The crowds. Declining wild steelhead runs. Fish Politics… A few years back, I pretty much quit the Olympic Peninsula, for any number of reasons. Since then, I’ve been lucky to spend most of my steelhead time on the Bulkley, the Kispiox, the Skeena and Nass, unnamed BC coastal rivers and other places far and wide. Then there’s the food fishing in Puget Sound, Willapa Bay and the Columbia. Plenty to keep me busy, but I was jonesing to swing flies for wild steelhead, and this year, for the first time in a long time, I felt the pull of the OP.
Fellow fish fanatic Danielle and I headed west shortly after torrential rains had blown out every river in the state. We had to kill time before the rivers were fishable, so we walked into the Lower Elwha Dam Site and felt the power of a full and free river tearing through the canyon. We stood on the new Elwha Delta and watched the river meet the sea. Then we pushed on farther west.
The OP rivers were falling into shape, and we were soon swinging flies through high, dirty, yet fishable water. The skies cleared. Temps dropped. Snow fell. Conditions went from marginal to perfect. Not many fish around–Perhaps the bulk of the run (2-salt fish) perished in The Blob?–but enough to keep it interesting. And so much killer water to swing through! I had forgotten how much I love this place, and it felt great to remember.
Another bonus was time with JD Love, a good friend and the dean of Olympic Peninsula fly fishermen. We had a gorgeous elk-roast dinner with the Loves at their home on the Sol Duc, and a few hours here and there on the water together. JD’s generosity extended beyond local knowledge and dinner–he and his wife also came to the rescue when we found a lost beagle on the lower Hoh and spent the evening tracking down its owner.
As the days passed, I looked with fresh eyes at the natural beauty of our rainforest landscape, watched the crowds of bobber-tossing guided anglers grow as the waters dropped (one day I counted 17 boats in at Morgan’s Crossing on the Hoh…), and yes, even managed to scrape up a few fish on the swung fly.
I think it’s one of those things where you forget the treasure you have in your own backyard, take it for granted, grow frustrated with it. But after some time away, you understand and appreciate what you have, and perhaps love it even more than you did before. I will be back on the OP again. Soon.
Just home from a little visit to the remote central coast of British Columbia with my good buddy, Yvon. And when I say remote, I mean a 35-mile open-water boat ride in a 17-foot skiff from “town,” and a near-complete lack of infrastructure. But that’s pretty much what it takes these days to chase steelhead in places where you don’t see any other anglers. That’s Yvon and our host, Will, checking out the solitude in front of camp.
Lack of infrastructure means it takes a little effort to even get to the fishing. From camp, we had an hour run to the mouth of the river, then hauled personal rafts up to the put in. Then we dragged the boats down a little tributary to the main water, and due to lack of rain, dragged them many more times throughout the day. Above, Will and Yvon look for enough water to float.
But the river itself–and the surroundings–are spectacular. Tannin-stained water, old-growth spruce and cedar forest, large, unsilted cobble everywhere. We worked our way downstream, stopping to fish every bit of swingable water. The lower we floated, the better it got…and better yet, not another angler in sight. In fact, some of these runs probably haven’t been fished in years, if ever. Below, Yvon goes old school with a floating line and comet.
Finally, as we neared the mouth, the tide ran out, revealing a series of perfect pools. And the tide had brought us some gifts. To be continued…
This is a short fish story I wrote a couple months ago, now published in the current Patagonia catalog. That sweet image was shot by my good friend, Tim Pask, who captures some of the best stuff out there. If the jpeg is too hard to read, click HERE and check it out on their website. Hope you like it.