hatcheries, biters, and skamania brats [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: hatcheries, biters, and skamania brats

05-21-2003, 11:22 PM
A number of rivers east and west have been planted with Skamania steelhead. Many of these rivers never hosted native runs of summer steelhead, so wild fish are totally absent.

On my river - and apparently on others - these Skamania brats fish are notoriously difficult to take on the fly. Are Skamania fish inherently difficult to catch on the swung fly, or do consumptive fisheries selectively remove the biters when there is no local wild stock to replenish the biting genes? Somewhere in here may be a lesson for a world reliant on hatcheries, without wild stocks.

Curious also what techniques others have found to work in hatchery-only rivers, especially out westways ..

fishely yours

05-21-2003, 11:52 PM
I believe that if eggs are fertilized from the brood that shows up at a hatchery grate without any lip piercings it's progeny are eventually going to be bred to be less prone to chowing on the ascent as well. I don't know how many generations this will take, but from the evolution of the non-redd digging hatchery fish we should take notice of man-induced changes.

That being said, in my opinion this reputation comes from people who see dour fish, try for them, and assume they are not good biters. Somewhere within a good wade there is probably a fish willing to torpedo a skater at first glance, sitting behind an underwater array of boulders or in the effervesence of a calm spot in the storm of a rapid.

There is a pool that stacks up with these fish in a state park in WA. All day from 8am to dusk they are notoriously hard to hook. But if you camp at the park and fish from 4:20am to 8am, you will consistently hook a fish or two each morning. Sometimes even the dour fish are in a frisky mood.

I certainly don't have it all figured out so all I can do is say "good luck!".

05-22-2003, 12:43 AM
:devil: :devil: :devil: :devil:




05-22-2003, 09:46 AM

Good question! From what I have heard, the Skamanias were not super aggressive fish from the get go but the impacts of multiple generations of hatchery rearing no doubt has also self-selcted out the attributes we as fly fishers appreciate.

I think Juro had a good point about hard pressed fish being dour but I think it goes beyond that. Hatchery fish just don't respond as agressively as those raised in the wild. Every winter I fish over three to five times as many brats as wild fish. (Well maybe not this year as the brats never came back. Poor ocean conditions and all you know.) And every year I will hook only one or two hatchery fish. During these same months, I will normally hook 3-4 times that many wild fish.

It must be the flies ;)

05-22-2003, 01:58 PM
Or Sinktip it could be you are just a wild winter fish God. I think that is more the case.

JJ, the worst steelheader ever. :)

05-22-2003, 02:20 PM

At the risk of taking this thread off topic, I would trade whatever devine nature from wild winter to wild fall. And if the water gods bless us with fishable waters, even you should be able to shake that albatross from around your neck.

Along those lines, check you e-mail for travel info :)


05-24-2003, 11:34 PM

I absolutely concur with you. I have caught far more wild fish than harchery fish in waters were both are present. In fact, on one small winter steelhead river that is only 7 miles from my home, I have caught nothing but wild fish. This despite there being a large contingent of hatchery winter runs in the river.


I have had the same thing happen with dour fish (both wild and harchery summer fish) that have been fished over so much that htey get lock jaw. That is except for two times of the day: the first few hours of daylight, and the last 2 hours that there is light available to see (meaning I fish until it gets dark). I suspect these two times result in fish hooked because hardly anyone is fishing then.

05-27-2003, 12:19 PM
It is true that our local hatchery fish have been hard to hook on fly the last few years, especially in winter. But 5 or 6 years ago and beyond it was not that hard to catch them. One thing some have noticed over the last few years is that our local rivers come into shape in a day or two after flooding. Be this better logging up stream and better management of farm land down lower. Years ago a river would stay brown for 4 and five days even when the river had come down to fishable levels. 3 foot vis and a river that could be waded seemed to produce brats in December and January. But now with rivers clearing up so quickly one has to wonder if these hatchery fish push even harder up to the hatchery when they feel the river dropping and clearing. Or do these fish just sit in deeper water that is not favorable to a fly? Except for this year gear guys have done well on hatchery fish in the deep runs when the rivers finally cleared up.

As for Summer run hatchery fish I've never found them that hard to come to the surface once the river temps are over 55. But who really knows how many closed mouth brats your fly wakes over fishing down through a run.

Those summer hatchery fish in the eastern part of the state and down in Oregon sure come to the fly

05-27-2003, 02:35 PM
One possible reason is that OR uses wild stock whenever possible for the hatchery on that river.

06-05-2003, 11:28 AM
The disdain for Skamanias really puzzles me.

Here in the Mid-West they are the hottest thing going. I am lucky enough to live close to NW Indiana, a state that started the Skamania stocking program on the GL's. (1980's)

When those fish run the 3 creeks they hit anything, I do mean anything. I have seen them come up and attack a float. Even had one (many years ago) hit a spawn sack when I was reeling in. They hit flies, plugs, spinners, bait, etc. It seems like they go dour after they get pounded. Once those dour fish move to a new hole or a new fish moves in the hole they seem to wake up.

Since they are all hatchery fish the law of natural selection does not really play into this. Unless a snagger with a cooler full of steelhead counts...

GL Skamania fight like a demon, many a time I have been eye to eye with them when they jump. I have had hooks smashed like they were in a vise. Even had them hit the opposite shore so hard they knock themselfs out.

Since the GL's do not have a population of wild ocean going fish I have nothing to compare them with. We do have naturally re-produced fish, but they are transplants from the PNW.

The true wild PNW fish must be an amazing creature, one that needs to be respected and protected.

I have to wonder why your (PNW) Skamania are so different than the GL ones? Or it could be that the fish out here are dogs and we do not know any better.

06-05-2003, 04:40 PM
I will be the first one to defend Skamania hatchery fish.

I must first note, I do not believe they belong in all river systems as studies and casual obersavations have shown that they have adversely effected their wild cousins.

Anyways...some of my most memorable summer steelhead were in fact, Skamania stock. Those early 3 salters that enter the rivers in May (alas, I have not had the oppurtunity to hook a true native springer steelhead...Kalama, EF Lewis, Wind etc.) will kick your ass like no other!

When Skamania fish are hooked, they jump, run, tear 'ya up and fight 'til the end!

Plus, given half a chance, they will be willing biters. Fresh Skamania fish are aggresive and although, I think they tend to go into lockjaw much earlier in the summer then wild summers, once the fall rains come, I have seen them turn into aggresive trouty steelies that will take anything you throw at them.

I think the disdain towards Skamania fish is because, as I just mentioned, they go into lock jaw much sooner then wild summer-runs and they love to hole up in the deepest, slowest pools they can find in large numbers which frustrates all of us fishermen.

06-06-2003, 01:21 PM
In your opinion, which fish is the better fighter, Skamania or wild summer run?

Just for comparisons sake.


New Spey
06-06-2003, 02:44 PM
Alan from Home Waters, in Eugene says he hooks a large number of fish on the Mckenzie, skating muddlers. It is funny, because most of the dogma surrounding these skamania fish in the Mckenzie, is that you have to nymph for them, because they won't move for a fly. I wonder if these rules get set by people who give up on the fish to soon, then find an easier way.

I know I do many times.

06-07-2003, 01:46 AM
Originally posted by mjyp
In your opinion, which fish is the better fighter, Skamania or wild summer run?

Just for comparisons sake.

Sorry for the copout but every fish is unique and every fish is special!! :rolleyes: :hehe:

Seriously though...I have caught few Skamania fish that did disapoint but it seems that when you bring to a hand a wild summer steelhead, everything else is forgotten. That is not to say wild summer steelhead do not fight because I think they are equal or surprass their Skamania cousins.

But IMHO, it all boils down to water temperature, length the fish has been in teh freshwater, size of the river, where hooked etc. etc.

...when one is speaking of Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead ('brats'), those runts DO NOT fight!! :mad:

06-08-2003, 12:22 PM
A couple thoughts and observations -
The willingness of any summer to bite seems to me to related to the conditions under which we are fishing. Here in the the Puget Sound region as Sparky points out the Skamania fish enter the river earlier in the summer than our native fish. Whenever I could fish on fresh or traveling fish I have found them to be very responsive -Makes no difference whether hatchery or summers.

It is just that by mid-summer most of our hatchery fish have been in the river for some time and often have shot up stream to holding areas and quickly become "dour" fish. Several decades ago the hatchery fish moved much slower up the North Fork Stilly than today. It was common to find hatchery fish scattered the full length of the North Fork clear to Arlington well into August. Following the problems on Deer Creek and the filling of the all the holding areas I believe that the fish aren't finding desirable holding areas and keep moving upstream until the reach the end of the line. The same thing is happening with the Deer Creek fish- they seem to be in a bigger hurry to get up river. In that earlier period noted I consistently took hatchery summers (about 2 for every Deer Creek fish) below Oso all through July and August on skated dries.

While the habitat on places like the Skykomish have not been as degraded as on the NF Stillaguamish I believe that the constant boat traffic keeps the fish on the move with the end result being the same as on the Stilly - the fish end up in the river holding for extended periods in the same water.

Regarding the early morning bite - My thoughts are that it is due to basic fish behavior (nearly everything regarding fish catching is). As with many trout steelhead under the cover of darkness tend to spread out throughout the holding water with fishing holding along the stream seams and tailouts. The careful angler often find these "edge" fish willing to take. As soon as they are spooked or the day brightens the fish return to the holding areas we typically find them in and become difficult to trick. I'm reminded of the several summers on the North Fork where a large log jam formed above Hazel. By late July will snorkeling several hundred steelhead could be counted holding in dark under the extensive log cover. At the crack of dawn there would be holding fsh throughout a 50 yard section of the river many of which would be very catchable. However sloppy wading or the antics of a hooked fish would cause all the fish to diappear back under the cover of the logs not to be seen until the next morning. Virtually no one bothered these fish for months.

Another example of the difference between traveling and holding fish this time the wild Deer Creek fish. It is commonly accepted that these guys are as "trouty" as any steelhead in the area. They are willing biters. However if they keg up for an extend time (mouth of the Creek for example) then the only way to catch them consistently is the crack of dawn or to force fed them "jig-flies".

Tight lines

06-09-2003, 01:46 AM
Thanks for the excellent insight!! :)

06-22-2003, 12:54 AM
thanks to everyone for the insights. I went out tonite for the first time since I posted this thread, also first time this year with a full floater. After an hour I hooked a brat 100' out standing mid-river, on a 1/0 Lady Caroline. She was holding in a slot on the other side of the river.

She fought royally, leaped, tailwalked, made the big CFO sing-n-scream, and doubled over the 15' #8. I put the wood to her, as I'm prone to do, and ultimately broke her off. She was a bright fish.

big big :D