Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rattlesnake Lake Report and Controversy

Rattlesnake Lake, off of Exit 32 in North Bend can be a really exciting fishery.  On a good evening you can catch fish after fish on a dry fly when a mayfly hatch is going off.  Its also a local favorite fishing hole.  Over the years that I've fished there I've seen more and more fly fishermen until now it is almost ALL fly fishermen.  They are attracted by the beautiful scenery, the insect hatches, and the occasional large triploid trout that get put in there.

In a very exciting (but controversial) development, the regulations for Rattlesnake have changed from a seasonal "put-n-take" fishing hole to year-round catch-and-release fishery.  Like any change, this one too has its cheerleaders and its detractors.

From the cheerleaders: Designating a fishery as catch-and-release vastly decreases fish mortality (of course) allowing the fish to get larger (and smarter).  Also, it costs the state a lot less, because it doesn't need to get stocked as often.  Lastly, there is not a single catch-and-release lake in all of King County, which has millions of people.  Surely we can afford ONE?  That still leaves hundreds of put-n-take lakes in the County, many of which are year round also!

Rebuttal from the detractors: North Bend has exactly ONE public lake in which you can fish.  Now it is off-limits to those would bait fish (kids, kids at heart, etc).  Try telling the bait fishermen who lives in the neighborhood next to Rattlesnake Lake that he now has to drive 30 minutes (each way) to fish. 

I'm not going to offer an opinion on this one; there are merits to both sets of arguments.

On the 4/25, I fished the lake during the evening hours with about 40 other fly fisherman and a few spin fisherman.  There was a nice midge hatch going on and the smaller fish were rising everywhere.  I fished a mayfly pattern on the top and caught six fish; all very small and agressive. I bet Amy would have caught 24. LOL.

I beached the jon boat to go home around 7:30pm.  There was a game warden there who was just chatting with people as they came out of the water.  Two guys starting telling him what they thought of the new regulations (not in a good way). 

"I've fished here for 20 years and never had a problem catching fish!" yelled one guy.  I'm not sure what his point was but he sounded angry.  The other guy said "Some fly-fishermen snuck this change through with no public comment!"  (I don't know the veracity of that statement).  Then they got their stuff and left.

After a few more minutes, another, younger, guy beaches his craft, and approaches the game warden and warmly says "So the lake is being managed for larger trout now, yes?"

I felt bad for the Game Warden; it wasn't his decision and he'll likely be the one having to give out the tickets and all the bad news to people who disagree with the new policy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Break Day 4: Fighting at Amber Lake

Years ago I read a fishing report about this magical place named Amber Lake, where the lucky fly-fishermen of Spokane go and catch only giant trout. I added Amber Lake to my "must visit" list. This trip appeared to be about just finally getting there but ultimately ended up being about peaceful surrender.

Gearing Up
Amber Lake seems way out there in the middle of nowhere - its like the The Shire. One minute you're driving through tree-less, rolling hills and then the next you come over a rise and there is the lake in a hollow, amidst old barns and evergreens. The boat launch is very tidy with lots of parking and good facilities.

The Fish Master

Of course, Amy immediately started catching some REALLY nice fish. Within 30 minutes of launching she had landed a 16" and a 17" trout, one of which is above. I helped her land the first.... and then we got in a HUGE fight. I mean we were YELLING AND SCREAMING at each other in the boat, for 20 loud minutes. She thought that I was giving her the cold shoulder now that she was catching fish, and I told her I was just trying to retain some dignity after getting ridiculously out-fished every day (tally so far on the trip was 33 to 8)..

Finally she put her rod down and yelled "Fine! Take me home!"

And I roared back, "We did not drive all the way out here just to go home!"

And then I had an ephiphany. I was being a jerk! But why? There could only be one reason: I had been trying to hold on to the idea that I was the better fisherman and it was getting harder and harder (impossible actually) to maintain that position in the face all of all this contrary evidence. So I let it go and admitted to myself that she was now a better fisherman than I was. And I felt a sudden peace.

We made up. I asked her to inspect my line and give me some tips on what she might be doing differently. I even had her set up my rig for me at one point. We got along great the rest of the day. She still totally out-fished me, getting strikes constantly and ultimately landing 5 fish. Me, I caught only one fish, but it was a pretty good one.

My One Fish

At around 2:00pm, the lake just turned off. Even Amy stopped getting hits. Everyone, including ourselves, left beautiful Amber Lake. Amy and I drove to the other side of Spokane and spent the evening in Liberty Lake, as I had some business there the next day.

On the way home we passed 50 miles of hard-blowing snow and sliding cars over Snoqualmie Pass. It was some of the nastiest driving I've ever had to do in Washington state. At one point, my truck lost traction and we were sliding completely sideways down I-90. I turned into the skid, which over-corrected and then we were sliding the opposite way down I-90. I turned into the skid again, and we corrected just right but not before I think I had a mild heart attack.

But back to Amy. She can tie her own knots. She chooses her own flies. She can even attach a tippet to a leader with a blood knot. She can cast farther than I can and concentrate for longer than I can. She is, in the ways that are important, a better fisherman than I am. I'm okay with that. As long as I'm still her best fishing buddy, that is.

Final Trip Tally: Amy = 38 fish, David = 9 Fish

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Break Day 3: Dry Falls Lake

Dry Falls Lake is one of the premiere fly-fishing destinations in all of Washington State. The Lake was formed during the great American flood, where a wall of water 1000 feet tall swept across the desert, ultimately flushing through the basin area, creating the incredible 400 foot cliffs of Dry Falls Lake. Its an amazing venue, and the fact that the fishing can be quite good only adds to its charm.

Dry Falls Launch

On Day 3, a Tuesday, we arrived at the lake around 10:00am, and we were surprised to find the lake packed with anglers! I counted two dozen other fisherman, mostly in pontoon boats and water masters and prams. Doesn't anyone work anymore? No worries, fly fishermen are an easy-going lot as long as you aren't mistreating the resource. We launched our craft and headed out through the shallows into the deeper water.

Catching fish

Everyone was catching fish on that day. About half seemed to be fishing indicator setups and the other half a mixture of subsurface flies or woolly buggers. After querying the only other woman on the lake, Amy started fishing a black woolly bugger down deep. She immediately began catching fish. Fish after Fish. Amy really put it to me.

Rex Takasugi

We ran into Rex Takasugi, who was putting on a clinic on the far side of the lake. He gave me some flies and gave us some pointers about where the fish were lying. Amy used that information to really start putting on a show. By now Amy had caught 15 fish. I had caught 1, and I was getting kind of steamed about it. Fortunately, I was able to put Rex's advise to work and I caught 4 fish, including the biggest fish of the day, this 18" trout.

Trout of the Day

Amy caught 21 fish, which is by far her record of most fish caught in a single day. My personal record is only 27. That last fish of hers was one of the nicest of the trip! A beautiful 17" fish, what a way to cap off the day!


Day 3: Dinner and Lodging
We stayed at the Super 8 on the outskirts of Spokane. Do yourself a favor and stay someplace a little nicer.

Tally for Day 3: Amy = 21 Fish, David = 5 Fish.

Congratulations to Amy for her record day of fishing!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring Break Day 2: Quincy Lake & Rocky Ford

Before I continue with the trip report, let me acknowledge that this spring break trip has nothing to do with the Snoqualmie Valley.  Truth be told, there's not a ton of good fishing in the valley right now for the following reasons:
  1. The mainstem of the Snoqualmie is closed (as are most salmon and steelhead rivers this time of year).
  2. The forks of the river don't fish well until late summer, in my experience.
  3. The valley lakes are either still closed or haven't been planted.
  4. The Hancock Tree farm passes have sold out already (whoops! should have got mine!)
So for our spring fishing trip we went east out to the Columbia Basin.  I love fishing the desert!  Living in Snoqualmie, you can be at the basin in just 2 hours, which is yet another advantage to our little town.

Anyway, On with the report!

After breakfasting in Ellensburg, we hit the road for Quincy, just on the other side of the Columbia river. Quincy Lake is a beautiful desert lake that receives generous plants of rainbow trout early in the year.  It being a weekday, there were only a few other fisherman plunking away from shore as we motored by in our jon boat.  Amy immediately started getting strikes on her black woolly bugger.

Over the next four hours or so, she received strike after strike, ultimately catching 10 fish, which is a lot for her.  None of them were larger than the one in the picture but that's okay, she had a great time.  The lake was quite windy and by the end of our time there my face felt somewhat blasted by all the cold air. Somehow I caught only 2 fish at Quincy Lake, which seemed strange because the water was clearly teaming with trout.
We left the Quincy Wildlife area and drove down to the still-sleeping resort town of Crescent Bar looking for ice cream but everything was closed.  We settled for Mexican food in the town of Quincy proper and then headed to Rocky Ford, one of Amy's favorite fishing spots.

If you've never been to Rocky Ford its worth going.  Its a desert spring creek with a hatchery right on it.  The water is loaded with giant trout who are just milling around feasting on bugs all day.  The trout get quite smart so catching them can be challenging.  We usually just fish from the dock.  Amy can cast farther than I can now I noticed.  Of course, she immediately hooked up with a couple of big trout.
I caught only one trout, which happened to be the largest one.  Please ignore my funny Elmer-Fudd hat -- it was cold at the end of the day and I appreciated warm ears.

Finally tally for the day: Amy = 12 Fish.  David = 3 fish.
Day 2: Dinner and Lodging
We fished until dark and then drove down to the motel cluster at Moses Lake (all the way back to I-90).  We stayed at the Ramada Inn and ate fast food in our room.   I'd stay at the Ramada again, it was nice and reasonably priced.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Break Day 1: Upper Yakima River Proper

Home from Easter Service

Sunday was important for three reasons.  One, it was Easter.  Two, the end of Lent meant I could eat chocolate again.  Three, the start of our 4 day fishing trip.

After packing our gear, we drove an hour over the pass to my favorite fishing grounds.  I'd heard many tales of large fishing being caught somewhere on the Yakima lately.  It being cold, you can see Amy layering on several undergarments, including non-matching PJs and booties!

Geared up, we hiked through the woods to the river.  We fished hard for about three hours, in the wind and cold and finally rain.

Not a single tap.  So I didn't take any pictures of the river.  But the pictures of the woods were cool so I'm posting them.

Day 1: Dinner and Lodging
That night we stayed at the old "Ellensburg Inn" which is now a Quality Inn.  I like their little breakfast place, the pool and wifi.  We had dinner at this new place down the street called The Roadhouse Grill, which was honestly fantastic.   I had a GREAT rib-eye steak and watched the first Mariner's game on the TV over Amy's head at the bar. :)

So on day 1, the fishing wasn't so hot, but the road trip was going well.  Next up, Day 2, which includes the biggest fish of the trip...