The 2023 fishing season was a busy one. It was a really dry summer so we often had low water conditions in the rivers. That being said, the fishing was pretty good. The Steelhead fishing was as good as I’ve seen it. Including one of the biggest Steelhead I’ve ever seen. early summer Trout and Dolly fishing was good, but a little slower than normal. The lack of rain during the early summer moved the fish out of many spots and consolidated the fish into deeper runs. Sockeye were late showing up in the Thorne because of the low water, and when they did show up the conditions were poor for trying to target them. There are other Sockeye runs on the island and it will be one of my goals next year to try and expand my knowledge of the Sockeye fisheries here. Pinks showed up about on time and pushed there way up the low rivers. Pink fishing was good as usual and we had a blast catching tons of these highly underrated fish.
This July was certainly not the best month that we have had, but I guess it could have been a lot worse. After a hot and dry June we battled with low water and late salmon returns. We caught lots of dollies and cutthroat early in July but the fishing was still below average. Sockeye never really seemed to show up in good numbers and early run Silvers were a couple weeks late showing up. When they did show up they shot up river quickly during a short period of higher water. Pinks in the Thorne were right on time which helped to improve fishing in the latter part of the month.
Fly fishing on Prince of Wales Island in May was excellent. The Trout and Dolly fishing has been some of the best I’ve seen in Southeast Alaska. There has been tons of fish around and the average size of the fish seems to be larger than I’ve seen before. Streamer fishing was really great and we even had some good dry fly fishing. On top of all the good Trout and Dolly fishing, we even found a few nice Steelhead early in the month. May is one of my favorite months to fish on Prince of Wales. The weather is usually good, the fishing is awesome, and the rivers are pretty quiet.
It has been another fun season of Steelhead fly fishing. The 2022 season certainly had its challenges, but for the most part it was a great start to the year. The fishing was good early in the season. There were lots of fish around and the water conditions were pretty good, but the temperature was darn cold. Later in the season we had a bad dry spell that caused historically low water levels which made the fishing very challenging. Fish were crammed into very small runs and were incredibly skittish. On top of that, the fishing pressure really started to increase which added to the challenging conditions. Towards the end of the season we got some rain and much better water levels. Some bright fish came in late which made for some decent fishing. The Cutthroat and Dolly fishing really started to pickup through early spring, and will continue to be excellent for the next couple of months.
November was very slow fishing for me. I only made it out a few times and had very little success. I found a couple worn out Coho and a couple Cutthroat Trout while doing some lake fishing but that was it for fish. Towards the end of the month I got the big stick out and swung some streamers for Steelhead, but was unsuccessful. Even though I didn’t find any Steelhead, it was nice to be on the river and the scenery was beautiful with the snow.
Much of October was predictably Southeast Alaska with heavy rains and high water. We did get out a couple times and tried some nymphing and streamer fishing for Cutthroat Trout in a few creeks with no luck. There were still a few dark Coho in some of the lakes. The one I caught while searching for Cutthroat was pretty worn out. Overall the fishing in October was very slow, but Prince of Wales Island was as calm and quite as I’ve seen it in awhile and the fishing was very pleasant.
September had its challenges when it came to fly fishing Prince of Wales Island rivers. Pinks lingered late into the month which made finding fall Coho in the mix difficult at times. High water was often a challenge during the month as well. Coho fishing did pick up throughout the month, but we really didn't experience good Coho fly fishing until the latter part of the month. Cutthroat and Dolly Varden fly fishing was very good during the month. We targeted Cutts and Dollies mostly with beads and experienced some of the best fishing of the year.
Fly fishing on Prince of Wales Island was great in August. Fly fishing for Pink Salmon was incredible. Pinks moved into the rivers and lakes thick and we had a blast landing large numbers of fish every day. Coho fishing has been sporadic, but we have been lucky enough to find some nice fish here and there using a Pink/White Dolly Llama. This time of year we found that Coho were most active early in the morning. Cutthroat and Dolly fishing has been good, although we did not spend a lot of time targeting them because the salmon fishing was so good. We caught a fair amount of Cutthroat and Dollies while streamer fishing and found success bead fishing towards the end of the month.
Stream fishing on Prince of Wales Island was great in July. Fly fishing for Dolly Varden early in the month was outstanding. We also saw an early run of Coho that made for some really fun early season salmon fishing. Dry weather and low water delayed the Pink Salmon run a couple of weeks, but the month ended strong with Pinks pushing into many systems toward the end of the month.
The Thorne River has been fishing really well. Water level has been on the drop and wading access is great. Some Sockeye have moved into the system but cutthroat trout have been the main attraction. Swinging steamers through the riffles and stripping through pools have both produced fish. I will be looking for Cutthroat an Dolly Varden to begin keying in on salmon eggs as more Sockeye and Pinks enter the system. There are probably better options out there if you want to target Sockeye, but if you do, small sparse flies such as the Montana Brassie or Teeny Nymph are good options.
When I moved to Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska in mid-May. I hoped that I had made it in time to catch the end of Steelhead season, so my first couple of trips out were Steelhead focused. My first stop was the Thorne River. The Thorne is largest river on the island and has multiple runs on the lower river that are suitable for swinging streamers with a spey or switch rod. I spent a couple days swinging through runs with my new Redington Dually switch rod I did not find any Steelhead. I was however catching cutthroat trout from time to time. After finding no steelhead on the Thorne I decided to check out another creek where I have had luck catching steelhead in the past. The creek is no more that 30 feet wide in most spots, so I traded my switch rod for my single hand eight weight. I drifted and swung a small streamer through the deeper pools and again found decent cutthroat fishing but no steelhead. I’ve never been on Prince of Wales Island this late in May so this is my first experience with spring cutthroat fishing. I figured if I was doing this well catching cutthroat with steelhead flies and larger hooks, I may find more success targeting cutthroat using trout streamers. My first day trout fishing I equipped myself with my 5 weight, an intermediate line, and a small grey and white clouser minnow. I went out to a small lake that feeds a stream on the east side of Prince of Wales Island, and first cast I hooked a steelhead. Luckily for me the steelhead was only about 28 inches and I didn’t have to fight it in a current, so after a long fight and a few failed attempts at land the fish I was able to land and release the steelhead. Fortunately that was the only steelhead I caught that day and I also landed a couple nice cutthroat but the fishing was pretty slow. I decided to return to the Thorne and spent the rest of the month catching a seemingly endless population of cutthroat in the river. The Thorne River has a variety of features in the lower river including ling runs, large pools, riffles, boulder gardens, and structure. All of these features hold cutthroat to one degree or another. I found that cutthroat throughout the river will happily take a dry fly or streamer. After fishing much of the lower river and finding trout of many different sizes in a variety of spots, I started to focus much of my time on deeper runs with a soft current. This feature holds the larger fish and can be effectively fished by both swinging and stripping streamers. While river fishing I used a 5 weight with a floating line, a slow sink tip, and a variety of bugger type streamers. While so many people come the Prince of Wales Island to experience the island’s premier steelhead and salmon fly fishing, I believe that the spring trout fishing is every bit as fun and believe this first class fishery is highly underrated. During the weeks I have been exploring I have interacted with only a handful of other anglers. If you are looking for some springtime solitude, the Thorne River is tough to beat.
While in Montana I had the extremely fun experience of fly fishing the Missouri River near Craig, Montana with Headhunters Fly Shop. In mid- April, the weather in Craig can vary greatly between warm spring weather and cold winter conditions. On this day we had snow, wind, and rain. Challenging conditions, but the upside is we had the river mostly to ourselves. I had fished here before in October 2019 and was part of a YouTube video series about fly fishing the river when I was working for Gig Harbor Fly Shop in Washington. During that first trip we did a lot of streamer fishing and nymphing, and I particularly enjoyed stripping streamer from a drift boat so I was hoping for more of the same during this visit. My guide Kurt told me that the streamer fishing should be pretty good but the Skwala hatch was happening and we had a good chance at dry fly fishing during the day. I have a great 4 weight Sage Trout LL that I love to use for dry fly fishing and I was excited at the prospect of testing the rod on the larger trout that the Missouri is famous for. We started our day with streamer fishing. I have a Sage X 6 weight that is a great trout streamer rod, and we found our first brown trout of the day using a white and silver conehead streamer. The streamer fishing that morning was a bit tough and I missed a couple of strikes before landing my first fish. The takes were very light possibly because the fish were slightly lethargic due to the winter like conditions. Later in the morning we began dry fly fishing with a Skwala imitation. We fished the slow seams near the banks and had very little success for the first while. We got our first hit before we saw a single fish feed on the surface. As the day went on we saw baetis hatching and began to see fish feeding on the surface. From there the dry fly fishing only got better. More and more large fish began sipping the Skwala and a couple of times, larger fish had my 4 weight bent right to the surface of the river. Dry fly fishing can be very technical on the Missouri River with casts often needing to be withing a foot of the bank or getting a drag free downstream drift to feeding fish. I had an opportunity to experience success doing both. On one such occasion where the fly needed to be placed on a slow seam up against the banks I saw a slow eat on my Skwala and found myself in a fight with a beautiful 20 inch brown trout. I also found myself in a couple of instances where we anchored above feeding fish and I had to make a downstream cast then stack mend without moving the fly. The use of a reach cast also helped me find some success as it helped me position my line upstream of my fly without needing to mend. Despite the weather this day turned out to be one of the best dry fly days I’ve had in a long time. I ended up landing about 20 trout over 16 inches. If you are interested in or planning to visit Craig for some fly fishing I highly recommend checking out Headhunters Fly Shop, and make sure you practice you casting before you go. It will make a huge difference in your success if you do.
The last state we visited on our 2021 cross country road trip was Montana. Our opportunities here were vast, but we decided to take a more focused approach so instead of trying to visit as many rivers as possible, we decided to spend more time in just a few places. Our first stop was The town of Dillion. There are numerous fly fishing options around Dillion, but we chose to fish the Beaverhead River during our visit. The river was low and less than thirty feet across in most place which allowed for wading long stretches of river with little effort. Our first day we euronymphed with some success. Olive mayfly nymphs and sowbugs were doing the trick. Areas where small riffles dropped into buckets were great spots to pick up brown trout but there were many deep slow pools that I did not feel I was fishing as well as I could using the euronymph rod, so the next day we fished using 5 weights with nymphs under a strike indicator. Being able to use a longer slower presentation in the larger pools produced more and larger brown trout. During the following days there were baetis hatches in the afternoon which produced some decent dry fly fishing. Our best opportunities came when we found brown trout feeding in deeper riffles. For me, using a size 20 blue wing olive pattern is one of the most difficult techniques in fly fishing, but we were rewarded with some nicer brown trout. On our last day I watched a brown feeding along a seam on a cut bank on the far side of the river. The trout was feeding consistently and the prime position made me think it could be a nicer fish. Getting a consistent drift and seeing my fly all the way across the river was challenging. I attempted multiple drifts over the fish but struggled to get a consistant drift and shut the fish down. After giving the fish a bit of a break I saw feeding again in the same spot and decided to try again. I moved slightly upstream to attempt more of a downstream drift with less of a need for a big mend. After being rejected a few more time I got a nice drag free drift and the fish I had been watching came up and sipped my fly. That beautiful brown trout ended up being my biggest and last fish on the Beaverhead River.
This was our first trip to North Carolina, and we were pleasantly surprised. The region of Western North Carolina near the Smoky Mountains is a real gem for trout fishing. In the area we found a mix of mountain freestone streams with wild trout and tailwaters with larger stocked trout. In late February the weather here was great. We had t shirt weather and hatches during the day which was perfect for nymphing in the morning and dry fly fishing in the afternoon. We spent our first day on the Nantahala tight line nymphing. The water was high and there was some whitewater but we still found some nice inside seams, pools, and tailouts to fish. The fishing was slow, but we found some success with a couple of small brown trout until I threw upstream into a seam beneth a partially submerged bush and got a solid take. The fish immediatly ran down stream and with a three weight I had give chase. After following the fish nearly 100 feet downstream through a small whitewater riffle I landed a beautifyl 18 inch brown trout in a slower pocket. That turned out to be one of the nicest fish of the trip. The next couple of days we fished the Tuckasegee River near the town of Bryson City. The Tuckasegee is a stocked tailwater with Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout that can exceed 20 inches. We again were tight line nymphing and having a lot of luck with Brook Trout and the occasional Rainbow Trout. Fishing the Tuckasegee River was interesting for us because the river bottom was different than most other rivers we have fished. The riverbed consisted of large flat rocks that form little canyons and pools below small dropoffs. The canyons and dropoffs had a green water tint and the fish were stacked in these areas. This river is very popular so movement up and down the river was limited and stocked brook trout was not quite the experience we were looking for. The next day we decided to explore what the Smoky Mountain National Park had to offer. We hiked up Deep Creek, a picturesque mountain stream in search of some small stream dry fly fishing for wild trout. We were told that Indian Creek, a smaller tributary of Deep Creek, might be a good spot, but we found it to be too small in most spots for us to fish. Indian Creek did have a nice waterfall which held small fish in the pool at the base, but we decided to go further up Deep Creek in search of fish. We found some crystal clear pools and pocket water that looked very fishy. We drifted small black elk hair caddis flies through the soft spots and found some very strong wild brown trout. The casting area was compact and the fishing was technical but we enjoyed the challenge very much, and the scenery the Smoky Mountains provided was spectacular. After another day of exploring the Nantahala River with moderate success we spent our last day floating the Tuckasegee River. Our goal for the last day was to strip streamers in search of larger fish. The streamer fishing turned out to be pretty slow with a couple of follows from large fish and a couple of smaller ones including one smallmouth bass on the swing. The highlight of the day tuned out to be phenomenal dry fly fishing where we landed a plethora of decent 14 to 16 inch brown trout. While we only scratch the surface of what this region has to offer. We thought it was a great place for trout fishing and intend to spend much more time in the area every chance we get.