Throwing Flies for Skagit River Steelhead

Spent the holidays in western Washington, mostly hanging with family. But I did sneak out for a day on the Skagit River, hoping to tempt a hatchery steelhead or an early returning native.

I didn’t go it alone and, instead, talked a friend of mine, Dave McCoy, who runs Emerald Water Anglers, into joining me. That he and one of his guides, Reid Curry, pulled oars all day, provided the Vitamin R, and didn’t laugh too loudly at some of my failed casts, was

Not bad for the first throws of 2014. Lots of fun loading and throwing but we didn’t connect with Mr. Steel.

much appreciated. We fished hard through a day when it either drizzled or poured just about every minute. Unfortunately, we never got a grab, at least from a steelhead. We did land a dolly and we lost a couple others, which kept things interesting. If you’re thinking about throwing for Skagit steel you should probably do it soon, as the river typically closes during winter, depending on the strength of native steelhead returns. Right now there seem to be decent numbers of hatchery fish in the system as I saw two “bankies” walking out of the Cascade River, each holding chromers. And, while floating the Skagit we saw a beautiful

Chucking during a break in the steady downpour.

10-pound chromer along a prime bank. We beached the boat quickly but couldn’t dredge that fish up.

I tell you this, it sure felt good to throw the two-hander again and swing flies. I haven’t thrown a two-hader since September, when I fished in Quebec for Atlantic salmon, and now all I want to do is throw Spey. I fished two rods on the Skagit, the first being my old trusty Sage Deathstar 7126-4 and the other being Redington’s new Dually, a 7130-4 to be exact. The Deathstar performed well as it always does. I decided to throw the Dually because I wanted to know if, for a pricepoint of $250, this would be a good go-to or

Little dolly in the net. Too bad we lost the one four times this size.

secondary rod for all of you. To be honest I didn’t think it would impress me as much as it did. And Curry felt the same way. McCoy, who has more experience with Spey rods than I do felt like it lost a little at the very end, but I threw that rod and line really well and it felt light and snappy, meaning I didn’t have to really punch it to get distance. The whole

The only place that my Simms gear, meaning wading boots, waders and a jacket failed was at the sleeves. And that’s only because I didn’t strap down the velcro cuffs. That oversight allowed water to roll down my arms. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold on the Skagit and although I got a little shaky by the end of the day, most of the time it was all bearable.

setup consisted of  the rod, a RIO 465 grain SwitchChucker, 12 feet of T-12 sinking line, a three-foot leader and black Pick Yer Pocket. To me, that setup felt great and I would encourage any of you who are getting into  Spey or those who are looking for a second rod to consider the Dually which, by coincidence, Curry named during his stint at FarBank, which is the holding company for Sage, Redington and RIO.

No steelhead pics to go with this post, but McCoy did provide some images from the day. Check out more of his work and his angling options at Emerald Water Anglers. Book him for a day or two on the Skagit, or hit the south Sound with him for sea-run cutthroat, which is a great winter fishery. Check out EWA’s fishing reports page here. NOTE: All photos copyright Dave McCoy.

Here’s what McCoy penned about our trip last week.

Greg Thomas multi-tasking…a nice cast, cigar in mouth and worried that his Fosters is filling up with rain water. Must be why we hooked so many fish, we weren’t thinking

Near the mouth of the Cascade River.

about them too much! Definitely steelhead around on the Skagit right now, high and low so get out there and get it while you can.

They didn’t have a chance to take on too much rainwater.

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5 Responses to Throwing Flies for Skagit River Steelhead

  1. Steve Z says:

    In early December I fished in Pulaski for steelhead. Results were much the same as yours (sans Dolly). I fished my switch rod with a skagit head for the first time in about a year. It took me a while to get the rhythm back but once I did I was reminded of just how nice a way it is to fish. That cascade shot is a beauty.

  2. Josh Rosenberger says:

    Great read as always!

    Quick question: Are those dollies or bulls? I know it’s hard to tell the difference, but isn’t the Skagit known for its diversity bull trout life histories, including anadromous bullies.

    Just a thought!

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