September 2023 Fly Fishing Report & Forecast
I can't believe it is already September but the weather is changing quick and everyone's favorite time of year for fishing is here. September is a great month for fly fishing opportunities for anglers from the greater Seattle and Everett area. It seems like just about everything fishes well in September and October but the big news is loads of pink salmon arriving and lots of coho on their heels. Steelhead are also entering the Columbia system so get ready to hit the water this month.
Now is the time to go. Fish them in the salt. Fish them in the river. Either way, there are lots of fish this year and it will end soon so hit it quickly.
Early in September, the pink salmon are loaded up near river mouths and are easily targeted from saltwater beaches. Fish an intermediate sinking fly line with small, weighted flies. Hit the water early in the morning on a incoming tide if possible.
Lots of pink salmon are in the rivers now too. Jordan was out last weekend (9/2 - 9/3) with some buddies and they landed more fish than they could count. So much fun! As we move further into September, the saltwater action will die down and the rivers will be where its at. Good fishing in the rivers usually maintains until about mid-October when the fish are getting pretty ripe and should be left to spawn.
Target pinks in the Skagit and Snohomish rivers right now. The main stem Stillaguamish opens on Sept 16th. Always double-check the regulations pamphlet and emergency regulations because certain sections of the river open on different dates. (Ugh).
To fish for pinks in the rivers, use the same style flies and fish them on either a floating line with a long leader or on a light to medium sinktip line. A 7-weight rod is perfect. Switch rods or light Spey rods are also ideal in the 5- to 7-weight size. Swing the fly and add a little motion to the swing with quick strips and pauses every once in a while. Pinks love to hit the fly on the fall so be ready for any feeling of weight on the line.
Westside Trout Rivers
In September, the local trout scene remains about the same as August as long as the rivers stay low and clear. Here are some easy trout trips for anglers in NW Washington area. 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.
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.
South and North Forks of the Skykomish River – The North and South Forks of the Skykomish are closed right now to protect spawing chinook salmon.
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 this time of year and provides good walk-in access. Always keep an eye on the fishing regulations with all of these rivers, but the SF Stilly is open right now above the bridge near the town of Granite Falls. It is open as of Oct.16th 400 ft below the fishway to the mouth. It hosts decent numbers of smaller trout and is another great target for small dry flies and light nymphing techniques.
Silvers (coho salmon) are available off our local beaches in September. Another really good return of silvers is expected this year and the number of fish being caught in the salt seems to be a good indicator as well. Until the end of September, the saltwater will be the primary area to target the silvers. Pay attention to any signs of fish activity and hit multiple locations throughout the day if possible. Beaches like Double Bluff, Point No Point, Bush Point (you'll have company), and Lagoon Point might be options to consider.
For the saltwater, fish Puget Sound beaches with intermediate sinking lines loaded on rods from 6wt to 8wt. A 6-foot, 12lb fluorocarbon leader and flies like the Skinny Smolt with lots of flashy movement. Fish them on a long cast and a fast retrieve for the coho salmon.
The Skagit River is a good option for silvers. The Skagit is a great river to fly fish for salmon and is much easier for bank anglers with low water conditions typically found in September. 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, Deep Six Salmon, Hot Shot Comet, and the Pay Dirt 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. Cover lots of water to hunt down those fish that may be willing to strike at something.
Our local rivers haven't offered much for summer steelhead the last few years but the number of steelhead on their way up the Columbia right now is good to see. Rivers like the Grand Ronde, Deschutes, Klickitat, Snake, etc. should see good steelhead fishing this season. The lower Columbia rivers like the Klickitat and Deschutes are fishing now. Look for the Ronde, Snake and other rivers further east to start rolling when we see some rain and cooler weather in later September and certainly into October and November.
Eastside Trout Rivers
Yakima River – September on the Yakima can be one of the best months of the year. Lower flows are a welcome sight to the walk and wade crowd and the lower water makes it easier to choose your fishing locations. The river flows are on the drop right now (1530 cfs as of 9/8/2023) but will get lower as the month goes on. September will bring numerous opportunities in the form of hatches. Shortwing Stoneflies will be important in September and a Chubby Chernobyl or a Pat’s Rubber Legs should produce some fish looking for them. Early September can still be a great time for terrestrials like hoppers, ants and beetles as well. Once the weather starts to cool down, the sneaky Crane Fly can get the job done. If the weather really cools down with maybe some rain showers mixed in, keep an eye out for small Blue Wing Olives, which will surely make for some interesting days before the month is out.
Methow River -- The Methow River is an exciting fly fishing opportunity in September. Most areas on the river are open through September but really double check the regulations on this river as they are lengthy to say the least. Really nice cutthroat come out of the Methow and much of the fishing is on dry flies. If you haven’t been there, it is a beautiful stream and just the perfect size.
Rocky Ford – Right now Rocky Ford is probably still full of weeds, but it should clear out as weather cools by late September or early October. Shorter days and cooler temps will knock those weeds down and the Rocky Ford streamer action should go 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.
September is prime time on many lakes and most of the crowds are off doing other fishing and hunting trips. Especially as September weather starts to cool down a bit, many Washington lakes will get really good. Fishing leech patterns on a sinking line will probably be the best method, but keep an eye out for water boatman, flying termites, flying ants, and the ever present chironomid.
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.
Lone Lake usually fishes really well in the fall, but once it has a chance to cool down a bit more. Maybe late September and certainly into 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 very shallow water and retrieve them into the deeper water.
Chopaka is a great lake that is known to have exceptional fishing, a beautiful setting, and be crowded. Go in the fall and skip the crowds. Be ready for everything with leeches on sinking lines, adult damsels (more so in early Sept), chironomids, water boatman, and I would have a few flying ant and termite patterns around just in case. This would be a killer trip in September if you’ve never been.
Other Eastern Washington lakes like Nunually, Lenice, Dry Falls, etc. will all be in a similar situation as Chopaka. Great fishing like in the spring but usually without the crowds.
Bass and Warmwater
Water temperatures on our lakes are still over 70-degrees on most lakes. It is still prime time for bass on just about any of our local lakes and Eastern Washington lakes can get better this time of year. Fall fish can be scattered, especially if the weather is jumping around. Look for largemouth with a floating line in shallow structure like docks, laydown trees, or heavy vegetation. If you’re not finding them, move to the outside of the weedline and fish a sinking line. Cover water and keep near the structure. Flies to have on hand would be the Gorilla Dragon, Froggy, Bennett’s Lunch Money, and Sheila’s Sculpin.
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 20-25 feet of water for the most part in September. They can be shallow too, especially on a cool September morning, so keep trying different depths and different areas to try and develop a pattern for the day. Yellow perch are found in most of our waters with bass and they are often high on the menu this time of year. 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.
Perch, crappie and other panfish can be great in September as well. Look for fish to migrate from shallow to deeper water throughout September. When they head for deeper water, having a fish finder is really, really handy. Look for fish to be grouped up in schools. Drop 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. 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!