Growing up not far from Cowiche Creek offered ample opportunities to go fishing whenever the spirit and gumption to do so arose. From April, when fishing season around the state opened, until late summer, my friends and I would either hike, or ride our bikes to the creek and spend the day fishing for trout.
I learned a lot about fishing on those fun days on the creek. I learned where fish liked to hold, and how to present bait or a spinner to them that would get them to strike.
And, I learned that rattlesnakes can swim, so even if you are standing in the middle of the creek, you need to keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
To this day, fishing our local rivers and creeks is one of my favorite things to do.
Now, if you are like me, and were waiting for the first Saturday in June to pull on the waders and head out to one of the local rivers to do a little trout fishing, you are a week late. I don’t know when it happened, maybe this was the first year that the rule changed, but this year all of the area rivers and creeks opened for fishing last Saturday, the Saturday before Memorial Day.
It makes sense. When the first-Saturday-in-June-law was put in place, it cut off any river fishing for folks on Memorial Day, one of the big camping weekends in the campgrounds along the local rivers. So, this past weekend, anglers got a chance to try for a few fresh trout for the frying pan on the local streams.
Some of us who don’t take a close enough look at the regulations, spent the weekend building fences and planting stuff thinking the rivers weren’t opening for another week.
It is understandable though. For ever, the local streams opened in late April, when all the other lakes and streams in the state opened for fishing. They all fell under the old “opening day” banner.
Then, in an effort to protect the young salmon and steelhead smolts that were still in the creeks and rivers in the spring, the officials changed the opener for stream fishing to June 1. It then got moved to the first Saturday in June for a few years, and now, the streams are open on the Saturday before Memorial Day.
Not that the change makes that much difference. Virtually all of the trout in the streams in our area now are the result of natural reproduction. The creeks and rivers used to be stocked with trout, but today there are no stocking programs on the streams. Mother Nature is providing the fish.
That is why there are fairly strict regulations on the rivers. Many portions of our rivers are open for fishing, but they are catch-and-release. Other portions of the rivers and creeks allow anglers to catch and keep a fish or two. And, there are restrictions on the use of bait and the number of hooks on lures. All the rules are to help the trout populations continue to thrive.
It can get a little complicated, but anglers should read the regulations before heading out to fish in any of the streams in the area to make sure they are following the rules.
That shouldn’t dissuade anyone from enjoying to stream fishing however. There is something to be said for standing along the edge of a flowing stream and pitching a Rooster Tail spinner into the current and letting it swing downstream, hopefully enticing a trout to strike.
While many anglers enjoy sitting and watching a bobber plopped out on a lake, many others love the anticipation of the strike as a lure works through the riffles of a river.
The only potential issue with the rivers and creeks opening in late May is that sometimes the spring run-off makes them almost unfishable. Depending on what this hot weather has done to the snow melt in the upper elevations, the rivers may be high and murky for a bit.
Still, it is good to know that grabbing the old Fenwick and heading to a local river, or creek, is now an option.
I won’t be riding my bike to Cowiche Creek anytime soon, like I used to do back in the early 1970s. In fact, until I get both tires fixed, I won’t be riding my bike anywhere, anytime soon. Add that to my to-do list. But I will be heading to the Naches River, and then the Tieton, to hit a few of my favorite fishing holes.
It is not summer yet. But it is sure feeling like it. And what better way to spend a warm late spring day, then standing next to, or in, one of our local streams, throwing a spinner or a fly and waiting for a big tug on the other end of the line?
Oh, with this hot weather, we should all be keeping an eye out for rattlers too.
• Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.