Part II - The Olympic Peninsula
After a leisurely sleep-in to restore lost ZZZZs, Juro and Bill loaded up the truck and we all headed across the Sound to the Olympic Peninsula. With the requisite stops at the Quality Fly Shop in Port Angeles for materials (they have more exotic stuff than you’ll ever see outside of Canada) and a quick brunch/espresso at our favorite bakery, we arrived in Forks in the early afternoon.
A quick scope of the upper Sol Duc (low and clear) and we were off to fish the lower Hoh just above the mouth. We were actually fishing the last few runs of this river before it enters the salt. The river here is broad and flows through many braids of sand and scrub. The pools are deep and fast, with minimal structure. As we walked up the long gravel bar we encountered the first of several Plunker Campgrounds – 4-Wheel drive rigs, campfires, and 2-3 rods in holders on the beach with lines stretching out into the river to mark their territory. Juro talked to the first and was treated to a glimpse of a nice chrome native residing in Plunker #1’s cooler and a tale of another (bigger and meaner) fish that had bested the angler that hooked it that morning in the tailout of the same pool.
We were pretty excited to get our flys swimming after this. I headed up as far as I could and fished a shallow riffly tailout with good cover and water speed. Juro found some good water above/below the Plunker encampments. And Bill waded across one of the braids and was fishing a really fabulous looking tailout the last time I saw him. I fished till dusk, then headed back toward the truck fishing likely looking slots along the way. Juro and Bill showed up later and we headed back to Forks for dinner and crashed at the Olympic Suites motel. Steelhead 1, Seattle/Redmond/Boston’s finest 0
The next day we decided to head back to the lower Hoh. After all, we knew there were bright fish entering the river and they sure weren’t holding long in any of the spots we’d fished. We decided to try up a bit higher in the river at a spot called Nolan’s Bar. We got there and were rigging up on a foggy chill morning when we saw the first of what would define the morning – the Driftboat Parade!! One after another they came – we must have watched 30-40 pass by that morning. I was fishing a particularly "fishy" pool when I heard the client in the plug-pulling boat just above me yell out excitedly and the guide holler, “Set The Hook”!!! Lucky for the fish, the hook didn’t stick – the mortality on the fish we saw/heard of caught was about 100%. I sure hope the Hoh’s native run is as healthy as the DFW claims it is ~~~
After that, we decided to search out a spot with a bit less pressure. We settled on the upper Hoh near the Park boundary. I walked upriver a ways and crossed over to fish a spot I’ve seen from the road many times but had never taken the time to fish. I had my new bright day/low water shrimp on and was enjoying watching it swim through the unusually clear waters (the Hoh is a glacial river and the water usually has some milky tint to it). The run was fishing well, but the seam was only about 3’ deep. It was also bluebird weather - not a cloud in the sky, about 60-70 degrees, and around 2 in the afternoon.
So I’m lazily swinging my shrimp through the run thinking “this would be great skating water in summer, but there probably aren’t many in here now” when a feel a lazy tug and think “Uh Oh - RockCod!”.
I look down and see a hugh silver flash in the water - like a chrome hubcap - and feel the first heavy shakes of the fish. I’m just about to holler “FISH ON” when I get a violent tug as the fish turned (I SAW it in the clear water) and leaves with my shrimp!
I’m fishing my Sage 8150 and have this F*#KING* 15lb Fluorocarbon tippet tied to that shrimp and it broke above the knot??!!!. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to throw the rod, reel, and spool of offending fluorocarbon tippet into the river. Then I had to wait till I stopped shaking before I could tie on another shrimp and finish the run.
If anybody ever sees me tie a steelhead fly to anything but Maxima tippet just shoot me, OK?
After finishing the run, I headed back down to join Bill and Juro. We stopped at the Hard Rain Café (great little spot to pick up lunch or supplies) and munched on Salmon Burgers and other goodies out on their deck while plotting where to try that evening on our way back to Seattle.
We chose the upper Sol Duc and ended up fishing the Bear Springs run. When we arrived the trees lining the banks had already shaded the water (perfect!). I spooked a small deeply colored buck from the shoreline trench as I walked down the path looking for a place to enter the water. Sluggishly, he swam out into the main flow and disappeared. Our flylines reached out to the far bank (and sometimes beyond – sorry about that Rat Juro) but the flies swam through the pool with no effect on the steelhead that may have seen them.
It was still a great spot to end our weekend on the Peninsula. There’s nothing harder than making the Last Cast on a trip like this one!