The Elwha River, Between the Dams

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by rdh2059, Sep 4, 2011.

  1. On Saturday September 3rd I decide to spend the day on the Elwha. The Elwha is about to be closed to all fishing for around 5 years, due to the removal of the two dams on this river, so I wanted to make a trip to it to experience it as it is...
    The river temp was 55degrees. There seemed to be a lot of water flowing in the river for early September. I am not sure, but suspect they must have been releasing water from the upper dam, in preparation for taking the dam out. Skies were clear and sunny. It was a bit windy on the river, especially the lower part of the river, just above Lake Aldwell. There was plenty of insect life on the river. LOTS of may flies and caddis, but the presence of October caddis in the air, made my decision for fly patterns. When October caddis are found, fish seem to go nuts! I started the day up river inside the ONP boundary. There isn't that many places to get access to the river without hiking, but eventually ended up on the river in some fairly rough pocket water. I have to say, this was some of the most challenging wading I have ever encountered. The combination of moss and algae on the rocks made the wading more like trying to walk on melting ice! Every step was a potential spill in the making. This made getting in the best positions nearly impossible. I caught fish, from 6 to about 10 inches, but this was extremely difficult going. I ended up heading down river to try a different area. About half way down this stretch of the river, there is a corner of the river where the flow takes a 90degree turn because of a basalt wall. This has created a large, very deep pool of relatively clear, blue green water. Unfortunately I did not bring a sinking fly line with me and had virtually no success on top. Even here, the wading was difficult. Another trip farther down river... By this time, the wind was blowing so hard that it was making casting very difficult. I caught fish, but again they were small.
    This is some beautiful country, with Mount Olympus in the distance, tree covered hills and cliffs and a gem of a river. There were people floating the river in rafts, which probably were disturbing the fish, but all in all it was a nice trip. Didn't catch anything of size, but it was enjoyable. It will probably take a few days for my back and feet to recover from this slippery wading, but good trip...

  2. Thanks Rick that ls something I'l never get to do but through your eyes so to speak and the few times I was aable to dri've near by . That really gives me a picture. IVe followed things about the Elwha for many years and finally it maybe is going to happen.
  3. Nice report Rick. The gauge that I check records flows entering the upper lake (just out of Rica Canyon) and the flows are well above normal. I fished the Hoh last week (no runs, no hits, no errors) and I could see lots of snow still on some of the slopes in the upper watershed. Your experience with the challenging wading on the between-dam section of the Elwha mirrors my own. I am a competent, aggressive wader, but I have NEVER waded a section of river that is more treacherous with large angular boulders that can shift and are slick as snot. I have taken multiple spills and ravaged my shins multiple times. The Humes Ranch section between Rica Canyon and the Grand Canyon is much easier to wade in my experience, at least regarding the bottom. I attribute the extra challenge in the between-dam section to the lack of smaller rocks and gravel to help secure the larger rocks in place. The smaller rocks / gravel (and a huge quantity of glacial silt) have been trapped behind the upper dam for about 100 years and that between-dam section is starved for that smaller material. I find wading the Cowlitz has some of the same challenges because the river below the dams lacks smaller rocks and gravel for the most part.
  4. Fished the river from the Altair campground downstream a couple of weeks ago. I'd originally planned to hike in to the Humes ranch section but the road's washed out and I wasn't prepared for the 5 mile 1500ft elevation gain hike-in.
    Fish hit lightning bugs and pat's stones pretty consistently all day. Best hours were early morning and evening. Lots of fish to hand but nothing larger than 10-12 inches during the day. But just in the half hour before dark the surface action heated up. Multiple hatches at the same time with fish rising everywhere. I was fishing off the sunken ledge just below the campground bridge and doing well on dries. Bigger fish where rising at the tailout so I crossed over and waded out in the near dark to cast to some bigger rises. 14 inch rainbow was the fish of the weekend. Parachute Adams 18 works in so many situations.

    Wading back in by the light of my headlamp I had bats swooping down in my face to snatch bugs attracted by the light. Very cool sight.

    I agree with you about the wading. Went in up to my chest once. Last year I was able to cross at a number of locations, this year the river was not allowing that.

    Has anyone hiked or biked up the Whiskey Bend road from the ranger station to the Humes ranch trail? How difficult was it and how long did it take? I'm toying with the idea of riding my mountain bike up there. This is the last chance to fish some of my favorite water for 5 years.

    Maybe I'll teach my son/daughter to fly fish for steelhead up there someday. She/he will be born in April.
  5. New as a member but a long time lurker. I am so stoked by the Dam removal. I have been following this for years. It took a while but now it's real.

    One thought I have had is are there any plans to stock the river with trout from Cresent Lake stock? They may represent the genetics of what was there before the dam, way before like 7,000 years. But the big cutthroat and Lake Steelhead/Rainbows should be kin to what was there way before any human impacts.

    Hope I get to fish the upper reaches for anadromous fish.
  6. Their intent is to set a moritorium on all fishing for 5 years and to let nature do what it will. I believe fishing ends at the end of October and won't open again until 2016. :-( The "experts" figure it is going to take nearly that long for all the excess sediment to clear out. They even expect the ediz hook to increase in size due to all the silt that will be blown out of the river...

    Lets hope for the best (and that we all live long enough to fish it in 2016...

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