Skittering and Swinging: A Season Away From The crowds

Ian Horning

Powerbait Entomologist
This summer has been all about rivers for me. Every once in a while I'll change it up, but exploring the higher reaches of our W. Washington rivers and fly fishing them has been one adventure after another and a constant learning experience when it comes to our native trout and their riverine friends.

As soon as the rivers opened, I jumped all over them regardless of the runoff-induced torrents they spewed out for what seemed like forever. It's one of those things Fishing OCD guys like me dream about from the end of the season to when it starts back up- and high water may dampen my confidence a bit, but when connection happens, the victory is all the sweeter.

Early season to me was for swinging big streamers and waiting for the line to be ripped out of my hand. It was my first true introduction to fishing a OPST Commando head, and paired with a stiff 5 weight, I began reaching my targets with ease, regardless of the background situation. This was a huge help, and kept my fly in the water and out of the trees so I could really cover the places I wanted to fish.

That first trip resulted in some of the biggest fish of the season.

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^A pair of nice bulls caught of the first day of the season^

^You'd be hard pressed to find a more perfect native Rainbow anywhere in Washington, at 22" long^

The big streamers got big takes that first day, and I was excited to see what else this section of river would produce.
As it turned out, the river would not yield another fish over 12" on three more frustrating trips.

After this stream became dormant, I pushed Eastward more towards the mountains, up higher and higher looking for action. The further I extended, the more beautiful and wild the scenery got. Critters abounded everywhere, and blackberry bramble was replaced by old growth baselayers. The water ran colder, swifter, and clearer, and nothing but the rush of the river, chirping of birds, and chatter of squirrels could be heard.

^I ran into bears almost every trip I made, this one a mom and two cubs^

I began using a lot of dries, and noticed something weird. The usual dead drifted Adams, EHC, you name it, received very little attention. After being perplexed for a while, I whipped out a big stonefly and slapped in on the surface. Nothing, nothing nothing, and then I swung it out of the run, and wham, a 12" trout went airborne with the fly in his mouth. This was followed by many more in the first hole alone.

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The pattern kept developing on itself. The perfect dead drift that is preached about? Nope. They wanted little to do with it. What really sold the fish was a twitched dry, or one skated across the pool. Cast the fly, and give little strips or jerks to imitate the fly struggling on the surface. And gulp after gulp followed from nice fish. To my dismay, some of the larger fish I rose to the dry missed it altogether, with me shaking my head every time. I rose fish every which way... twitching the dry, skating it, or putting a huge downstream bend in the line and literally having it shoot downriver... while giving it even more jerks. Some of the most savage rises (and misses) happened with this technique.

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^A pair of my Stonefly patterns. Tied on a size 8 hook, they are a big dry. Both the natural dark-over light and the purple and gold "Bad Dawg" got plenty of attention.^

^A large Stonefly casing, just under 2" long. A fine example of what these fish might see on the surface^

Even a fish that rose 8-10 times over the course of 15 minutes, to chase little bugs on the surface couldn't resist the big meal. I drifted a size 16 mayfly, an 18 para adams, and an even smaller CDC caddis right in his wheelhouse. He wanted none of it. First cast with the "Bad Dawg" stonefly, and he exploded on it. Funny how fish work.

I did not neglect the streamer game either. This produced nice fish, from 14"-18", and just about every time I hooked one of these resident rainbows, I thought "STEELHEAD!!" They fight well past their size, making fast runs, upstream dashes, tumbles and violent headshakes, and of course wild aerial leaps. I used smaller streamers than before, with natural colors being the big winner. Fast swings and strips got plenty of love, as did the slower quarter-downstream swings.
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^Two very nice specimens of rainbows, decorated highly with pink and red. The pictures do not do them justice.^

^A well-used, but intact Swinger^

And finally, the cap on the season was a surprise from the deeps, a healthy native summer run.

^Just a beautiful fish^

To all of the hits and misses, slips in the river, tumbles on the bank, dries stuck in the trees, leaky waders, victories and defeats, big fish, small fish, and everything else that makes a fishing trip memorable, I give my thanks. It always pays to explore, and this writeup is a tiny portion of the story. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed and maybe learned a thing or two in the process.

Happy Hunting


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Active Member
Most excellent! Thanks and next time I'm up on the skinny water I'm going to try your big bug skitter jerk technique!

River Pig

Active Member
I kid because I love. You do good work too, Swimmy

Nice report dude.

Lulz. Your team posts one solid report and you go and get cocky?

The fact that you felt the need to make the comment is really the tell here.

Clearly you haven't been visiting the saltwater forum.

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