Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM
Location: Barnes Point then along highway 101 west of entrance to the Barnes Point area
Fish Landed: 3
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.