Washington Rivers


What to Expect in November

Note: This What-To-Expect is from Westfly's Legacy pages and may not accurately reflect the current fishing at this venue.

Given that the rivers are fishable, you'll find chum salmon, coho salmon, dolly varden, and sea run cutthroat moving from saltwater to fresh. And of course there's still some fishing available for resident trout and summer steelhead.

There's are many options this month. But before you choose a species to pursue, you have to choose your river and your day to fish. Weather plays a big role--THE role--in November fishing. It can be the wettest month of the year, and when the rivers are high and muddy, you're better of staying home and tying flies.

But until the big storms hit, enjoy the fishing. And remember: no matter where you go at this time of year, take a change of clothes. When you do a slam dunk into water that's45 degrees, and the air is about the same temperature (with a bit of a wind), you don't want to be 5 miles from the nearest dry, warm clothing. Pack some extra gear on the trip. It could help you avoid a heap of discomfort, and may even save your life.

iiiSteelhead.ggg Summer steelhead, will remain active right through the end of the year. They're still considered summer steelhead if they entered freshwater in summer--even if there are icicles hanging off your nose when you fish for them.

Steelheading will depend on water temperature and rain. Check the river levels: sudden surges will dampen the fishing, and very high water will make the rivers too muddy for fly fishing (wade in up to your knees; if you can't see your boots, go home).

When fishing for steelhead this month, pay close attention to the water temperature. That will govern your choice of fly line--sink-tip vs. floater--and that choice can be crucial to your success.

When the water turns consistently cold, steelhead will be reluctant to move very far for a fly. Under those circumstances you'll need to pack a sink-tip line and present the fly more slowly (and in somewhat slower water) than you did in summer. Indicator tactics are also effective.

There should still be some chum salmon action in saltwater. Rain will bring them into the rivers. By mid-month there should be large numbers of chum in many Puget Sound rivers.

Chum are the second biggest of the Pacific salmon. Only chinook are larger. Typically12-15 pounds, chum are hard fighters that often jump when fair-hooked. While not a "meat" fish, chum are good sport on a fly rod. A sturdy eight-weight is barely adequate. A nine- or even ten-weight is better.

Chum anglers should be familiar with three tactics: classic wet fly swing, dead drift, and strip. The latter tactic uses a weighted fly, such as a Clouser Minnow; cast the fly near the outside of a pod of fish (not in the middle of them) and retrieve it with short strips, pausing between each strip. This gives the fly a jigging motion. For estuaries and a pink Starlight Leech farther upstream. When swinging flies or dead drifting, try an Egg Sucking Leech or Chum Candy.

For chums, it's good to carry several colors because they can have preferences depending on weather and river conditions. Pink, chartreuse, orange, black, and black-and-chartreuse can be productive.

When fishing for chums, avoid snagging fish. If you're snagging them, change your tactics or your position on the river. You can often tell if you've snagged a chum--they just pull in a straight line; if your fly line is moving all around the river, you've probably fair-hooked your salmon.

Dolly varden are anadromous char closely related to bull trout. They follow the coho and chums up river and gobble spilled roe. So drift an Egg Fly near the bottom downstream from spawning fish, and you can pick up a nice18-20 inch dolly.

iiiTrout. gggTrout anglers will find hatches of a few caddis species and the ever-present midges, but the dominant insect activity will be blue-winged olives. They will mount some kind of hatch every afternoon. The strongest hatches will be on cloudy days with a little drizzle. Some trout will be interested, many others won't want to know about it.

When there is a hatch of blue-winged olives, I reach for a size18 Sparkle Dun or Baetis Cripple, usually the former. Spinner falls are sometimes important in winter, so carry a couple of Rusty Spinners.

Nymphing is generally more reliable than waiting for a hatch of blue-wings. A good nymph pattern for the fall blue-winged olive season is a size18 dark Gold-Ribbed Hares Ear. The gold ribbing on the Hares Ear mimics the light and dark segments on the natural insect's abdomen (true for fall species; not so true for other times of the year). Pheasant Tails work, too. Either way, present the fly near the bottom.

As the weather and water settle to a low temperature, the best trout and whitefish fishing will be between10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. BTW, whitefish have a hard time resisting a small white nymph.

Late in the month, whitefish could begin spawning. Trout will hang below the whitefish and scarf drifting roe, so a small Egg Fly in is a good choice; drift it near the bottom.

Most chinook salmon are done spawning, but there may be a few late-bloomers and some coho that are still at it. If so, leave them alone. You might, however, try drifting an Egg Fly on the bottom below them. Trout will eat their roe, too.

You may run into some remnant October caddis early in the month, if the day is on the warm side. You may also encounter the end of the mahogany dun hatch and the ever present midges. Midges will be small this month--size20-22.

Most Novembers begin cloudy and maybe wet, and this shift can create good trout fishing and little pressure for the first half of the month. However, if we have an extended cold spell, trout will hole-up and it could be mid-February before they begin to stir again. Also, very rainy weather will render rivers high and muddy. Under those conditions, trout will be reluctant to rise to a dry fly, but might be enticed by a small nymph and/or San Juan Worm presented near the bottom in slower water.


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