Olympic Peninsula Fly-Fishing 2016

I participated in the 2nd FPGA Fly-Fishing (FFF’16) Symposium in Seattle WA, hosted by Ken and attended by Guy, Aaron (not pictured below) and myself. The previous FFF was in New Zealand and is described here http://phwl.org/new-zealand-fly-fishing-2015/.

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DAY 0

The Olympic Peninsula lies across Puget Sound from Seattle, WA.

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Flew with Guy from San Jose to Seattle-Tacoma, arriving at 9pm. Aaron picked us up and we hurried to Fred Meyer (a huge, city-like supermarket) near the airport to buy fishing licenses. After some difficulty (the girl didn’t know what to do with someone that didn’t have a social security number), we purchased our $40 3 day licenses. Then a 2 hour drive to Diamond Point near Sequim. We were also surprised by Ken presenting us with a conference gift, the FFF landing net.

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Before we arrrived, Ken caught a sea run cutthroat. He also saw up close, but didn’t hook a coho. He originally thought it was an early-stage male chum, but more likely a very advanced-age male coho. This fish pulled tight but didn’t get hooked as Ken had a bent-over hook point, likely damaged while casting.

He also got a jack blackmouth and spooked another at Port Williams.

DAY 1

At 6:30am the next morning fished Diamond Point beach . Lots of birds around but only saw 1 or 2 dives. Also saw sea otters, a few seals and a sea lion. Fished along the shore up to the cottage using a green and white deceiver.

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Upon walking in the water I realised my 10 year old waders were leaking. The fact that the tape was coming off in all places should have been a clue.

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It was a very beautiful place and an overcast morning. Unfortunately, for the rest of the trip, we had really nice weather which was the opposite of what we would prefer for good fishing.

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We next went to Port Whitney where Ken had caught a cutthroat trout and lost a chum salmon the night before. Guy got hit by what I think was a cutthroat and I saw a few rises, some close in and some far away. Unfortunately nobody caught anything.

Had lunch at the 101 Brewery, the type of diner you would walk in wearing waders without comment. 

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In an effort to fit in, I had something not available down under, the “Timberman Grilled Beef”: roast beef, green pepper, mushroom, onion and cheddar melted on a hoagie roll (which was excellent).

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In the afternoon we fished the Quilcene River. Upon arriving at 2pm, a group that was spinning came out with 4 nice cohos. The water was a bit fast and there weren’t many places to fish. Drifted a few flies but didn’t catch anything.

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In the evening we returned to Port Whitney. I think I was getting a bit tired by then as I tied a second tippet onto my tippet and had to take it off. Guy took a crab on his spinning tackle which was promptly disqualified since it was not caught using fly gear. We saw 2 bald eagles fishing far offshore as we left.

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Ken was primarily fishing a green with black stripes “foul-free herring” in the saltwater. Although this is a good cutthroat and a reasonable coho fly, he was primarily fishing it on the mistaken belief that there were chum in the area as well. He was using an intermediate sink tip with sinking leader in the rivers.

DAY 2
The next morning we fished the Dungeness River.

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Ken caught a 12lb spawned out coho in a backwater. We didn’t get a photo but here is a dead one.

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We saw 3 more fish there but spooked them. Fishing other parts was not successful.

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After lunch at Hardy’s Market we went to the Dungeness River and Ken caught a small 14″ coho which was the first fish that we kept.

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He then hooked another, slightly smaller fish just further down the same run. As soon as its head came out of the water the fish spit the hook.

In the evening, fished the Port Williams beach without any success although Ken saw lots of fish including 1 decent coho jumping full-body out of the water.

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That night we had Ken’s coho, along with Dungeness crab cakes with mango salsa, and shrimps cook  ed over a coal bbq. It was a wonderful meal, with all the ingredients having been caught by his in-laws and frozen. Best crab cakes I’ve tasted! His in-laws were mad keen fishermen and lots of great fishing stories were told, although everyone was skeptical when I brought up solunar theory and asserted that fish tend to congregate under power lines.

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Two days into a two and a half day trip I hadn’t had a single touch even though we had fished from 7:30am to dusk every day. Explaining that I didn’t like to peak too early, our plan for the last day was to go out really early, arriving at the place that Ken had caught today’s keeper right before sunrise.

DAY 3
Arrived at the carpark of the Dungeness River near mouth at 0630 and it was still pitch dark. The carpark wasn’t open so Ken kindly stayed at the carpark while we walked in and fished. I had changed to a sinking leader but didn’t get a touch in a couple of hours. Ken lined a fish and spooked him strongly (almost the entire tail cleared the water as he quickly turned downstream just beside Ken’s sinking leader). This was a much sadder event, since he must not have seen or liked the fly that Ken had drifted over him 2 to 4 times just prior. Guy was at a slow, shallow pool and saw a dozen fish swim by over the course of the morning.

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At this point Guy and Aaron had to leave. We decided to fish one last place which was upriver, under the power lines. This was a 1 km hike in and not far from the car, the soles of my 10 year old wading boots separated from the upper. Fortunately I could still wear them like a slipper but it didn’t help with wading in fast water.

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On the way in, I spoke to a fisherman with a spinning rod coming out. He said he didn’t have a touch all morning.

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Fished a few slow pools and a couple of faster ones. The last pool before giving up looked good so I covered it very slowly but not a touch. As a final resort, I changed my fly to a heavier black wooly bugger. Reworking the same pool, I was surprised to get hit straight away in the spot where the fish should have been, right behind a large boulder, shielded from the flow. A short fight on 12lb tippet material showed I had a nice bull trout, a member of the salmon family known as char.

After some photos and a celebratory handshake, this endangered native fish was released. I learned that Ken had taken a ~8″ bull trout about 5 minutes earlier on a mildly weighted purple and black “egg-sucking leech”.

I fished the same run and a bit lower down, got another tap but didn’t hook up. On the next cast, I received another tap but the fish had bitten off my fly. I had made a classic beginner’s mistake of not retying a possibly weakened tippet after catching the fish. Who knows whether or not that was a huge coho!

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Epilogue

It was a wonderful trip and I learnt a lot, in particular that there is such a thing as electric wading boot dryers and Ken’s diy conversion into wader-dryers.

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On my return trip, there was an issue at San Francisco airport so I took a 150 mile ride from Seattle to Vancouver in a propellor plane to connect to Sydney. I think they call it the “puddle jumper”.

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Thanks particularly to Ken but also to Guy and Aaron for a wonderful trip!

 

 

 

 

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