Over the holidays I found myself in steelhead country visiting my family, who recently relocated from Hawaii to La Conner, WA. While in WA I got to go spend a day on the river with Jonathan Stump: Wild Steelhead Coalition, Dave McCoy & Jason Rolfe: Emerald Water Anglers and Greg Thomas: Anglers Tonic & Fly Rod & Reel. We started with fireball shots in the morning at the the grocery store in Darrington, WA. After getting plenty of beer and shitty food we headed to the upper Sauk River Valley to find some tasty swing water. With a fresh frosting of snow, good company, and a beautiful sunny cold day in the cascades, it was shaping up to be a fun day out on the river.
Once to our gearing up spot, beers were cracked, rods were rigged, and we casually made our way into puffy coats, waders and boots. We started down the creek bed to the main stem of the Sauk. The river valley opened up in front of us, mist clinging to the river and sunshine starting to make it's way out from behind the mountains. A picture perfect morning in the beautiful Northwest. The funny thing about the beauty of this area is that is seems to always be slightly offset by rednecks on four wheelers, who can't seem to make eye contact and trash everywhere along the road. But you can't let some garbage and a few meth-heads ruin a good time!
We all fished the same perfect speed, bouldery run for a couple hours. We joined back together on the river bank with a good buzz, one small rainbow caught, a nice bull trout landed, but no one had felt the grab of a wild steelhead we are all so addicted to. We found the softest rocks we could to sit on and talked shop and shared libations for the remainder of the sunny afternoon.
The Sauk and Skagit host wild steelhead up to 30 lbs. The numbers of these beautiful wild creatures returning to spawn has been growing in the last five years. The last of the hatcheries on the Skagit and Cascade were recently closed down. If the numbers of wild fish returning to spawn in Skagit system continues to grow, it will serve as a model for all rivers in the Pudget Sound (Thanks for that line Greg;). Maybe all we need to do is leave the fish alone and give them a break from angling pressure and hatchery implants and they will be able to proliferate well on their own? Only time will tell!