Local Knowledge

I will be in Portland and Seattle for a business trip the first week of July (1 & 2), and will have one free afternoon. Any recommendations for a location between the two cities (or near one) where I can spend a few hours fly-fishing? Prefer rivers or streams, but lake would be OK in a pinch.

Thanks in advance for any help, be glad to return the favor if anybody's heading to Arizona. (If the fires ever stop...terrible stuff).

o mykiss

Active Member
Dave, you might post on the Virtual Fly Shop Northwest Region Bulletin board for info on options near Portland. There's a lot more members of that board from Oregon. I was just in one of the fly shops in Seattle and they say all of the rivers up here - whether west of the mountains or east - are running high and off color. (Been like that for a while now.) We had pretty decent snow pack this year, and warm weather now, so there's a lot of melt off. However, if temps stay as warm as they are now for the next week or so, we might -- emphasize might -- be out of the major melt-off phase by the time you're up here in a week and a half. If we are, North, Middle or South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, all pretty easily and quickly accessed from Seattle and are decent for trout. Not big ones, but trout nonetheless. If you wanted to drive a little farther, you could hit the Yakima (east of the mountains, but only 1 1/2 to 2 hours a way depending on which section you fish), but that definitely won't be a good option if the flows are high. If you wanted to give a shot at steelhead, you could try the Skykomish, Snoqualmie (below the falls), Stillaguamish (North Fork preferred because FF only right now). There are probably some decent steelhead rivers between Portland and Seattle, but I'm not familiar with them. Perhaps someone else on this board could chime in on those options.
hey go down to a lighted dock at night and fish herring on the bottom with steel leaders and 4/0 hooks and you will catch dogfish by the dozens and maybe a skate or 2. last night I got 6 (slownight) between 2-10 lbs on a spinning rod loaded with 8 lb test. bigger dogfish this year than normal from what
i seen and my buddies have caught. have brought skate over 60 lbs before fishing docks at night. and have serouisly seen them 7 ft across before. now is the time to start catchin them. just toss your bait out grab a beer but dont leave your pole out of sight because it will be gone . it aint fly fishin but it rocks

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Dave, you'll be in Portland, so if you want to try finding an open spot on the Cowlitz, then it's your best bet. Raised limit to 3 fish and running very hot right now. Kalama is putting some fish out too. With a fly rod, you'll be limited on the Cow. Not that you can't, but it's hard throwing a fly amongst a crowd of gear guys. You can run up to barrier dam, or run down to Blue Creek. Once you're there, run up and down the bank until you find yourself a place to fish. If you're throwing gear, then go hit the hords of people. Good possiblitily at fish, even with all the people. Our boats in our party were limiting out by 9-10am out on the water. Plus, you'll have the chance at a nice fresh springer too.

"You haven't lived until you've run a cataraft. Friends don't let friends run Outcasts."
I'm looking for strictly fly-fishing, preferably with my smaller gear (4 weight Sage), since it will fit in my luggage. Basically, I should have Monday afternoon free, so thought I'd do what I can in such a short period of time. Is the Kalama pretty accessible? The only map I have shows a road going back in from the interstate, so are there spots to park and wade?

Finally, will the lightweight rod be sufficient, and if so, what types of flies do you suggest?

Thanks to everyone for the help.

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
If you hook a salmon or steelhead on your 4 weight, you will be in for the fight of your life. I would leave a 4 at home, and bring a 6 or 7 if you have them. But then again, steelhead are the fish of 1000 casts, so you might as well use the 4. :WINK

As to river access, I have not fished the Kalama, but I have a buddy who grew up on it and if I am not mistaken, I hear that there is a good bit of bank access, and it is quite fly fishable.

Actually, that "fight of your life" sounds pretty inviting. I found a fly shop near the Kalama, and they echoed what you said...8 weight is ideal, minimum 7. Problem is, the 7 weight is a two-piecer, so it's not as easy to travel with.

Having never fished for steehead before, I'm curious about the "fish of 1000 casts" angle. Are they sparse, finicky, or just hard to fool?

Thanks for the help.

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
Steelhead are easiest in the summer, but compared to trout, they are finicky, and typically they are sparce and hard to find. They are also quite wary, as they are now in shallow streams, where they grew up in salt water often crusing quite deep. Take care as you approach a hole that has fish likely in it. The warist will be in the tailout, and the easiest to approach will be in the head of a pool. I don't usually fish the pool itself, just the head and tail. Boulder drops and boulder runs may have fish in front of or behind the rocks. Remember, these are big powerful fish that are not afraid of the current, they will just be a bit out of it, so as not to waste energy.

Oh, and since you will be fishing for them for the first time you will need some steelhead flies. If you are interested in tying some up I would hit: http://www.angelfire.com/wa/salmonid/ and for a quick list stick to sizes 4, 6, and 8 in salmon hooks, or you can sub similar sizes in a heavy weight wet fly or nymph hook. I'm being vague about the sub hooks as it should be chosen by your eye. Now for a half dozen good patterns: Burlap, Green Butt Skunk, General Practitioner, Freight Train, Skykomish Sunrise, and Mack's Canyon. With a box containing these, I would not be afraid to go steelheading.

Oh, and don't mess with anything finer than 3x, steelhead are not leader shy in the least. And if you are fishing a sink tip, try type 4 or 6, and keep your leader short 3 or 4 feet is plenty.

Tight Loops:

Thanks for all the great info. Actually, the technique sounds a lot like what we have to do here, except we're frequently sneaking up on 8" fingerlings. They don't like the main channel either, but more because they're afraid some German Brown will be around to ruin their day.

In-between posts, I've done a little research on the flies, and they're definitely different than what I'm used to. But let's face it, how can you go wrong with a "Green Butt Skunk"?

Based on what you've provided, I suspect I won't sleep a lot this week, getting ready for the trip. (Pretty silly, huh, for one afternoon?)

Final question: I'm strictly C&R, so want to make sure not to do any damage to the fish. I suspect your average steelhead is sturdier than rainbows or cuts, but would a landing net be a necessity?

Thanks again, the advice has been great.

James Mello

Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"
Another place you can try would be the Deschutes near Olympia.... It's very close to I5, is immenantly fishable, and is a C&R stream. Hit up Pioneer park or oddly enough, the golf course....

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
Only steelhead newbies carry landing nets, or for that matter, guides on boats. Steelhead can easily be handled without harm once they give in to being caught. They can be caught and released just like trout.

As to the Green Butt Skunk, its a nice fly, but in dingier water, you may want something brighter or flashier, and the Burlap is best for gin clear water, and it looks like an exposed caddis larvae a nice morsel to a summer run waiting for winter.

As to the Deschutes near Olympia, that is a trout stream, which most of us have missed mentioning to you. Best coverage of that stream is in the outdoors section of www.theolympian.com.