Skagit/Sauk: Last Hurrah

Discussion in 'Spey Clave' started by miyawaki, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. Last December at a Washington Steelhead Flyfishers holiday party, I won a raffle for a house on the Sauk for the last weekend in April. I invited five of the hardest core steelheaders I know. Dinners were planned, breakfasts were dealt with, wine, beer, cigars and single malts were purchased - mostly for naught, as we were out of the house by 5AM and back at 9PM.

    Both rivers were dropping and stayed in shape all weekend. Friday brought bright sunshine all day and no one hooked or landed any fish.

    Saturday was drizzly and cloudy all day. Two of us floated the Sauk and didn't catch any, although I'm sure I had one look. On the Skagit: Joe Brown went one for one; Marty Leith landed two; and the grand poobah for the day was Michael Mathis, the Clearwater guide from Spokane, who went four for six. And, of course, the most memorable fish for him was the one that came unbuttoned.

    Sunday morning broke bright and clear. We were all on the Skagit, but the fish had moved on. The day was bright and clear so after breakfast at the bunny farm, we said our good byes and left Joe on the river to await the evening.

    Tomorrow the tips come off and the summer season begins.

  2. Wow. Four for six on the Sauk, hell, ANY WA river for winter steelies is damn fine fishing. Impressive!

  3. I was just wondering... When does the skykomish river open for steelhead?
  4. The Sky opens June 1 on the regular western river opening date.

  5. there are 6 steelhead in the skagit system? Who knew? ;)
  6. Leland:

    I am curious if you are willing to speculate on the difference in hooking success amongst what you called the hardest of hard core steelheaders. I assume it ranged between none and 4 with guys who probably know what they are doing

    I would be shocked with 4 hook ups in a trip to Sauk or Skagit. I guess I still have a lot to learn.

  7. Good question Joe as it got me thinking about it also.

    First off, two of us picked the wrong river. We had a raft and took it as an opportunity to float the Sauk.

    Of the other three, one guy, Joe is the most curious and adventurous steelheader I know. Simply mention a spot on a river you've been wondering about and he will find a way into it. He will only fish for wild fish and the flies he designs are not only beautiful but suit his fishing methods precisely. He was up and gone alone before any of us and was the second latest to return Saturday night. He caught one fish in the dark on his last run.

    Marty, has been back twice since Saturday night. He drives from Redmond to the Skagit, fishes three or four runs, and is back in the office at noon. Marty stores his sled at the Bunny Farm. He puts in more hours on the river than anyone else I know.

    Michael is from Spokane. He fishes the Clearwater and Snake. He loves fishing big water. There are not many steelhead rivers he hasn't fished and he's caught big fish in them all. He is totally intuitive when it comes to choosing his water. He fished the same #4 Purple Butt Skunk on all four fish he took.

    Each guy is very different but share a few things in common: They fish only steelhead; They know steelhead behaviour; They know steelhead water; They are modest and I've never heard them brag or boast, in fact, they are really quiet; Neither of them are what one would consider a "great" caster but they know how to put the fly where they want it and how to fish it. You would never call any of them a weekend steelheader, but if you spent any time with them, you'd call them hard core.

  8. Marty is a hell of an angler. He is a Skagit/Sauk angler in winter exclusively. His first steelhead ever was a 16-17 pound wild hen on the Skagit few years ago. He landed 9 steelhead on the Skagit his first winter season ever 5 years ago. He understands tips and how to utilize from 6 to 20 feet of T-14 to his advantage in winter and which delivery systems will get those tips where he needs them. The sled he runs is a minted out original 1978 Woolridge I sold part ownership to him before I left with no fluff but it gives him an opportunity to fish runs not once but often twice and to be able to run upriver when the driftboat armada has passed down through. He wastes no motion, no time and keeps the fly (usually black, articulated and tasty) in the strike zone. He fishes the hang down with a methodical purpose and keeps his leaders simple and short in winter. He always sharpens any hook he pulls out of his vest. He fishes the line to the reel (A well lubricated ready to scream Hardy). He will adjust his fly target zone on the cast to assist the swing in any way. He understands mending and attempts to find water that lets the fly "swim". He hates overmending. He plays fish extremely hard (losing his fair share due to the speed he attempts to get them landed and released) and knows how to apply side pressure in the fight. He looks for walking speed green and boulder strewn (nuggets we call them) waters with knee to chest depth and fishes the head, throat and tailout accordingly. He has the patience to stop in mid run, and change tips to get more or less depth or a better swing. Sometimes he will change tips 3 times in one run if it feels right. He is not Simon with a spey rod but more importantly is very consistent in his delivery and if needed can reach out and blast moon shots for those outlying shelves in lower water days on the Skagit. Most fish are hooked in the inside seams in well known and traditional runs but there are a few lies that are "deep in center field". How do I know all this shit about "Marty" you ask?:beer2: Coach

    Way to go Marty!:D
  9. Folks might be over looking an important point here.

    The most difficult thing about catching steelhead is finding them. The best presentation skills will be for naught if fishing over empty water.

    Tight lines
  10. Well I got layed off a month ago. Have been fishing the Skauk a ton since than, as in 4 days per week. Haven't gotten a single fish. This is my 10th season swinging flies and I am pretty damn good at it. I understand the water, how to swing it. I know the spots specifically to these rivers, as well as lots of secret banks that people don't even mess with for fear of having no back cast room. I pack a lot of food, water, sunscreen, and coffee and go from dawn till dusk moving at a pace to maximize fishing for a banker, this can be hard when the daylight lasts 14 hours. I know many guys I see all the time out there and talk to them, they have dismal reports. Old guys that have been fishing for decades as well have dismal reports.

    In fact, Myawaki's report is the best fly fishing report I have heard this entire season. I wasn't out Sat. but I know people who were and they didn't find anything and they knew what they were doing.

    Maybe one of these days the luck will find me but it never has, not in 10 years. Never had more than 1 fish to the bank in a day on the Skauk.

    The last couple seasons I thought I could progress my catching through skills, new sink tips, better articulated flies, fishing way more.......all for not. I have been trying to go fishing with some of the "best" steelheaders out there and when I have, they get blanked. The one thing I have learned in the countless hours is that there is absolutely no way to force a steelhead, and I think they are a lot more fucked than people want to admit. I used to catch a lot more when I had no clue what I was doing and that was only 10 years ago. Now I go 50 days in 2009 for 3 steelhead fishing from the bank....and those aren't lazy days, I am in the best shape of my life.

    It is getting really tough to swallow the fact that I have fished some of these runs 1000 times, runs that used to put out steelhead all the time, and I haven't gotten a fish. I can only enjoy the scenery so long, and be okay with not catching for so long.....before the bitterness starts to get me. I am very bitter about 2009 season and winter steelhead fishing with a fly has been my absolute favorite thing to do since I got my drivers license.

    To all the guys that simply "enjoy" being on the water, I am curious how many years you have been doing that. I suspect that at some point fishing the North Sound rivers year round for steelhead is going to get to you. It has to. It is just too damn dismal for the catching around here. I am at that point right now.

    Looking forward to spending many days getting blanked on the Stilly after June 1st......Last summer season, 30 days for 0 fish.
  11. I think I remember reading something in Dec Hogan's book about a guide friend (maybe even was Dec himself) who fished either the Sauk or Skagit for something like 30 days straight once in prime time season and totally blanked.

    I've never fished either river, but I know many really fine anglers who have. To have multiple hook-ups in several seasons, much less one day, is damn tough to do. I don't doubt that it's possible, but damn....

  12. Jason, i think it might be a lack of self-confidence.
  13. No dude. I am fishing great. Trust me. That is my whole point. These fish aren't there and I am highly skeptical of reports like these.

    I usually do really well when I go on trips to other places like the OP or Cali or wherever....places that actually have fish. I catch fish and am fishing runs blind.

    I am specifically talking about the S Rivers. These are the only rivers that "count" to me and these are the rivers that are taking a nose dive.

    In the past I have felt like, "There is always next year...." but now I am thinking that really won't be the case in the near future.

  14. It's been a tough discouraging year, but you'll be back next year. Hang in there. It is sad to see the once productive S rivers sliding into fishing history, but there is still hope.

    "Each guy is very different but share a few things in common: They fish only steelhead; They know steelhead behaviour; They know steelhead water; They are modest and I've never heard them brag or boast, in fact, they are really quiet; Neither of them are what one would consider a "great" caster but they know how to put the fly where they want it and how to fish it. You would never call any of them a weekend steelheader, but if you spent any time with them, you'd call them hard core."


    I really like this statement above. Some amongst us could benefit from the humility and ethics these guys bring to the pursuit of steelhead.
  15. Personally Jason...I don't get what your preaching..

    You should consider yourself lucky in that you have the time to fish...If you choose to fish "the only rivers that matter" and continue to get skunked..and it bothers you so much...I would have to ask Why?

    There are many other rivers, other fisheries that you can fish and still enjoy yourself, take a break dude and contemplate what your really out there for?
    Spending that many days and from dawn to dusk on the river doesn't make you hardcore!!!
    The "Hardcore" guys have had many days, seasons etc. like you've had but the flame is never diminished and you won't ever hear them say anything but.."Damn, where's the next run" and pack up and head out...

    I'm not hardcore...I spend allot of time in the hunt and pursuit but I am so not there...I get sick of it and take a break. Guy I fish with is probably one of the most hardcore steelhead guys around and I have admitted to myself pretty quickly that I'm not....I have been known to pull out my 000 and fished tiny dries to anything that will bite the middle of the day when summer runs are around...Oddily enough that's how I caught my first summer run too...Dah....My bud will look at me (often) and shakes his head..."We're here for steelhead damnit"... He is...I'm not...I'm out to enjoy the rivers for what they long as I got a fly on the end...I don't care if it comes down to lowly whitefish!! I am out to enjoy myself and enjoy where I am...

    There was a discussion on another site about what makes you a "hardcore" fisherman...Reading it I have to honestly say I'm very grateful I'm not...It would take the fun out of it for me...Granted I have fished in extreme weather, dawn to dusk more times then not..put my life in peril (at least in my mind) to get to spots to fish....etc. etc...
    But i'm the first one in our group to say Fuck this..and hit something else...too many lakes with trout as big as any steelhead your probably likely to see...and you can catch shitloads in a season...
    Too many rivers that you can skate dries on, too many beaches that hold secrets waiting to be discovered...Too many lakes with fish that will take you to your backing faster then any winter run slug!!!

    You got allot of years to enjoy it...or you can burn yourself out and say F*** it and bust out the goo and catch a shitload on the river(s) we've talked about before...
    By catch standards, my year kind of sucked too but the fish that I did get were spectacular and so it is what it is....I'm not yearning for next year...I'm yearning for the rest of this one...Goddamn it its a pink year too boot!!! Whooo Hoooo...bust out the switch and baby speys and fill out the tank on the bar b que!!!
  16. Very well said Golfman! To each is own......its up to you to decide what you enjoy the most and how you want to spend your time....I know for me personally, I don't have appropriate winter run rods and gear, so I don't target them much. I fish the salt all winter, and come March 1st, I'm a stillwater nut. Now, I can't stop chasing Smallmouth, in a month, I'll be chasing cutts all over the sound, then silvers, then in the fall I start fowling again. It's what brings you joy, don't do something just so you can call yourself "hard core" That's the wrong reason to do something, and if you fish to boost your ego, then stop fishing.
  17. I feel you Golfman! You speak the truth. That is why I caught a bunch of largemouth on rubber worms on a spinning rod the other day and had a blast.

    I am no swinging or fly fishing purist, but I definitely consider the S Rivers my church, and swinging a fly my bible, and it is hard for me to move on.

    I guess I just have too much of Trey Combs books deep in my soul.

    Maybe I just need to read some Bill Dance books! ;).......*just fuckin' kidding*......
  18. i was once told that "steelhead are stupid, and you just need to find them" , i believe him.... i think that timing has the most to do with catch numbers, i;e - flows, weather, etc.. second would be presentation and skill, lastly the stroke of luck cant hurt.
    my problem is ive only caught wild fish, i wanna learn how to catch hatchery fish if some will teach me:)
  19. It's been said by a number of guys that sometimes the steelhead find you. I think there might be some truth to that.


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