September 2019 Fly Fishing Report & Forecast
As we enter September and hang onto the last bits of summer in the Seattle and Everett areas, fly fishing opportunities come to a peak. Just about everything fishes well in September and October and there is a long list of places to get excited about. Here are some top September choices in our opinion. Stop by the store if we can help with additional details.
As mentioned in the August report, the number of pink salmon returning to Puget Sound rivers was expected to be a low number. However, the actual number of pinks returning to the Skykomish River seems to be pretty decent. Lots of anglers are landing pink salmon and reporting seeing lots of fish. The September fishery on the Skykomish should only get better, especially if water temperatures stay down. Please keep in mind that all salmon, with the exception of coho salmon, must be released.
Small, weighted, pink flies like the Humpy Bug or the Pink Salmon Clouser will hook lots of fish when fished on a sink-tip line, or even a floating line in shallower runs. Fish the fly on a soft swing while occasionally twitching the fly.
The Skagit River is a favorite place to target pink salmon as well. We haven’t heard many reports, but hopefully the Skagit is also seeing solid numbers of pinks because it can be a great place to fish for them with little competition from other anglers and fish that are often very willing to bite flies.
If you prefer to catch pink salmon on saltwater beaches, the time to be out there is right now. Soon, the bulk of the fish will be in the rivers so you’ll want to get your salt fix on the early side of September.
Silvers (coho salmon) are already beginning to enter the rivers and are expected to return in excellent numbers to most rivers in Puget Sound this year. Start fishing the saltwater right now and look to the rivers in the coming weeks.
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.
As the end of September nears, the Skykomish River is listed as closed for salmon fishing on October 1st. Why do we have a great run of silvers predicted but the river closing to salmon fishing in October? You’ll have to ask WDFW that one, but let’s hope they figure it out soon.
The Skagit River is another great option for silvers and will remain open through December for salmon. The Skagit is a great river to fly fish for salmon. 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. Cover lots of water to hunt down those fish that may be willing to strike at something.
Our local rivers have had a very poor year for summer steelhead. The Columbia system isn’t looking too good either. Reports from the Skeena area of B.C. sound fair. Reports from N. California and S. Oregon sound really good. 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. Or… take advantage of lower crowds on some of the usual fall haunts like the Grand Ronde, Deschutes, Klickitat, Snake, etc. and know you’ll want to cover lots of water since there will also be less fish than normal. The rain we’re getting now in early September means the time to start going is right now!
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 the Seattle and Everett areas. 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.
Cedar River in Maple Valley – This would be awesome!.... except it is closed until next June.
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 – 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. As we enter into September, you’ll see the occasional steelhead, and possibly lots of ripe pink salmon, and 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, make sure to stay off their redds but maybe try fishing egg patterns for big, 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 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 currently open above the bridge above Granite Falls through November 30, 2019. It hosts decent numbers of smaller trout and is another great target for small dry flies and light nymphing techniques.
Olympic Peninsula Sea-Run Cutthroat – A bit further of a drive for the Seattle/Everett crowd but a fantastic trip, the rivers of the OP like the Sol Duc and Bogacheil can have outstanding fishing for sea-run cutthroat. Take a “Trout Spey” setup or just a single-hand 4wt and a fly box full of flies and you’re all set. Low angling pressure, crystal clear rivers, and abundant numbers of these fish in the river is the normal experience. Look for shady pockets of slower water tight to the bank with adequate depth… and even better if there is some wood or a small creek entering the river. Cast tight to the shoreline and strip the fly quickly on a floating line and long leader or floating line and intermediate-sinking PolyLeader. Cover water like you’re steelheading and you’ll find some fish. Great fun!
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. 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 the end of the month. 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 a bit as September rolls on. Shorter days and cooler temps will know 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 or 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 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, 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 without the crowds!
Sea-Run Cutthroat in Puget Sound
Sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound got pretty good in August. September should be great as well plus the added bonus of pink salmon and coho salmon around. The pinks in the salt are on the wind down since they are loading up in the rivers. The coho should be prime in the saltwater throughout September. Sea-runs are known to run up the rivers in the fall, but these fish don’t seem to have calendars because the fishing in the salt usually remains very good in September.
Bass and Warmwater
Water temperatures on our lakes is still over 75-degrees on most lakes. It is still prime time for bass on just about any of our local lakes or Eastern Washington lakes. 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 Deer Hair Bass Bug, Goodale’s Bass Bug, 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, so keep trying 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!