Monday, October 24, 2011

Back from Washington

The trip to Seattle this weekend was a great one, even though it was a short trip. We started off driving around 11:30 on Friday. Little did we know we were in for a little bit of hell once we got to Snoqualmie Pass. Construction on the pass caused traffic to back up for over 20 miles. We ended up being caught in stop and go traffic for 2 and a half hours. By the time we finally got moving, it was past 8pm.

We got to Bellevue and dropped Riley and Chris off around 9pm. We still had some time to kill before we caught the next ferry to Bainbridge Island so we met up with Cameron's older sister and had dinner at a burger place in the heart of Seattle. It was really cool being right in downtown and I was surprised that the driving wasn't that bad. However, I did have to conquer some of the steepest hills I've ever had to stop on with my manual VW passat. After dinner we got on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. There was an awesome view of Seattle from the ships deck.

We got to Bainbridge island and drove about 15 more minutes to the town of Poulsbo. We dropped off Connor and his friend Chris and then headed for Cam's house. When Cam and I got to the house I was amazed to learn how old the house was and how long it had been in the family. The house was built by Cameron's great, great grandparents in 1889 and is one of the oldest houses in the area. It reminded me a lot of my own house in New York which was built in the early 1900's. The property overlooks the Puget sound and on sunny days (very rarely), you can see the Olympic mountains.  
We woke early the next morning to an overcast day and a nice view of the Puget Sound. I was excited for today. We planned on heading up to the Olympic Peninsula to fish a couple rivers for salmon. Cameron's brother Brendon decided to come along so I rigged up rods for the three of us. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that the cohos were basically done running as well as the pinks but the chums should be arriving pretty soon.

The first river we decided to fish was the Dosewallips River. Once a very good winter steelhead fishery, the Dose(as locals call it), has had declining steelhead numbers for the past 20 years. Some say that the run is down to zero steelhead. Some fisheries biologists disagree. All that is known is that there has to be some serious restoration efforts to bring the fish back.

We drove up as far as we could on the access road and started looking for fish. It was difficult to present a fly because there were many leaves and the water was a little high. We drove downstream looking for spots where fish would hold. We found a big pool where I was sure a fish would be. Sure enough I spotted a pink salmon deep in the run. I got my rod out of the car to swing something at the fish but when I returned to the spot the fish had moved.  The river was really beautiful and the pool looked like a perfect steelhead pool and I continued to think "how could a river like this lose all or most of its steelhead?"

After checking a couple more spots we headed down to the mouth of the Dose and found a few zombie pinks. I tried swinging to them but they wouldn't take. A park ranger pulled up as we were leaving and explained to us that the nearby Quilcene was open and had more fish than the Dose. Since it was on the way home we stopped to fish on the way back. Brendon immediately spotted a nice coho resting in a small side pool of water below the bridge. It was an ugly fish, but it was a fish. We went down to look at the fish and discovered 2 more in the small pool. It was cool to see and I got some good shots of the fish.

Cameron and Brendon walked downstream on the trail and I got in the water and started looking. I saw a big spawning salmon on the far side and continued on. I was walking down a fast riffle/pocket water section and saw a big red coho. Unlike the fish I had seen so far, this one was pushing its way upstream. I hooked up with the fish on the first cast. I was very surprised and the fight began. The fish went a little crazy at first and then I saw the fishes head emerge from the water trying to throw the hook. It was a BIG coho. Bigger than any one I've seen in Great lakes tributaries. I fought it for a while longer and then Cameron came to help. I brought the fish in the shallows and just like that, Cam tailed the fish. "This is a big fish" he said. Just as he said it the fish flopped right back into the water. The fight was on again for about another 5 minutes and then the hook just pulled out. I wasn't disappointed though because it felt great to fight a fish from the ocean. I have to say they have a bit more power than their relatives of the great lakes. I continued downstream with Cameron to find Brendon casting at a fish. The rest of the time we fished I didn't see any fish that were moving up. The rest of the fish we saw were pretty ugly and not aggressive whatsoever. After a while of casting at those un-aggressive fish we decided to call it a day and head back to Poulsbo.

That evening we attended a birthday party for a family friend. Everyone at the party was extremely welcoming and were very interested in what New York is like and how the fishing went. After the party we went to ice cream with more family friends. The politeness and generosity of all the people really amazed me. No offense to you east coasters that I know, but overall....people in the western united states are just plain nice compared to the majority of east coasters. Everyone just seems to be so happy, no matter what.

The next morning we didn't have too much time to fish. We wanted to leave at a reasonable time to try and avoid traffic on the pass. The ferry ride back showed a great view of Seattle in the daylight.

The trip home seemed to go on forever and we made it back to Missoula around 10pm. It was a great weekend and I enjoyed seeing a new state and even hooking up with a nice Coho. I hope I can return to the state soon to do some more fishing. Maybe someday I'll even be able to do a research project there. Cameron is pretty interested in the restoration of rivers and fish populations also. It would be funny if we worked on the same study someday.

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