As I mentioned in the previous post, David Christian and I fished on Friday and didn’t get a steelhead. But it was a fun trip, nonetheless. If you only swing flies for winter fish, it’s important to have the type of temperament that lets you enjoy a day with a lot of casting and no pulling back from the other direction. On Friday, we saw a bunch of coho, their flanks various shades of red and white fungus, working their way up a little tributary and in a side channel pond. We saw elk and eagles. I was thrilled to see ring-necked ducks in with the mallards on the pond.
Near the end of the day, we both also noticed a fairly large school of whitefish working a midge emergence really heavily. At first, I wasn’t quite sure I was actually seeing fish. I thought it was probably just little bubbles. But a few minutes later, a fish stuck its head four or five inches out of the water. After that, I saw a boil every few minutes, and occasionally the shape of a fish just beneath the surface. David saw the same thing, although we were a fair distance from each other. I didn’t see any insects in the air until just before we left. Then I finally saw a couple midges a few feet from the surface. The whitefish were clearly hitting the insects as they rose, just beneath the surface.
I fished for whitefish in winter once in a while when I lived in Colorado but I don’t think I’ve ever done it on the Olympic Peninsula. With all the crowding on the West End this year–and the corresponding and unfortunate pounding the steelhead will take–it might be fun to spend a few warm afternoons in that stretch with a 4-weight and a film canister full of chironomid patterns.
Here are a couple of interesting posts by Craig Matthews, proprietor of Blue Ribbon Flies, about midge fishing for trout in winter in Montana www.blue-ribbon-flies.com/blog. The second piece is right below the post on horse trips.