Innovative Fly Fisher

General Discussion Forum => Fly Fishing Reports, Stories, and Adventures => Topic started by: Chris Puchniak on April 30, 2017, 02:28:22 PM

Title: Brief excusion into Washington state
Post by: Chris Puchniak on April 30, 2017, 02:28:22 PM
On a trip to Great Wolf Lodge with the family for a few days (which was great!) and I got to bring along the fly rods much like I did the last time in order to get out and explore some new waters.  Exploring new waters is one of the funnest things in fishing, but add to that I get to do so in waters where I can fish with multiple flies (breaking away from the oppressive single fly system in BC) and it makes it even better.  Last time down in Washington I fished the Skookumchuck River, but being that heavy rains had preceded our trip then, the rivers were in rough shape.  This time the weather forecast was somewhat better, and though scattered rain was expected, I had hoped the rivers might stay a little more fishable. Of course, it didn't turn out that way and the rivers were high and clouded...

After breakfast on the Thursday we happened to be eating at a restaurant (Country Cousins in Centralia - great breakfasts and we hit it every time we are in town) that was right next to Fort Borst Lake, a stocked lake in Centralia.  Aside from  giving me a craving for Ukranian soup, the small lake has lots of fishable shoreline making bank fishing quite attractive (unlike many lakes in BC where bank fishing isn't feasible), and considering I was only going to fish for an hour at most, bank fishing was all I would have time for - so this suited me well.  I believe it is just a converted gravel pit where a park has been made around it (celebrating a historical homestead area), but like Washington seems to be able to do, they often take an abandoned gravel pit and turn it into a decent pond for some light fishing for the general public.  They seem to be all over the state.

I didn't have much time with the family to fish, so I didn't have the option to explore the whole lake.  I had to find a decent spot right off and make the most of it. I had been to the park before, but never to fish, and had actually never been here during the open fishing season (starts the 4th Saturday of April) - so I had never seen fish rise, nor had been able to see other anglers on the water.  But fortunately there were a few gear anglers around and some families fishing this time, and each seemed to be having some success.  So I picked a spot away from the others where I figured the bank dropoff was sufficient enough to hold fish.


Being stockies, and noticing the presence of power bait around the shore (lol), I rigged up with a leech on the point and a blob on the top with a fast glass line. 


I got some fish right off, but all on the leech pattern (I was only fishing 2 flies) - nothing on the blobs.  So I changed up a bit and went with a booby on the point and a leech on the top dropper.  Again, all the action I had was on the leech, with not a touch on the boobies.   Hmmm.  Very discriminating hatchery fish.  Admittedly, a good amount of the fish in the lake had been stocked in January, so had a chance to climatize somewhat, but 'tis a rare day when stocked fish will say no to a blob or booby.

But not having a lot of time to experiment, I switched to a leech on the point and a tungsten bead damsel on the top to see if that attracted more attention than the other combos.  And it did pretty much instantly.  The fish sure didn't like the blobs and boobies this day.  After about an hour we left the water having got a number of nice rainbows in the 26-30cm range.  Nice way to start the day, and now it was time to return to the hotel to swim and play a little of Magicquest...

At around 4pm, I was able to head out to fish one of the nearby rivers before we were to have a late dinner (the Deschutes).  I had scouted it out before on google but had never visited it despite being within 30 minutes of it many times, but based on everything I'd read it was a small freestone stream with a population of cutthroat trout and migrating salmon.  I wasn't familiar with all the falls and chutes (where the name is derived from), but it was also a river that reportedly can go from a tiny stream to a torrent (dirties up fast, but also clears fast) such that from year to year it never looks the same, as the heavy spring and fall rains change the bottom contours and tear down trees from the bank.  But by April and May, it was supposed to get rather gentle.

Getting to the river I could see the truth in those reports.  The river didn't look like many of the online images, as clearly the rain we'd had a couple of days ago had the river much higher and dirtier.  I spoke to someone on the trail who was asking me how the fishing was going (but I hadn't started yet, so didn't have much of an answer!), and she explained that the river was far more nasty two days ago and was still settling down and would get much better by tomorrow.  But also that this past year had seen some very high water levels (she seemed to suggested a rise of 4 feet, which would be a lot for a river this small), completely changing the river.  I couldn't see a reason to argue that point considering the trail we were standing on had recently washed away, there was stream debris trapped in the trees on the bank some 150' away from the current river's edge (a river that was only 50-60' across), and there were newly fallen trees everywhere in the river with their rootballs attached.


Anyways, I settled onto the first gravel shoal  or beach that was wadable.  I definitely couldn't wade across the river in its current state, but I could see how in lower waters it would be far more crossable.  But now came the challenge of trying to figure out where fish would be holding in the high waters on a river I'd never fished before.  Usually the bigger fish continue to hold in the same general spots regardless of the water levels (what makes a prime lie in normal waters is still prime water in high water), however those spots under high water conditions are often hard to find and reach, as they are covered in a couple of extra feet of flow - in other words, what looks too high now to fish probably holds nice water underneath it (where the good fish are), and what looks GOOD in high water often only holds small fish as those holding spots are only temporary.  What I find one has to look for is that water which is prime water in normal conditions, yet also looks like prime "fishable"  water in unfavourable conditions as well (such as the high waters I was finding now) - these types of spots are consistently stable for the fish,  and are also fishable from the angler's standpoint.  If that doesn't work, then I try and search out the fishable water in the high conditions that may only be temporary, but are favourable enough to attract fish displaced from their normal lies (usually smaller fish).  But always start with the best, and that's what I was going to do since I only had about 90 minutes to fish (errr... half a 3-hour session as I look at it!).



Water visibility was only about 15 inches, which wasn't bad but also wasn't great.  It would mean sketchy 'cautious' wading as you can't see the bottom past your upper shins, and it was clear enough that some spots in this small river were well over 5' deep - I found that out while plopping the fly in a few spots of low current.

But I found a nice spot where standing on the inside of a bend I had fast shallow water running into a deep corner pool creating a bit of a shelf where the shallow water dropped into the pool - a fact you could only find by drifting your nymphs and feeling through the rod tip the actual depth.  I fished the deep part of the pool first, thinking maybe the slower water would let my flies be seen a little better (and having your flies being seen is the first step to catching), but tagged nothing there, not even any woody debris.  Then I worked up in the shallower water and let the flies drift over what I thought was the shelf.  The action was instant and I got several nice cutthroat in the 25-30cm range - nothing huge, but on the Sage 2100, still very rewarding.


I worked through the run, then walked along the trails to some other locations downstream, fishing the woody debris where I could find it, and looking for the inside seams where the larger fish might hold.  I didn't find any large trout per se, but I definitely found the bigger fish in the more permanent lies as opposed to the temporary locations.  The 90 minutes I had went by fast, and unfortunately I was heading back to the hotel before I knew it.  But all in all it was a great half session.  Any chance to explore new waters in tough conditions (while escaping the single-fly yoke of my home BC waters) is a great experience in my books!

So a great diversion on a fun family trip got me a couple of hours of fishing - a stillwater 1 hour bank session and a river 1.5 hour bank session!  Altogether not a full session, but close enough for me.

Title: Re: Brief excusion into Washington state
Post by: Istvan Kereszturi on April 30, 2017, 11:00:43 PM
Glad you had some time to get away and try out a new water.
I was wondering, how does it work for us to fish in the states? IS there a licence we can get online same as in BC?
I heard from someone that you don't need any licence, you can just fish anywhere, but I have a hard time believing that.
Thanks Chris
Title: Re: Brief excusion into Washington state
Post by: Chris Puchniak on May 01, 2017, 07:04:01 AM
You do need a license in Washington,  and you can buy it online through the WDFW.  Very similar to BC.  Only difference is that in Washington you can get a combination license which is good for fresh and salt water if you want to, whereas that isn't an option here.

I know in Hawaii you do not need a license.
Title: Re: Brief excusion into Washington state
Post by: Istvan Kereszturi on May 03, 2017, 09:55:21 PM
Sounds good, thank you Chris