Trails To Glory

Trails To Glory

North Cascade Mountains - Streams, Washington

  • By: Dave McCoy

Washington is home to the magnificent Pacific steelhead and five species of salmon that have brought anglers to the Evergreen State for more than 100 years. All the famous anglers, from Roderick Haig-Brown to Steve Raymond to Enos Bradner, et al., have thrown lines here trying to raise those massive steelhead and salmon to flies. And many others have followed their footsteps.

Hard to blame them, in my opinion—who wouldn’t want to catch those fish? Unfortunately, declines in steelhead and salmon populations—and subsequent river closures during prime times of the year—have made that task much more difficult than it used to be.

The good news is this: Many of Washington’s piscatorial delights have been mostly ignored by the majority of anglers, waiting patiently for their turn in the spotlight. And that time has arrived. These small streams, including many that twist out of the north Cascade Mountains and into the Skagit River north of Seattle, provide angling bliss for anglers who desire native rainbow and cutthroat trout, and Dolly Varden char, in pristine surroundings, with nary an angler to contend with.

Beginning a small-stream adventure in western Washington is as simple as driving north from Seattle for an hour and following the Skagit and Highway 20 east into the mountains. You’ll want to have a Washington Gazetteer, a fishing regulations book and maybe a trailhead map, and you’ll need some good hiking boots and plenty of water. And you’ll want a small-stream rod, like a 4- or 5-weight, so you can get all the fight from these trout and char that range from just a few inches to a couple of pounds. Driving along Highway 20 you’ll find more small-stream options at your fingertips than you can fish in a lifetime.

These little creeks have something for every fly fisher. Those who wish to get away from everything and everyone; those who enjoy matching intricate hatches; those who want to travel with simply a rod, a few flies and a sandwich (can you say “tenkara”?). Most of these streams open in June, which makes them the perfect summer getaways.

Some of the best trailheads along Highway 20 that lead to great fishing are Baker Lake Trail, Cascade River Trail and Marble Creek Trail, to name but a few. So grab as much or as little gear as you like and plan a day on some of Washington’s most pristine fisheries.

After the Grind

Don’t drive past the Skagit River Brewery in Mount Vernon on the way home. Ales, lagers, pizzas and ribs, and live music on Saturday nights.