Thursday, August 3, 2017

Chasing Steelhead through the Pacific Northwest - Tis the season


Steelhead are not just another 20" to 45" Rainbow Trout

Unlike their double-first cousins (rainbow and redband trout), steelhead run to the ocean and back during their life cycle. During that time they become large, fat and sassy. To tell the difference between a steelhead and rainbow / redband trout, one has to look for them in the salt of the ocean, or do genetic testing in a lab. 
For the sake of a legal definition most state regulations designate a 20" rainbow trout found in a river or stream, to be a steelhead, whether it has ever run into the ocean's salt or not. There is a difference between the two.


Steelhead run... from their fresh water natal habitat to salt water, then in 3 to 4 years they return to their fresh water natal habitat to spawn. They are an anadromous salmonid, but unlike salmon, steelhead can run to the Pacific Ocean multiple times and return to spawn, coming back larger with each run.

Steelhead run... when they feel the point of a steel fly piercing into their jaw. This is what make the search, the chase, the hands-on experience so exhilarating, and happens using a very wide variety of steelhead flies that are available, and to tye.
Green Butt Skunk







 









Spawning Purple









Articulated Egg Sucking Leach









It is said that the best steelhead fly to use is "the one you can catch a steelhead with." A general "Rule of Thumb" for selecting a steelhead catching fly is... On bright days - use bright colored, flashy flies; on overcast days - use dark flies. Flies tied with Krystal Flash or the likes (colorful or dark), are good steelhead attracters.

Angling for steelhead and salmon is unlike chasing other fish species in fresh waters. Until they enter their natal spawning water/area, they are constantly on the move... here today, gone tomorrow. Fortunately for the Walla² Fly Fishers', we have kind of a flow chart -of fresh salty adult "steelies" migration- to show us when and where the steelies are, when they are  running up the Columbia River and throughout it's tributaries. We have the Columbia and Snake rivers dams with fish counters, that give us these reports. 


If you are one interested in chasing Pacific Northwest steelhead, you might want to follow the fish runs through these Columbia/ Snake rivers dams via the USACE adult fish counts.
Water temperature 8/2/17 at  -- Bonneville = 72.14
°F, McNary = 71.42°F,  Ice Harbor = 71.96°F
Bonneville
+
10 year average
 The Dalles
 +
10 year
average
 John Day
+
10 year average
Three Mile Dam
Umatilla River
-CTUIR-
 McNary
+
10 year average
 Ice Harbor
+
10 year
average
 Lower Monumental
+
10 year
average
 
Current 2017 Steelhead Counts and 10-year average Y-T-D
Adult Steelhead dam counts

Bonneville

The Dalles

John Day

McNary

Ice Harbor

Lower Monumental
8-2-2017
25,331
7,349
4,106
4,806
2,075
2,368
10-year average to date

113,339

58,903

41,980

30,644

17,532

18,120
The Dalles Dam Steelhead Passage/Count - 2017 Return ~~~~~ Past 10-Year Average Return
One might say that Walla² Fly Fishers' steelhead home waters are throughout the flow of the Mid-Columbia River Basin tributaries beginning at the Klickitat River in WA, the Deschutes River in OR, and following the Snake River into Idaho. Along the way they stray into every river from Bonneville Dam to Dworshak Dam to Pateros Lake.

Because Idaho Department of Fish and Game have used a hatchery strain of steelhead from coastal British Columbia rivers, the Columbia River Basin has two "runs" of steelhead... the A-run and the B-run

Two (2) steelies on the left are female ~~ One (1) steelie on the right is a male

Both of these "runs" have to pass through our Walla² Fly Fishers' waters to make it to their natal spawning waters.

Usually the early steelies are being caught in the Columbia River Basin around the Klickitat River and Deschutes River in July and August. For the lower-Deschutes River the peak of the steelhead catching season is from mid-September to October. Other rivers are the John Day - October and November; Umatilla and Walla Walla - October, November, and December; Snake River rivers - late October, November, December, upper Columbia River - October through January. Higher tributaries usually begin hold steelies in November with spawning returns in April and May.
Many rivers will draw "strays" into the lower stretch of each river until irrigation has been turned off in the upper stretches of the river - usually after frost. Steelhead are usually straying or running up most rivers in November and December to re-enter the upper reach of their spawning rivers / streams in January to late February.
Steelhead tend to be in no hurry to get to their natal spawning waters until March through May, with most spawning being in late-March and April. It is during this time of the run that many hatchery steelhead are beating their heads against the doors of the hatchery they were reared in. 

The Pacific Northwest Columbia River Basin
Click on link - then click on map to enlarge for details
When on their spawn run, it has been said... they are not feeding, or do so very little. Having run from the ocean being bright and flashy, fat and sassy, by the time steelhead have spawned and are returning to salt, they are dark, tired, and very thin. To hook a spawned out "steelie", is much like landing a stick.

Always check the fishing synopsis governing the state you are steelheading in to confirm you are angling legally. You might also check the websites thereof to see if there have been any update/changes to the regulations for steelheading... per river, per county. 


2017 Steelheaders' NEWS:

Poor run prompts Columbia River summer steelhead fishing restrictions

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Low steelhead count expected in Columbia River




Adult Steelhead dam counts

Bonneville

The Dalles

John Day

McNary

Ice Harbor

Lower Monumental
8-2-2017
25,331
7,349
4,106
4,806
2,075
2,368
10-year average to date

113,339

58,903

41,980

30,644

17,532

18,120




If you would like to learn more about steelhead angling, you may wish to read the works of; and contact this Oregon Pro of steelhead angling -- John Shewey for greater insight in chasing, catching these elusive fins and tails that run through the Pacific Northwest.


















  
Grab your rod, grab your flies...
and let's go Steelhead catching, Tis the season.
The End


Report submitted by
Dale McKain



Tight lines and good fishing.


Walla² Fly Fishers




Sunday, July 30, 2017

Let's Go Fishing - Grand Ronde Lake


The head water of the Grand Ronde River - Elevation: 7183 ft.
Looking across the lake at Gunsight Mountain - Anthony Lake
Walla² Fly Fishers - Brian, and Dale  headed out this afternoon with a forecast for a beautiful day to be sitting on the water, searching for trout, and beating the heat of the Walla Walla Valley at Grand Ronde Lake.
Moon Phase - Jul 30 -- First Quarter

At 4:00 pm Dale took a temperature reading while sitting on the lake and found the air to be 69° F and the water temperature to be 63°

From Walla Walla, it take 2½ hours - 130 miles to arrive at Grand Ronde Lake. About 1½ miles beyond the Anthony Lakes Ski Resort on NFD 73.
Grande Ronde Lake: From La Grande... I-84 East. Exit 285-North Powder. Right @ North Powder Lane. Travel 6.9 miles and go left onto Miller Road 1.0 miles to Anthony lakes Hwy. Travel 13 miles (go 0.9 miles past Anthony Lakes Nordic Center turn off. Go right onto USFS rd 43. 0.3 miles to primitive boat ramp.

After jumping into a lake, Dale rowed across the lake to fish in the shadow of, and in the break from the breeze of the trees on the west side of the lake. After a couple of casts, he spotted a Bald Eagle flying around the lake and then it sat in a dead tree on the west side of the lake. There seems to be a lot of Bald Eagles on the high lakes this year. 


A beautiful sight, as they fly and soar - wide wingspan, brilliant white head and tail that almost glows as the bright sunlight of clear blue skies strike them in flight.

FAB or Blob fly
Today both Brian and Dale started fishing with the FAB flies that we had tied Thursday evening at our Project Healing Waters meeting. After about 30-45 minutes of no action, Dale switched to the BS Special. 

Again and like many times before with the second cast... Fish On!
Brian continued to fish with the FAB until he did catch a fish, with a fly he had tied.

Dale fishing with the BS Special, kept hooking, long line releasing, and at his feet releasing one fish after another. One trout hooked made 4 nice jumps on it's way to the boat.
BS Special
Last fall fellow club member Barbara, found some of these flies on a shelf somewhere, and we started fishing with them, catching with them and tying more.  A most productive, go-to fly with every stillwater fishing outing. After about 30-40+ hookups with this fly, a fish about to be netted made a turn and left with Dale's BS Special. Rarely does this happen using a 2-wt rod.
After the loss of that fly Dale attached an ole favorite stillwater fly, the Elkhorn Lake Special not used since tying on a BS Special last year. 
Elkhorn Lake Special
Today the charm of the Elkhorn Lake Special started catching fish where the BS Special broke off, hooking one fish after another.
Dale had other fishers on the lake asking him... "What are you using to catch so many fish."
After about 30-40+ hookups with this fly, a fish about 30' out made a move, broke off, and left with the fly. Two in a day, very rare happening in stillwater. 

On the way back to home, Dale told Brian that today was the best catching day he had experienced since the days he and Bob Wolfe fished together, and would quite counting with 100+ hookups in a few hours / day's time.

A good tool to have in one's pocket on days like this is a Waterworks Ketchum Release tool.
A very handy tool to have when fish will not leave your fly alone.



Brian said that he tallied 7 hookups for the day, with many no-take strikes, that he was able to get excited about.
video
click on corner box to go FULL screen - for best picture

It was a good day for all, and we did beat the heat of the valley. At the end of this day of fishing, the lake became quite still and quite as Dale was the last boat to leave the water. It was another wonderful day to be catching on Grand Ronde Lake.
 On the way home Brian did call his wife and let her know he had fish for their dinner.
Tight lines and good fishing.

Report submitted by
Dale McKain


Tight lines and good fishing.


Walla² Fly Fishers


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Let's Go Fishing - Jubilee Lake

Report of 26 July 2017

 Jubilee Lake is a 92.3-acre man-made lake in the
Umatilla National Forest - Elevation 4,761 feet.
Jubilee Lake is about 50 miles
from Walla Walla,
and take about 1½ hour to get there.

​​​Buddy and I had a beautiful late afternoon trip fishing Jubilee Lake.
​​​When we arrived at the lake the air temperature was 85°, today's high temp was 97° in WW.

Started fishing today using a fast-full sink link and a FAB fly.

​​​
After about a half hour of testing the water, I caught 2 legal fish with the FAB fly... my first using this fly.
I got the materials from Devin Olsen to start tying this fly Thursday evening with the Project Healing Waters guys.


Thereafter I switched to a BS Special, still using a fast-full sink line.

​​
The third fish I caught hooked up with connected fast to the BS Special, and nearly bent my rod 2-wt SPL double. I do enjoy the fight on an ultra-light fly rod.
Nice fight, nice fish- 14
½". I invited this guy to join me and Buddy for breakfast.
​​During the entire late afternoon / evening I landed a dozen or more fish, but kept them alive, hoping to catch another like the third one.
After the sun dropped behind the trees the pm air had a very gentle breeze, and the temperature dropped nicely.
As the clock on the wall approached 8:00 pm, I kept the next two larger fish that I hooked and called it a day well done.

​​
When I got home the ODOT camera  was showing 70° at Tollgate.

I am learning that to beat the weekend crowds that show up at Jubilee Lake... mid-week fishing is very relaxing, and peaceful. Retirees, self-employed, free lancers, let me know if you would like to join me next week at Jubilee Lake; we will make plans for it.

Tight lines and good fishing,

Reported by Dale McKain


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Report of 22 July 2017

​Again there were quite a few people hanging around the boat launch area, but nothing like 2 weeks ago.
As I was leaving the lake heading for Tollgate, I have never passed so many vehicles on the NF 64 road, heading in the direction of the lake - heavy summer weekend traffic, me thinks.
Got on the water about 4 PM yesterday, fishing was slow, until about 6. I had a couple of dozen soft strikes until the sun left the water, thereafter 6 fish landed, and kept 4.


Spent the first couple of hours just trolling a FAB fly, with a full fast sink line - just having soft strikes, no take downs.

​Barbara had great success with the FAB fly on the 4th of July at Jubilee.


I then switched to a BS Special, 
​using an intermediate sink line, and fish quite ignoring me and my fly presentation.
Fish were biting steady for the next couple of hours (as usual for Jubilee), and then the bite went back to soft strikes with a few take downs and long line releases until 8 PM.
I found that a medium-fast overhand 8 weave retrieve worked great to get the fish's attention.

While fishing, there came up beside me / near me, NEVER acknowledged, me with his face always in the water... a Frogman snorkeling. 
 
This guy was all around the boat launch side of the lake - some of my favorite fishing spots- snorkeling with fins slapping the water surface as he was doing head stands under water. Later as I was taking a beverage break when he came out of the water, I talked with him. He was in the area from New York, and had NO idea what a rainbow trout was... "lots of fish with red strips on their side". He said there were a lot of BIGGER fish in the middle of the lake... near the bottom, -TRIPLOIDS- and as he approached them they swam away, not like the rest of the fish he watched.

Having taken my boat out of the water and getting ready to drive off the boat launch, my hay guy -Terry- came off the lake. He and friends had a full-creel catch in his boat, with one very nice TRIPLOID rainbow.
Nice fish -- it was as long as my forearm -finger tips to elbow- and in beautiful shape. This TRIPLOID looked much like a Grande Ronde River steelhead- 20" plus, but not a steelhead. Some people call a 20" rainbow trout a steelhead - they are not they same.
Terry told me that he and his son had fished Jubilee on Tuesday and caught 4 similar TRIPLOIDS. *Fish deep*

It was a very good evening of fishing / catching, a bit slow from the get-go.


Tight lines and good fishing

Reported by Dale McKain 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  

Report of 4 July 2017


Hope you have had a great 4th of July. Hope you made it to the WWCC fireworks show this evening...

​Today Barbara and Dale spent the day on Jubilee Lake, catching and releasing trout, watching beautiful Bald Eagles flying by.


Being the Forth of July, amazingly there was not a crowd at the lake today.

Barbara got off to an early start using the FAB fly - some we tyed during winter, and with her first cast she had a rise to the fly.

Barbara started fishing the FAB with a dropper fly, using a full sinking fly line but soon all her hookups were on the FAB, so she took off the dropper fly. She also found that fishing the fly *deep* gave her the best results. A couple of times she came back with weeds on the fly and lost 1 fly on the bottom, but she was catching fish.


video
click on corner box to go FULL screen - for best picture

In the excitement to make this last minute trip to the lake Dale brought everything he needed... except his fly rod and his backup fly rod. So he spend the afternoon following Barbara around the lake, taking pictures, making videos, exploring parts of the lake he had not fished before.

Barbara, filled her creel with take home trout using the FAB fly.
Thereafter we left the lake earlier that most days to get back to Walla Walla to catch the community fireworks display. Made a nice day, and a good night light show. 







Reported by Dale McKain




Tight lines and good fishing.


Walla² Fly Fishers