What's left after the cascade streams?
Sad that the C&R season, of all exploits, is to suffer this year. But what does that leave for exploration elsewhere? I am no steelie God but one thing I can hold to my credit is a wild hair for exploration. Maybe I sensed that my years in the PNW would be cut short by family ties in the Northeast, but I sampled the waters of as many rivers as I could while there.
Before ranging far and wide, the Green has a native population that rivals most rivers in the region. Just ask the F&G about the stats, it's in good shape. They start showing as early as February and there are good numbers in the lower river. Although they close the lower river (for this reason) the one year they left it open I landed 11 steelhead in 9 days and only one was a hatchery fish. They closed it on Easter, and my neighbor was fishing with his father in law in their church clothes and hip waders, and FIL had one on when I took the river road to say good bye to the season (wish I had a camera!). The biggest was a hen about 16 pounds, rare female for the Green. The Nishimoto (strawberry farms) area has great native fish holding power, and later on the nates are up in the gorge and above. I have caught huge native fish up there over the years.
Then there's the Puyallup and it's tribs. The Puyallup is touchy but when you get way up river the gravelly braids and pools are quite fishable and produce some huge nates when visibility supports it. I remember some surprising hookups using popsicles in what seemed to be mud. The Carbon is a clear, small stream with plenty of native fish. Some exceed 20 pounds in this trib, and it's extremely fishable with a fly. Go take a peek, it's about the size of the Stilly and gets little pressure. C&R for nates, of course.
Timing is everything but the upper Nisqually up around that small town with the two bridges over the river, upstream in the gravel braids upstream from the fort... can't remmeber the name of the town... McKenna? In any case, there are so many 20+ nates caught in the Squally each year, and if you get an army pass you can float thru untouched Fort Lewis water and get away from everyone with a driftboat.
The Skookumchuck is another one, Chehalis trib. I've had three fish days there, and although most are hatchery fish it's a small river with great access on the upper end near the boundary. A single hander or 7136-4 with tips will do the job. Very little pressure throughout the river and you could scour the river with an inflatable and a spot rig.
I won't mention the Cow but 16,000 rod and reel fish in a peak year is worth some mention for sport angling, and most bag it by March due to the desire for chromers for the table. The place is stacked with fish in April and chrome summers arrive in May.
Kalama is tough because of the way it fills up in winter flows, but if floated on the lower river with big gnarly GP's, bunnies, marabous, etc...
East Fk Lewis... one of my favorites though I only get there in summer run flows. Again, spot rigs and floating might be the way to get maximum access to big native holding pools.
Wynoochee - awesome with a fly. Always wanted to float the upper river, have done well at the site of the old White's bridge across from the launch and down to the succession of pools; concrete bridge, down to the mouth of Black's creek. Strong native population.
Satsop - big natives, few but high quality.
Humptulips? same story, but if floatable there are pigs to be hooked.
How many have fly fished the Nasselle, or the Elochomin? I've done the Elochomin, it's a single hander nymph style river but packed with hatchery fish. The Nasselle has huge nates coming in from the SW corner. How about the Gray's River tribs?
Upper Queets? Upper Quinault? Hoh in the park, midriver, or by the mouth? Upper Bogey? Sol Duc? Even the lower Elwha is a real producer.
This might be the year to scrub around the Hoko.
I wish I could still run with the pack all winter / spring!!!!