2022's Weather Schizophrenia And Another La Nina Winter Is On Deck, Looking Ahead To 2023
2023 Winter Steelhead Spots Available
The 2023 winter steelhead season here on Washington's north coast is again scheduled to be open thru March. We have a number of currently available dates for both spey and nymphing trips including February 11th-14th for up to four anglers, 15th-16th and 19th-21st for up to two anglers, March 1st-4th for up to two anglers, March 8th-10th for up to four anglers and March 13th-17th for up to two anglers. Give us a call and book the steelhead trip of a lifetime. This seasons steelhead return is forecasted to be up 15% to last year and with improved ocean conditions over the past several years I expect it to be a good season overall. If the early hatchery return was a key indicator of overall run size and health of the returning fish we should be seeing some plus sized fish this year. What we have encountered so far this season looks very positive. Give us a call or text 253-255-5963
2022 In Review - A Year Of Drought, Bring On The Rain Please
Well I'm pretty happy to put 2022 in the rearview mirror personally. Not that anything bad happened in my life, but mother nature really did her best to not cooperate in any kind of normalcy this past year. For a guy that makes his living off of the whims of passing seasons you have expectations of when seasons are going to begin, at least within timeframes of months. It began with another late winter/spring drought and an early steelhead season closure due to low flows to a wetter than normal spring/early summer season. Fortunately the spring rains added much needed snow pack to the Olympics to help maintain our spring/summer river flows.
Summer saw reasonable weather, although again a few days of brutally hot temps here on the peninsula, fishing for wild spring and summer chinook on the Hoh and Queets was actually pretty good with a few summer steelhead in the mix. Many of the productive spots from summer 2021 still produced well and I managed to locate a number of additional spots that were consistent producers. National park tourism during this time of year seems to only grow in almost unimaginable numbers. People camping along the highway or way off some logging road, waking to commercial truck traffic loaded and headed for the log yards at 4am. At least three times I can remember I arrived to my boat launch access to find someone camped in the boat ramp... so it's no surprise that by July I've usually about maxed out my patience dealing with such first world problems. Following some compact SUV or crossover towing a teardrop trailer doing 35mph down Highway 101 is the norm.
So off to Norway I went in July...thinking I was leaving my world of troubles in the rearview mirror for 10 entire glorious days to pursue the elusive Atlantic salmon on the swung fly. Arriving in Oslo, I had planned a 6 hour drive from the airport northward to our groups fishing destination on the Gaula river in Storen, Norway. It didn't take long to discover that my reality was not left behind in the Pacific Northwest, it had just transitioned from small SUV's to Tesla's and Volvo's towing travel trailers, it's a global phenomenon. All I could do was laugh, take a deep breath and enjoy the amazing scenery that Norway had to offer as I drove along the Glomma river valley. Fishing was TOUGH...but I did manage to land a nice salmon in the 22 lb class. The countryside is breathtaking and made it well worth the trip. The concept of fishing private water in rotation schedules was new to me. I guess I can see it's appeal knowing that your water is exclusively your water for a period of time but on the other hand you also have no control of where your going to fish so as conditions changed over the course of the week you had to learn to adapt. If the fish aren't there or not biting then well...you do not have the luxury of picking up and moving to another location tomorrow...or even that day. I'm so accustomed to being able to move around at will even within the context of a single day of angling possibly doing up to three different floats that the constraints of limited water access was odd to me. After several days however, I settled into the reality that this was how it worked and enjoyed the sights and the work that went into trying to catch one of these elusive fish. I will go again...on a scale of 1-10, scenery is an 11, food was a 4, locals are friendly and I would even give the fishing high marks. It's tough, but the fish are there in good numbers they just don't bite much.
Fall here was beyond dry and drought conditions persisted well into October. Consequentially fall salmon fishing was closed for nearly a month waiting for rains to land on the parched earth of the Olympic Peninsula. Once we finally returned to getting at least enough rain to keep the rivers flowing along we had some exceptional salmon fishing during November and even early December. December marks the beginning of our winter steelhead season here on the OP and again mother nature dropped the proverbial hammer with a "bomb cyclone" across the entire country including extended temps in the upper teens and low twenties here around Forks, WA. Not optimal conditions for fishing...chipping ice out of rod guides continuously to keep a rotation of ice free rods in clients hands. Needless to say fishing is less than epic in such conditions and ironically most of my clients at the time traveled from the latitudes much closer to the equator than the north pole. On the bright side when we had more typical temps it was one of the better hatchery winter steelhead seasons we've seen here on the north coast in some years including larger than normal hatchery brats in the Bogie and Calawah.
Okay, with my weather rant out of the way I'm looking forward to some regular weather patterns and getting on with the native winter steelhead season here on the peninsula. We are in our third La Nina winter weather cycle and I'm hopeful that we will realize the precipitation we normally have during this time of year to keep the rivers flowing nicely and a FULL steelheading season. We've had some regulation changes once again for the winter season, but this time we actually gained some river miles where fishing from the boat is allowed. This 2023 steelhead season allows fishing from the boat in all of the Quillayute river tributaries including the mouth of Mill creek downstream on the Bogachiel river, from the Highway 101 bridge downstream in the Calawah river and from the Maxfield launch downstream in the Sol Duc river. I'm in support of opening up the additional river areas that fishing from a floating device is allowed for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it makes it much safer for anglers of older age that might not be capable of wading in rivers like the Calawah and Sol Duc to gain at least some accessible water. All of the area rivers fish better at different flows and so this creates a fair opportunity for anglers of all ages in virtually all river conditions.
Ocean Condition Indicator Trends from NOAA
Here's the annual ocean condition chart released last month from NOAA fisheries. Once again, as last years data showed, we're seeing an improved environment in the ocean and good biological data and salmonid survival out in the big pond. Notable are the salinity and thermal changes occurring this past summer and the amount of upwelling current data changed dramatically from last summer, however much of the key indicator factors still look very positive.
Is There An Unspoken Rule To Be A Steelheader?
It's always bewildered me why most steelheaders, particularly spey anglers, only come to the OP during winter/early spring months? What I've learned over the years is that most anglers don't even realize that there is ANY kind of fishing opportunity during summer months. They arrive in mass during cold winter months to pursue one of the most elusive game fish anywhere. The truth is we fish through the summer months on the Hoh and Queets for spring/summer chinook and summer steelhead both swinging flies and streamer fishing. On the Bogachiel for hatchery summer steelhead and in the Sol Duc for hatchery spring/summer chinook as well as hatchery summer coho in August. It can be REALLY good, wet wading around in 70-80 degree temps swinging flies or streamer fishing is very pleasant and the fish fight HARD. So hang up the "steelheader" only tag and give salmon a try...you'll be glad you did. Come on out and give it a go or better yet give us a call and book a guide day when it's likely not going to rain all day! Call/Text#253-255-5963
I am the Owner/Guide of Chrome Chasers Fly Fishing Guide Service.