We left Southwest Florida and pointed the wheel northwest. The wife visited with her parents in Tennessee for a couple weeks while I drove to a place only a fisherman could love. Neah Bay is a lovely place as long as you are on the water. The gorgeous shoreline and offshore waters full of life have to be accessed through the hub of the Makah Nation. The main reason the wife decided not to tag along was due to the fact that she saw enough of the depressing town during my final summer guiding there in 2005. After spending a week there I can say that it has only gone downhill since 2005, especially after watching some of the local behavior at the only boat ramp in town. Parking a pickup truck across the boat ramp and walking away does not attract tourism. Neither does cursing and threatening someone who politely asks how long you are going to be blocking the ramp as you spool up a gill net.
For the first three days of fishing I was able to bum a boat ride with a couple strangers. This was the first time I had ever met up with anglers from an internet fly fishing forum. Luckily the meetup did not end with an interview with Chris Hansen.
The first two days were spent inside the Strait and just offshore. The visibility was like putting your head in a grey plastic bag all day. We fished all over the area north of Tatoosh Island but the only fish in the area were rockfish. My hosts were thrilled with the action, but my thumb got shredded lipping fish and I couldn't help wonder where in the hell were the salmon? This area is usually a slam dunk and with the large preseason forecast it was a bit concerning.
The third day we joined Tony (who I would be fishing with the rest of the week) to buddy boat out to Swiftsure Bank to find some fish. Tony had been finding some decent fishing the previous couple days and after two days of just rockfish we had salmon on our minds. After a long run in the fog we arrived on the bank and my first cast came tight to something heavy. A few minutes later this nice chinook salmon was led into the waiting net.
For us that would be about all the fish we found that day. We decided to leave a few fish to see if we could find the concentrations of salmon that just had to be offshore. We found none. Tony stayed put and found some scattered pods of salmon. Someday I will learn the lesson to not leave fish to find fish.
I fished with Tony for another four days. The fishing remained tough, but one day we found decent fishing. The funniest part for me was that in the midst of really slow fishing, when we finally found some decent signs of salmon we both started fishing the least effective method, poppers. I was able to catch one on a new pattern. I tied a trailer hook version of the Zaggin Zook and it worked as well as my normal poppers (like the Kinky Banger). Here's a video of the Zaggin Zook.
It was a great trip shared with great people. Hopefully I will make my way back to the Northwest next summer and the fishing will be as good as it should be. I hope the preseason forecasts end up being correct and the poor fishing was a result of the warmer, brown water we found offshore.