Winter time in the PNW…for many it is a time to put away their fly fishing equipment and load up the ski/snow gear to hit the very same mountains they frequent in the summer. Sometimes it is for good reason as many watersheds either close or are frozen over but for the anglers who just can’t bring themselves to not put a line in the water, the PNW has a lot to offer!
While many streams and rivers close, there are a number that do not and while some effort must sometimes be put into reaching a few of them, the pay-offs are often times huge…no other anglers, a wintery solitude summer can’t offer and occasionally a fish to hand!
Now the PNW is of course known for its steelhead there are no lack of these in the region almost all year long. One of if not the greatest reason to pursue winter chrome is their size. These winter fish have spent a few additional months in the ocean gaining size and the quick bursts upriver along with the cold, high water make them a magnificent species to pursue this time of year.
Nobody will ever say they are an easy achievement on a fly rod especially when you dedicate yourself to coming tight with one via a swung fly. However, those who work hard reap the rewards and angling around the world, very few experiences match a native winter steelhead taken on a tight line.
Last but not least, especially for us living on the west side of the Cascades and a bit farther north, Puget Sound offers maybe the most prolific and under utilized fly fishing destinations in the PNW if not the entire U.S.
Snow covered peaks of the Olympic Range loom over head while sea run cutthroat trout, an anadromous species themselves look up all winter for waking surface flies as well as most baitfish patterns fished subsurface.
Fly fishing in Puget Sound is like going back to grade school and going on a field trip to the coast to investigate the tidepools…starfish, crabs, sculpins, sand dollars, sea urchins on up to dolphins, seals, hundreds and bird species and even whales are all a potential sight. Taking the mind of the task at hand is sometimes what it takes to find that brief interlude with a fish, they can sense you mind has wandered.
And while yes, conditions will at times beg you to seek the nearest coffee shop…
there will also be those times when all is centered and perfect and everything just works. But in the end it is still another day logged on the water, bragging rights to those stuck in the office wishing they could have joined you…fish to hand or not!