Active Member
I have been reading a superb steelhead fly fishing book written by one of the local legends, Steve Raymond. This book has got me so pumped up for steelhead'n this winter. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about some of the fabled rivers of the Pacific Northwest. I have a couple questions that I know some of the members of this forum could fill me in on. I have long considered the Skykomish as my home waters, but the NF stilly has been drawing me to it. The NF stilly seems somewhat of a magical and alluring place for myself to visit recently. my question is this:

1. What is the current Deer Creek situation? I've never fished anywhere around it, but have seen it. This book was published in 1991, has it gotten better since then?

2. The riffle hitch. anybody attempted this techique?

Thanks to anyone for responding, and filling in the details. And very big ups (props) to Sparse Grey Hackle for loaning me this treasury from his extensive flyfishing book collection. Thanks homey!



I don't fish the NF much so can't offer much on that one except to say that in talks with Curt Kraemer, he has been very pleased with the way the Deer Creek runs have bounced back from what was once expected extinction. I am sure there are readers out there with more specifics.

As for the riffle hitch, I use it quite often for summer-run fishing. I have been a firm believer in this since reading Bob Arnold's books. By the way, these are great reads if you have not had a chance to read them. The first, Steelhead Water, is a classic with much of the focus on the NF Stilly and the Sauk for winter runs. The second, Steelhead and the Floating Line, is more focused on the Wenatchee and the Grand Rhonde but has some great general summer run info in it.

Back to the riffling hitch. I have found it to be most effective on high riding patterns like the "after dinner mint" or any muddler pattern. Others though routinely use it with more traditional wet flies (purple peril, Sky sunrise, etc.) and swear by it. I think I lean towards the higher profile patterns as they are really a kick to watch and fish when riffle hitched. The fly just chugs across the lie and the strikes are quite visable!



Active Member
It's true that Deer Creek's prospects are better than they once were (I haven't seen chocolate water there from logging in a while, but I'm not up there that much either). Sadly, the fishing is still poor compared to historical levels, and native fish are tough to find in the summer. When they are around, though, they are serious grabbers.

I also agree with sinktip that the riffle hitch works. It's tough to sink a fly with the hitch tied correctly. I wish I had the confidence in my floating line fishing to use it more often, but I usually just stick with the sink tips.



Active Member
I've got some numbers from Curt Kraemer here somewhere -- if I could only find them. The Deer Creek run has actually rebounded to a degree that few would have thought posssible after the rape of its watershed. For a graphic description of the "mass wasting event" near the mouth of DeForest Creek that did (and continues to do) most of the damage to Deer Creek, read Bob Arnold's "Steelhead Water" (Amato Publications, 1993). The final chapter, "Epitaph: Deer Creek Revisited" tells the story of the catastrophe and delivers a highly pessimistic prognosis of Deer Creek's future.

Fortunately, Bob, and nearly everyone else, was wrong; given time, the watershed has begun to heal and the native summer-runs have begun to rebuild their numbers. From a low of less than one hundred fish in the late 'eighties, we are now seeing fairly consistent figures of near a thousand or more. It's really quite a tribute to the strength and resiliency of the native, wild steelhead and to the ability of ecosystem to recover from such widespread destruction.


Ignored Member
"From the mid-1970s to the present, the summer-run steelhead population in Deer Creek has declined precipitously. Beginning in 1984, fish population studies by the Department of Wildlife show declines of about 50 percent per generation. The Department estimates that from a historical run size of 1,500 to 2,000 adults, to a 1990 estimate of 80 to 100 adults, this unique run of steelhead could reach extinction by the year 2000."

Quote from a piece written by Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Washington Trout Inc., of logging's effects on a western Washington creek.

I believe that last year’s Deer Creek run size was estimated at somewhere around 1,200 fish. If I am correct this is quite a turn around from what was to be near extinction by the year 2000. My numbers might be off a bit but the Deer Creek steelhead have proven that if given a chance with help, they can recover.

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
Just to cover the almost obvious, but Deer Creek is closed to fishing according to the 2002 regulations.

Genetic pollution damages wild
stocks, bonk those Hatchery Zombies!
Love the book. Love Steve's writing. Love fishing above Deer Creek and love to tie the riffle hitch.

I just tie a clinch knot and do one overhand knot over the eye. I change the side of the knot depending on what side river I fish from. I usually only fish it in low water with a dry line though.

The whole Stilly river is what I imagine when I think of Pacific Northwest Steelheading. Some of the best fishermen I have ever met had their best days on that river and have been schooled in hard knox because of the tough yet plentiful fishing there.

One day you can catch 20, the next none. One day you can catch a 20 pounder and the next none. This is also the river where I have heard of the mysterious first cast first grab story. At least 10 different people hooking fish on their first cast.

Mike Kinney knows probably the most about the river since he grew up fishing it every day. He probably won't say anything except that he fishes it or that it will have fish. I think he lives accross the street from an Oso stretch.


Active Member
Both Roderick Haig-Brown and Zane Grey took steelhead from Deer Creek in the years prior to its closure to all fishing in the 1930's, in Haig-Brown's case, his first (see "A River Never Sleeps"). Providing a refuge for one of only a very few native races of summer-run steelhead in the Puget Sound drainage at that early date is probably one of the most far-sighted actions that state game managers have ever taken. It's a pity that similar protections could not have been put in place to prevent the kind of "give no quarter, take no prisoners" timber harvest activities that were to take place during the ensuing decades. The North Fork of the Stillaguamish came under fly fishing only regulations, during the summer season, in 1941 largely through the efforts of the Washington Fly Fishing Club.


Piscatorial predilection
I've never fished the NF Stilly that I didn't feel the presence and power of it's legend and history.

But you will never know what that is, if you've never read any of the great books about it.

To learn of a river is to experience it in a fullness that will make you marvel at the opportunity to share in a part of that legend, even if no one else ever knows you were there.