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Coldwater Fly Fishing Trout, Salmon, Steelhead, etc...

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Old 12-04-2008, 11:28 AM
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Default Pacific Steelhead

Hey there, I was wondering if any of you have ever fished in WA for steelies. I was up there last year on business and only got one day to fish...and the rivers, so I was told, were blown out. I wanted to try and swing flies for some but really didnt know where to start. I guess a guide is in order. Any reccomendations for this area? places to go? good guides? Thanks
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Old 12-04-2008, 09:04 PM
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Default Re: Pacific Steelhead

My experience is limited to the Olympic Peninsula coastal rivers and streams and beaches. Most of our rivers have very good foot access from nearby roads. The hardest part of fishing here is run timing. Right now we are seeing the hatchery winter steelhead returning to our rivers. Some steelhead are caught on area beaches as well. Generally the hatchery winter runs will last through early january though this time they were early to begin with.

Then come the wild steelhead runs, which are very strong from late january or early february through march and mid april. These are the most sought after fish here. Most of the other statewide river systems have closed their later winter runs to fishing, even for catch and release, in an attempt to regain the runs. Of the remaining wild steelhead runs about 12 systems hold them on the Olympic Peninsula. People from all over the world come here for a chance at a wild winter steelhead on the fly.

The Major temperate rainforest systems; Queets, Hoh, Quinault, Quillayute, Sol Duc, Bogachiele all get heavily fished. The drift boats are often bumper to bumper. Walk and wade fishing has major access advantages, especially under changeing conditions. Most guides out here are doing float trips, and most are not truly fly specialists. be careful about that.

Weather- mountain weather and marine weather combined, dictate conditions, and rarely do we get a forecast accuracy better than 48 to 72 hours ahead of time. The wettest month is november, (this time we got past it easily), while late december to early february can be quite cold. Later february through april is most approachable as the days are getting longer, milder and the water temperatures may warm a bit more often by then. By april, and sometimes as early as late march, we will see the beginnings of the summer steelhead run along with the native winter runs. We fish the rivers every day that we can all winter long. Flooding or high water can result in a few cancellations each season, but surprisingly few considering that the west end Peninsula sees some 160 to 200 inches of precipitation annually, mostly in winter.

A one day trip is a shot in the dark. It is not impossible for you to catch a wild run steelhead in a single day, indeed many do. But it will be better for you if you make it a two or three day trip, not only to improve your odds, but to get enough time to cover some of the most beautiful water on earth. The O.P. rainforest rivers are rugged, often steep and deep, and hold enough long gravel runs and wide pools to please serious fly anglers. Spey Rods have fairly taken over here and single handed casters are now in the minority. Nine Weight Rods are the minimum used. Winter run fish can run from 12 to 20 pounds, with some over 30 pounds. On average they are similar to Pacific Salmon. Ten weight rods perform much better. The switch rods have become successful here as well. Sink tip line systems are most versatile, and the Rio Skagit Spey And Wind Caster Spey and Accellerator Spey lines prevail here. Some single handers are very happy with the Rio Anadromous Advantage lines. Of course we use just about every steelhead fly in the book.

The West End Olympic Peninsula river fishing hub is the town of Forks, Wa. There are ample lodging and dining offerings there. (forksweb.com) Most of the river fishing is within a 1/2 to 45 minute local drive from town. Visiting anglers usually arrive in airport rental cars and do fine here as the roads are paved. Just make sure you have studded tires. Access to Forks Wa can be via Hwy 101. The major hub is "Sea Tac Airport" (aka: Seattle/Tacoma), which is a 3.5 hour trip by car. There is a smaller local comuter airport in Port Angeles, WA, which has local service from Sea Tac Airport- a 20 minute flight- with "Kenmore Air". Forks is a 50 to 60 minute drive from Port Angeles. Hope all of that helps you.
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Old 12-09-2008, 11:34 AM
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Default Re: Pacific Steelhead

Wild Steelhead -

Thanks for the info I look forward to getting back up there this spring and hopefully get a tug from a Pacific Chromer. I will definately plan on staying a while, more than just a couple days, from the sounds of it the water sounds like it could be tempermental due to the amount of moisture that area receives. Thanks again.....do you guide up there?
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Old 01-02-2009, 03:33 AM
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Default Re: Pacific Steelhead

I agree with the above poster. If you go back mid Jan-end of Feb the Bogacheile is an excellent winter steelhead river,or at least used to be. I haven't been there since the late 90's. Best to have a guide with a drift boat.
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Old 01-22-2009, 05:47 PM
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Default Re: Pacific Steelhead

A good example on the nature of my region is going on right now; that we had near record floods already this winter; we had a huge amount of water for weeks brimming the rivers; Warm temperatures to rival springtime. and now things are dropping into shape nicely; With the mountain freezing temperatures descending altitude nearly 1000 feet each day or two, (falling from over 11,000 feet to nearly 1000 feet or less on schedule in under a weeks time), and the rivers are continuing to recede by thousands of cfs- in some cases tens of thousands of cfs- from the recent higher flows,( ie; one small river here was at a normal 600cfs and with the storm hitting 6 hours later it was running 16,000cfs!), and a mix of hatchery and wild winter steelhead having been drawn in on the high water for several weeks while no one was able to fish... well its looking sweet around here for the next few weeks. This will happen cyclicly here all winter and into springtime. We are used to it. The fish are used to it. It keeps the rivers alive.
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Old 02-25-2009, 04:15 PM
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Default Re: Pacific Steelhead

A good example of how vexing it can be to predict fishing based on flows, weather etc. We have been seeing record low water here on the Olympic Peninsula coastal rivers over the past few weeks. And yet last week a spey fishing angler on the Hoh River caught a near record 32 pound wild steelhead.

The fish wont wait for flows all of the time. Some will move with every tide, especially at night. Waiting for perfect conditions is often a waste of time. If it is fishable, go fish. Each day of season lost is not going to be gotten back later. Once the heavy warm rains come, and they will again, the rivers will blow out for days or weeks. At least one can fish lower water. And with a flyrod and traditional wet fly swing, low water is very good sometimes. Especially in the wintertime.
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