Thanks to all my supporters

Dear Friends and Anglers,

I have officially shut down all aspects of my fly fishing business. This blog will remain up as an archive and for when I feel inspired to discuss fishing and fishing related issues. I want to thank everyone who has supported me through this adventure. My clients are incredible people that I really enjoyed spending time with over the years, dating all the way back to 1994 in Colorado. I hope to see many of you out on the river. Feel free to email or drop me a line anytime!

Jason Cross

For local guiding and lessons, please contact my good friend Ed Megill @

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fly Fishing for Nooksack River Steelhead

My outing Friday was a float from Mosquito Lake Road to Nugents Corner. On the boat there was a Lender, a Real Estate Agent and Title Company Salesman. So, who do you think hooked the fish? Me? Well, I did hook a small steelhead right next to the Nugents Corner boat ramp after they had all left. I saw a splash near the ramp and I ran and got my rod. Three casts and boom, fish on. I lost the fish shortly after it jumped. Maybe because I was so surprised.

This brings up a good point in the world of steelheading. We live in a place and on a river that can be difficult to fish. You may get one chance at a steelhead throughout an entire day or you may get none. On an exceptional day you might meet a few chromers. Stamina, perseverance, consistency and confidence are my words of choice. Fish every cast like it is the one! Don't let yourself fall asleep at the wheel and miss the grandiose opportunity.

How do we prepare ourselves for that fish? All your cards have to be played right or you have to get lucky. That first run is for the fish alone. If your hook set wasn't strong you will lose that fish when it jumps. There mouth is so much stronger than that of any normal size trout. Think of this fish as super-trout! If you have been casting down through a run with a type 6 sink tip and jig-head moal leech (super heavy fly) and you let that fly drop on your back cast a few times, there is a good chance you nicked that fly hook on a few rocks and dulled it. You just lost one of your cards. Take a look at your fly and hook every now and then. Change or sharpen it as needed. Compare your used hooks to new ones.

Second card: make sure you have that 24"-30" loop of line between your swinging hand and the reel. This line gives that fish a chance to turn with the fly and then your hard hook set will end up in the corner of its mouth.

Third card: don't take your steps when your fly is just coming to the dangle. So many fish will hit just as the fly stops its swing.

Fourth card: Fish with confidence and be consistent throughout the run. Keep the same amount of line out throughout the run and don't forget that steelhead are often closer to the shore than you might think.

Did I mention that the North Fork is closed from the hatchery downstream to Mosquito Lake Road. The hatchery needs to get a solid egg take and they have had troubles in previous years. Still, there is plenty of good water to fish.

WDFW Emergency Regs

Okay, back to yesterdays fly fishing outing on the Nooksack River. The answer is The Lender. Fish was on, ran, jumped, flopped and was gone! So cool though. That was his first experience with a steelhead. It makes a huge difference just to know that they are there. He will probably fish harder and better from now on when he gets out. It is so rewarding just to know that you are doing things right. If you never feel that connection, you ask yourself over and over again if you are doing things correctly. Way to go Travis! Thanks to Edward and Chris. It was an awesome day.

Well, it looks like I won't be out until next Friday unless you give me a call!

North Fork Nooksack Closes

The North Fork of the Nooksack is now closed from slightly above the Kendall Creek Hatchery down to Mosquito Lake Road. The hatchery has not received their required numbers in years so they are trying out a closure. I think it will reopen when they have received their minimum of 80 females.

North Fork Closure

Otherwise, the water was perfect yesterday, and the fish are there. I ran into WDFW Officer on the North Fork the other day. Apparently, they have only three field officers for all of Whatcom County and the San Juan Islands. They just can't have eyes everywhere or man-power. So, it's partially up to us help protect the fisheries we have and report any wrong doing that you might see out there.

I want to give people the Nooksack Fisheries Hotline number again (360-592-5140). This lets you know whether the subsistence gill-netting season is open or not on any particular day. No point in reporting something that is legal. The schedule seems to change weekly but has often been from Sunday through Wednesday.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nooksack River: Mosquito Lake to Nugents

I spent yesterday on the river with three guys, Mike, Ed and Roy. The weather was way too nice and so were they. There are some really nice swinging runs on the North Fork right now as well as the main stem. There is almost too much water to fish and make it down river before dark. Two of my favorite runs produced fish yesterday. Unfortunately, no fish were brought in! But hey, that is half the battle and then you know you are doing it right and fishing the right areas. I am out again tomorrow and it looks like it will be true steelhead day.....lots of rain.

I really wish we could figure out how to make the Hwy. 9 launch more viable. Driving your car or truck through 18 inches of water just isn't fun without a lift kit!

And the eagles! Wow, there are a lot of juveniles this year, which is a great sign for the eagle population. Thank you Ed for all your awesome camera work!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nooksack Report

What an awesome weekend to be out! I think most everyone assumed the river was still out. Saturday, the water below the hatchery produced a fun day. Ted landed 2 whitefish, 1 dolly varden and 5 chum. The chum are thick and you have to take care not to foul hook any or to walk in the water on the reds. This really important this time of year! If you don't know what reds look like ask someone.

Sunday the North Fork dropped into shape and was a perfect steelhead green. Marcus and Ed each had a bump but no tug on the end of the line. The chum are not interested anymore because they are in the bedroom so to speak. We did see one large steelhead surface in an eddie. No joke, I saw the mouth and then the chrome back with black spots. It wasn't interested in our offerings. The river is perfect and it should get better for the next two weeks or so. I will be out on Wednesday and Friday. So make sure to tune back in.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A new Nooksack!

Floated from Mosquito Lake Road to Nugent's this morning, but didn't fish. Well over 100 Bald Eagles! Simply spectacular. The North Fork is a completely new river and the main stem is just way too off color. The North Fork certainly isn't lending us much visibility however. I think we had 6-8 inches of vis. It's still dropping and cold. The fish are there and maybe we will have a foot plus of vis for tomorrow. Sunday should be pretty good on the North Fork.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Big Water!

Ouch! 30,000 cfs at Cedarville guage. We might be fishing some new runs next weekend if it comes down. It could bring in some fish when it starts coming down. Keep your fingers crossed. And watch those water flow guages. See the link on left of page.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

December is here!

Okay, it's time. Don't wait for January. Get out on the Nooksack and try for your first steelhead. Or head down to the Cascade and get one under your belt. The eagles are out everywhere, the worst that can happen is that you relax! I can help you. Give yourself an early Christmas present and get out on the river with me. See my Outings blog.
My motto: your hands only get cold if you catch a fish! Photo to the right: Matt needed some beach coffee after this chum!

November 30th Outing

We were in search of the chrome. Steelhead 2, AnglerontheFly 0. Ah yes, but there will be plenty more times to step up to the plate. Matt was the fishermen of the day. He hooked a nice 15 inch dolly varden in the tail-out of a run on his spey rod. Then a few ours later, he hooked into a spunky 7-8 lb. chum that we all thought was a steelhead by the way it fought. Still, any fish that bites a fly, runs, pulls, fights and jumps is a friend of mine!

The Nooksack was as clear as I have ever seen it and water temperature dropped from 40 degrees in the morning to 39 later in the day. We persevered some cold feet and a couple relentless jet boats and had a great day. It was nice to see the water at 1900 cfs and really examine the runs. Some perfect water that we will all return to soon. Thanks Matt, Carl and Constantine!

Last year the hatchery return was low due to a low a smolt release. The 2006 smolt release was up around 165,000 individuals. This bodes well for hatchery returns to the North Fork in December. The estimated return on Puget Sound fish is .5 %. 825 fish is better than 320. Hopefully this rain and snow we are receiving will bring in some fish. Well, what are you waiting for? My boats ready to go, give me a call. It's never too cold to go steelheading, is it?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cold snap.....steelhead?

The word is, there are steelhead out there. A few were caught over the Holiday weekend. There are still salmon throughout the system and todays little rain might push some more fish up the river without too much discoloration. Where are those dolly's? The whitefish are present in good numbers so be prepared to see dolly's soon. Please watch the flows on the North Fork and if it is low please avoid putting in at the hatchery. There are just too many chum spawning there with literally no way to avoid them. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Important Information on Netting

This morning when I floated the North Fork Nooksack there were two "eddie" gill nets upstream of the Hwy 9 bridge. One on river left was full of fish because you could see the bouys being tugged down and a few splashes. I went and looked to see what kind of identification was on the bouy. There was a number which I believe was 48102.

Not knowing tribal regulations I decided to call Nooksack Tribal Police and see what I could learn. I got hold of Tribal Police officer Mike Hamill (sp?) who was extremely helpful and grateful for my call. It turns out that the Nooksack Tribe has to follow statewide regulations on river closures. So, the two nets upstream of Hwy 9 were illegally placed by a legal netter because the North Fork is closed to fishing for salmon. The South Fork and main stem are still legal for netting. My conversation was brief but I intend to follow up with Mike and learn more about the regulations. Mike said he would follow up with me after checking out the netting situation. Thanks Mike.

Mike Hamill's number at Tribal Police is 360-592-9065 and his cell is 360-305-9374. Plug it into your cell phone so you have it when you need it. It is also important to report first (call) and possibly remove nets that have drifted due to high water and may cause a wildlife hazard. Mike will be able to assist you if you come across derelict fishing nets or gear.

The Nooksack Fisheries Hotline is a good number to call to get the netting schedule. Call 360-592-5140 before you go fishing.

It is important for all of us to follow and respect regulations whether you like them or not. I would love to see our fisheries rebound and I intend to help work towards a unifying change that will help bring us there. Knowledge is power and change is often good.

North Fork report

I was out this morning for a quick float on the North Fork to check and see what the high water did to the river. Flows were around 671 cfs today and the chum have moved into the river in full force. Swinging water is hard to find but those who like to nymph will find plenty of water. I would imagine that we will see a busy weekend out there. Anyone seen a steelhead yet?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holiday Shopping

Don't know what to get your spouse that has 9 fly rods and enough gear to fill up two closets? Well, how about a gift certificate for a float trip on the Nooksack, Skagit or Sauk Rivers. It's easy, just give me a call and I will mail it out to you. Shopping done!

Water Flows and More

The Nooksack saw a huge influx of water over the weekend, pulsing from levels around 3,000 cfs to over 16,000 cfs. Needless to say Friday's outing had to be canceled. The river is back in shape and it looks like the weather is going to hold for the week, which is great news. I'm hoping that the increased flows may have pushed in an early run of steelhead. I have opened up a trip for Saturday, November 24. Also, keep posted often because I will be adding more December outing dates on weekends and some steelhead fly tying classes!

Don't forget to shop for the Holidays.....right here. I have gift certificates for all of my services and outings. Just give me a call.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Chum have arrived!

Floated the Nooksack this morning to scout for Friday. I did not fish much but did catch one beautiful 8-9 lb bright chum. I saw other fish throughout the float. The river is at a beautiful level right now. I will see some of you on Friday.

Please feel free to comment if you would like me to organize a weekend float on Saturday or Sunday. Another idea: if you own a pontoon boat and would like to learn a section of the Nooksack by following me down the river, I am more than willing to accommodate 4 anglers maximum with this type of outing. Last year I did two pontoon boats and two passengers on the Sauk River in April. It worked out very well. There are plenty of areas on the Nooksack and other rivers where you can all fish the same run or split up and fish two different sides.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bit by Steelhead!

Yes, yes, it's almost here, my favorite time of year. No, it has nothing to do with the weather. I would be elated for a huge summer run of these anadromous rainbows on the Nooksack, but it is said to consist of 30 individuals. Man that is sad! What did it used to be and why did the summer run disappear more than the winter run? Or was it never strong on the Nooksack.

Anyway, steelheading is not to be understood until you immerse yourself in it. When I ran a trout guide service on the Colorado River in Tabernash, Colorado I would spend every fall at the Fly Tackle Dealer Show. You could almost pick out the steelheaders before you met them. It was like they had been bit by a radioactive steelhead. They would walk around in a magical daze like they had virtual steelhead hooked on the neuro-tippets of their brains. I didn't quite understand it. Then I moved to Washington.

Once you hook your first steelhead, you are forever in search of the chrome. I think it is partially because you work hard and when your perseverance pays off, you never forget the experience. I can go on and on continuously fishing, analyzing, worshiping, reminiscing over one solid hook-up. But why are they more amazing than salmon? Because they do it again. Some steelhead will spawn up to three times, avoiding the perils of fishermen, nets, seals, orcas, pollution and more. Simply, incredible.

What can we do to save this fish? What can we do to increase its numbers? Apparently, we can no longer rely on hatcheries. Please read the article below. What will happen in the next ten years? Will we see the removal of hatcheries? Will we see a change in how hatcheries operate to enable greater success in the genetic pool? I would love to hear your thoughts.

I come from a background of keeping fish as a child. Then I found myself in Colorado where catch and release is the norm and is often the regulation. My ways changed as did my beliefs. Then I find myself in Washington surrounded by the idea of harvesting meat. Slowly I have opened my mind to keeping hatchery salmon and steelhead, because that is what they are there for. It has been shown that hatchery fish sometimes spawn with wild fish and weaken the gene pool. Are we going about this all wrong?

An interesting book for people to read is the Founding Fish by John McPhee. One chapter is solely dedicated to the argument for and against catch & release. I am spell bound by the discussion in my own mind that this created, opening my consciousness to both sides of the argument. So if you get a chance, pick up the book and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading my blog.


Jason Cross

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Are you a fly fisher and do you want to get out and float our river? Yes, the Nooksack River. You will be amazed at how beautiful and remote this experience is right here in our backyard. To float most rivers it might cost you between $300-$400. Here is a chance to hit the river for $75 and go fishing with other people. The Nooksack may not be the most famous river in Washington, but it sure is beautiful and it is "Ours". You never know, we might get lucky and learn that there are fish in the Nooksack:)

I designed outings for all fly fishers, beginner to expert. I am more than willing to teach you what I know, just as long as you know I am going to wet a line as well. I will take care of the shuttle, the setup and breakdown. All you have to do is show up dressed to fish, rod ready, hand me your lunch for the cooler, spare clothes for the dry bag and jump in the boat. may have to lift, pull or push the boat a little, but that's nothing serious. And, oh yeah, did I mention not to forget your camera.

If you are unsure how to prepare or what flies and equipment to bring just let me know. I may have a rod you can use if Northwest fly fishing is new to you. You should expect inclement weather, serenity, great views of wildlife and a friendly atmosphere. You can fish as little or as much as you want and no question is a bad question.

I tend to fish the swing and work runs systematically from shore to up my chances at fish. I fish a 9.5 foot 8 weight with a Rio Versa-tip setup. I usually fish a type 3 or 6 sink-tip with a 5 to 8 foot leader. I may also choose to bring a spey rod if space permits.

This is a great experience and my favorite way to fish. If you haven't ever floated or float-fished the Nooksack, you need to do this outing. It gives you a whole new perspective and not just on stress-management!

My training: I am a certified whitewater raft guide. I completed 50 hours of whitewater training in Colorado plus a a three day hands-on class in Swift-Water Rescue. I have over 600 hours behind the oars which makes me a certified "trip leader" in many states. Please feel free to discuss any safety concerns you might have with me. We will float in a 13 foot Aire Super Puma raft with a fly fishing frame. Two people sit up front on a bench seat and and one person sits behind the rower on a raised swivel chair.

Well, I guess that's it! My website is running but I have been having some technical difficulties. However, the calendar you find there is correct and you will also find some useful links. Just remember, the fishing is always good!

Local Information

Nooksack River

The Nooksack is our most Northern Puget Sound river. From the flanks of beautiful Mt. Baker and the Mt. Baker Wilderness the Nooksack River travels 75 miles to Bellingham Bay through diverse terrain. Three forks make up the main stem that locals say starts in the town of Deming. The North Fork provides most of the water in the drainage right off the northern side of Mt. Baker and parallels the Mt. Baker Highway often unseen. The Middle Fork is smaller and faster tributary with a steeper gradient and deep plunge pools. The South Fork, although some 50 miles long that stretches into Skagit County, is only fishable for 14 river miles before it closes to protect endangered Chinook spawning grounds.

The North Fork Kendall Creek hatchery provides a decent fishery for winter steelhead and October salmon fishing. Chinook and coho hatchery returns are mainly from the Native hatchery on the South Fork at Skookum Creek. Salmon fishing opens on the Main Stem in early September and stays good through a healthy chum run well into December. Both forks open in October for salmon but can be fished for sea-run cutthroat trout in September. Thanksgiving brings about hatchery steelhead season which carries through into January. Wild steelhead start trickling into the system in December and really show up in good numbers in January and February. Sadly for the fishermen the river closes in the end of February.

The main stem is a true spey rod river with some beautiful classic steelhead runs that will remind you of other nice places you have fished. The forks are smaller and lend themselves more to the single handed rod or a switch rod. The North Fork Nooksack is a wild and scenic river and boasts an incredible population of bald eagles. The river shifts quite frequently throughout the vast channel as the waters rise and fall with rain. Tree roots and log jams make up much of the excellent fish habitat on this fork. The south and middle forks are more defined channels and runs and holes remain more consistent. Wherever you are on this river the backdrop is spectacular. Around one bend you will look back and see The Sisters and the next bend will offer a pristine view of towering Mt. Baker.

Resident trout and anadromous dolly varden are found throughout the system in small numbers with the latter being off limits to target. The North Fork Nooksack above the 100 foot Nooksack Falls can be fun summer trout fishing with light weight rods and surface flies. Some open tributaries such as Canyon Creek can be great fun on the dry fly in July through September for small to medium sized trout. These tributaries of crystal clear cascading water sooth the sole and bring you smiling back to the roots of fly fishing.

Puget Sound Beaches are fun relief from the river and Stillwater settings. Sea-run cutthroat are available for the catching along several nice cobblestone reaches. The shelter of bull kelp beds provide a great feeding grounds for this fun anadramous salmonid. Late summer sees the arrival of solid hatchery coho fishery easily within reach of shore.

Come on up and get away from the crowds. You wont believe how beautiful it is and you won’t regret it. And, oh yeah, you might catch some nice fish!