The Pacific coast is generous to anglers, perhaps too generous, but at least this generosity demands of them that they see and know the waters in all their moods and all their months… -Roderick Haig-Brown, A River Never Sleeps
October can be great. Or it can be terrible… There are plenty of different objectives for the late-fall fly fisherman in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, they are all very weather-dependent and the weather in October seemingly cannot be predicted by professional meteorologists much less me so I try to be flexible and have just a bit of blind faith optimism that opportune conditions will present.
This year, the double-dip la Nina weather pattern seems to have materialized after all and we’ve transitioned into the cool, cloudy weather for which Seattle is so famous. The small streams where I most enjoy chasing trout are all rising and cooling. As you’d expect, the fish are less eager to take flies other than the warmest hours of late afternoon.
Hoping to get one last day of dry fly trout fishing in this season, I took co-worker/friend/fishing partner, MK, to my favorite little stream that I never mention by name, especially on the interwebs.
The fishing started rather slow. The cool night had likely lowered the water temperature enough that the trouts were sleeping late, not particular interested in the bits of feather and thread that we were putting in front of them. Working our way downstream, we fished traditional softhackles on a wet fly swing. A few smaller fish were landed over several hours as we hiked & fished to our terminal point.
At a spot where the new river channel takes a hard left into very dense forest, we turned back upstream, clipped off the wet flies and replaced them with a dry fly pattern that I developed to be an impressionistic representation of larger caddis found in our rivers this time of year. The warming day (but still cool at about 60F), energized the trout and the fishing was steady for the hike back up river. Quite a few pretty small stream trout were landed including several that were decent sized for this little river.
Late in the day, I managed to hook a very large trout for this stream. It was big enough that I played it from the reel and needed to be careful of the light tippet I was using. After the cuthroat rolled and showed his size, the line suddenly went slack and I watched him glide away into the pool… Earlier in the day, I had hooked another large trout with exactly the same results and given the failing light, I reconciled myself to a pretty nice last day of small stream trout fishing in 2011.
As I was reeling in, I noticed a small dink rise near the far side of the pool where I had just hooked the big cutt. On the third cast, there was a gentle sipping rise to my fly. Setting the hook, I shouted to MK that it was “just another average trout” but then the fish cleared the water and landed with a splash that sounded like someone threw a cantaloupe in the river. The ‘kerploosh’ was followed by the wonderful scream of my little 90yr old Farlow gear/pawl reel. My ‘dink’ was actually Hog Johnson or his brother and I sure as hell didn’t want to lose another big trout. After several more nice jumps and runs, I led a very nice coastal cutthroat to shore, definitely outsized for this little river. It was a great way to end the day and the season and gave me a memory I’ll need to carry close at hand during the many winter steelhead skunkings to come…