Skagit/Sauk [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Skagit/Sauk

11-06-2003, 01:00 PM
Hey guys- I fish the Skagit and Sauk alot evry year during the winter. This year I at college out in Maine, but when I come back, I was planning on fishing them. From what I hear, the floods really knocked the rivers out of whack, and the visibility still isn't recovering. My question is: Is the visibility really still that bad with the low temps? if so, what is going to happen to the winter fishery? Is it showing ANY signs of improvement? where is most of the sediment coming from?

11-06-2003, 04:09 PM

I live in Mount Vernon and the Skagit is running a beautiful, hot chocolate milk brown today despite being at normal flow, just like it has been for the weeks since the flood. It seems that the new channels that have been cut do not have stabilized banks yet and are puking a lot of mud into the river. I hoped the cold weather would clear it up' but that has not happened yet. I sure hope it clears soon because there are fresh chum in the river.

11-06-2003, 04:57 PM
I wonder if the hot summer isn't still affecting the Skagit? How much of the glaciers that feed the river were melted away? Exposing fresh glaciel silt which was washed into the river by the heavy rains. Just a thought.

11-06-2003, 05:23 PM
any glacial silt that is being washed in by meltwater will soon be freezing up there. Was the sauk clearing up from the slide before the high water or could that be a cause too?

Just me
11-06-2003, 06:05 PM
Went up and visited the Sauk up by Darrington on Monday. It doesn't look good. It might be dropping but the White Chuck is still dumping clay colored water. Didn't make it down as far as the Suaittle. Saw enough color(gray) at Darrington. To let me know that it isn't fishable. So I am going to fish the N/f Stilly for a while.


11-06-2003, 09:16 PM
I was on the Sauk below Darrington today. Vis is about 1 inch, even after almost a week of freezing temps. The river has piles of silt many FEET high almost everywhere. I have never personally seen a flood event of this magnatude, so can't comment with any authority. But my eyes, feet and gut tell me: The Sauk is going to take a very long time to clear out all the silt, possibly many years. I would expect it to go out completely after any high water this winter, if it ever even comes back in at all this year. The Sauk was low and cold today. Many channel changes etc as well. Skagit will obviously be affected below the Sauk confluence. For the upper Skagit, I'm hearing Ross Lake, etc all are still very milky, as milky as anyone has ever seen. One expert opinion has an Xmas timetable before we get 12+" vis above Rockport. The boat launches above Concrete are still closed as far as I know. The immediate future looks very bleak indeed on my favorite waters.

11-06-2003, 09:22 PM
excuse me while i wipe a cold milk chocolate colored tear from my cheek:(

11-06-2003, 09:28 PM
You and me both my friend.

11-07-2003, 01:56 AM
It has been reported that the Sauk has cut new channels in 4 places between Darington and its confluence with the Skagit. Additionally, the Skagit has cut a new channel upstream of Rockport on the south side of the river, and is now flowing a lot more water through what used to be the side channel between the Dutchman and the lower end of Jackman Riffle.

There is an awful lot of mud in the Baker dams and the Skagit dams too that has not settled out yet and this is also contributing to the turbidity. It doesn't look good for clearing anytime soon. I sure hope we don't get another flood this year.

11-07-2003, 07:02 AM
thanks for the info flytyer- one question- which drift (upper, middle Lower) did the sauk cut the new channels in? I'm not asking where, but just which area. thanks

Leland Miyawaki
11-07-2003, 09:50 AM
Hey Thomas,

When you tire of fishing in chocolate, let me know and we'll see if we can find some searuns in crystal clear beachwater that like to eat poppers.


11-07-2003, 12:41 PM

The Sauk has new channels in the each of the sections from Darrington to the confluence with the Skagit. In other words, there are new channels in the Darrington to Suiattle, the Suiattle to Government Bridge, and the Government Bridge to the Skagit sections. The Sauk also cut new channels above Darrington and the Whitechuck has probably cut new channels too. Almost forgot, the Suiattle has cut new ones too.

11-09-2003, 12:05 PM
Sauk/Skagit update --
Finally got a chance to poke around some on Saturday (11/8) and to look at some of the changes from last month's flood. Fished (not sure that is a correct term for the Sauk) a couple drifts on both the Sakgit and Sauk. Here some of my observations and thoughts:

Skagit -
Visibility is slowly improving above the Sauk, had about 2 feet on Saturday. The reservoirs will be slowly clearly with a contact at Seattle City Light reporting that barring additional flooding/heavy rains visibility will slowly improve but likely to continue to lbe imited until near the first of the year. Any additional flooding or heavy rains on exposed erosion areas will extend that time. Virtual all the dirty water is from the reservoirs so visibility will be influenced by the ratio of water discharged from the projects and the inflows from tributaries (Bacon, Cascade, etc). The result is that during cold snaps visibility will actually decrease - constant input of dirty water and reduced clear water. Also visibility will better lower in the reach rather than higher.

With flows down got a pretty good look/feel for a couple of drifts. My sense is that the river has flatten some with the flats and the edges of the tailouts being shallower. As a result those areas will not fish as well at low flows. Some new bars and shoals have formed. The bottom substrate in main flow areas appears to have changed little while low flow areas have collected fair amounts of silts/sands.

In one location found a number of late pink redds. Unfortunately they must of spawn while flows were up and now are mostly high and dry. While the eggs will likely stay damp they are very vulunerable to freezing (may all ready have).

A big change we are likely to see this winter is as a result of the conditions on the Sauk (see below) will be increased fishing pressure above the Sauk - for the non-plunkers it may be the only game in town. Yesterday there appeared to be a number of anglers who don't normally fish that area. I talked with 5 different parties - had one group of bankies ask where the Cascade River was and how best to catch a coho. Had another boat launching at Rockport asked whether the mouth of the Sauk was upstream or downstream of the launch. Saw Jet boats (launch at Rockport usable), drift boats and pontoon boats so folks are getting back on the water.

Below the Sauk fishing will be limited by what has happened on the Sauk.

Sauk -
Visibility continues to almost non-existent with less than 2 inches yesterday. I filled a water bottle and let it sit for a couple of hours and very little settled out. The clay-like material will be in suspension for sometime.

I "fished" through 3 drifts and the largest change is SAND! I have never seen this much sand in our local waters. There are huge deposits of sand everywhere. A unbelievable amount of new material has been deposited in the system. The river seems to have flatten out considerably with many of the sharper dropping riffles becoming longer and a flatter. Every pool that I "fished' through had bottoms that were nearly entirely sand with only a few large rocks poking through it. As I waded into pools that I expected to be waist to mid-chest deep I found that they were only knee deep with the bottom covered with 1 to 2 feet of sand. In a couple of the pools I sank up to my knees in sand. The only places that the bottom was anything other than sand was the current throats and riffles (I expect that even there sand will be found).

I did not get above the Darrington but conditions were consistently the same whether above or below the Suiattle. With all the new material we can expect that for some time the pools and runs will be wider and shallower and the riffles longer (can you say North Fork Stillaguamish). The whole Sauk looks much like Deer Creek in the mid-1980s only a much larger scale. Millions of cubic yards of sand/fines must have washed off Glacier Peak. The materail in the river is similar to that found in the lower Sauk following the exposure of Chocolate Glacier in the late 1980s. That materail lingered in the lower Sauk until the large flood of 1995 and can still be found in the lower Skagit. The only good news is that in the early 1990s the sand after several high waters was cleaned and new longer caused great turbidities - just sand dunes in the pool bottoms.

Currently as the river drops some of the sand banks sluff material into the river adding to the problem. With a couple of moderate waters the stream channels and sand banks should stablize some. Even as visibility improves the amount and quality of "holding water" has been greatly reduced which will affect the fishability of the water - especially for the feather tossers.

It is hard to imagine many eggs in the main stem Sauk survived the flood and being buried in sand. The amount and quality of main stem spawning gravels in the Sauk has been greatly reduced and will likely impact chinook, pink and steelhead spawning success and capacity for years. Even the spring spawning steelhead will be affected by shifting substrate due to the summer snow melt run-off.

An upside is that all the material will contribute to and accerlate the development of new estuarian habitat out side of the dikes at the mouth of the river as it moves downstream over the next decades. Mother Nature may do a better job of restoring habitat they we will.

This is much longer than I intended so will end my "report" now.

Tight lines

11-09-2003, 08:23 PM
Thanks for the report I have been out on the coast and I can only speculate but it looks pretty bad, lots of new blue clay-banks high up in the systems are putting milky water into the systems even during the low flows associated with the recent cold snap. Sections that,would be way too clear are just barely fishable. If this is the way it is to be then it will be extremely difficult to catch fish during average winter flows.
As to the short and long term effects on the fish populations; as usal there will be winners and losers and I will enjoy the observation of each.