Dollywood.An amusement park built around a country singer that made an appearance in our fishing report at the start of the month. Seems kind of silly but that's America for ya. While Dollywood is in Tennessee and a helluva long ways away we here in the Northwest have our own version of Dollywood come the wintertime. While it may not have the roller coasters, concerts, sticky buns or elephant ears, most fly-fisherman prefer our Dollywood to the real one. Where is this Pacific Northwest Dollywood, this magical winter play-land for fly-fisherman? The Sauk and Skagit Rivers of course. The quarry you are chasing. Dollies.
Yesterday Johnny Steeltrout and I headed up to Dollywood with a friend in search of the ever aggressive Dolly Varden. We started on the Sauk near Government Bridge, swinging rabbit strip and marabou creations the size of small birds in the color of the snow lining the surrounding hills. The river was a little high and slightly milky but it didn't seem to affect the fishing much. The Dollies are in and eating. There is some proof below.
This was our average size for the day. Excuse Johnny's facial expression I believe he was trying to imitate the fishes displeasure at being fooled. Flesh wasn't the only color working as evidenced in this photo. Black leeches were also working. I was using a large Loop Sculpin in olive with the egg sac on the head.
We seemed to have good luck casting out and stripping back across rather rapidly. Swinging was also working, but you have to be patient. Most of the strikes were happening at the point of the swing known as the "hangdown." That is the end of the swing, just let it sit straight out below you for a few seconds before stripping it in to reset you cast.
Remember that Dollies seem to prefer shallower water then you may be accustomed to fishing. Fish the 2-3 feet deeps sections of runs and tailouts. Look for Chum redds and fish behind them. An intermediate tip should be enough to get the fly down, dollies will move for meat but you could try a type 6 if you would like.
The best flies are 3-4 inch long flesh or olive colored leech type patterns. The bigger the better honestly. I was using the Olive Loop Leech, Johnny switched back and forth between a black hot head MOAL and some Chartreuse and white contraption. Andrew was fishing a white marabou fly with a peach colored Schlappen face that was incredibly effective. Pretty much anything big and ugly will work as long as it has movement and/or is stripped fast to illicit the chase response.
It was cold and beautiful in Skagit Land. The fishing was good. The company was outstanding and we dealt with a plethora of different weather but it was worth it for some big fish.
So come on down to the shop. Pick up some supplies and go chase some dollies in the cold, clear waters filtering through the towering mountains covered in snow. It's called the American Alps. I will leave you with some video.
Get out and angle.
Feed Fish Flies, Not Toxins