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Fly Fishing the Skagit for Dolly Varden Trout

By Nathan Keen
(Submitted by The Avid Angler)

The Place To Be:

The Sauk and Skagit Rivers. Fish steelhead runs and slower water. Also, fish behind chum salmon and their redds.

The Skagit does not provide great walk in access, but if you have a boat, floating from Marblemount to Swift Creek is a good one day float. Float from Swift Creek to Rockport for a shorter day. The Sauk River provides the best walk in access and is best fished between the two government bridges.

The Techniques:

Aggressive steelhead swing: Using a sinktip, cast straight across or slightly downstream relative to the current and let the line and fly be swept by the current fairly aggressively down and across. You should mend initially if necessary to let the fly sink, but then lead with the rod to keep the fly moving. Flesh flies, egg sucking leeches, zonkers and rabbit strip flies are very effective. Natural colored flies seem to work the best.

Swinging/stripping: This method is an off shoot of the above. Swing the fly and strip it at the same time especially in slower water. Vary your retrieve and try different casting angles. Also, make sure you strip the fly back upstream towards you after the fly has stopped swinging in towards shore. The same flies as #1 can be used.

Dead drift techniques: Trout nymphing techniques are the rule here. Use a weighted fly, long leader and a floating line to work egg patterns and egg sucking leech patterns through likely holding water. Flesh flies and egg patterns are your best bets here.

Other Notes:

1.  Dollies will strike aggressively sometimes, but other times they will just peck at the fly and then eat it softly. Wait until you feel a slight pull on the line before setting as you may pull the fly away if you strike too aggressively and quickly.

2.  Cover water as these fish are migratory and they move around a fair bit.

3.  Once you have found a fish or two, fish the area a bit as Dollies tend to hand together in small pods.

4.  Find spawning or schooling salmon and fish below them for Dollies. Dollies will hang below the salmon to take advantage of eggs and flesh carcass that are in the current.  


Zonkers in White and Natural
Egg sucking leeches and flesh flies
Glo Bugs
Wooly Buggers in White
Flash Fry in natural colors
Bow River Bugger
Conehead Kiwi Muddler
Baitfish Minnows in Grey and White
Battle Creek Light

Article written by:  Nathan Keen

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