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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

Due to work and other time constraints, my research time is limited, but I'm contemplating a couple day trip to the peninsula and would like to pick the collective brain.

This potential trip is the suggestion of my 24 year old son who has some time away from work & school and has never caught a steelhead before....the idea being that we'd meet over there and flog a river for a couple days.

I'm no great steelheader, but I love going out and swinging a fly. I typically don't do many overnight trips so my knowledge base is limited to waters within a couple hours of Bellingham...meaning I have little knowledge of timing and such over there.

I'm not asking for anyone's secret spot just some general information to help as I start looking into it...so here goes:

The potential dates to be on the water are Dec 20 & 21. Would fish be showing at this time?

Then, any particular river to suggest? We would be on foot, so which system might be better suited to walking and wading at this time of year? Also, I'm considering dragging my little travel trailer if there's a campground nearby.

Guess that's about it. Thanks in advance for whatever you're willing to share as I start looking into this.

Mike d
 

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If December 20 and 21 is your time frame, bring your own rock and prepare to do battle on the Lower Bogachiel as the majority of the run will be hatchery component at that point and quite concentrated. If you're walking, foot access to the Lower Bogachiel is limited to more well-known access points around boat ramps (Hatchery, Wilson's, Leyendecker).

If I were you I would also consider looking south to some of the Oregon waters...the Sandy was fishing extremely well around that time last year and there is a ton of foot access around Oxbow Park, along with great camping facilities. Early reports from there this year are promising at the moment.

If you're dead set on the West End and absolutely have to catch a steelhead during hatchery season the best advise is probably to hire a guide and have him row you down the river while you fish eggs/yarnies under an indicator.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yeah, those are the dates my son has available. After checking past catch reports it looks like we're early for the other rivers over there, but who knows what his schedule will be like early next year. And I'm not into combat fishing so I'm not too interested in what the lower Bogachiel sounds like.

You've got my interest though regarding the Sandy. The various internet sites make it sound almost too good to be true and travel time is about the same after including the ferry ride. But is it crazy busy being not far from Portland?

And just to confirm regarding licenses, an out of stater must purchase either the hatchery steelhead harvest card or the angling tag in addition to the license?
 

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The Lower Bogachiel can be good at that time for hatchery run, but since the access points for walk-in anglers are limited you will have company, and I've never known the early Bogy hatchery fish to be really responsive to the swung fly (others may have different stories though). The other rivers around Forks will all have a mix of *very* few early wild fish and some hatchery strays. You next best bet would probably be poking around the Sol Duc if you went to the coast. Bogachiel State Park offers trailer spots if you haul out your camper, and I believe Three Rivers Campground has some trailer hookups closer to the Lower Bogachiel near Leyendecker.

I believe in Oregon you'd simply need the daily non-res license PLUS the Columbia trib endorsement for fishing the Sandy. I'm not sure about the harvest card as I've never needed one since I hadn't planned on harvesting any fish, but if that's something you're interested in it's probably needed.

I've generally found the Sandy to be less crowded than West End rivers which is counterintuitive considering its proximity to Portland. The Oregon guys just have so many other options that the pressure is distributed a bit more effectively I think.
 

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for just a couple days get a motel in Forks. i imagine getting a trailer from Bellingham to Forks would be spendy and enough hassle to justify a motel.

all the rivers are good. the Hoh probably has the best access to good swinging water and is because of that the most popular.
 

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MD,

If you are not already familiar with the OP rivers, doing a 2-day walk and wade with your son with Dec. 20-21 as the unalterable specified dates, your chances of hooking a steelhead are about 0.001, or less. Unless you go with an experienced OP guide; then your chances increase to 0.01 or better, depending mostly on water conditions. Call Jim Kerr, J.D. Love, or one of the other OP fly guides. There is a learning curve on OP rivers, and because the winter water conditions vary so much, it's rarely steep.

Sg
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks to everyone who replied. It's looking like this is going to be shelved for the time being since his schedule has changed again. Maybe things will look up in late winter/spring.

Going off on a tangent here regarding hatchery returns...My home river is the Nooksack. (Yeah, I know you're all getting really jealous right now. ;)) If I'm reading the reports correctly, the last steelhead smolt release was in 2013. Then, if I understand it correctly, those fish most likely would have all returned last year. So the chances of my coming in contact with a hatchery return this year are pretty close to nil, right? Or is the 2 year in the salt just a generality and there could be fish trickling in this year, too?
 

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There could be some 3-salt hatchery steelhead trickling back this season. However, the Nooksack has notoriously poor smolt to adult conversion in terms of returning adult steelhead. But you could pick up the odd bull trout or coho while searching for steelhead. You're not allowed to target bull trout if memory serves, but it may be open for coho through the end of the month. Best to check the regs and emergency regs.

Sg
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yeah the Nooksack has impressed me as a river in trouble for years. What a shame...but it's close and there's always hope :).

Guess I'll be driving more this year...or maybe I'll finally finish that dining room hutch that I promised to my wife a couple years ago ;)
 

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Yeah the Nooksack has impressed me as a river in trouble for years. What a shame...but it's close and there's always hope :).

Guess I'll be driving more this year...or maybe I'll finally finish that dining room hutch that I promised to my wife a couple years ago ;)
The hatchery return on the NF Nooksack was substantially better last winter but still nothing to write home about.
 

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Our "2 salt" winter fish this year were released in 2015. "3 salts" in 2014. Also, there's a lot of rivers on the coast (hint: not just OP) that get early winter hatchery releases. Many of those are more accessible to the boot-bound angler than the Bogie.
 
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