Steelhead; chinook, coho, chum, and pink salmon; sea-run cutthroat trout; Dolly Varden

The Skykomish River is famous for steelhead that rise to flies and smack lures in the lovely July weather on the west slope of the Cascades, although the river also has a great winter run that enables steelheaders to relish the cold misery to which they are accustomed.

The current era of endangered stocks and the river’s proximity to the Seattle metro area translate into seasons that can change at a moment’s notice, depending on fish counts. That’s not a deterrent to savvy anglers within reach of a river with four salmon species, good boat access, and shore access. Staying legal is as easy as calling the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife rule-change hotline at 360-902-2500.

Sweet Spots: Holes at the Wallace River bridge near Startup for steelhead and salmon; Reiter Ponds area near Gold Bar for steelhead
What’s Hot: Marabou jigs, plastic leeches, fresh sand shrimp
Local Advice: “Instead of letting the dogs [BRACKET “chum salmon”] destroy your Kwikfish or other expensive plugs, just tie yarn or anything else that’s green and purple and cheap onto a hook, and they’ll attack it,” says Gary Perkins, a longtime Skykomish angler from Sultan. “They’re fun to fight, but one dog with those alligator teeth can ruin a $6 plug with one chomp.”
Prime Time: Early July for chinooks, July through October for summer steelhead, January for winter steelhead
More Info: Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, 888-338-0976;