10-19-2002, 08:39 PM
It was crowded, as are all fall Saturdays, on the river this morning so I had to find some secondary water. In actuality, the pool I chose was very fishable at this low (400 cfs) water flow. I was able to follow the main current downstream further than usual while getting terrific swings as I quartered my casts and drew my fly broadside through the nearside seam.
Halfway down, my #5 low water Freight Spey got absolutely slammed. I knew immediately that it was a big fish. It took nearly all 100' of Windcutter flyline off my little CFO V in the first run. The fish ran down the pool while I hung on and applied pressure to the side. It stopped and shook it's head like a big ol' buck and slowly came back upstream. I stripped line and kept up the side pressure. The fish came up and moved past me into the heavy current and held as I took up the loose flyline and got him on the reel. I caught a good look of his tail and my knees got a bad case of the quivers. It looked to be the biggest steelhead I had ever hooked in the Sno.
The runs shortened and became more dogged as I slowly backed into some slack water. When I brought him to me and saw his length and girth, I had to laugh. I quickly laid the rod down and grabbed hold of his wrist, removed the fly from his mouth, picked him up to feel his heft and set him back gently in the current. He had a beautiful red stripe, rosy cheeks, a big scarred kype, and an adipose fin that waved like a flag. He was a beautiful wild buck that I figure to be between 12 and15 pounds. He wasn't your typical Snoqualmie steelhead with length but no girth, it was a fish proportioned like a Clearwater B-run. And unlike any other Snoqualmie fish I have ever caught, this one tore me apart.
I wished I had a camera with me, but then I wouldn't have hooked the fish.
Awesome fish Leland! I've landed some very nice thick bodied summer bucks in that system up to 17 lbs but never a summer fish like that unclipped. I have however landed some nice unclipped summer fish on the upper Green, and the Sky has a good population of wild summer fish and they share the same inlet from the sea. I am aware of wild summer fish in the Tolt as well as the Raging and Tokul has fish digging redds in winter that could be summer fish.
Congratulations, and great account of the battle.
10-20-2002, 12:40 PM
Congrads on a very nice fish!
Historically the Snohomish system (Snoqualmie/Skykomish) had two native summer steelhead populations who spawned in the Forks of the Tolt (mostly South Fork) and North Fork Skykomish above Bear Creek Falls (both areas now closed to angling). In addition there are naturalized hatchery fsih found in the Forks of the Tolt and South Fork Skykomish above Sunset Falls. The SF Sky population is the largest with some years 1,000 adult fish returning.
The native Tolt fish were smallish, like the Deer Creek of the Stillaguamish. The North Fork Sky fish were larger; typcially 8 to 10 pounds. The largest fish come from the naturalized hatcher y populations. Historically these fish were mostly 2 and 3-salt fish though today they are reverting to younger ages with most being 1 or 2-salt fish; however 3-salt fish are still aroung to spice things up a bite.
From your discription your fish was most likely a naturalized hatchery fish. I base that on the size (surely a 3-salt) and coloration. The fish from hatchery stock tend to develop redder stripes and have lime/greenish backs rather than the more bluish backs found on native stocks. It could be from either the Tolt or SF Sky or even out of basin stocks. Tag studies have shown that summer fish can do a fair amoung to wandering prior to returning to their home spawning areas the next spring.
Thanks for the clarification!
Question - are those "known" populations as in known to man or is there some proof that the Raging, mainstem or any other tributary could not / would not harbor reproduction of these native summer fish?
Call me a dreamer but I find it hard to believe there would be native summer fish in the Tolt but not in the Raging or Tokul; and with all the redds being dug in the tailout of the Snoqualmie Falls pool and successive pools and all the summer fish that hold in that pool in summer that none of them were historically able to reproduce before hatcheries, etc.
Although my beliefs are not founded in statistical proof, I believe the Tolt, Raging, Tokul and mainstem Snoqualmie once produced native summer fish, and may still today. I certainly accept that Tokul was the most prevalent population and we could scientifically gather evidence to support that, but I find it hard to swallow that the other tribs would be void of summer fish reproduction over the millenia.
Too bad with the pervasive hatchery put and take thinking of the last century we will probably never know if this is the case.
10-20-2002, 02:12 PM
Throughout the Puget Sound region the wild (native) summer steelhead were found upstream of barriers (typcally waterfalls) that made it difficult for winter fish to access the spawning areas consistently while the summer fish could hold downstream of the barrier waiting for optimum flows to gain upstream access. Whenever both fish had access to those areas the winter fish allows dominated the population. There are no barriers that would select for summer fish in places like the Raging River or the mainstem Snoqualmie -thus the native fish were winters. As always steelhead are very much a product of their habitats.
That is not to say there weren't some wild summer steelhead in the Snoqualmie above the Tolt. The South Fork Tolt fish could easily wander to upstream areas before the fall rains. There were summer steelhead clear up to the falls - I first saw those fish during the 1950s (prior to the summer steelhead hatchery program in the area). I believe that those fish were likely from smolts produced by resident rainbow populations found upstream of the falls. I've seen that phenomenon on several streams in the Puget Sound region.
As a side note I have discussed steelhead distribution with some of the old timers (Ken and George Mcloud and others) who had fished these streams in the 1920s, 30s, & 40s and interesting enough their observations match my own.
10-20-2002, 04:33 PM
Smalma, Thanks for the enlighting and interesting information.
Leland, Nice fish!
10-20-2002, 05:54 PM
Thanks for the information. I wish I had more to tell you or at the very least a photo. I don't recall the color of the fish's back. All I remember was the scarred kype and wild look in the eyes which were also the last things I saw as I fell asleep last night and the first thing I thought of this morning. I hope he remains undisturbed and is able to share his genes with another of his kind this spring.
I went back to the same spot this morning and saw a gear angler across the way with two writhing fish, which I guessed to be of hatchery origin as they were exactly the same size, at his feet. He was preparing to cast again when he saw me. He looked over at me then quickly gathered up his kill and left.
When I first saw the fish on the bank, I hoped that MY FISH wasn't one of them.