Speaking of winter fishing options: Anyone know the scoop on fishing for Dolly Varden over on the Peninsula? I heard some river over there (maybe it's the Dungeness?)holds some big ones you can get on flies.
There was an article in NW Flyfishing about it. And in the next issue they printed a retraction of the article as it is illegal to target Dolly Varden/Bull Trout on the peninsula. That's the rules, incidental catches are ok, but to target them is a violation of the ESA.
It was the Quinault River, the NF and main fork. You can't techincally target them, but its open for species like trout, steelhead, and salmon. You're not going to get busted or anything, in fact, when I went up there, a park ranger was telling me how he flyfished the NF for whitefish and Dolly Varden. I would check out the article in the NW Flyfisher, its a great article. I actually did trout fish the river before that article came out, and I caught three 14-20 inch dollies on smallish streamers. Fun fish to catch.
I believe the issue with the Quinault was that the section of the river referred to in the article is within the National Park, and Park Policy makes fishing for native char (Dolly Varden/bull trout) illegal under the ESA.
I don't think it's illegal everywhere to fish for char. The US Fish and Wildlife Service enforces the ESA for bull trout, listed as threatened. (It is apparently impossible to scientifically differentiate between bull trout and Dollies, so they are managed as one species. Bull trout and Dolly Varden both have anadromous AND resident forms in western Washington.) When USFWS listed bull trout, they determined that WDFW's existing fishing regulations were adequately conservative, and approved them under the ESA. Since then, WDFW may have tightened up their regs, but at the time lots of water around the state was open for bull trout/Dollies, and likely still is, particularly in some parts of the Cascades and in north Puget Sound, where WDFW says char are doing well (doesn't mean it's true), but at any rate, there's probably no reason to fish water that's closed.
I think it would be a stretch to call WDFW overly conservative on harvest regulations, so when they do actually close a water body, it's probably overdue.
When you figure out what river you want to fish, try larger streamer patterns and wooly buggers - like you'd use for steelies. They are canibalistic and want a big meal. I've heard of big ones eating smaller trout that fisherman were in the middle of fighting.
I've found them in the deeper pools, the tailouts, long runs, and in very shallow water (so basically, fish everything but the fastest slots...). They like to follow the fly, so let it hang at the end of the swing. If there are spawing/spawned out salmon around, try flesh patterns or egg patterns dead drifted. By using these tactics, you are targeting any large trout, salmon, steelhead in the river. If a protected dolly/bull hits it, land it quickly, admire it for a quick second, and let it go on its way...
I almost hate to point this out in a public forum, but fishing for Dolly Varden/Bull Trout is legal in the Skagit and Sauk Rivers. There is a 20-inch minimum size limit. Even though it is legal to retain two fish I would certainly urge anyone fishing for them to put 'em back. Although I used to fish the Dungeness a lot, I don't think I ever caught more than a few Dollies and none of any great size.
Years ago when the Mad river was open for fishing. Me and my Brother-in -law fished it. He caught a 16" Dollie and when he landed it, it spit out a 6" rainbow. I don't think that I have flies that big. Unless it was a Salmon fly like a Coho fly. Jim S.:TT