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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm new to fly fishing for steelhead I picked up an 8wt echo for real cheap on eBay so I'd like to try this winter for my first steelhead. I know there are better rivers out there but the skookumchuck is right close to the house so I'd be able to go more often. However I'm still puzzled to how you figure out when they are running in a river. It seems they all come in different rivers at different times. Is there any literature that I can read that will give me a general idea of when steelhead run on various rivers. Can anyone clue me in on when they start up the skookumchuck? Thanks for any pointers.
 

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Kyle,

The Skookumchuck steelhead used to run mainly late in the winter season, like March and April. They still do, but some years there will be fair numbers of fish arriving earlier, beginning in January. I've never looked into it, but that may be due to stocking some early timed hatchery steelhead, like Chambers Creek fish, but I honestly don't know. The Skookumchuck hatchery program was developed using native, late timed fish.

The best thing I can think of is to drive over and check it out beginning around the first of the year and see if anglers are catching fish or not. When it's slow, people are happy to let you know how bad the fishing is.

Good luck.

Sg
 

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Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
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Just about every Thursday, WDFW posts hatchery escapement reports on their website.
Look under winter steelhead to get some general ideas regarding steelhead returns.
For streams that have Chambers Creek hatchery fish, now through the end of January is you best bet.
http://wdfw.wa.gov/hatcheries/escapement/
You can also look back on past years returns.

The Chehalis tribs like the Skook in my opinion fish better later in the year, starting in February.

Native steelhead can show up anytime from now till the last systems close for the season in April.

Good luck out there.
SF
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the reply guys. I've seen that report before. Couldn't really make heads or tails of it. Like on the most recent report it says the skookum hatchery has had a 1000 coho come in. Does that mean coho are still running in there?
 

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Not uncommon to find late coho, especially there.

As others have said, there are certainly going to be fish around in December, but reports start building in late January and into February for steelhead. It sees pressure into April, partially because the hatchery recycles the fish downstream after they get broodstock. I think they hole-punch the tail each time they do that. Needless to say, the hatchery fish can get ripe and the few wild fish have little reprieve on that small river. Overall, I don't think it's an especially fun river to fly fish, especially with a one-hander unless you're good at nymphing and roll-casting. It's very brushy, difficult to wade, and difficult to access. It has fish, though, and you might get some good mileage out of it if you live close and are able to do a bit of scouting for good fly-friendly spots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Not uncommon to find late coho, especially there.

As others have said, there are certainly going to be fish around in December, but reports start building in late January and into February for steelhead. It sees pressure into April, partially because the hatchery recycles the fish downstream after they get broodstock. I think they hole-punch the tail each time they do that. Needless to say, the hatchery fish can get ripe and the few wild fish have little reprieve on that small river. Overall, I don't think it's an especially fun river to fly fish, especially with a one-hander unless you're good at nymphing and roll-casting. It's very brushy, difficult to wade, and difficult to access. It has fish, though, and you might get some good mileage out of it if you live close and are able to do a bit of scouting for good fly-friendly spots.
I love fishing that river. Haha but admittedly my flyfishing experience on other rivers is pretty much the deschutes (little) which I have fun exploring the upper reaches, the cowlitz never ever again, nisqually it's alright. The skookumchuck has a couple really nice spots, sandy beaches on private land I recently found late this summer caught a couple 10-11 rainbows and still haven't seen anyone else there. Learning to flyfish on the little d and the skookumchuck, I learned roll casting before overhead, still not great at either. Royal Wolff ambush line has made roll casting awesome though.
 

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kyle -

To learn a bit about the timing of steelhead runs (catches) of rivers new to me I found the catch reports useful. That information can be found under Sport Catch Reports on WDFW's web site. Those reports include salmon, sturgeon, etc. Scroll through the report to the steelhead sections and find the river of interest. The catch (hatchery) is broken out by month. For example on the Skookumchuck it looks like the best months *at least in the last few years) are typically February and March though some years good catches are reported in January and/or April. December catches are typically only a dozen or two.

Curt
 

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Get up early, walk, explore, listen and look for fish and other fisherman. I'd highly suggest getting out some before they start netting down below. There is lots of wood, so you will loose flies, and don't be afraid of shot or high water. It can be a tough crowd and a bit dirty, take a trash bag every now and then to help the river out. An ambush line is a great asset, you will improve those roll casts quickly or flounder. Wheather it is a "great" river or not... I was close by, so I spent too many days there two winters ago and caught my first steelhead, so it will always have a soft spot in my heart, cesspool or not. Tight lines and good knots. -kirk
 

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Topwater and tying.
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Went up there the other day. Blown and muddy at 330 cfs. Did practice my single hand spey. Was able to drop the fly next to the far bank just below Bloody Run. Saw a couple of Coho zombies, but that was it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I went there yesterday just to check it out. Still pretty brown tried practicing with my new 8wt and tried casting sink tips for the first time. That was an ugly experience.
 

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CCA, Hatchery Wild Coexist
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If it's that close to you then you could become the expert on that stream ? Do they still plant springers in the Skook ? Nothing wrong with late run coho.
 

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There are a few springers, but talk about hitting a window....

Skookumchuck is a fun place to hook (and usually lose) hatchery steelhead. The further you get away from the hatchery, the less crowding. You can generally find some fishy water and some solitude with a little hiking. Very little swing water. Lots of sneaky nymph lies. Fun change of pace, IMO. And yes, Feb. and March.
 
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