Hooked on Dollys


Waters haunt me....
Bull Trout can't jump....

But I agree with you 100%. Bull Trout are one of the coolest most iconic fish of our region. 100% native's as far as I know.
I don't think there should be ANY retention allowed on them (nor on Coastal Cutthroat either, for that matter).

What Evan has posted. I have hooked Bulls on the Skagit that jumped. Thought I was hooked to a steelhead until I saw the fish up close... However, I can count on one hand how many times that has happened...


Well-Known Member
Cool to see how FAT the native char (deftly avoiding the Dolly v. bull trout debate) can get from a diet of pink salmon eggs and rotting flesh. All the char I've ever caught on the Puget Sound rivers have been long slender fish. I need to come fish when they've been eating especially well.



Active Member
While it is not a bull trout's style to jump much once hooked they can jump surprising well when needed. At falls encountered during their spawning migrations an adult bull can jump at least 4 to 5 times its body length. In fact in at least one location in the Skagit system bull trout can routinely get above a barrier that stops steelhead and Chinook.

As Evan suggests bull trout when in prime condition can be pretty active; complete with jumping and long runs. I recall a fish that hooked early in its upstream migration that jumped 5 times. Over the years there has been at least 10 occasions when I caught both bulls and steelhead during the day on the same gear that the "best" fish was not the steelhead

Remember most of the bulls we encounter this time of year are kelts (having just completed their spawning within the last few weeks) and it should hardly be a surprise that many of those fish are less than spectacular on the line. Their reputation as poor "fighters" is further enhanced when they are taken on tackle used to target steelhead. Since most of our bulls are in that 17 to 21 inch range I would suggest that a 5 weight outfit might be more appropriate for them than on steelhead rods. It has been my experience that well condition bulls taken on my 4 or 5 weight are at least on par with my beloved sea-run cutthroat and remind me very much of brown trout.

Hello, seeing if anyone can point me to a good place to fly fish for some Bulls - that's also easy/safe wadding? I was thinking of fishing the SAuk where the 503 crosses over the Sauk.

Also, is this a good time of the year to catch them with streamers?


Active Member
As I said in a prior response to this thread: through most of their lives, in fresh water or salt, bull trout are primarily piscivorous. So, yes, streamers are always a good option. Even when lying downstream of a salmon redd, picking up the occasional egg caught in the current, they will be inclined to take a crack at a baitfish pattern fluttered over their heads.
Love Bullies! Once a buddy of mine and I were fishing a river in MT. We were fishing streamers for big Cutts and Bows, I hooked a nice Cut about 20+ and as I'm fighting this fish a Bully comes out of nowhere and starts to attack the Cut right up to the edge of our raft as I'm trying to net the Cut. What a trip! This river is known for it's Bull Trout population and if you're even thought to be targeting them you'll have a problem with the law. So we kept our streamers "small/short". Bullies like 'em big from my experience. I've caught a pretty large one on the Hoh river here too while targeting Summer steel, that sucker was hefty and broke me off as my buddy tries to net it. :(.
I was surprised last year when an eighteen inch bull took my tiny dry fly while fishing the Met for cutthroat. Except for some I caught at black lake years ago, that's my only bull trout experience. I know there's some in Rufus Woods, but I've never got one.


Active Member
While bulls are fish eaters they are not above "snacking" on insects; including dry flies. On my home waters this time of year it is not uncommon during mayfly hatches (as sparse as they are on this water) to see the odd rise. Often it is bulls (especially the smaller -sub-20 inch) taking advantage of this additional food source.

While those actively feeding fish will usually take a well presented streamer if one desires they will also take a drag free dry. The trick is to be prepare to take advantage of those opportunities. I will often carry a dry line and a box of dries for some change of pace fishing -rarely will the dry fly game be as productive as streamers/flesh flies/egg patterns there is something satisfying taking a handful of bulls on dries on a nice winter afternoon. My best "Dolly" on a mayfly fished dry was a 26 Skagit male in January. In addition to mayflies they also can come to the surface for "stones". Back in the day when there was that CnR spring was the norm on the Skagit/Sauk during a March morning as I walked out of the woods to a favorite Sauk run I noticed a Skwala stone on a bush. I paused a moment where a side channel joined the main river in a nice riffle run of a 2 or 3 feet deep and before stepping into the water noticed a splashy rise. Upon taking a closer look say another Skwala as well as a handful of black stones on the water. As I changed over to a dry line and knotted on a Swkala dry it was obvious that there were at least 4 nice fish actively taking dries in that run. 3 of the 4 took the fly on the very first drift over them and the other took two casts.. All 4 were bulls of 4 to 5#s; just an example of being prepared for an unique opportunity. Those fish are much more memorable that the other bulls or even the steelhead that came later that day on more traditionally fished streamers.

For this angler at least the more I learn about and fish for bulls the more intrigue I have become with them.

About 3 weeks ago, I caught a couple of bull trout while stripping a 3 inch long steelhead popper / skater through the inside seam of a run in an S River. From what I could tell, maybe 1 in 4 would actually hit it. I am basing this on the fact that I caught quite a few more fish on my second pass using a sink tip and wet fly. Anyhow, I had been toying with this notion for a few years but had never bothered giving it a try.



Some of the best dollie fishing I've had was a couple years ago on a rainy August day swinging small buggers for steelhead. The river was low and it seemed like the rain had every fish in the river turned on. In a couple hours of fishing I landed about a half dozen cutthroat, a half dozen dollies, and a hatchery steelhead. All on a floater. View attachment 36724 View attachment 36725