A diptych photograph pairing two different views of Sauk Mountain, Washington.

Water Reportage

Maybe, Almost Legendary

Species: Steelhead
Date: April 2023Location: Skagit/Sauk River, WA

It’s the day after the opening of a legendary steelhead river. Social media says fish are everywhere; so do my friends who fished yesterday. There is a blanket mayfly hatch, March Browns I think, I’m no entomologist. They are very cool, and they taste great. If this river was full of trout, the dry fly fishing would be excellent. I don’t really think steelhead are looking for March Browns. Maybe I should have been here yesterday.

A large mayfly is seen on a photographers hand.

Above A single mayfly, possibly a march brown, rests during quite a prolific hatch.

I stop for two bundles of firewood at the Red Apple in Concrete. Steely Dan is playing loudly. I text my friend who is a fan. It’s fun to give fishing reports to your buddies that have nothing to do with the actual fishing. The next week I hit up a Craigslist firewood hookup. Five bundles for 20 bucks. I buy 10. They even throw in a few extras. It should last the long weekend.

A low light photograph of a man tending to a campfire.

above Jason Rolfe tends to the evening’s entertainment under a few different shelters to brace for the oncoming rain.

I’m more into the casual fishing these days, especially for steelhead. It’s just great to be out, you know. I’ve been fishing traditional patterns. I’m likely making it even harder to catch a steelhead, but I’ve caught plenty on intruder-style flies in the past, and these flies are just so pretty.

Where to go in the morning? Dead Cat? Opposite Junkyard? Honey Bucket—oh, nope, that’s downstream in the closed water. Media hole? Diaper Bar? Figuring out the morning plan is almost always full of second-guessing.

It’s starting to get light and we get beat to the runs. Truck in the first option. Truck in the second option. Plan C is open and we’re in business. We don’t know what the water is like, so a bit of exploring is necessary, but that’s most of the fun. We find a license plate stuck to a root ball, last registered in 1962. Excellent river booty.

A black and white triptych of fishermen walking along the river, an old root ball and a climb up a dirt slope.

Above Jason Rolfe and Liam Gallagher navigate small stream crossings and steep muddy inclines to get back to the truck after a morning of fishing.

Two of us head downstream to make coffee on the bank, and walk past a nice little bucket, telling ourselves, yeah, we should fish this after coffee. There is good looking water below us too, and a nice spot to basecamp and get the stove going. Thirty minutes later, we’re in the water, casting. We look upstream and our third buddy is hooked up to a fish in the little bucket we walked right past. At least one of us has put it together.

Our neighbor at the campground has a big curly hairdo. He’s wearing a tie-dye t-shirt that just says “Legendary.” We’ve been stumbling down legendary steelhead water all day. What a coincidence.

A black and white diptych of two different views of an angler fighting a steelhead.

Above Evan Slater tussles with a wild steelhead one early morning.

A few weeks earlier, I fish with one friend for the day. He picks the water near the confluence, water that many people walk right by. I head downstream to the ‘juicier’ seeming water. Before I have even set my backpack down and begun to string my rod, I hear a shout and he’s hooked up. It’s the closest I get to a steelhead all season, about 5 or 10 feet away as he leaders a bright buck, and the hooks pulls with the fish at his feet.

A panoramic view of the Sauk River, Washington State.

above A high and off color Sauk River. Eighty degree temperatures on the closing weekend melted plenty of snow.

I’m back for the closing weekend. Giving it one more go. It is such a glorious setting. Summer has come early. The rivers are high, nearing blowout conditions, but still fishable. You can hear things growing if you listen. Eighty-degree days and steelhead fishing are hard to wrap my head around. That’s spring though, one day there are big fat slushy snowflakes falling, your jacket is leaking and you’re starting to shiver. A few days later it is t-shirt weather, snowmelt is turning the rivers brown and you’ve forgotten the sunscreen.

What a great season filled with maybes and almosts. We almost burned all the wood. Maybe I should have slept more. I maybe, almost hooked that fish. Maybe I’ll take the long way home with the windows down and drive the south side that follows the brown rivers and stop at a few pullouts to look for mayflies and a maybe find a few photographs.


The FlyFish Journal Mailing List

We respect your time, and only send you the occasional update.