass Lake Minnow right up to the shoreline. Strip them back on a fast retrieve with a slow sinking line. Some of the largest trout we’ve seen taken on the westside have come from Pass Lake in the fall.
In October, Lone Lake usually gets really good. Sinking lines and black or black/red leeches can get it done this time of year, and don’t be afraid to chuck them up into shallow water and retrieve them into the deeper water.
Other Eastern Washington lakes like Nunually, Lenice, Dry Falls, etc. are usually great bets in October while the weather is chilly but not super cold like it may be in another month. Lenice, for example, will be super crowded in the spring… but the fishing is typically just as good right now but with a fraction (if any) of the people. There usually aren’t a whole lot of chironomids hatching, if that is your thing, but the sub-surface bite on sinking lines can be off the hook on the right days. And usually, the wind isn’t as bad!!
Sea-Run Cutthroat in Puget Sound
Yep. Still plugging along with decent reports on the sea-runs in Puget Sound. About this time of year, the central to northern portions of the Sound start to slow down and the southern portions of the sound remain good. In the northern sound, especially in early October, the chances of an encounter with a hot coho always keep things interesting.
Bass and Warmwater
Water temperatures on our lakes are around the mid- to high-sixties as of the beginning of October here. Bass and panfish begin to back out of shallow water areas and stage close to deeper water areas where they will likely winter. Look for deeper water close to shallow waters that held fish during the summer. For panfish, look for big, tightly packed schools on a fish finder. Drag a small fly like the Ultimate Perch Fry in front of them on a sinking line and you’ll be into fish. Panfish don’t hit a fly like a trout does… so keep the line slowly moving to keep your line and leader taught and use a short leader. Strip set when you feel weight or a bump from the fish inhaling the fly. Great fun and can be great fish tacos as well!
For smallmouth, fish rocky bottom areas with very fast sinking lines like the RIO Striper 30-Foot Sink Tip line. Look for most smallmouth to be in 20-30 feet of water in our larger lakes in the October timeframe. They are less likely to go shallow now, but pay close attention to depths and different areas to try and develop a pattern for the day. Yellow perch should still be on the menu in October and the Sheila Sculpin is a great yellow perch pattern. The Jon’s Lion Bugger or the Crazy Dad are great for crawling along the bottom in deeper water as a crayfish imitation.