There’s a photo of a brook trout on the cover of my first book, Fly Fishing the Olympic Peninsula. It has never made any sense to me that the publisher chose to feature a picture of fish that isn’t native to the peninsula when this area supports arguably the grandest and most diverse assemblage of wild native salmonids of any place in the country. But it was a really nice fish, just shy of 15 inches. It hit a Lead-winged Coachman during a flight of alder flies. But its stomach didn’t have many insects in it. Nope, it had scuds, the “pincers” from small crayfish, and a nearly five-inch-long salamander. It was a real meat eater, and, not surprisingly, its flesh was as red as a sockeye.
I plan to fish that lake later this week, the first time in a number of years. It’s not a bad hike up to it, not very far nor a huge elevation gain. But I’m older and less fit than I was when I caught that fish 15 years ago. I have been swimming laps and doing a lot of hiking on Calawah Ridge and other hills around Forks to prepare for it. But I learned a long time ago, when I used to regularly run and bike and swim, that one type of training or exercise doesn’t necessarily transfer to different activities. Even back then, the first hike into the high country each spring was tough. So I imagine this will be a bit of a struggle.
As a result, I am really paring down my gear for the hike. I’m just packing one small plastic fly box, one I can carry in my shirt pocket. That doesn’t really worry me, because I have always done pretty well on mountain lakes with a minimal assortment of flies. I’ve been tying the ones I plan to fish for the last couple weeks, and I should be done tonight or tomorrow.
Here’s what I’m carrying:
1) Lead-winged Coachman–This is as much for sentimental reasons as anything. But it’s an enduringly productive fly, especially in late spring.
2) Trueblood Otter Shrimp–As I mentioned, the lake has scuds, and this is a fine scud imitation. It will probably be the first fly I fish.
3) Johnston’s Olympic Alevin–The brook trout in the lake are self-sustaining, and this pattern, which is described in my book, Fly-Fishing Guide to the Olympic Peninsula, represents newly-emerged fry.
4) Woolly Bugger–I fish small ones, size 10 or so, in this lake, and I like black, olive and brown.
5) Zug Bug–Like cutthroat, brook trout seem to have a pronounced fondness for flies with peacock in them. I have probably caught more mountain trout on Zug Bugs and Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ears than any other flies.
6) Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear–I love to cast this off the inlet creek and let it swing in the current.
7) Carey Special–I like this with the green body, to suggest a dragonfly nymph.
Adams–I catch more than 90 percent of my high country trout on subsurface flies, but it’s always a good idea to have a few small Adams in you box.
I would have terrestrials and some midge patterns later in the summer and, especially, on the true subalpine lakes. But these dressings usually do the job fine on the productive mid-elevation lakes.
I’ll have a report with pictures when I return. My wife also wants some fish.