12/09/10 11:12 Filed in: Photography
When we made plans to go fish this Saturday, the forecast was for rain. I packed TWO rain jackets the night before.
The river had different plans for us. We awoke to a few clouds and as the day went on it got warm, the sun shone, and it was as nice a day as anyone could expect on the river. I went with a Jon, a John, and a Lisa, more people than I’m used to fishing with on a river, but we kept out of each others way for the most part, and had a perfect day fishing. I got another big Dolly, had another spit the fly, had a big rainbow spit the fly but managed to fool a half dozen or so of his brothers. I didn’t think there were any cutthroat left in the Skagit, but there were clearly orange marks on a fish I got later in the day.
One of the coolest things that happened all day was running into snorkelers doing a fish count. I’ve always heard of this happening on various rivers (in fact I’ve always wanted to do it) but this is the first time I’ve ever seen it. These guys cover 7 kms a day in water that is between 4 and 7 degrees! When they go through a pool, they make little “beep” noises through the snorkel every time they see a fish. They mark their slates and every so often dump the data to the other guy on shore. We talked to them for quite awhile and found out that they are contracted by the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission in partnership with the BC Ministry of the
Environment. What we learned was that the rainbows we are catching are the normal sized fish for the upper Skagit and that there are very few larger ones, but they are there. The population of Dollys is growing and the average size is too. There are huge char in that river and lots of them. In one run that is less than 100 yards long they counted 80 fish. Whoa.
As amazing as this river is, I can only imagine what it was like before they dammed it and it had runs of salmon and steelhead. It could have been one of the best Flyfishing rivers in the world. I hate dams. But i like cheap electricity.
At the end of the day, we were packed up and driving home, the sun was setting and it was starting to get cloudy. Just as we left the gravel and hit the pavement the first drops hit the windshield. By the time we hit Highway 1 West, it was pouring rain. We got lucky today.
Ok, enough words, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
We drove out under an amazing sunrise.
John, hittin’ the water
Lisa working out the rust.
Thanks for the info guys!
Signs of Fall are showing up.
And a John.
Jon gets stealthy.
Lisa casts into the deep pool.
John puts a nice tight cast where he wants it.
Lisa brings a nice bow in.
This was a BIG dolly. Smart too, wrapped her around some roots and broke off.
Jon gets into one.
Look at the big ugly stonefly nymph!
Too bad about the crappy scenery
A SERIOUSLY beautiful river.
Jon plays one more.
Location is everything...
Since moving to Vancouver my fishing has suffered. In Whistler I used to pop out to the lake several times a week, and hit up the rivers fairly often as well. Vancouver was intimidating. Where to go? How could I fish without going shoulder to shoulder with the crowds of tin-chucking meat harvesters? I don’t keep fish often, it’s a pain in the ass to clean, carry and care for them and the truth of the matter is, I’d rather fish for a big trout in a catch-and-release only stream than a million average trout in an overstocked put-and-take fishery. But that’s me, I don’t judge.
Last week I finally got out to the Skagit. To say that it’s “local” is a bit of a stretch, the drive is over 2 hours from downtown. In fact, I could probably get to the Birkenhead faster, but I’m looking for new water and the Skagit is that. Plus I went with Jon Cartwright and he’d spent a productive day there last year, pulling decent fish on the dry fly, so I wasn’t going in completely blind.
First of all, this is some beautiful water. Right now you can wade it everywhere, there are perfect deep holes, riffles, undercut banks and best of all, fish. Almost right away we started to see big silver flashes in the deeper water. Like, BIG flashes. That and lots of surface action. Then I started turning over rocks and what I found blew me away. Huge mayfly nymphs, massive cased caddis, and lots of stoneflies. Eventually I found one of the biggest I’ve ever seen, almost two inches long!
There were a few fishermen and women around but people moved frequently and we never felt crowded. The rainbows here are as cautious as they are plentiful. I found a noticeable difference in my luck when I switched up and fished 5x tippet after a relatively slow patch with 3x fished wet. We had luck on dark stone nymphs, not so much with the golden stones that had been recommended and all sorts of dries. At first we concentrated on elk hair caddis, but after we started to see more mays coming off, we moved to green, yellow and black humpies and had the most action. Really pretty rainbows between 12 and 14 inches were the order of the day.
Near the end of the day I got too curious about those big silver flashes and put a big black bead head leech on my sinking line, dropped it into a deep slow running hole and waited. A minute later as I slowly retrieved I felt a heavy weight. At first I thought I had bottom, then the bottom did a head shake and I knew I was into something better. I could tell pretty quickly that I was into a Dolly. He took a few sharp runs but mostly just bulldogged me and worked his way into the current whenever he could. On the 5 weight, he was a perfect fish. He measured out just over 18 inches when he finally gave up and showed off his vibrant peach-coloured spots and flashy sides. He was a little skinny, but clean. From the flashes I saw, I’m pretty sure that he was small to average, I’d wager there are some of his far bigger brothers in there too. But that’s for another day.
So I’ve got a little gem in my pocket now, I’ve seen some beautiful water, not too far from home, and am looking forward to learning more about this beautiful river.
First fish on a black nymph
Jon tests the banks
A small stone nymph. The huge one I found was a little too active for a photo.
Jon releases a bow.
and casts for another one.
Under these rocks, lots of fish food.
End of the day.