They have gone on sale on December 1st for the past few years. Last year they sold out in February, and this year I think it was by end of December. So you can't get one again this year, but mark your calendar for December 1st for the 2013 passes.
I know it has been over 15 years since I have fished the NF, Calligan lake or Hancock lake but unless something amazing has happened since I used to fish up there the fish are not large or numerous enough to justify that price.
If it includes access to some restricted beaver ponds with some big Brookies or Cutts(and there always were some of these well guarded secret gems), that is a lot to pay when the Middle Fork and S. Fork have similar fishing unless something has greatly changed. I would spend the money on gas and get to know Pass lake's moods.
There are some very large Browns and Rainbows(22 to 24 inches are my bests) in it but the fishing is not likely to be fast and furious.
The Lower main Snoqualmie River has some nice Sea Run Cutts as early as August that run 12 to 18 inches pretty commonly. Make sure you allow enough time to reach your take out point because the river moves slowly and has long meanders.
Maybe have an trolling motor is a good idea especially later into the fall?
Since I have moved back to my home town in retirement I am curious about what and why the Tree farm has become worth paying so much for access privileges?
It's been so long I forgot the name of the old mill pond on top of Mt Pilchuck and that was one of the true gems I remember fondly.Ebey Lake! That was the one I was trying to remember. They closed the gates during the last few years I still lived on the Westside. I saw a still partly spotted big Cougar cub on one of the winding drives up the hill. Only other wild couger I have seen was an adult half soaking wet emerging from wading across Rock Creek, MT., crossed the road in front of my car and bounded up a scree rock slope.
Anyone mind cluing me in on why it as become so coveted? I will never get to fish up there again but my best fly fishing buddy and I spent a lot of years exploring the barely visible tracks and about the best we ever did was catch a few 14 inch Cutts in 15 years. It is a close and pretty settings from Seattle for fishing but the fishing was never great.
It isn't like we didn't know much about the art of fly fishing and fly tying. We fished all over the PNW and the "Golden Triangle" centered on West Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Also the Kamloops area in central BC.
Uncountable floats down the Yakima and I lived an entire season in Okanagan and fished Chopaka many dozens of times just that year and every other place worth fishing up there.
Lack of crowds and proximity to Seattle area are the main draws. It's true that the fish aren't any larger or more plentiful than the public waters nearby.
Wow, I'm surprised there are still motorized permits! A group of us who get permits every year had an active email thread going around the holidays about how fast they sold out. I recall the permit counter was having a problem on their website, fluctuating a bit at one point, but it appears they were way off if there are still permits available.
A permit is only worth the fee if you feel that buying one provides value. It's clear from the tone of your posts that you are on a limited income and don't perceive the value of buying one. But it strikes me as curious that you don't seem to mind driving to Whidbey Island to fish Pass Lake. At $4.00 a gallon and rising, the fuels cost driving from the Seattle area will rapidly exceed the cost of a tree farm permit.
As Lugan mentioned above, buying a tree farm permit allows you to fish private waters that are within 45 minutes or so from Seattle. Since a fixed number of permits are sold every year, it's unlikely that you'll run into many other people once you're behind the gates.
One of my tree farm cronies refers to having a permit as like belonging to a rustic country club with a very exclusive membership. The possibility of vandalism or assault that exist at other public waters are virtually non-existant on the farm. I often don't bother to lock my truck when I'm up there.
Finally (and I hesitate to share this), while tree farm waters provide fishing that is somewhat like other westside locations, the vastly lower angling pressure thanks to fewer fishermen means that your chances of catching more and larger fish are higher. The tree farm hasn't been planted in several years (and counting), yet many of its waters have natural reproduction that causes them to handily exceed both the quantity and size of fish you're likely to find on public waters.
A two-dozen fish day in mid-season on the farm is common, releasing native coastal cutts and brookies in different age cohorts that range from 6-7 inches to 16-18 inches. Fishing most westside public waters means catching cookie-cutter rainbows or triploids that have only been planted that year. In my experience, planted fish tend to either be stupid (and thus die off quickly thanks to catch-and-kill anglers or predators) or become quite wary and difficult to catch (thanks to high angler pressure).
It's well worth it to me (and just under 1,000 others) to spend $225 every year to experience better fishing and fewer people fishing there while saving time and money spent on gas.
I lived in Kirkland for 27 years but I grew up here and returned to my home in the Lewiston/Clarkston Valley over 13 years ago so I no longer have to contend with the Westside crowds anymore. While I lived there I got to know the fishing opportunities as much as I could and there are few places I haven't fished many times.I still miss floating the Lower Stilly in the fall to fish for the beautiful Sea Run Cutts. Now I fish for native Westslope Cutts.
I always vacationed back here or heading over the pass and fishing in Rock creek near Missoula, Yellowstone Pk, the Big Hole River Henry's Lake and Henry's Fork of the Snake River. These places are now all much closer.
The Clearwater and Snake Rivers are within five minutes of my house. I can be on the Lower Grande Ronde within 45 minutes. It is only about a 3-1/2 hour drive to reach Lenice Lake or the Lochsa River. Many people travel from all over the country and spend thousands of dollars to go on guided float trips over here down the Clearwater River orthe Snake River through Hell's Canyon. My idea of a long trip now is the slow drive to Kelly Creek some 4-1/2 hours away.
I did fish the tree farm a lot while I still lived over there and all the things you say about it are true. Gas wasn't nearly as expensive when I lived over there so going to Pass Lake wasn't hard on the budget and I could get there in under an hour. I can only try to imagine how much worse the traffic is over there now as I have not been back since leaving. It was just about the time I left that the fees were introduced to get access to the tree farm. I think it is a scenic gem and very close by so it is as you say, probably worth buying a permit to get away from the crowded public waters and enjoy a little better security. I still miss fishing Leech lake on White Pass for it's Brookies but I get by.
Perhaps you can forgive me for my culture shock as I just learned how expensive the tree farm permits had become. I think they started out at only about $20 back in the day.
I wish you only the best and may you always have tight lines.
I can remember when Dave(Wetline) used to take a couple of us to fish the N/F Tolt river..,Some nice sized fish in there. But I could never catch them. Now everybody that goes in there needs a pass. No more car full of people to fish.
Plus he used to show me where all the bears were up in the woods.
I understand your shock completely. When I started fishing the farm back in the mid-1990s, Weyerhaeuser only charged $50 or $60 per vehicle, no matter how many anglers were in it. And back then, a lot of folks were pretty pissed because a few years earlier they used to be able to drive around up there for free. Now, every person riding in a permitted vehicle has to have their own permit.
Here's another shocker that you probably also remember. I remember buying gas while in college in the early 1970s when it cost 30¢ a gallon and the occasional gas war dropped it to under 20¢! I could fill up my 1960 Chevy 1/2 ton 6-cyl pickup for under $4.00! Today, it costs $60.00 to fill up my Ford Ranger pickup which lasts just 240 miles or so before the warning light comes on. As a result, I tend to fish close to home unless I can team up with some buddies and we carpool to help distribute the pain at the pump.
Back before WWI, getting from Seattle up to Calligan or Hancock Lakes took quite a bit of time and effort. Driving there from Seattle took hours over primitive roads and logging tracks to finally park at what's now the bridge over the NF Snoqualmie. Getting from there to the lake was literally a hike - across two suspension bridges and then a vertical gain of about 1200 feet over 6-8 miles up the outlet creeks.
There weren't any float tubes or pontoon boats then, so fishing those lakes meant either hauling up a canoe or using one of the rafts that earlier fishermen had built then tied up along the shore. Since it took a full day just to get to the lake, most folks camped once they got there which meant lugging their heavy canvas tents and wool blankets up the steep trail along with their fishing gear. Those early tree farm fishermen were a pretty determined group!
Compared with the 'expedition' it took just to get to the lake back then, spending $225 for a permit and being able to drive to it in about an hour and a half from my house is pure luxury, even if the round trip costs about $25 in gas.
If you're ever in the area, I'd love to visit with you over a beer or three and hear about your experiences up on the farm.
It is fun to reminisce about the past history of this area. Your experience goes much further back than mine.
My most memorable fishing trip to Hancock lake was when a buddy and i took his pram out on the lake. It was the only trip when one of us hooked what was obviously one of the the larger fish but like most such stories, the fish got off so we will never know what we had hooked. Just as memorable was we had packed bag lunches. We had been out on the lake for about an hour when one lunch bag began moving. Upon opening it up a chipmunk sprung from the bag and leaped out of the boat into the middle of the lake. The poor rodent had to make a marathon swim to reach safety but I don't know if it made it.
I always thought that Hancock had some few big fish and regret that we never did hook and land one. There are several species of trout in the lake so it makes me wonder what kind the large one we hooked and lost was. All the other fish we caught over the years were six inch Cutts.
It is not likely I will ever fish on the west side again but I thank you for you kind invitation to get together. I extend the same invite to you should you ever decide to come over to the Lewsiston/Clarkston area.