South Platte River – 08/22/2014

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: From point where the canyon narrows back toward the campsite where we stashed our gear.

Fish Landed: 23

South Platte River 08/22/2014 Photo Album

The South Platte River below Lake George remains one of my favorite spots to get away from it all. The size of the fish is a bit lacking, but the location is remote, and there are a large quantity of fish, and I love the solitude. My son, Dan, is also a fan of the South Platte, and he was back in town for a week before resuming classes at Fuqua Graduate School, so we scheduled a day on the river.

We camped at Round Mountain Campground on Thursday night and withstood some light rain. We woke up at around 7AM on Friday morning, and after a quick breakfast we drove the eight or nine miles required to arrive at the trailhead. It was quite overcast as we hoisted our packs on our backs and began the three mile hike to our typical staging area where we pulled on our waders and strung our rods. The sky was even darker than when we left, so we both decided to wear our rain jackets, and this proved to be a smart decision as it drizzled and rained lightly off and on during our morning fishing.

Dan Ties on His Starting Flies

Dan Ties on His Starting Flies

South Platte at 200 CFS

South Platte at 200 CFS

I never fished this stretch of the South Platte River when flows were above 180 cfs, so I was a bit concerned that it would be difficult since the DWR web site registered 200 cfs. However, as we approached the water it appeared that the higher flows would not be an issue. Nice deep pockets were visible as usual, and there were spots where a fisherman could carefully cross to the opposite bank. In fact Dan accepted that challenge and worked his way across so he could fish the east bank while I patrolled the west side. We both began with a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear, and we probably should have offered something different to see what the fish might be looking for, but based on past experience we were confident that these flies would appeal to South Platte River trout.

Dave's First Fish

Dave’s First Fish

I quickly began picking up fish on the hares ear, and Dan was also recording a nice quantity of hook ups, but for some reason they were resulting in long distance releases. By the time we decided to break for lunch at 12:45PM, I accumulated sixteen fish landed, and quite a few were in the 6-8 inch range although a few larger rainbows and browns were in the mix. As Dan and I hiked back to the informal campsite that served as our staging area, the intensity of the precipitation increased from an intermittent drizzle to a steady light rain. It was not enough to prevent us from continuing, but enough to soak our raincoats and hats.

Dan Displays an Early Catch

Dan Displays an Early Catch

When we arrived at the staging area, we met a group of four campers/fishermen who had just arrived after completing the three mile hike. They were setting up their tents for a long weekend stay, and we chatted with them while we consumed our lunches. They were from Colorado Springs, and we noticed both fly rods and spinning rods in their arsenals. Dan and I finished our lunches and said goodbye to the campers and hiked back down the path to the location where we exited before lunch. It was 1:30 as we resumed fishing in the rain.

Dave Pulled a Nice Brown from Small Gap Between Log and Rock

Dave Pulled a Nice Brown from Small Gap Between Log and Rock

Dan once again negotiated a crossing, and I resumed prospecting the pockets along the right bank, but the action was slower than that which I experienced in the morning. I reached some gorgeous deep runs and decided to abandon the dry/dropper and try the indicator nymph method. Initially I fished a beadhead hares ear and a RS2, and in a deep narrow slot I brought at least four fish to my net as the trout hammered the hares ear as I lifted toward the tail of the drift. I shouted to Dan that deep nymphs were on fire, so he found a place to cross, and I set him up with the same configuration that I was using except I used a soft hackle emerger instead of the RS2 as his bottom fly.

A Nice Afternoon Brown Trout

A Nice Afternoon Brown Trout

The nymphing technique worked reasonably well and allowed me to land seven more fish in the afternoon session. The catch rate was down, but the fish were on average larger; however, I felt the fish landed in 2014 were smaller than my experience on previous trips. As usual my nicest fish of the day may have been the one that escaped. I hid behind a huge exposed boulder and flipped the nymphs above and into some nice riffles over moderate depth. As the indicator angled away from the boulder and floated toward the bank, it shot sideways, and I set the hook. This provoked a bright rainbow trout in the 13-14 inch range to launch from the stream, and in the process it tossed my flies from its lip.

The indicator nymph system required deeper water than the dry/dropper set up as the splash of the indicator was enough to spook fish in the more shallow pockets along the edge that produced fish in the morning. Despite the flows of 200 cfs, more edge pocket water became available as I waded upstream than deep runs and seams that matched the  deep nymphing technique.

Dan Looks Back Amid Rain Showers

Dan Looks Back Amid Rain Showers

We decided to quit at 4PM just as a decent hatch of tiny size 24 BWO’s began. I also observed two quite large mayflies that appeared to be yellowish in color, and speculated that they might be flavs. In addition one or two pale morning duns may have been in the mix. I would have liked to stay longer to see what sort of aquatic emergence developed; but the rain, feeling chilled and Dan’s need to prepare for an early flight on Saturday trumped this desire.

Despite the rain and higher than normal flows, it was another fun day on the South Platte River. I always enjoy spending a day with my son, so catching a bunch of fish in a remote setting is merely icing on the cake. We both experienced a lot action although the size of the fish was down a bit, but the important thing is we caught fish and had a great time. I may try one more trip to this section of the South Platte River if the flows drop to the 80-120 cfs range.

 

Arkansas River – 08/21/2014

Time:5:30PM – 7:00PM

Location: Downstream from Eddyline and then back to the kayak area at South Main in Buena Vista

Fish Landed: 1

Our niece and nephews from New Jersey arrived on Sunday August 17, and Jane and I made a concerted effort to introduce them to the beauty of the Colorado outdoors. On Wednesday we packed two cars with camping gear and departed for Cascade Campground along Chalk Creek near Buena Vista. We enjoyed a great evening with the highlight being a roaring campfire. The McKays toasted marshmallows after dinner, and we assembled tasty s’mores.

On Thursday morning we took down the camping gear and drove the short distance to Buena Vista where we killed time at the river park, and then we drove back south to the River Runners rafting facility located near Fisherman’s Bridge. We reserved a raft for six and at the scheduled time, we chose our helmets and life jackets and climbed into a van. The white van transported us to our launch point at Ruby Mountain Campground, and one of the guides gave us a safety lecture in the van. The six of us had our own raft, and our guide was Byron from Texas who was a graduate of Texas A&M. The flows in the Arkansas River were just over 500 cfs, and the low flows created numerous opportunities for our raft to become awkwardly lodged on large exposed boulders, so we concentrated extra hard on our paddling to avoid this eventuality..

After we completed our float and returned to River Runners, Jane and the McKays returned to Denver while Dan and I took the Santa Fe and returned to South Main in Buena Vista. We parked across from the Eddyline brewpub and geared up to fish. A short hike along the Buena Vista Arkansas River Trail took us downstream from the kayak area, and we prepared to fish for an hour or two.

Since we were on the same side of the river, we began alternating pockets. It was quite cloudy as we began, and this type of weather generally portends excellent fishing, so I was quite optimistic over our chances of having some good evening action. Dan tied on a size 12 gray stimulator, and I began with a tan Charlie Boy hopper with a beadhead hares ear dropper. It did not take long before Dan landed a small brown trout on the stimulator, but my efforts were thwarted for the first hour. I wasn’t spotting any fish, and my flies weren’t even being refused.

I swapped the Charlie Boy hopper for a yellow Letort hopper, but this move did not change my fortunes. We continued moving quickly and covered a large amount of water with no signs of fish other than the small brown that Dan landed early. Eventually near the end of our fishing time I tied on a Chernobyl ant and managed to land a seven inch brown. We were both getting hungry, the fishing was extremely slow, and we were approaching the kayak area so we decided to call it quits at 7PM.

Since we were parked across from the Eddyline brewpub, we took the opportunity to visit one of our favorite establishments for dinner, and then we drove back over Trout Creek Pass and east on route 24 to Round Mountain Campground where we camped on Thursday night.

Olympic National Park, Day 7 – 08/14/2014

Olympic National Park, Day 7 08/14/2014 Photo Album

The Elwha River originates slightly southeast of Mt. Olympus and flows southeast and then makes a large bend and eventually runs north and empties into the Strait of Juan de Fuca that connects Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean. When I searched for information on fishing in Olympic National Park, I found a comprehensive article on the Fly Fisherman web site from 2012. I read with keen interest the section that described the Elwha River as this seemed to be an option that would enable me to fish to resident trout during the summer unlike the western rivers that were primarily productive in the fall and winter when salmon and steelhead make their appearance.

The Elwha River was also once home to rich runs of salmon and steelhead until two dams were constructed in the early 1900’s. This halted the salmon runs, and the steelhead became landlocked rainbows. The article described decent fishing for 12-15 inch rainbows in the water above Lake Mills, so I was excited to give this a try, although I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to get to the Elwha River given our location in Forks, WA on the western edge of Olympic National Park. This all became a moot point when we arrived at the main visitor center on Saturday August 9 and discovered that the Elwha River was closed to fishing while it was restored after the two dams were removed.

Joe was feeling somewhat better on Friday morning, but Amy wanted to get him home as soon as possible, as he was feeling weak and needed the rest and comfort of his home, so they departed on their six hour drive to Portland, OR. This left Jane, Dan and I with one more day to explore Olympic National Park before returning to Seattle and Denver on Saturday. We decided we would like to do a hike of moderate length that had a destination. We scanned the official Olympic National Park map and spotted a nice loop along the Elwha River that began at Whiskey Bend, and we decided to do it. I was not going to have the opportunity to fish the Elwha, but now I would at least be able to undertake an up close scouting trip.

We made sandwiches and packed our remaining lunch food since what we did not eat would go in the trash, and we departed for the Elwha River valley. The drive to the turn off was ten miles beyond Lake Crescent, but then we traveled another sixteen miles further south to the trailhead including a narrow single lane gravel road for the last six miles. Eventually we reached Whiskey Bend and found a nice parking spot and began our hike. We elected to hike the Elwha River Trail until we reached a footbridge that crossed the river on the way to Dodge Point. The footbridge over the Elwha River was our destination.

A Small Waterfall Above the Trail

A Small Waterfall Above the Trail

Fast Water Above the Bridge

Fast Water Above the Bridge

The bridge was my favorite spot on the hike as we peered over the railing and gazed into the clear aqua water to the north and south. All I could think about was being on the river fishing on the day that it reopened after being closed for four years. On the return loop we hiked Rica Canyon, and that took us along the river although on a high bank quite a distance from the water. At the point where we could turn right to climb back to the Elwha River Trail we chose to take a short spur to Goblins Gate. Here we stood high above a place where the river morphed into whitewater and churned through a narrow chasm for thirty yards before veering to the right and then emptying into a deep pool. The point where the river dropped into the pool was Goblins Gate.

The Roaring Elwha About to Pass Through Goblins Gate

The Roaring Elwha About to Pass Through Goblins Gate

The half mile leg from Goblins Gate back to the Elwha River Trail was pure uphill, and we did it with only a few stops. I was rather thankful for my mile high training as my breathing was fine, but my muscles felt the strain.

Dave Next to the Elwha River

Dave Next to the Elwha River

We had exhausted the adequate and worse than adequate food establishments in Forks, so we decided to drive to Port Angeles on Friday night to sample a restaurant there. Once we were in cell range, I used my phone and Yelp to identify a Thai restaurant called Sabai Thai. This was our choice, and we were all quite impressed with the quality of the food and drink in this establishment. As one would expect, the place was quite crowded, and we endured a 30 minute wait by sipping some tasty beers at the bar.

We had a long drive back to Forks, but it was another wonderful day with beautiful scenery and capped off with a tasty meal. It was a fine ending to our week in Olympic National Park.

Olympic National Park, Day 6 – 08/14/2014

Olympic National Park, Day 6 08/14/2014 Photo Album

The beauty of any seacoast goes way beyond the visual images and includes the sound of pounding surf and the smell of saltwater. The beaches of Washington certainly combine all the senses in a very natural and striking manner. Human impact is largely absent, and the rocks and logs and evergreen trees provide a unique distinction to Washington beaches compared with others I have visited.

The backpackers arrived on Wednesday evening, and after some discussion we all agreed to dedicate Thursday to visiting the Pacific beaches in Olympic National Park. We decided to begin with Rialto Beach, as it was directly west of Forks and only a fourteen mile trip and included a 1.5 mile hike to Hole in the Wall if the tides permitted.

We ate a relatively late breakfast and then gathered our essentials for the day and set off toward Rialto Beach. Once we arrived we found a place to park and made a short hike to the beach. Similar to Kalaloch Beach, numerous drift logs bordered the fringe of the sand. It was around 1PM when we arrived, and there was a fair amount of space between the waves and the eastern edge of the beach, but it appeared the tide was incoming and not outgoing.

Joe, Dan and Amy Skip Stones in the Pacific

Joe, Dan and Amy Skip Stones in the Pacific

Just as moths are attracted to light, Dan, Joe and Amy were immediately drawn to the large quantity of round flat stones on the beach, and they began to skip rocks at a rapid-fire pace. I challenged Dan to skip three incoming waves on one toss, and he gave it a strong effort, but succeeded in skipping two but never three. The difficulty in this test of skill was the long time between incoming waves. After a half hour of thrilling rock skipping we decided to attempt the three mile round trip hike to Hole in the Wall. It was clear that the tide was coming in, and I was uncertain we could make the full loop before facing the prospect of wet feet. I was wearing my sneakers, and the others were equipped with sandals and Chacos, so clearly I was in the minority on this matter.

Jane and Dan Head North

Jane and Dan Head North

We threw caution to the wind and departed with Hole in the Wall as our destination. It was a fun hike with numerous pauses to snap photos and enjoy the natural scenery. As we walked north, numerous large haystack-shaped rocks came into view, and nearly all of them featured stunted evergreens growing from the pointy peaks. In many cases fog or mist shrouded these prominent features on the horizon, and I marveled at their rugged beauty. There were also rocky outcroppings on the beach, and these contained tidal pools with an abundance of sea life. We observed numerous clams, anemones, and starfish.

Tough Environment for a Tree

Tough Environment for a Tree

Hole in the Wall was another haystack rock, but the forces of nature carved a large arch, or hole in the wall, through the rock. As this was our destination, we paused to snap numerous photos and passed through the arch, and then inspected the numerous tidal pools that populated this rocky area. In order to reach Hole in the Wall, we hiked over a narrow strand of rock, and waves were already creating a wet surface, so I was the first of our group to make a U-turn and head back to the beach. The return hike was a bit dicey, and I had to sprint across several narrow strands of sand between incoming waves to preserve my dry socks and shoes. In spite of my lack of preparedness with footwear, we enjoyed a fun hike at Rialto Beach and managed to return just as the tide approached its high water mark. Dan finally used his phone to find a tide chart and concluded that high tide was 4PM, and we ended our hike by 3PM, so we did in fact cut it close.

Portrait Style Captures the Hole

Portrait Style Captures the Hole

The next step in our plan for the day was to return to the Forks Outfitters (supermarket) and buy lunch and firewood and then continue on to Ruby Beach. Ruby Beach is located on the coast north of Kalaloch Lodge, so it was the next closest beach south of La Push and Rialto Beach. Joe meanwhile was a bit under the weather, so we took some time to get him situated, and he elected to stay behind and recover from the stress of four days of backpacking.

Jane and Amy Compare Their Beach Collections

Jane and Amy Compare Their Beach Collections

After stopping at the supermarket to buy lunch and a bundle of firewood, we continued on highway 101 to the parking lot at Ruby Beach. We climbed out of the Ford Focus rental car and carried the firewood to the beach. Ruby Beach contained many more drift logs than Rialto Beach, and previous visitors built small huts using these readily available construction materials. In addition there were many small stone towers constructed with the flat round stones that were very prevalent on the Pacific beach.

Campfire and Beers at Ruby Beach

Campfire and Beers at Ruby Beach

Once we exited from the trees and drift logs, we walked south on the beach a good ways until we escaped the other visitors who remained near the end of the path from the parking lot. We were looking for a nice spot away from the crowds that contained a fire pit and drift logs to provide shelter from the wind, and eventually we found our place. Once we staked out our location for a beach campfire, we realized we were missing a key ingredient – beer. Fortunately Jane and I had been to the Kalaloch Lodge on Wednesday, and we knew there was a mercantile there, so Dan and I returned to the car and made the seven mile drive. We purchased a six pack of Alaska amber along with a $7 pocketknife that contained a bottle opener and quickly returned to our temporary campsite at Ruby Beach.

The Fire Has a Good Start

The Fire Has a Good Start

We now had the essentials so we started a fire and popped beers and enjoyed our gorgeous surroundings. Starting the fire was actually a bit of a challenge. We were surrounded by massive quantities of wood, but we quickly discovered that driftwood and drift logs are perpetually damp as a result of repeated soaking as the tides move in and out. In addition the coast experienced quite a bit of rain on Wednesday, and Jane and I could attest to that. We finally managed to find some very thin branches that worked as kindling, and after almost losing the unstable flame several times, we managed to create a solid base of glowing embers.

The Wellers at Ruby Beach

The Wellers at Ruby Beach

We were now together as a family for the first time since Christmas, and it was a great way to end our beach day. The fire glowed, the surf crashed, and the tide moved out as we tended the fire and sipped our beers and soaked up the beauty that surrounded us. It was the highlight of the trip for Jane and me.

 

Olympic National Park, Day 5 – 08/13/2014

Olympic National Park, Day 5 08/13/2014 Photo Album

It was Wednesday and we had already spent a day in the rainforest, a day at Lake Crescent and a day in the Sol Duc River valley. We were saving the beaches to visit once the backpackers returned, and they were due to arrive Wednesday evening. So what did we decide to do on Wednesday? Why of course we chose to visit another rainforest, the Quinault Rainforest in the southwestern corner of Olympic National Park.

The difference between the Hoh Rainforest and the Qunault Rainforest was fifty miles and the weather. It was 68 miles from Forks, WA to the Quinault Ranger Station making this the longest drive to any area of the park during our one week stay. We woke up to cloudy skies and light rain on Wednesday, and these conditions would endure through our entire day in the rainforest and our return trip. The wet weather probably gave us a truer taste of rainforest conditions than the hot ninety degree day that we enjoyed on Sunday.

A Slug Near the Start of Our Hike in the Quinault Rainforest

A Slug Near the Start of Our Hike in the Quinault Rainforest

We began our Quinault visit by stopping at the ranger station beyond the eastern end of Quinault Lake. Here we began a self-guided hike on the Maple Glade Trail, but after completing less than half of the circular loop, we detoured on to the Kestner Homestead Trail. This trail continued for another mile or so and led us through an old ranch area with four or five out buildings. These were the remaining structures of a homesteading family that eventually sold out to the National Park Service. The entire hike was probably around 1.5 miles.

Dave at the Kestner Homestead

Dave at the Kestner Homestead

We left the ranger station and drove east on the gravel North Shore Road. I noticed a relatively short hike to Irely Lake on the map and also on the one page flyer that listed and and described hikes. The precipitation shifted back and forth from fog to mist to drizzle to light rain during our entire visit. After a fairly lengthy drive on a gravel road we finally reached the trailhead for Irely Lake. I knew nothing about the prospects of fishing, but I did not want to hike for 1.2 miles and find rising fish and not have fishing equipment, so I wore my frontpack and carried my fly rod and reel just in case. Three backpackers arrived while we were preparing to hike, and they were heading to Three Lakes. One of the backpackers told us that he read that fishing was good at Irely Lake, so this raised my hopes.

The trail was more uphill than down on the way out, but we eventually found a sign that pointed to a spur that went up a hill to the left to Irely Lake. As we crested the hill and walked to an overlook, we came to the realization that Irely Lake was dry! I felt quite foolish standing in a dry meadow with my fishing rod and net.

Dave Ready to Net a Rock in Dry Irely Lake

Dave Ready to Net a Rock in Dry Irely Lake

Confluence of East and North Branches of Quinault River

Confluence of East and North Branches of Quinault River

 

We quickly made the return hike and reversed course to a place where we crossed the Quinault River on a bridge and drove a short distance east on Graves Creek Road. I was interested in getting a closer look at the North Fork and East Fork of the Quinault River, and we found a small pullout on a high bank that overlooked the confluence of the two branches. The water in both forks was a deep blue hue similar to the Hoh. At this point the precipitation took the form of a dense mist, and we could see thick clouds hanging in front of the mountains in the distance. I’m sure this was the prototypical rainforest view. I could only imagine wading into the ice cold blue flows of the Quinault River and casting for fresh steelhead. The thought of fishing for powerful steelhead in these smaller rivers compared to the wide and brawling Deschutes River actually appealed to me.

Looking Up the East Branch in the Mist and Rain

Looking Up the East Branch in the Mist and Rain

We ate our lunches in the car and enjoyed the comparatively dry cozy comfort of our shelter from the rain. After finishing lunch, we made the long drive back to the turnoff to the Quinault River valley and then retreated along highway 101 until we reached the Pacific Coast at Kalaloch. From looking at the map, it appeared that Kalaloch was one of the more developed beach areas with campgrounds and a lodge. We were both feeling quite chilled from the damp weather, so we stopped at the lodge and enjoyed cups of tea and coffee. After we warmed up, we braved the soggy elements and took a brief stroll on the beach where Kalaloch Creek enters the Pacific Ocean. This piqued our interest in spending more time on the coastal beaches, and we looked forward to the arrival of Joe, Amy and Dan so we could make our plans.

Dave Rests on Drift Logs at Kalaloch Beach

Dave Rests on Drift Logs at Kalaloch Beach

After departing the beach we drove back to Forks, and as we entered the fringe of the town, we stopped and took photos at the visitor center including a photo next to the Forks, WA sign. Apparently this is a requirement of all Twilight fans. When we returned to the Forks Motel, it wasn’t long before the trio of backpackers arrived, and we grabbed a warm dinner at the Pacific Pizza restaurant. More Olympic adventures were in our future.

Jane in the Obligatory Twilight Photo

Jane in the Obligatory Twilight Photo

 

 

Lake Crescent – 08/12/2014

Time: 4:00PM – 5:15PM

Location: West of La Poel picnic area

Fish Landed: 0

Lake Crescent 08/12/2014 Photo Album

Jane and I returned to the parking lot by way of the Sol Duc Trail and found a picnic table where we consumed our lunch. We brought our swimsuits along in case we decided to stop at the Sol Duc Hot Springs, but we did not have much information about this experience. After a six mile drive on the narrow dirt road we found a relatively close parking space and entered the lobby of the spa where we found a sign displaying the prices. An adult all day pass was $12.25 and a senior pass was $9.00. We felt these were reasonable, so we made the purchase and spent an hour in the hot springs. There was a regular swimming pool and three round hot tubs with several rows of lounge chairs off to one side.

The water was a pleasant hot temperature and the air smelled like sulfur as is typically the case at natural hot springs. We began soaking in one of the smaller pools and then moved to the largest one that was distinguished by a bubbling fountain of hot water in the center section. After an hour of soaking and people watching, we exited the pool and grabbed our towels and used the locker rooms to shower and dress.

As we left the Sol Duc Hot Springs, I asked Jane if she would mind if I fished in Lake Crescent for an hour or two before we returned to Forks. I remembered that a fairly dense blue winged olive hatch occurred between 3PM and 4PM on Monday, and I was curious to find out if it might happen again. Jane agreed with my proposal, so we drove east again until we reached the La Poel picnic area where we turned left and circled the small peninsula to the next to last table.

Blue Color of Lake Crescent on Tuesday Afternoon

Blue Color of Lake Crescent on Tuesday Afternoon

Jane decided to read, and I prepared to fish in a small cove that was just west of where we parked. I tied on the same stimulator that fooled three cutthroats on Monday and began making long casts parallel to the shore again, but on this Tuesday I was unable to land any fish. The mayfly hatch never materialized, and I spotted only a few sporadic rises. I did manage one momentary hook up, but for the most part, it was a lot of casting and waiting with no reward. At least I achieved some closure after rushing away from some decent action on Monday afternoon.

Water Fished on Tuesday

Water Fished on Tuesday

Sol Duc River – 08/12/2014

Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM

Location: Above Sol Duc Waterfalls

Fish Landed: 15

Sol Duc River 08/12/2014 Photo Album

While speaking to the gentleman at Waters West on Monday, I also asked if there were any streams where I might catch some resident fish in Olympic National Park in early August. The voice on the other end of the phone was quick to reply that the Sol Duc River held fish, although at the current low flows, a fisherman needed to cover a lot of water and search for deep runs and pockets. With warm temperatures forecast through Tuesday before clouds and rain were expected to move in on Wednesday, Jane and I decided to drive up the Sol Duc River valley and explore the attractions in that area of the park. Needless to say I threw my fishing gear in the rental car.

The drive from Forks to the Sol Duc River valley involved going east on highway 101 toward Lake Crescent similar to our trip on Monday. However, before reaching the western end of Lake Crescent, we needed to execute a sharp right turn, and then we drove south for approximately eighteen miles to reach the trailhead for the falls. Highway 101 crossed the Sol Duc River four or five times between Forks and the turn off, and it was evident that the river was quite low, and I understood the Waters West comments regarding covering a lot of water in search of fish. As we drove south along the valley in Olympic National Park, the streambed narrowed, and I became more optimistic regarding the likelihood of finding some fish.

Salmon Cascade on the Sol Duc River

Salmon Cascade on the Sol Duc River

On our way to the trailhead to the falls we encountered a pullout where we could view the salmon cascade. Unfortunately we were too early for the fall salmon runs, but the narrow ribbon of churning water was a pretty sight along the way. We continued on and after we passed the Sol Duc Lodge and campgrounds, we turned on a narrow gravel road and proceeded an additional six miles until we reached a large oval turnaround with parking on both sides. Signs indicated that we had arrived at the trailhead for the Sol Duc Falls. The map indicated that one could hike along the eastern side of the river, cross at the waterfalls, and then return to the Sol Duc Lodge on the western side.

Sol Duc Waterfalls

Sol Duc Waterfalls

Jane and I were undertaking a less ambitious challenge as we planned to hike to the falls where I would fish, and Jane would branch off on one of several side trails. I was the only person dressed in fishing waders and carrying a fly rod as we departed the parking lot for the .8 mile hike to the falls, and consequently I was feeling a bit abnormal. The hike was relatively easy, and we arrived at the bridge within twenty minutes and paused to take a few photos. Initially Jane and I hiked upstream along the right bank, but the trail seemed to fade and there were numerous campsites scattered about the area. I do not generally like to fish near campgrounds and well worn paths, so I suggested we cross back to the opposite side and find the Sol Duc Trail and hike further upstream.

Jane and I retraced our steps and made a sharp right turn at a shelter and then hiked uphill for .25 miles. The trail was beginning to move away from the river, so I decided to negotiate a steep descent through some large evergreens. I called out to Jane, and she waited and watched me carefully pick my path down the steep slope. Finally after some bushwhacking, I parted the bushes and stepped into the river. I pulled my line through the rod guides, and took a few steps into the stream, and then looked downstream to see where I was. I was quite surprised to discover that I was forty yards above the waterfall bridge! I had expended a ton of energy and risked injury on the steep slippery hillside to return to the spot that I could have easily waded into from the campground on the opposite bank. Sometimes I am prone to overanalyzing situations.

With that ridiculous adventure behind me, I shifted my focus to fly fishing. I read about the native rainbows and coastal cutthroat trout of the Pacific Northwest, and I was harboring hopes of landing a few of these species. I assumed they would be small, but at least they would be different from my normal Colorado trout species. I tied a size 12 gray stimulator to my line and began casting my six weight Scott to a nice deep pocket. The stream at this point was more akin to a Colorado headwater than a river that is connected to the Pacific Ocean. The weather was cool and cloudy and would remain this way for the remainder of my fishing time in the upper Sol Duc River.

As I began fishing, a woman appeared on the other side of the stream with her two blonde-haired sons. She stood directly across from me, and I felt some added pressure to not look like a fool in front of these spectators. My first cast generated an immediate refusal as did the second and third drifts, but I moved my fly to some slower water on the fourth cast and a fish jumped at the fly as if starvation was in its future. The flash of orange caught my eye, and I was both excited and disappointed as I stripped in a small six inch brook trout. I was excited because I found a place where resident trout were prevalent, and I would likely be able to enjoy some decent action. I was disappointed to learn that I’d traveled 1,000 miles to the extreme northwest corner of the United States in order to catch a species of trout that is native to my home state of Pennsylvania. I was truly hoping for coastal cutthroats or native rainbows.

River Above the Waterfalls

River Above the Waterfalls

In this first deep hole I probably landed ten brook trout, but I only counted five since the other five were beneath my six inch standard for recording on my fish counter. Meanwhile my tourist friend was more excited than me and continued to watch my every move. Jane returned from our ill advised attempt to escape tourists and spotted me fishing in the small stream above the waterfall, so she circled around and stood next to the blonde tourist. I later discovered that the fishing spectator was from the Netherlands, and she loves fishing, and she peppered Jane with all manner of questions. Amazingly my wife, who does not fish, was able to answer most of the questions with accuracy. Had I known that she loved fishing, I would have waded across and allowed her to catch a few fish. The small brook trout in the upper Sol Duc River were certainly willing targets for a novice fisherwoman.

One of Many Small Brook Trout Landed

One of Many Small Brook Trout Landed

After I exhausted the aggressive fish, I moved further upstream and continued landing small brook trout, and in no time I accumulated a count of ten landed fish excluding an additional ten tiny gems that were too small to count. I was getting somewhat bored with the ease of catching fish, so I decided to experiment with different flies. First I tried a lime green trude and landed another three counters, although this fly prompted more refusals than the stimulator. Next I tried a Chernobyl ant with the thought that the foam fly would not require frequent drying to enable floatation. Surprisingly the Chernobyl resulted in 100% refusals. I’m not sure if the hook was too large for the tiny mouths, or if there is some other explanation.

My last offering was a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and that produced the last two fish. I looked at my watch and realized it was 2PM, and that was the time I committed to meet Jane back at the shelter. I hooked my fly to the rod guide and climbed up on a small island that split the stream. Once again as I pushed the bushes aside to cross the smaller braid on the other side of the island, I experienced a surprise. There was my pretty wife, Jane, sitting on a rock and reading at one of the many backpacking campsites along the river.

Despite the disappointment of discovering stunted brook trout in the Sol Duc River in Olympic National Park, I had a fun early afternoon. I landed fifteen countable trout in two hours, and I relished the opportunity to wade in new water and prospect with a large visible dry fly.

 

 

 

Olympic National Park, Day 3 – 08/11/2014

Olympic National Park, Day 3 08/11/2014 Photo Album

When I returned to the parking lot from fishing, Jane wasn’t visible, so I walked to the Bovee’s Meadow “beach” and found her sitting on a drift log. The number of swimmers, dogs, kayakers and picnickers had multiplied greatly over the previous hour so we were happy to say farewell.

I removed my waders and stashed my fishing gear, and we made the drive on highway 101 to the Lake Crescent marina at the western end of the lake. Jane was excited to rent a one person kayak; however, the marina only offered three two person kayaks and a canoe. We overestimated our stamina and paid to rent a red two person kayak for two hours. The young ginger in the store led us to the shed where we selected life jackets and adjusted them, and then Jane and I dragged the long kayak into the lake. We stabilized ourselves in the seats with low backs and grabbed our paddles and splashed out of the bay.

Jane in Front of Two Person Kayak

Jane in Front of Two Person Kayak

It was a warm day, so the occasional wayward splash from the paddles felt refreshing. We began by following the north shore for what seemed like three miles, but in reality it was probably only 1-1.5 miles. We were both concerned about straining arm and back muscles by paddling too fast and too long. Paddling was not an activity that we were accustomed to doing, so this was a legitimate and serious concern. We passed numerous private cabins and boathouses along the north shore, and I was actually surprised at how many were occupied on a weekday.

We tried to pace ourselves and rest occasionally, but our strong work ethics governed our approach, and we maintained a fairly rigorous pace. After 45 minutes of relatively aggressive paddling we decided to cross the lake and begin our return trip. During the first half of our water trip we battled intermittent headwinds, so we looked forward to a favorable tailwind on the way back. Unfortunately the wind essentially died as the hour passed, and we had to supply muscle power to cut through the lake on the homeward leg.

At 3PM some clouds blocked the sun, and I noticed a large quantity of small blue winged olives skidding across the surface of the lake. It didn’t take long before the swarm of hatching mayflies induced quite a few rings from rising trout. It was torture to be in this situation with no fly rod or flies, but I was careful to note the time of day in case I could arrange a return to Lake Crescent on a future day trip. The strong hatch lasted for nearly an hour and pods of rising fish appeared in several coves as we paddled our way back to the marina. We arrived at the beach by the marina at 4PM and decided to forego the last 30 minutes of our rental time to avoid overextending our weary muscles.

Jane at Fairholme Marina

Jane at Fairholme Marina

In lieu of kayak paddling we purchased two cans of Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout and found a picnic table in the neighboring campground where we sipped the ice cold suds and watched the swimmers in the small beach area between the marina and campground. After relaxing for a bit, we departed Lake Crescent in a mellow state and made the half hour drive back to Forks. Day three was a fun day of water activities, and we looked forward to new adventures on day four in Olympic National Park.

Barney Flats Oatmeal Stouts Ice Cold and Ready to Consume by Lake Crescent

Barney Flats Oatmeal Stouts Ice Cold and Ready to Consume by Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent – 08/11/2014

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Barnes Point then along highway 101 west of entrance to the Barnes Point area

Fish Landed: 3

Lake Crescent 08/11/2014 Photo Album

When I learned that we were making a trip to Olympic National Park, I performed a search on fishing in Olympic National Park and quickly found a comprehensive article from Fly Fisherman magazine. I anxiously studied this source of information on my destination hoping to discover some exciting fishing opportunities in the northwestern rainforest. It was apparent that excellent fishing for salmon and steelhead existed on the western side of the park; however, our week in August was probably too early for fall and winter runs of these species. The Elwha River in the north central section of the park jumped out as a very intriguing option with resident rainbows that got trapped when two dams were built on the lower river.

Another option described in the article was Lake Crescent, a large clear lake in the north central portion of the park ten miles west of the Elwha drainage. According to the article this lake was created by glaciers and contained two species of trout unique to its waters; the beardslee rainbow trout and the crescenti cutthroat trout. Apparently a prehistoric mud slide separated Lake Crescent from other drainages and these two species of trout evolved in the clear cold waters that remained.

Jane and I decided to make Lake Crescent our destination on Monday August 11, 2014. When we drove along the south shore of the lake on highway 101 on our western journey on Saturday, I was intimidated by the size of the stillwater. I’m not very good at reading lakes to begin with, and this lake was very large and very clear and huge trees bordered the shore with steep drop offs the norm. I did a search on the internet and found a fly shop located in Port Angeles called Waters West, so I gave the shop a call as we drove east to Lake Crescent.

The man who answered the phone was very polite and helpful, and he suggested that I fish any of the points along highway 101, the inlet at Barnes Creek, or points along the dirt road that borders the northern side of the lake. With this information I decided to begin at the Barnes Creek area since I’ve had some success at the inlet to lakes in my limited stillwater fishing past. Once we turned on to the road that led to the Barnes Point complex, we had a bit of trouble locating a public access area near the inlet of Barnes Creek, but we finally succeeded in finding Bovee’s Meadow and parked there.

Kayaks on Lake Crescent

Kayaks on Lake Crescent

I assembled my rod and pulled on my waders and found a short path that led me through the forest to Barnes Creek, and then I followed the small stream to the inlet. I succeeded in finding one of the fishing locations suggested by Waters West. There were quite a few kayaks to the northeast that apparently were rented from the Lake Crescent Lodge. In addition several picnickers and swimmers were situated along the shoreline between my location at the inlet of Barnes Creek and the Bovee’s Meadow beach. Beach is a relative term at Lake Crescent as the beach consists of coarse gravel rather than the typical sand.

I had my six weight Scott rod so I inserted my spare spool containing a sink tip line and then knotted a black nosed dace to the end of the short leader. I began to fan casts in all directions and executed a variety of retrieves, but there was no sign of fish on this hot and bright sunny Monday. Before my confidence waned excessively, I decided to try another streamer, and I swapped the dace for a sculpzilla. I bought the sculpzillas for my trip to Argentina and figured they were large and weighted and covered with a dark olive marabou that would likely pulse in the clear water and attract predatory fish. It was a good theory, but I was never able to prove it as I went fishless over the first hour in the Barnes Point area.

Looking Back Toward Barnes Creek Inlet

Looking Back Toward Barnes Creek Inlet

By now many more swimmers had arrived, and I knew that the splashing water combined with my lack of knowledge of the area was not a good combination. Jane went her separate way on a hike to the nearby waterfalls, so I decided to make a significant relocation. I could see traffic passing along highway 101 a short distance away along the southeast shoreline, so I retreated to the road that led to the parking lot and followed it until it was twenty feet below the highway where I climbed the bank and then hiked along the shoulder until I was beyond a series of lakefront cabins.

Once I was clear of the private cabins, I dropped back down the bank to a small beach and resumed fishing. I made a few casts with the sculpzilla, but as I was retrieving I spotted a rise fifty feet to my left. With the lack of success using the streamer tactic, it did not take much to prompt me to make a switch, so I removed the sink tip line and replaced it with the spool of floating line. Once this was clicked in place, I tied a size 12 gray stimulator to my leader and began shooting casts toward the vicinity of the rise. Several additional sporadic rings had appeared as I was making the line conversion.

View Along the South Shore of Lake Crescent

View Along the South Shore of Lake Crescent

I made numerous casts parallel to shore and allowed the stimulator to sit motionless over the next ten minutes. As I was beginning to write off the Lake Crescent fishing experience as simply a sightseeing tour, I was startled to see a slurp that gobbled up my listless stimulator. I responded with a sharp hook set and felt some decent weight on the end of my six weight rod. The fish put up a surprisingly strong battle before finally being subdued, and as I gazed down at my net I discovered a shiny fourteen inch cutthroat trout. I recognized it as a cutthroat due to a faint slash below the jaw. The fish was beautiful with speckles and a faint pink stripe along the side. Did I land a crescenti cutthroat or was this a hybridized version? I suppose I’ll never know the answer to this question. I found a spot on the bank and snapped a photo and gently released the Lake Crescent gem back into the cold aqua water.

14" Lake Crescent Cutthroat

14″ Lake Crescent Cutthroat

I continued slowly moving along the shoreline making long casts and eventually landed two more smaller cutties. One was nine inches long and the third extended to eleven. In addition, somewhere in the midst of landing these three fish, I experienced a momentary hook up on a fish that felt a bit heavier than the small ones.

I committed to meet Jane by 1PM, and I was running late, so I ended my Lake Crescent experiment and hustled back to the car. I must admit that I felt a bit unfulfilled and craved more time on the lake after getting a taste of success. Despite these feelings, I was also rather euphoric over the accomplishment of perhaps landing three of a unique species of Lake Crescent trout.

Olympic National Park, Day 2 – 08/10/2014

Olympic National Park, Day 2 08/10/2014 Photo Album

After Jane read an article in Sunset Magazine, she became increasingly intrigued with visiting Olympic National Park in the northwestern corner of Washington. In a conversation with our daughter, Amy, she discovered that Amy and her boyfriend, Joe, were independently planning a backpacking trip to Olympic National Park in August prior to Amy’s enrollment in the Pacific University physical therapy doctoral program. Our son, Dan, meanwhile had a two week window between finishing his summer internship in Minneapolis and returning to Duke for the second year of his MBA program. The planning all came together, and Jane and I found ourselves on a Frontier flight on Saturday morning August 9 to Seatac Airport in Washington.

The plan was for the five of us to meet in Tacoma for lunch. Jane and I would drive the rental car from the lunch spot to the northeast visitor center in Olympic National Park and transport Dan and his gear. Dan, Amy and Joe would then drive to the trailhead and begin their backpacking adventure while Jane and I continued to the west side of the park where we reserved a room at the Forks Motel in Forks, WA. Forks, WA I quickly learned was the setting for the Twilight series of books and movies. We would undertake daily tours of the Olympic National Park attractions on the west and central side of the park while the kids did their backpacking.

Once the threesome completed their backpacking loop, they would drive west and meet us in Forks for a couple days. Joe and Amy would then drive back to Portland, OR while Dan, Jane and I planned to return to Seatac and then fly back to Denver.

The actual visit pretty much followed the script, and Jane and I arrived in Forks, WA late on Saturday afternoon. We spent the rest of the day gathering information and food and getting situated in what would be our home base for the next week.

Huge Sitka Spruce Tree

Huge Sitka Spruce Tree

We were surprised to discover that the western part of the Olympic peninsula was in a bit of a drought with the rivers quite low and the trees and shrubs actually showing signs of changing color in early August. For our first adventure we elected to drive south to explore the Hoh Rainforest, and Sunday was no different from recent weather patterns with temperatures reaching 90 degrees. The Hoh Rainforest was a great place to spend a day in abnormally hot weather as the giant evergreens provided massive amounts of shade. Our first stop was a roadside pullout that featured a huge sitka spruce tree. We moved on to the ranger station where we did a quick .8 mile loop trail called the Hall of Moss. This was our initial exposure to a dense rainforest featuring club moss, huge trees, mushrooms and ferns.

Jane and Dave in Hoh Rainforest

Jane and Dave in Hoh Rainforest

After completing the Hall of Moss, we departed on a 5.8 mile out and back trek on the Hoh River Trail. Despite the warm temperatures, we enjoyed a great hike that gave us intermittent views of the aqua-colored Hoh River. We set a goal to reach Mt. Tom Creek before turning around, and we achieved our destination. We explored the Mt. Tom Creek campground a bit, and this provided a convenient path to the blue Hoh River where we dipped our hands in the ice cold flows. When we returned to the main trail, we found a large stump and ate our lunches.

Dave Next to the Blue Hoh River

Dave Next to the Blue Hoh River

When we returned to Forks, we decided to search out the Rivers Edge Restaurant in La Push, WA. We arrived early and elected to explore Beach One, but somehow missed the sign and ended up hiking a bit further to Beach Two. This was probably a fortuitous change in plans as Beach Two was quite nice; whereas, we later discovered that Beach One was right in town. Numerous campers had their tents set up on the fringe of the beach, and many hikers were arriving to view the summer sunset.

Tents Set Up Along the Beach

Tents Set Up Along the Beach

After our beach stroll we found the restaurant where we both ordered seafood entrees. The food was not as delicious as we expected, but it served to satisfy our appetites. We returned to Forks and made our plans for Monday in Olympic National Park. In one day we had already experienced the Pacific beach and a rainforest.

Jane's Footprint

Jane’s Footprint