September 2020 Fly Fishing Report & Forecast
September is here and the signs of fall are in the air. September is another 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. Keep those waders wet and your hooks sharp for the next couple months whether you prefer trout, steelhead or just about any other fish species.
Westside Trout Rivers
It has been a really good year for the local trout fishing scene this year. We've seen more big fish and more good fishing stories than most years. 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. Jordan has been busting some true big-uns and recommends the Sparkle Minnow - Light Olive as a great streamer for searching for larger trout.
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.
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 falls near the town of Granite Falls. It is open as of Sept.16th 400 ft below the falls. 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. The rivers will typically be very low and easy to wade. 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!
Silvers (coho salmon) are available off our local beaches and marine area 9 and 10 are open in September. The run forecast for migratory silvers doesn't look great this year but a mixture of resident and migratory silvers should be available throughout the month. 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 another good option for silvers and will remain open through October for salmon. 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 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 is looking better than last year so rivers like the Grand Ronde, Deschutes, Klickitat, Snake, etc. should see more fish than last year at least. It looks like the majority of the return is wild fish and they take our flies better anyway, so brush off the Spey rods and check the calendar. 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.
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 still high right now (9/1/2020) 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 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 usually without the crowds.
Sea-Run Cutthroat in Puget Sound
Sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound has been a bit off this year, but cutthroat are still swimming around and available to anglers plying the beaches. It sounds like more smaller fish and less larger fish are being reported. The most likely reason is probably the low-water years around 2015 which limited spawning on small streams where many of the cutthroat spawn, according to our expert sources. September is still a good time to be out there in nice weather and searching for fish and hopefully finding a coho along the way.
Bass and Warmwater
Water temperatures on our lakes is 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 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, 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!