On the Water Log, May 10, 2012

Weird Weather, a Beautiful Boat, and a Really Cool Cutthroat . . .  continued

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photo by David Christian

Boy, I really love cutthroat trout. All salmonids are magnificent fish, and each species displays a range of life histories, size ranges and, at times, strikingly different appearances. But none come close to the diversity of cutthroat. On the Olympic Peninsula alone, we have the silvery sea-runs of Hood Canal and the dark cutts of the Dickey, 10-plus-pound crescenti cutthroat and 10-inch adults in beaver ponds, yellow-bellied late summer Bogachiel fish and “blue-backs” like the bright 17-incher I caught in the upper Calawah last April.

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photo by David Christian

The 16- or 17-inch Lake Pleasant fish I caught yesterday was probably closer in appearance to a blue back than anything else. It’s side were silver, with heavy spotting well below the lateral line. It’s back was luminous, not so much blue, though, as shimmering teal green. I don’t remember ever catching a cutthroat that looked quite like it.

That fish was the only one my friend, David Christian, and I landed in about four hours on the lake. I did connect with another fish, about a 12-incher, that got off at the boat. I think the weather had a lot to do with it. It was nice and sunny when we launched the boat, but not long after that one squall after another swept over the lake. It was clear one moment, even sunny, then big black clouds would roll over Tyee Hill. Within minutes, the wind would freshen and rain would spatter the lake, usually followed by hard, pelting hail. It did that all morning.

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photo by Doug Rose

As I wrote in my post yesterday, I don’t usually do very well when the conditions are that unsettled. There were no insects hatching, few birds singing, and it was cold and raw for May. There was none of that “fishy” feel–you know, with a bit of warmth, maybe even humidity, lots of creatures about, and soft water. We tried a lot of different flies, and I had a fly in the water the entire time David rowed. We covered the entire length of the lake. It just wasn’t happening.

The lake was full of sockeye or kokanee fry. I really wanted to catch some cutts on the Supervisor, which I have written about a bit lately, and which my blog reader, Curtis Steinhauer, has been doing great with on Lake Quinault as a sockeye imitation. But I had it in the water for more than two miles without a bite. The fly that worked for me was Johnston’s Olympic Alevin, which I also described in a recent post. There’s a photo and recipe for it my book, Fly-Fishing Guide to the Olympic Peninsula.

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photo by David Christian

The big fish I caught was very robust, noticeably heavier than a comparably-sized river fish, and extremely active. It jumped four or five times, and most of its jumps were at least three feet straight up. Needless to say, it was strong.

One interesting thing about the two fish I hooked was that they were both quite a distance from shore, in open water. On the way up the lake, we fished relatively close to shore, without a bump. David was rowing fairly briskly.

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photo by Doug Rose         

Speaking of rowing, David’s wooden boat, Sea-Run, which he built, is a beautiful and elegant and a joy to fish out of. I lived in Port Townsend for a long time and wooden boats are pretty much in my blood. I used to own a sweet little wooden skiff that the boat school people made. It always bemuses me that so many of my good friends and fishing partners build great boats–David, Dick Wentworth, Jay Brevik–yet I couldn’t cobble together a piss poor chicken coop if my life depended on it.

Incidentally, David rowed the entire day, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he didn’t catch a fish. The only ones we caught were while we were moving.

Finally, here’s a look at the upper end of the lake, where the creek enters. I asked David if we should even mention the lake in my post. He pointed out that hardly anyone is going to want to row several miles and spend four hours to catch two fish.

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photo by Doug Rose

Two fish or 20, you can’t beat a day with wild cutthroat, fly rods, wooden boats and good friends.

Sky Valley Limited
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