It is officially winter in the Pacific Northwest. With the return of the neck-bending north wind and never quite finished drizzle, I find myself on the big rivers of Washington State swinging flies for a fish that I believe in as much as my son believes in Santa Claus. Similar to my son’s experience at our local credit union, I have witnessed a few imposters this season on the Nooksack and Skagit rivers. These fellows may not smell of cheap aftershave and alcohol, but their lack of an adipose fin reminds me they are only dressed up as steelhead. Have I been good? I think so. Do I know what I want as a gift? Yes! But I am still expectantly waiting.
I was starting to lose faith until my friend Josh sent me some pictures of a beautiful wild hen he swung up on the Olympic Peninsula last week. My wife was kind enough to excuse me from some fatherly duties so I could fish behind Josh and watch him forget to set the hook on a large steelhead in the same run where he caught the hen. We swing up so few fish this time of year he believed his fly was getting caught on rocks as it quartered below. Only the upheaval of a fish too large and cold to fully jump out of the water, let us know what had just happened.
Washington’s weather and strong rivers remind me of my autumn in Alaska, but with the lack of an intact watershed and plentiful wild fish, I know I am just biding my time until I can swing cop cars and flesh flies on the Naknek and Kvijak. I look forward to pods of fish crushing smolt below arctic terns in the spring, Jon boats being shoved off the shelf ice, and rivers free from imposters and full of life. I hope to see you there!