Lake Crescent Report: June 10-14, 2013

This Trip

There are some trips that I would term Gierachian, the trips that you take because you need to let some problem fuzz out of focus as fish and fly occupy the foreground. This was not one of those. This was a trip of opportunity, as my son had gone to mom's for a two week visit and plenty of remaining vacation time beckoned to be used. This was a trip that, unlike those resulting from the woes of love, work, or money, was an unburdened journey to experience the place that so many, including me, have driven past many times and never fished. This was a trip to Lake Crescent, the unique, shining jewel on the northern edge of Olympic National Park.

I've had this bad habit, or something like that, of making fishing trips extremely spartan, sleeping in my truck, eating granola bars as my main source of sustenance, and rarely taking the time to make coffee in the morning. Inspired by the descriptions of excellent fishing camps set up by John and A.K., I packed all my camp and cooking gear and included my largest tent, camp chairs and a huge tarp. I aimed to ensure that I would have a fine camp conducive to making a solid breakfast, an enjoyable place to return to for lunch during afternoon lulls in the bite, and a comfortable hangout in the evenings with full meals prepared on the camping grill and dragonfly stove. I aimed to ensure that I would have a dry refuge from the intermittent rain that was forecast for the middle of the week, and brought along The Compleat Angler in addition to a sizable amount of tying materials to keep myself happy and occupied should such a need arise.

I left Sunday evening, in the middle of June, with my truck packed to the gills and the Bras de Fer, my twelve-foot 1967 Hewescraft, in tow with eight-foot Bucks South Fork piggy back strapped to her. There were no complaints from any of my rods and reels about being left behind - they all got to come along. Taking the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston I made my way up the peninsula and arrived at Fairholm campground after 10 PM. By headlamp light the massive tent was set up and the basics of camp set in place. In the morning a little time was spent finishing up the camp accouterments before launching at Storm King around 9 AM.


Very soon after taking to the water and exploring the protected cove near the launch where a couple fish were rising, but could not be enticed to my midge emerger offering, I fired up the outboard and crossed to a point near the Lyre River outlet. The breeze forecast (I do not, will not use the W-word) was light on Monday and what little there was in the morning was sheltered there. Upon arriving at the point I immediately noticed a school of agitated kokanee fry, followed soon after by a large fish slashing at them on the surface. I positioned the boat with the minnkota and began casting a 3-inch blue-over-white epoxy head streamer on a type-3 full sink line right up next to the rocky point. Stripping it back and trying varied retrieves brought follows from large trout after a few tries. But, alas, they were following but not attacking. Clearly I had a thing or two to learn.

The clarity of the water was amazing. I noted that my depth finder was reading sixty feet at one point and I could see structure on the bottom. I've never fished a lake with such depth and clarity. While running across the lake I was marking fish, kokanee I presume, between 450 and 500 feet where the bottom was about 550 feet.

The school of bait fish moved away from the point and the action stopped. I worked around the point and slowly moved down the heavily forested bank casting my streamer into structure. It was here that I hooked and nearly landed my first Beardslee Rainbow of around fourteen inches. When it threw the hook after a solid fight it was near enough to the boat that I could see the distinctive blue back. I had one other strike on this bank before I finally decided the bite had died and it was past noon. Getting back to Storm King was a bit more interesting as the breeze had kicked up and I was forced to push through whitecaps after rounding the protective point. With the 8-horse four-stroke Merc I'm only able to get my boat on a plane when it's calm or when I have the wind at my back so my speed was reduced to about 6-7 knots. I need a couple more horsepower at times like these.

After lunch and a bit more camp organization on Monday I launched the boat again at Fairholm at about 4 PM to see how the waters near camp would treat me. The protective screen of the forest on the west end provided glassy smooth water a good distance from shore in the northeast corner of the lake. I quickly found a school of kokanee fry hitting the surface and glided up with enough space to not spook the baitfish. It was just a couple minutes later that I saw a nice trout cruising near the outskirts of the school and dropped my streamer nearby. It immediately turned to look at what the disturbance was and as I started the retrieve, strip-strip-strip-strip, in quick consistent six-inch pulls, it followed, came close then turned. Huh... that's not it... cast again and its attention was on my fly. This time I did the same strip-strip-strip-strip and as it began to follow stripped faster as if escaping in hopes of triggering an aggressive strike. It turned again. Third time's a charm, right? So again I dropped the fly near the trout as it cruised away and this time as it turned to look at it I retrieved with a twitch-twitch-twitchtwitchtwitch-twitch-twitch, just little two-inch erratic movements and its look of interest turned to predatory focus as it accelerated and attacked the fly.

Fish on! I was immediately impressed by the strength and energy as it pulled the line out of my hand and went to my reel, pulling a bit more off my drag. A couple minutes later, after a couple more short but energetic runs, my first Beardslee Rainbow trout (Oncorynchus mykiss irideus f. beardsleii) slid into my net and I marveled at the blue back that matched the vibrant dark blue of the waters of Lake Crescent. The blue back made perfect sense, and the color match to the water was precise. What a perfect local adaptation.

As I fished into the evening, working the edges of kokanee fry schools, I picked up just one more rainbow, and lost a few others including a very large fish I had nearly to the boat that was a good eighteen or nineteen inches. Both the rainbows that graced my net were about fourteen inches. I went back to camp happy with my first day's progress, thinking it was great to have learned the proper retrieve. There is nothing like sight fishing streamers to cruising trout, seeing their reactions, feeling the heart race as they make their move to attack.

Grilled chicken over red beans and rice went down great with a couple Coronas. It was definitely gratifying to have a good camp set up for once. Wiped out from the drive over the night before, and a whole day of fishing and camp prep, I quickly fell into a piscatorial dream filled slumber with my alarm set for 6 AM.


It wasn't until 7 AM that I launched again at Fairholm. The weather had turned, and dark clouds loomed about, threatening. For now the water was smooth and even mid-lake was only sporting small, smooth waves and ripples. The baitfish activity on the west end was non-existent this morning. Apparently the fry were running deeper, unseen to me, as they were not being hunted from below. After a couple of hours of scouting and trolling with just a couple of light strikes in the area near camp, and with the air still calm, I fired up the outboard and ran the north shoreline searching for activity. This venture took me about two thirds of the way to the point before the Lyre outlet. I cast to likely looking structure a number of times along the way here and there, and at last noted that the light breeze that had gradually begun on my way down lake had now risen in strength and rain was moving in.

The lake turned to heavy chop. I was past the mid-point where the blow that is funneled down the valley from the west meets with that which is funneled out of the east and collides to create wicked whitecaps. Now, mind you, it wasn't that bad, but this is all in relational scale with the size of my boat. Knowing it was going to get worse before better I began a crossing in hopes that the south shore would provide some cover. To keep from taking on too much water over the bow I was forced into a traversing path and made it safely near the far bank where it was no better. And, by this time rain was blowing sideways making visibility poor. I'd had enough and needed to wait this out a bit as my eye was drawn to a tiny opening in a clump of trees on a rounded point with a gravel beach just big enough for the Bras de Fer to glide in for refuge. I spent about an hour under the dense canopy protected from the weather, marveled at the interwoven tapestry of flora with camera in hand, and occasionally peered out of the safe haven for a sign of reprieve.

When the rain stopped I began the arduous journey back west, plowing through chop at maybe 5 knots, and upon reaching the launch moored the boat. Rain was back, so I went to camp for awhile where I tied a couple of more subtle variations of the blue over white foxtail streamers and put them in my box. After a sandwich, a beer, and a short nap, it was time to try my luck again. As I fished into the evening I again had a couple of strikes but landed no fish, all the while dealing with intermittent squalls of rain and gusts that made positioning the boat rather, um, interesting. I solemnly accepted my first skunking in about a year and a half.


Plans had been made to meet a fellow Washington Fly Fishing forum member, Jim Wallace at the Fairholm launch at 6 AM. I slightly underestimated the time for my dragonfly to brew coffee and arrived at 6:05. Jim wasn't there yet as road construction on 101 created a 15-minute delay. As we'd discussed I launched and started to troll within site of the launch. I had just started when I heard him shout.

Conversation began as soon as we shook hands. Rods and gear were loaded up and we took to sight fishing the Fairholm corner. The bait was being actively pursued this morning and it wasn't long before the faint apparitions of trout below the surface began to materialize. There I'd say... pointing... and shortly came hook ups and Beardsleii.

The light grew stronger and out came JW's darker polarized glasses and the fish spotting doubled. He lost a beauty that he hooked near the bank that came out of nowhere as he fished his streamer deep along a giant log. We each hooked a number of bows and landed a couple, took a lunch break, then pulled the boat down to Storm King and motored across to the point I scouted on day one.

As hoped bait was being busted along the point. More beardslee were caught, conversation continued unabated, and then came the nasty, relentless rain. It got to a point where my double layer fleece pants were sopping wet. JW being better prepared in rain pants was unaffected but I finally opted to take cover for a bit and walked up in the forest where I wrung everything out.

When the rain let up a bit we ran back across fishing til near dusk along bank habitat on the south shore. It was here that JW caught a beautiful 16-inch Crescentii cutthroat trolling his flashy kok fry.

Back at camp later I showed off the camp amenities with grilled chicken over broccoli fettuccini and ice cold beer. There was no end to the stories, and plans, and talk of surfing and fishing and flies. Midnight rolled around and JW finally broke loose and hit the road. Was awesome to fish with Jim, and I'm looking forward to our next venture.


Well, after beer and midnight bedtime suffice to say I didn't get on the water til about 7 am. The weather wasn't as bad, still a bit blustery here and there. Throughout the day switched back and forth between trolling and sight fishing and picked up a few more beardslee rainbows, and a couple of Crescenti cutthroat which seem to have been of the Lyre River variety. The fishing was broken up a little by a quick trip to Forks where I had breakfast at the In Place and picked up more ice. Scouted a steelhead honey hole on the Sol Duc on my way back and saw no sign of summer runs that far up river.


My final day at Lake Crescent and I decided to mix things up a little. After catching about an 11 or 12-inch Kokanee with a large head and a skinny body (on a kok fry, the hungry little cannibal) and a beardslee near Fairholm I set to the arduous task of packing for the return. I kept waders, boots vest and two weight available as I packed, though, for my little end of trip twist.

After cleaning myself up as best I could and donning clean clothes I popped into Lake Crescent Lodge for lunch and a pint. The lodge is beautiful, and the taps available at the bar are adequate. My interest was piqued by the Lake Crescent Amber, brewed for the lodge exclusively by Pyramid, and a taste had me convinced rather well. Having a nice beer and an excellent platter of cod and chips served up while chatting the bartender and wait staff while it was a bit slow was a really nice change of pace. I do very much enjoy solo fishing time, and have no problem with my own company, but after four out of five days of it, I was ready for a little socializing and having food and drink brought to me.

With just the slightest of buzz from a second pint at the Lodge I made my way over to Barnes Creek, just off highway 101 to see what small trout it might hold. I was looking forward to this, as moving water really is my favorite thing. Shifting from my five-weight overloaded with a six-weight type-3 Rio full sink to my Orvis 1-ounce 6 1/2' two-weight (now-a-days called the superfine) and my Sage 3100 reel with Sage quiet taper line... well... it is just night and day as the little stream rod weighs a tad under 7 ounces with a loaded reel and balances perfectly. As soon as I dropped down from the 101 bridge abutment I was seeing fishy water and just a handful of casts with a #16 Elkhair Caddis brought up a nice nine inch Crescenti cutthroat. Working upstream I found that it isn't exactly loaded with fish, but that working a dry definitely finds a few. A mixed hatch was coming off with big blue wing olives at about size 16 with triple tails, and at about a size 14-16 large pale mayflys, perhaps some form of PMD or PED. After several fish, a few photos of the creek and surroundings, and just enjoying and soaking in the old growth beauty, I packed in and headed out. Rather than going straight home I decided to catch one more ferry and go to Pass Lake on Saturday - but that's a different story.

Oh man, what a great trip. I've driven by that lake many times, read about the unique fish, but never had a chance to give it a go. Thanks for spilling the beans on your trip in such a fun, entertaining read!
Thank you for posting such an informative and Inspiring account. I've driven by Crescent literally 100 times maybe more and always wondered about the fishing.
My daughters first learned to fly cast at camp David as a camp activity. Thanks for the reminder,
Awesome trip! I've fished the lake only a handful of times, and only from the bank. But I have been swimming in it's cold blue waters many times when I lived in PA. I love everything about that place. Thanks for sharing your trip and excellent photos. Makes me want to high tail it to Forks area right now for a few days of that!

Jeff Dodd

Active Member
Terrific report Jim and your photos too. Thank you!

I have fished the lake twice, both were brief. I really need to do a trip that is just as you described. Set up camp and fish during daylight and eat/sleep in the dark!

Last summer I took the family to East Lake campground for a night and fished the lake near this creek mouth early early early in the morning. Landed one cutthroat and that was just perfect!


Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
Excellent report Jim. Nice to finally put a face with a name in regards to Jim Wallace as well. Hell he's just a young buck ;).
I've only fished Crescent once now but it certainly won't be the last time.
Excellent report Jim. Nice to finally put a face with a name in regards to Jim Wallace as well. Hell he's just a young buck ;).
I've only fished Crescent once now but it certainly won't be the last time.

I think he's definitely got somethin' with all that surfin' and paddlin' he does... when I pussed out and had to take cover from the rain, it was pretty clear who the buck was!
Awesome trip! I've fished the lake only a handful of times, and only from the bank. But I have been swimming in it's cold blue waters many times when I lived in PA. I love everything about that place. Thanks for sharing your trip and excellent photos. Makes me want to high tail it to Forks area right now for a few days of that!

When I took a temperature read on Wednesday it was 56 F at the surface. Swimming was not on my list of things to do! Good on you... heheh.

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