My family set down some new roots with the purchase this past spring of a second home on Whidbey. The island is surrounded by multiple marine areas, all with separate and regularly changed in-season regulations and I plan on wetting a line in all of them throughout this summer and hopefully into fall. Without a boat and shore-bound, all of the photographs will be of fishing from the beach using rotator/hoochie combinations, lead jigs, buzz bombs, and big spinners occasionally.
This post will document my limited fishing endeavors this summer and fall. With a new addition to our family this past spring, I’ve been understandably called upon to spend more time at home. This means no BC trip this year, but more focus on beach fishing and new additions to my rod and tackle collection as I focus on landing salmon closer to home. Luckily its a pink year and I’ve had some friends pass off some knowledge they’ve gained past summers hooking coho from the beach.
Took the pontoon up to Cooper Lake after having been to the lake in late-June on a scouting mission with my wife. She and I had caught a couple fish on that afternoon and knew I needed to comeback with the boat as the lake is a perfect size (130 acres) for exploring under oar-power.
It was a bit windy so I started my day at the top of the lake, anticipating that I’d want to get the hard rowing done early. I anchored at a few spots and caught stocked trout at each one using bait. I’ve been trying to move away from all bait use in all of my fishing but I’ll lean on it occasionally to avoid getting skunked. I trolled and cast spinners all day and never got a hit, but bait consistently got fish in the net. By 3pm in the afternoon I could see good-size brook trout rising to the gnat hatch that came on in full force in shallower waters. Dry flies would have been a great option had I brought my fly rod. It had taken a tumble out the bed of my truck at about 45mph last weekend and I honestly can’t bring myself to even look at in it’s scratched up, wonky-guide state.
Cooper Lake is beautiful and I can’t say the wind was as much of a problem. Bring an anchor (mine’s 8lbs and barely held) and find one of the numerous coves that helps shelter the wind.
A coordinated long weekend among a tight group of fishing buddies can provide a game that extends long before and after the days you take off from work. The looking-forward-to and looking-back-on makes a trip a worthy endeavor, despite having to go through the motions of aligning all of our schedules and communicating to our loved ones that this was a great idea. We earned it or we would pay for it were the foundations of every conversation with wives and girlfriends. The road you took from the get-go dictated your every angle from that point on.
Jameson Lake is about 200 miles from Seattle, north of Ephrata and can be reached from I-90 or Highway 2. It is in the sagebrush flats region of Washington and quite simply a long lake in the middle of the desert. The 500 acre lake is a split-season and opens the fourth Saturday of April and closes on July 4th until October when it opens again. On it’s east side, Jameson Lake Road extends along the shore and to the top of the upper section or “old lake” which was the smaller body of water that existed before the lake doubled in size. A study for the Foster Creek Conservation District said that “since first surveyed in the mid-1880’s, Jameson Lake has doubled in size and water levels have reportedly continued to rise several feet in the past 15 years, possibly as a result of agricultural practices in the surrounding watershed.”
I talked with an old-timer for a while who had fished the lake most years since 1957. We heard stories about when the lake had been half the size and the fish twice as big. He was carrying four fiberglass rods rigged with silver or bronze spoons that he had used for twenty years. Friday’s limit was caught on silver spoons and today, bronze spoons were the ticket. Modern spoons and their fancy split rings didn’t sit well with him, and he was worried that he’d run out of spoons before he died or couldn’t fish any more. The old-timer referenced a plug in his tackle box that had been fished by his grandfather. I asked him about the chances of losing such an heirloom and he said that if you fished the plug and lost it, you went swimming. I truly respected his choice of technique. No bait and only targeting fish that will hit hard near the surface from a long way off the back of a boat.
His fishing partner had been his across-the-street neighbor for thirty years. Her name was Bonnie and I thought back on the morning when we saw them heading out, politely inquiring if we’d stayed dry through the night’s rain. Bonnie and her husband were great friends and neighbors of the old-timer and his wife. Bonnie’s husband passed from Alzheimer’s and then the old-timer’s did the same a couple years after that. With both of their partners gone and a few years of grieving gone by, the old-timer and Bonnie partnered up. They both liked camping, fishing, baseball and most importantly: one another’s company. They could share the stories of their lost partners, embedded with a context only known by someone who was there when it all happened. Bonnie and the old-timer and the lost husband and wife had been great friends and shared many memories together raising their families as neighbors in a small community. Bonnie and the old-timer knew that together they could watch a baseball game on TV and both agree that it was better than seeing it in person, because you got to see more. They knew they could enjoy the outdoors together and camp and fish and start building their own traditions together.
It was a dense interaction with the old-timer in that short amount of time. Our campsite forced pleasantries in the least as we were situated right behind the facilities and resort office/restaurant/general store. We were situated on two of the tent sites available at Jack’s Resort, with the majority of the small property being reserved for RVs. There are multiple boat launches on the lake and Jack’s will rent you a boat without a motor for $30 a day. We brought our own electric motors but if you wanted to use their gas motors it would cost $60. The boats were leaky but tracked well. I wouldn’t suggest anchoring anywhere you couldn’t see the bottom without sonar. The lake runs up to a 130′ deep at points.
Our group fished a variety of methods, with trolling and casting spinners surprisingly being the most productive. Most fisherman were using bait off the bottom and that turned out to work just fine, but was a bit boring and tough to manage from a non-anchored boat on the lake. All weekend there were periodic squalls of sideways rain and with the cloud cover I stuck to bronze spinners, but silver worked as well once the sun came through the clouds. After a day’s fishing we took a break and headed into the surrounding hills to set up a firing range where we could test out our friend’s arsenal of handguns. Jameson Lake is a great, remote lake that provided consistent fishing this late spring. WDFW looks like they stock it again in October and I would love to head back and try it again once the trout population is allowed the chance to get a little bigger.
Katlin and I drove to Pacific City, Oregon for Memorial Day and I got a chance to fly fish for the first time in two of the several rivers that empty into the ocean near there. The drive in along winds along Little Nestucca Road and includes several points where the narrow road funnels across one-lane bridge crossings across the river. At each of these bridges on the way in I had a chance to check out some nice pools that had me chomping at the bit as I formulated an easy way to break it to Katlin once we landed at her folks’ house that I was going to be taking my fly gear back there to get a line wet. The moment arrived and with some support from her Dad, I made my exit and headed back up to scout the bridge crossings a bit more and find a good spot to access the river safely. After a couple stops I found some proper access with decent pools and hiked down below a bridge and along the bank for a short while, posting up in a nice tailout that looked promising. I hadn’t fished drys yet, and was really curious about the presence (or not) of fish, so I tied on a nymph and let it swing through the tailout into a nice pool that formed below. The fish were there and what they lacked in size they made up for in abundance. I caught a small cutthroat on nearly every cast, took in the scenery, and then mosied on back to the house for BBQ and time with the family.
On Sunday I was promised that I’d get a shot at fishing the Kellow Farm in Hebo, Oregon. The farm was about a fifteen minute drive from where we were staying and was on a nice stretch of the Neskowin RIver, above the hatchery but still the possibility of seeing a late Spring Chinook lurking in a big hole that formed just down the driveway from the farmhouse. I had caught a big Coho there two Christmas’ ago in that hole. There weren’t any big fish to be seen, so I waded across the river and upstream a bit, with the plan being to work my way down, through the big hole, and beyond to some water that I hadn’t seen before. There was nothing happening at the big hole, but downstream I found some promising water tight to the bank and switched to a dry fly. The dry was instantly hit on a cast tight to the opposite bank and I quickly caught two healthy rainbows which were much bigger than the cutthroat I’d been hooking the day before. Those two were the perhaps the biggest once around on the small part of the river I fished that day. It felt great landing my first two fish on a dry fly and great practice before I take on the Yakima here once my summer break begins.
On Monday we headed to the beach before the drive home to Seattle. I’ve always had this juvenile dream of driving on a beach and there’s no better than Tierra Del Mar north of Pacific City.
I fished for fours in a downpour today at Rattlesnake Lake. The plan was to hike the shoreline, but once I arrived and the wind was minimal, I assembled my pontoon and headed out about 150 yards from the boat launch. I caught my first trout on a fly. A red beaded, grizzly hackled, brown tailed wooly bugger that I cast and stripped back in. My casting is improving and I learned a lot today. I used that fly all day and landed four on it. I also had my ultralight spinning rod and was getting bites every other cast on a red Mepps spinner. I landed another five on the spinner. The lake was very active with trout, they were jumping all around all afternoon. The water was bright green and not as murky as would be expected with all of the rain. A great day fishing and I’m glad to have made despite the last two days of rain. There was only one other angler on the water and he was catching his share too with a nymph below an indicator.
In what has become an annual tradition, I head out to the American River Guard Station off Highway 410 near Naches, Washington every October to spend a weekend playing poker and fishing the American, Bumping, and Naches River for cutthroat. The cabin was built in 1941 and is available for rental most of the year.
The American River runs alongside the site of the cabin and it’s easy hiking or short driving to holes, slots, and tail outs holding small to medium size cutthroat. On Saturday we drove along a road that paralleled the river and Highway 410 on the other side, exploring a road that wound through a few of the many campsites along that stretch. Hunters occupied the majority of the sites we saw that did have occupants and that the ample rain that started on Saturday afternoon pushed fisherman, hunters, and football fans into the comfy confines of the bar at Whistlin’ Jack Lodge.
We fished using ultralight spinning gear with #0 and #1 Mepps spinners being the lure of choice. I have caught more trout on the red and bronze Mepps than any other brand or color. They’ve worked for me in the Yakima, Skykomish, American, Bumping, Naches, Cle Elum, and Green River along with multiple high country, alpine lakes. When I’m not targeting stocked rainbows and in selective gear waters I’m using these small, red, Mepps spinners to catch wild trout.
I camped two nights at Fairholme Campground in the Olympic Peninsula over last Sunday and Monday night and fished Lake Crescent for Beardslee Rainbows, catching two on Monday and catching only bites on Tuesday morning. I launched the pontoon from the Fairholme boat launch and was even able to moor it on the gas dock overnight. I fished the northwestern shore from the end of the lake sides campsites east and got consistent bites and many spotted fish along with the two landed. It was both eerie and fascinating spotting the blue backs of the trout following my spinner or meandering by below my pontoon. The water is clarity is an unreal blue, due to a lack of nitrogen in the water and the absence of any plant life in the lake because of it. There was a significant amount of insect activity right along shore and below overhanging trees, which is where most of the trout I saw were rising and feeding. The lake drops off deep very quickly and I stayed in the shallows, not wanting to troll without a depth finder. There is also a 2 oz. limit to your tackle. So I stuck to the surface feeders along shore and cast a bronze Mepps #1 spinner, which got all of the bites and both trout.