Methow River Report
August 7, 2017
I’ve received some puzzling reports about the fishing on north-central Washington’s Methow River for the last couple of weeks, so I thought I would look into it for myself. The reports indicated a serious scarcity of the bigger westslope cutthroat trout that my home river had become known for.
I was able to get on the water at around 7 a.m. The first run was close to my home and has always served as a go-to spot that never fails to yield one or two 18"-24" cutties. I rigged up my ECHO ION XL 6-weight with a 210 grain AIRFLO Scout head. Grabbed one of my go to streamers, a #8 Sculpzilla, and started swinging the run from the top down. Picked up a couple small size rainbows in the 8"-10" range. Only found one small cutty that was about 8". Puzzled I went back to the top of the run, changed streamers to a Skittish Smolt, and repeated the process. I only had one halfhearted bump and that was it.
Since I was out there to find out what was going on, I switched to a dry-fly set up. I broke out my ECHO Glass 6 weight. Rigged it up with my reel and the RIO Perception dry line. When I opened my dry-fly box I went right to one of my flies I tie, a pink, foam Wonderthing. After about four casts I had a decent take and could tell this was a little better fish. It finally broke water about 10 feet in front of me and I could see it was about a 13" rainbow. A minute later it was gone. I picked up a couple more rainbows in that 6"-8" range and another 8" cutty. I was disappointed that this run did not produce the size of fish that it always had for me.
A quick drive upstream and a 20-minute walk to the river put me on a couple of productive runs that had produced nicely for me in the past. I started at the what I call the upper run, which really is what you could call a mini-run. It is not very long and only has a couple of spots that offer any depth. I swung one my Mini BDL's, but only had one little tug. Due to time restraints I crossed the river to the larger run and started swinging it. On my next step down I hooked into a nice fish. After a brief tug-of-war I brought in a nice 16" bull trout. I got it back on its way as quick as possible and moved down a few more steps, making a few more swings, and had another light-hearted tug. I continued working my way down the run with no more action until I hooked up on another small fish. It didn’t take me long to bring this one to hand, and again it was a 12" cutty.
Over all it wasn’t a bad few hours, but I did not find the bigger cutties that I had always found in these runs. So where did they go and why is it that the reports confirm what I just learned?
I called our district fish biologist from the Washington state fish and wildlife department to see if he could answer these questions. He said that, habit change/damage due to the 2014 wildfires, and heaving flash floods that followed that year, plus extreme drought conditions and higher water temperatures that persist, "may" have contributed to the loss or decline of our larger cutthroats. But this all speculation and nothing positive, due to lack of specific evidence to show one way or the other.
This doesn’t mean I'm not going to keep fishing my beautiful home river. It just means I'll be fishing harder and praying that I see those larger fish in the future.