An Olympic Peninsula adventure
As a fisherman for the majority of my short 21 years of life, I can confidently say my favorite area to hike, adventure and interact with nature is the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington state.
I was lucky enough to make it out there this month, and of course I had to wet some flyline during the trip.
My grandfather, who taught me most everything I know about fly fishing, from fly-tying to casting technique, hosted me on the trip.
The two of us, often accompanied by my father and my uncle, have built an extensive knowledge base of area rivers over the last eight years.
“I was thinking we’d try the Lyre and Dungeness, and the Seiku too,” my grandpa said as he and Grandma welcomed me off the plane at Sea-Tac International Airport.
The three rivers mentioned above are just a handful of the glacier- and spring-fed rivers and streams we’ve fished.
Others include the Elwha River (currently closed), Sol Duc River, Bogachiel River, Indian Creek, Dosewallips River and Barne’s Creek.
But why go to so many different rivers?
Trout. That’s why.
Beautiful, intelligent and with relatively low fishing pressure on the peninsula, my grandpa and I have been going after trout for almost a decade in western Washington.
As desireable as trout are to many fisherman, the primary targets in peninsula rivers are steelhead and salmon, ocean-dwelling salmonids that make their way up their natal streams to breed.
Believe me, steelhead fishing is incredibly fun. However, one must wait until there’s a run of fish, and even then it’s incredibly challenging fishing.
Trout, on the other hand, are much more consistent. While most fishermen and women on the peninsula follow the ocean fish patterns, my grandpa and I have had much trout fishing success.
This year, we started this trip on the Seiku River, a short stream that drains north into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, south of Vancouver Island, Canada and east of the Pacific Ocean.
Specifically, we fished the estuary area, where sea meets river, for coastal cutthroat trout.
Cutthroats, named for the orange or red “cut” below their gill area, can be found throughout the U.S. This subspecies, also called sea-run cutthroat, are found along the Pacific Coast of North America.
Coastal cutts have an interesting life history. Like steelhead, they are born in streams but live much of their lives in saltwater. However, they do not follow an annual schedule like their larger cousins, moving in and out of streams as they please.
One way to fish for these saline-loving salmonids is to look at the tides and go to an estuary like at the Seiku.
When the tide rolls in, so do a variety of morsels for the trout to feed on. During this time window, casting a fast-moving streamer fly is most effective. The water is usually clear enough to make out the flash when the fish strikes.
Hard fighters, the larger coastal cutts often require a net to safely land. They jump and run like their steelhead cousins, and can seem tireless.
I was able to net such a fish on my first catch, as luck would have it. A few yards away, my grandpa was bringing in a cutt of his own when mine yanked hard on the cone-head squid streamer fly I was using. After an acrobatic fight (and several embarrassing attempts to get the fish in my net), I was able to get the fish in hand. I quickly admired it’s natural beauty and coloration, then returned it to it’s habitat.
We continued fishing up and down the first few hundred yards of the Seiku until the tide got high, then moved to the nearby Hoko River, near the misty fishing towns of Clallam Bay and Seiku.
We caught a few small, beautiful rainbow trout, or “dinkers” as my grandpa calls them. They have a silver overtone with a brilliant pink streak down their sides. Above that is a green dorsal area, designed for camouflage.
On fishing day No. 2, Grandpa and I took a short hike on a trail along the upper Dungeness River. Again we caught plenty of rainbows, but in the process we also hooked some native char.
Native char come in two varieties on the peninsula: dolly varden and bull trout. They are identical to the naked eye, and are related to the more common brook trout.
Beautiful fish in their own right, they are mostly olive and grey, with a white belly. Their fins are my favorite part, with red-orange and white coloration.
Satisfied with our fishing outings, Grandpa and I spent a lot of time with family in the Sequim and Seattle area during my trip as well. I explored Seattle with my 3- and 6-year-old cousins, hiked with my grandparents, sister and mom, and laughed plenty with everyone. I really do feel at-home in western Washington, and I hope to make it back out there soon.
I can’t help but imagine a calm, deep blue river flowing vein-like through the thick greenery of the peninsula, runs and riffles full of trout waiting for me to cast a fly.
Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org