With sparse deserts and plains, sprawling coastal tidelands, and the only temperate rainforest in the contiguous United States, Washington is home to one of the most diverse climates of any state. For any sportsman or woman this translates to endless outdoor possibilities. A 3-hour drive from the Filson Headquarters in Seattle will put you knee-deep in slate gray water throwing flies for Steelhead, forging through a marsh with duck decoys in hand, or hiking along a basalt-rimmed plateau behind working dogs with a side-by-side. Throw your Waders, Tin Cloth Pants, and an Alaskan Guide Shirt or two in your duffle and hit the road in the AEV Filson Edition Wrangler with our Field Guide to Washington.
WINTER STEELHEADING ON THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA
With fall trout season beginning to wind down in the Northwest, avid fly fishers start to tie on spectacular flies of purple and pink (and names like “Pick-Your-Pocket” and “Prom Dress”) in hopes of catching elusive Steelhead. Winter Steelhead are some of the most difficult and rewarding fish to search for, as weather conditions and swollen rivers with low visibility all stand between the angler and their prize. Don’t let that scare you off though, December on the Olympic Peninsula offers good numbers of these tough fish if you’re willing to spend the time swingin’. During the month, hatchery fish are being introduced to the Hoh River, the Bogachiel, and Humptulips and these first-class rivers attract fishermen and women from all over the world. All wild Steelhead, which are identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released. To make sure you’re fishing in the clear, read through the Washington Sport Fishing Rules and Regulations before hitting the road, and if you’re new to the sport be sure to seek out a qualified guide.
8:00AM: GEAR UP and HEAD WEST TO FORKS
Grab your Guide Waders, wool base layers, fingerless gloves, and the warmest, waterproof coat you’ve got (you’re heading to a rainforest after all) and take to the road. Head due west from Seattle toward Forks and catch the ferry to Bainbridge Island (or if you’ve missed the boat, head south on Interstate 5 through Tacoma and take the U.S. Route 101 north the rest of the way to bypass the ferry waiting lines). Forks, famous for being the setting of a certain vampire series, is the epicenter of fly fishing on the peninsula and mere minutes from six of the best Steelhead runs in the country: The Hoh, Queets, Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Callawa, and Clearwater. Plan on either pitching a tent (if you’re brave or stupid) or renting a fishing shack here for a night or two to get the most out of “Steelhead Country.”
12:00PM: STRETCH YOUR LEGS and ENJOY THE VIEW AT LAKE CRESCENT
17 miles west of Port Angeles along U.S. Route 101 you’ll find yourself driving on the banks of one of Washington’s most breathtaking lakes. Lake Crescent is known for its brilliant blue water (due to a lack of nitrogen in the lake which inhibits the growth of algae) and for its unknown depth. When officially recorded in 1970, the lake depth exceeded the measuring equipment available. It has been estimated to be over 1,000 feet deep. Take one of the many pull-outs for vehicles and spend some time along the shores of this storied lake, the view is unbeatable.
1:30PM: SPEND THE REST OF THE AFTERNOON CASTING FLIES
If you get out of the city early enough you should be able to hit any of the rivers near Forks with a few hours of remaining daylight. If you’re new to the Pacific Northwest you’ll notice that the sunset is extremely early, and you’ll be casting in the dark by 4:30 so get out there quickly. Park your vehicle along the riverbank, toss on your waders, and venture out into cold water for some well-deserved solitude and hopefully a Steelhead. Once you’ve burned the daylight head back to town, grab a beer and some fly talk at the Blakeslee Bar & Grill (one of the only bars in Forks and a watering hole for many of the guides in the area), and plan for an early morning.
5:00AM: WAKE UP WITH THE COLD WEATHER and HIGH TAIL IT TO THE RIVER
If your eyes aren’t bloodshot from lack of sleep and your fingers aren’t numb from cold, you’re probably doing it wrong. Wake up at the crack of dawn, visit the drive-thru coffee shop and wrangle them to fill your entire Stanley Thermos with burn-your-mouth-hot coffee and get to those headwaters. The fish aren’t going to catch themselves. Be careful to avoid rivers that are flowing too fast or require a drift boat. Find a good spot to walk in and wade, and put that “Prom Dress” to the test.
2:00PM: EXHAUSTED? NOW YOU DESERVE LUNCH
Walking, wading, and casting (and invariably not catching fish) can create a mean hunger in any angler. If you’ve had your fill of fishing, head out of town the way you came in and stop by the Hungry Bear Cafe for their famous home cooking and old-fashioned pies. Enjoy your meal among photos and relics of the area’s timber industry. If you need some energy for the road, grab one of their impressive espresso milkshakes on the way out and split it among the crew (it’s plenty enough for 3 folks).