It is only about a 10 minute drive from Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters in Port Angeles to the middle Elwha River. From the first day it drops into shape after the June opener until the middle and upper river close at the end of October, Curt Reed fishes it nearly every evening after he finishes his day at the shop. Curt is that rare creature–a fly fisher who ties beautiful, elegant flies and is also an excellent caster, and who knows how to fish. He routinely takes fish to 14-plus-inches on the Elwha–which is a big fish on the river–and last week he caught one that measured more than 16.
A lot of anglers seemed surprised this summer that the river was out of shape through June and most of July. When do you expect good early season fishing on the Elwha?
Curt–It really depends on the year. When I first got here, it was good by the end of June and July was great. But if you look at the website (river gauge)–the one between the dams because the one above Lake Mills is only about seven years old–you see that most years are more like this year. Historically, mid-August is when it starts to get good.
What sequence of insects do you see over the summer?
Curt–Well, you get a lot of small mayflies early on. Some are PMDs but there are others too. You see some massive spinner falls in the evenings. A lot of times you can entice trout with size 16 or 18 spinners. We also see some Green Drakes in July, and they bring up some nice fish. The golden stones appear towards the end of June, through July and August, and last year I saw some into September. I haven’t fished them much, but Yellow Sallies are around from midsummer on. A lot of small caddis hatch in August and early September, even into October, and then in fall, of course, you get the October Caddis.
You really like to fish big dry flies, don’t you?
Curt–Absolutely. They’re just more fun to fish. They float so good in heavy water. They’re easy to see. They will often bring up larger fish when there is no hatch on. Once the water hits 55 degrees, you can take larger fish on top predictably. On the Elwha you can fish a sequence of big dries through the summer. I’ve taken some big fish on Green Drake dries in July, then you get into the Golden Stones, and then the October Caddis come on when the stones taper off.
You can fish Geyser Valley as a day hike. Do you get up there very often?
Curt–Yeah, I’ve had some really good days up around Humes Ranch. It’s a nice stretch of water. You still get a lot of small fish, but they are 10 or 11 inches rather than 7 or 8 inches. I’ve done real well nymphing my woven golden stonefly up there, the one you’ve got in your new book. I’ve had days when I couldn’t get anything on top, but would take four or five 12 or 13 inch fish on one run with the nymph.
I take a lot of nice Elwha rainbows on nymphs in fast water. Have you noticed that too?
Curt–I catch a lot of good trout in classic water, in runs and pools and tail-outs. But you find some big fish in pretty heavy water when it has bottom structure. They won’t necessarily come up through the fast water to take a dry fly, but they’ll move laterally. It is slower and softer on the bottom and they’ll move to take a big nymph.