Sol Duc River, Washington

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Sol Duc River, Washington
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Sol Duc River, Washington
About the middle of January a customer was extolling the charms of the rivers that drain the west side of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Beautiful scenery and giant wild steelhead were the main attractions. He said that if we wanted to sample it, we should use Forks Washington as our base camp and be there around the end of March.

This fish is very alive and swam off with lats of energy.  Its left ventral fin is clipped, showing it was raised in a rearing pond.

I asked our venerable Sage/Simms rep, George Cook what he knew about the area and he sounded surprised that we had never been there. Then he gave me a list of famous fly fishing guides for that area.  Turns out they were all booked, but one gave me the phone number for Sam Windle, who may be the oldest, most experienced guide in the area. I wound up making arrangements with Sam's son Carl, who handles the business for Windle's Guide Service.  He advised that we book rooms at the Pacific Inn Motel and to meet

Sam at the Forks Cafe for breakfast at 5:00am on March 27. When we arrived in Forks it was a pleasant surprise to find that he cafe was nearly across the street from the motel.  The next morning there a dozen drift boats and tow vehicles in the cafe parking lot.  That number swelled to nearly twenty by the time breakfast was over.  I made the comment that steelhead fishing must be a fairly large boost to the local economy.  Carl Windle commented that sport fishing supplied over $700,000 in hotel/motel tax alone.

At breakfast, I asked Sam the usual questions when becoming acquainted with a fishing guide:
"How's the fishing?"  Reply, "Spotty, it's usually better this time of the year".
"Where are we fishing today?"  "We are going to run the upper Sol Duc.  I'll get you away from the crowd"
"How long you been a fishing guide?"  "Forty-two years."  "How old are you?"  "Sixty nine." 
"Have you guided fly fishers before?" 
"Yessir, lots."

Typical tactical water on the upper Sol Duc.

"How do you want us rigged?"  "Bring single-handers rigged with Teeny Lines.  You will cast from the boat.  There is thick vegetation right to the water."
I appraised him across the breakfast table.  He met my gaze head on, but non-challenging.  Sam isn't very tall, but is lean and hard.  What impressed me the most were his big powerful hands.

Mark & Sam searching for steelhead.

I became even more impressed as the day went on and Sam threaded his 17-foot Willie boat though one jumble of fast water and rocks after another.  The upper Sol Duc is a very tactical river for rowing a hard boat.  At times I wondered if there was any possibility of getting though what seemed to be impassable places.  Sam asked Patty and I to get out and walk only once.
Sol Duc means: bright waters in the local native American tongue. Crossing Highway 101 several times slightly north of the town of Forks, the Sol Duc is one of Washington's most storied steelhead rivers.  The Sol Duc heads in Olympic National Park and flows seventy miles due west and joins the Bogachiel River.  Together they form the Quillayute River six miles up stream from it's confluence with the Pacific Ocean near the town of La Push. These rivers drain one of the wettest parts of the continental United States; receiving nearly 170 inches of

rainfall every year.  The Sol Duc is a little smaller than my home water, the Sandy River.  Although this river experiences large annual flow fluctuations, there are few gravel bars of any width.  For the most part, the river is contained in a fairly narrow canyon.  Also missing is medium size cobble.  Each rapids is a collection of giant angular boulders, or some times ledges.  Most often the rest of the river bottom is composed of golf ball, to base ball size gravel.  The bottom is much lighter colored gravel than our home waters.

A calmer part of the Sol Duc.

There is no aquatic vegetation and the water was gin clear.  All of our fishing was from a moving drift boat.  This provided the perfect medium for spotting fish.  Unfortunately there were few to see.  In our two days with Sam we covered nearly all the forty-five miles of  boatable water on the Sol Duc.  Patty landed our only fish, a bright hen of about seven pounds.  She used a Sage 8100-4 XP rod, Ross Evolution 3.5 reel, Rio VersiTip line and Sandy Blue Tube Fly.
The Sol Duc was home water to the legendary fly tier Syd Glasso who popularized spey flies for steelhead on the west coast.  The Olympic Peninsula rivers receive intense fishing pressure, possibly even more than our home rivers in Oregon. We saw few other fly fishers.  However, every angler and fishing guide that we encountered on the water was very well mannered and respectful.  We will go back to Forks Washington again some day.  Next week: Our impressions of the Hoh River.

Biggin' From The Florida Keyes
Approximately 170-pounds !!!
Captain Chris Morrison sent us this picture of a tarpon he landed last week.  This monster weighs around 170-pounds. He used a Sage 1291-4 Xi2 rod, Billy Pate Tarpon reel and Royal Wulff Bermuda Triangle Taper Lot Tip line.
If you would like to catch a fish like this, give Captain Chris a call or visit his web site:
Capt. Chris Morrison
Home Phone: (305) 743-6948
Cell Phone: (305) 393 - 2353

Web Site 

Fly Fishing Vests For Spring 2006
A good vest organizes your gear with convenience & comfort.

Very cool !!!

Mesh Vest

Might save your life !!!

Fishing PFD Vest

Freestone Mesh Vest

The choice of guides !!!
Guide Vest

She's going to look sweet in this one !!!
Women's Mesh Vest

Master Vest

Buck's Bags
Chest Vest
For the hiking fly fisher !!!
Pack Vest
Clear Creek
Mesh Vests

From elegant to inexpensive, every price range, take your pick!

 Unique Spey Casting/Learning Opportunity


European Spey guru ANDRE SCHOLZ will be teaching a 4-hour seminar on the Sandy River, May 12th.
Andre lives in Bochum Germany, and is renowned in Europe for his exceptional spey technique. His smooth, almost effortless casting and detailed knowledge of the sport have brought scores of students to classes throughout Europe and Scandinavia.
Andre will be teaching the Scandinavian method of “Underhand Casting.” This is the method preferred by Europeans who fish Scandinavia’s large rivers.

When perfected, it generates very tight loops that travel great distances with minimum effort. Students should have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Spey casting.
Friday, May 12th 4:00PM-8:00PM
Oxbow Park, Section A, Sandy River
$75 per student
(limited to 8 students per class)
Item Description Price To Top
SCHOLZ-01 Under-hand Spey Casting Class with Andre Scholz, May 12, 4:00pm-8:00pm  $75.00


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Fish long & prosper,
Mark Bachmann, Patty Barnes


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