Below - A June Hoh River Steelhead Get's The Better Of Us
A June Opener On The Hoh
An early start on the Hoh this summer allowed for some salmon and steelheading opportunity we don't often get this early in the year, with a forecasted return of hatchery origin summer Chinook being the reason. There were some late spring fish to be caught as well as some early summer Steelhead between salmon. Typical with the Hoh during early summer months, when the weather is in a cooling pattern it tends to fish well and when we are in a warming trend the diurnal cycle is more prominent and seems to put the fish mostly off the bite. When the weather cooperated fishing was pretty good with multiple fish per angler most days. That trend started to diminish once the majority of spring fish out migrated and we were still a little early for much abundance of summer steelhead.
Effort by the tribe however was in full force, likely due to high prices for salmon, with no noticeable net schedule in play. I saw nets up to seven days a week in the lower river depending on the week, and a few very disturbing situations involving protected fish species being discarded blatantly. Yes, I know they can fish for purposes other than resale. Unfortunate that some people just don't seem to care about the overall health of the river. There is no excuse for a net pattern to be that small when your supposed to be targeting Chinook! Ridiculous...
Summer Salmon Season
When flows were good during May and early June the springer fishing was excellent with good numbers of fish in the Sol Duc...once the snow pack run-off dissipated however, the fishing was much more difficult. Not unusual for springer's, a notoriously fickle salmon species. For as long as I can remember I've tried to catch these fish on the fly and the truth is they just don't care about a swung fly 99.9% of the time...and then there's that one moment they do. It happens for me about once or twice a spring...the rest of the time it's bait or bust! It doesn't stop me from trying, I just have reasonable expectations so I'm not disappointed.
With unusually low precipitation during this past February and March we just didn't get the snow pack necessary to carry good flows into summer on the spring fed rivers of the OP. Concerning in a time of receding glacier systems. The graph below shows the rain and snowfall at the Buckinghorse gauge near Mt. Olympus. This is ground zero for snow pack totals and it's clear from the end of January till mid-April we didn't get much. Hopefully this isn't a trend moving forward. Summer Coho and Sockeye seem to be arriving later this year. I don't know if it's related to the low flow or just seasonal variation, time will tell. Last year by the third week of June we were catching lot's of Coho...this year it was late July before fishable numbers showed. To make things worse flows are slow low in the Sol Duc at this point I don't think we'll get much of a shot to catch them. The river is virtually un-navigable except in the middle floats where portages aren't numerous. Bummer...I guess we'll be walking in some days!
Looking Ahead To Fall Salmon And Summer Steelhead
If sight fishing to large groups of fall Coho and Chinook salmon and chasing summer Steelhead sounds like fun, September and October are great months to be on the OP. In particular, the Hoh and Queets offer some great sight fishing for salmon and between the good salmon spots we chase summer Steelhead while nymphing and/or swinging flies. Far and away one of my favorite times of year...there's endless opportunity, what's not to like. If fair weather and good fishing sounds like something of interest give us a call and let's plan a trip that's perfect for you! Come to think of it, rain is in the forecast. I'm going mushroom hunting soon...
Winter / Spring 2019
You just never know what mother nature is going to give you. I'm not complaining about having such a dry winter season like 2018, it's not likely to happen in back to back years. With record low precipitation we were blessed with being able to fish the Queets more than the past three years combined during the winter steelheading season. I can't recall such a dry winter on the OP... it was EPIC as far as fishing goes. There's wasn't anyplace you couldn't go to catch steelhead... the Queets, lower Hoh, upper watersheds if the lower's weren't producing that well, you name it! Opportunity was everywhere and that's a rarity in a place that averages 120-150 inches of rain during fall/winter/spring months if not more. I'm asked regularly what the state of winter Steelhead is and how it looks in the future here on the OP. If this past season is any indication then the future is very bright for these amazing fish. A LOT of very healthy Steelhead were caught and released as quickly as possible without the need of a photo. I'm not much of a picture guy and that seems to be well received by the majority of our clients. The less handling the better. If we do it's a quick lift from the net and away they go AFTER being FULLY revived. I could not be prouder of our clients/guides and how they take such care of this rare place and it's amazing fish.
Our calendars are filling up fast for this coming season so if your planning on fishing with Chrome Chasers we need to hear from you sooner than later. March/April are about fully booked and dates in January and February are going fast. Let's get something on the calendar ASAP so you don't miss out on your opportunity.
If it was up to me to pick my favorite time of year to fish the OP for Steelhead it would be January and the first half of February. There's much less angling pressure to compete with, sure the weather is not as predictable, but hey...your going to get a little wet chasing winter chrome! Or maybe not... these guys look pretty dry to me! Looking forward to seeing Dave and Michael again this winter.