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 @

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Friday's Frozen Toes

You never intend to go fishing when it is 22 degress with a significant hole in your waders. You can only hope that the sun will come to your rescue. And it did! Friday, Josh, Carl and Ed searched the South Fork with me for the few lonely wild steelhead that hadn't gone all the way upstream passed Skookum Creek. Early morning, Josh, a local who has some secrets, hooked a fish and had another bump and that was it for the day. We covered lots of water, but must have missed the right runs, because when you float 6 miles you can't hit them all. We were the only boat, had first shot at each run (which is important when fly fishing), but no dice!

I think it was the hot Italian sausage soup that saved me from frostbite. Here is a little tip to try when you go out fishing in this type of weather. To stay warm in your extremities place heat packs on your wrists and ankles. This will warm the blood before going to your hands and feet. It works wonders, unless you have a gaping hole in your waders! Also, Carl suggested spraying Pam on the guides of your rod to keep the ice from building up. Now, I have not tried this but I can't see it causing any damage to your gear. Look what salt water and sand does to your 8 wt.

I have to say I am looking forward to February. We have had a great Winter of river conditions but it has pushed back most of the runs. The next water spike could be a productive one. Start out fishing low in the beginning and move up river as it comes up. Send me pictures because this is your month to catch a steelhead on the Nooksack! Thanks to Carl and Ed who have been excellent loyal customers and thanks to Josh for joining us, I am sure I will see you out there soon!

Low, Cold Water Techniques for Winter Steelhead

You may have heard people say, "High water fish high in the system, low water fish low in the system." This can be a decent general rule. But what happens when you have two weeks of increasingly cold temperatures and no precipitation except snow? For one, there will be no new fish in system or at least not in any numbers. Fishing down near the mouth of the rivers might be productive but for us Fly Fishers and here on the Nooksack not possible. All of those fish that came in at the last water spike had to go somewhere........up river. For the hatchery fish that means fishing close to the hatchery. For wild fish that might mean getting high up in the system.

Low cold water is the time to fish longer, finer leaders. If there are to be fish hanging in super clear water they will be looking for cover. Longer casts so that you swing further down below you are going to be beneficial. These fish will look for deep water that might be a little slower than the norm. That water is cold and their metabolism is down, way down. They are probably staying put for longer periods of time and moving for shorter periods during low light so cover more water. You may find these fish in soft ripple water behind larger underwater structure. This type of water will hide the fish and allow them significantly less energy output. You will also need to swing your flies slowly, making sure to get closer to the fish than you might normally.

Please remember that these fish from here out are mostly wild. No knotted nylon nets are allowed, just knotless catch and release nets and ones with rubber mesh. Do not remove them from the water. These steelhead are the future of our fishery and need to spawn. They passed nets, fishermen, orca and seal to make it here. Please fish barbless and use a little stronger line and gear to get them back in water faster. Thanks for your help and I would love to hear about your stories!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Local CCA Chapter

I have committed myself to become the interim president of the Bellingham chapter for the CCA (Coastal Conservation Association). Our fishery needs our help and we can make a difference in our life time. I will be organizing a meeting for all parties interested during the first two weeks of March. With regulations getting tighter and tighter on sportsmen and nothing changing for commercial fishermen, it is time for us to step up and speak as one powerful voice. If you belong to another organization that is helping our fisheries in different ways, that is fantastic. You need to belong to CCA too! CCA has the proven track record to make change happen. This can only be done with the strength of numbers and the strength of political change.

Gary Loomis raised the hairs on the back of my neck in his speech Friday night. It's not about fixing the small problems, it's about going after all of them, one at a time and starting with the biggest. He put it this way: if a man is dying of cancer, has a broken arm and is lying at the bottom of the pool, what problem do you fix first? Do you try and treat the cancer? No, you get him the hell out of the pool. So, if the salmon and steelhead stocks are being depleted beyond repair, do we go out and plant a bunch of trees along a small salmon stream and hope that the fish will return? No, we go after the reason they are not returning and that is harvest. Harvest numbers are sickening. Am I against the commercial fishing industry, absolutely not! But if these amazing anadromous fish have survived over-harvest for 140 years and there still are some left, don't you think if we at least cut down on the non-selective commercial harvest salmon and steelhead might make a comeback? This is what CCA is going after first and I am jumping on board!

It is time for some of us to stop going fishing (which it looks like we will have to do locally in March and April) and give back to the fisheries that we love. All of you who are doubting CCA need to take a closer look and realize that we must unify and that CCA has the strength to make it happen.

Keep posted on this blog for more information. If you sign up, please be patient because it takes a little while to get your materials. In the mean time, send me your info so we can get organized to make things happen on our rivers and streams and the Puget Sound.

South Fork Nooksack still waiting for wild fish!

This last weekend I floated the South Fork Nooksack from Saxon Rd. to Acme for both Friday and Saturday. The weather was kind to us on Friday but left a little to be desired on Saturday. Friday we hooked a steelhead in the morning on a tail-out with a black and red marabou. The fish was on for less than a minute when the knot gave way. A sad steelhead story, a nightmare for a some, but I won't dive into it too much further. It was great to see a fish on the end of the line. Just to make that connection is what it's all about.

I use a non-slip mono loop knot exclusively when I am swinging flies. This is an incredibly strong knot that is recommended by Frog Hair (my preferred tippet material; deep blue for steelhead). This loop allows the fly to dangle, swivel and even slow down its material compression during the swing. While I have no problem using the improved clinch knot for trout, the shear force that a steelhead can place on your leader, especially on the dangle, can cause knot breakage. This also brings about an earlier blog discussion where I touched on getting all of your ducks in a row. You never know when it's going to happen, but sometimes you might have a feeling about a certain spot in a run. Check your fly, the hook, its sharpness, the knot, your leader, leader knots and make sure your gear is ready before every run. I am not saying that I am religious about this during a run but I usually do check when I know I have thrown a poor cast with a tailing loop or nicked a rock behind me. Yes, it does happen to the best of us! I get sloppy some times, even some days!

The South Fork is a jewel. There isn't any other water in Whatcom County quite like it. The bulk of the wild run comes after it closes in March and April but from now through February you can catch some nice wild fish. The North Fork is very similar with its wild run of steelhead but it does see the earlier hatchery fish through January, padding its numbers and striking our fancy.

Saturday was one of those days where clients ask chilled to the bone, we endured several hours of varying precipitation. It's funny how after the "don't I get a free steelhead today?" Wet and shore coffee break you don't even notice the rain for at least the next hour, then the onset of cold creeps over you and you know it is time to row out.

I would like to thank everyone this weekend for getting out with me. Steve, Jon and Bob it was a pleasure. Bob, that chromer is yours next time. Ed and Audrey, your day is coming, I can feel it. If I could send you all a punch card for a free steelhead, I would!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coastal Conservation Association talk in Mt. Vernon

FIND out about the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). An
informational meeting on what CCA means to the flyfishing community will
be held on January 18th at 7pm
at the Mt. Vernon P.U.D. building, 1415 Freeway Drive Mount Vernon WA
For more information visit

Skagit and Sauk River may close for Catch & Release Season

It has been a sad week for those who look forward every year to the catch and release season on the Sauk and Skagit rivers in Skagit County. While all of Washingtons other Puget Sound rivers close we have taken refuge in peaceful thoughts of the beautiful Sauk and its amazing wild steelhead. The closure is said to be eminent but there has been no direct posting from WDFW. If you care to read about discussions on this topic please visit Washington Fly Fishing and/or Piscatorial Pursuits on the web and search the forums for threads on this closure.

Below is the latest on closures in the Skagit basin. If this information interests you, you can sign up to receive bulletins from WDFW.

Cascade River fishery closes Jan. 17
due to low hatchery steelhead return

OLYMPIA - Low steelhead returns to the Marblemount Hatchery have prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to close a portion of the Cascade River to recreational fishing beginning Jan. 17.

The Cascade will be closed until further notice from the mouth upstream to Rockport-Cascade Road to ensure enough steelhead make it back to the hatchery to meet spawning goals, said Bob Leland, WDFW's steelhead program manager.

"Both hatchery and wild steelhead returns to the Skagit River basin are down this year," said Leland. "This closure will help the Marblemount Hatchery meet its broodstock needs, but additional fishing closures in the basin also are likely this spring to protect wild steelhead."

Catch-and-release fisheries in the Skagit and Sauk rivers are among those fisheries that could close, Leland said.

WDFW will continue to monitor returns of wild steelhead, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, to determine when emergency closures could take effect, said Leland.

North Fork Nooksack Re-opens!

The section of the North Fork from Mosquito Lake Road to the Kendall Creek Hatchery has re-opened. This means the hatchery must have met their escapement goals, which is great. We will most likely see this same closure every year for the next four years. I will give the hatchery a call and get some information.

The North Fork is coming back to a good level and clarity should be pretty good by later today or tomorrow morning. Get out there because there may be a good mix of hatchery and wild fish still!

North Fork Nooksack Re-opens!

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

January 14, 2008

North Fork Nooksack River re-opens to fishing

Action: The section of the North Fork of the Nooksack River previously closed will re-open to fishing for all game fish.

Effective dates: Effective immediately.

Species affected: All gamefish.

Location: The North Fork Nooksack River from the yellow post located at the upstream most corner of the hatchery grounds, approximately 1,000 feet upstream of the mouth of Kendall Creek, downstream to the Mosquito Lake Road Bridge.

Reasons for action: The Kendall Creek Hatchery has met broodstock needs from returning hatchery winter steelhead to meet basin production goals.

Other information: Please see the Sport fishing Rules 2007/2008 pamphlet edition, FISHING IN WASHINGTON, for a complete listing of fishing seasons and regulations.

Information Contact: Brett Barkdull, 360-466-4345 x 270, .

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nooksack River is up and dirty!

Friday's trip was a fantastic time! The North Fork only provided us with 20 inches of visibility so the fishing was difficult. Mark, Bruce and Marcus stuck it out and fished well. The fish are there, it is just a matter of bopping them on the nose when the water is that tarnished. This small rise in water levels is perfect to bring us lots of wild fish. Structure and runs should not change so head back to the spots you know once the water is down. I am out today on an instructional day. Looks like the rivers won't be too cooperative for clarity. Talk to you soon and oh yeah, I just opened up three dates next weekend. I am going to try and do three different trips. Upper North Fork, South Fork Nooksack, and the Sauk (better get down there in case they close it)!

Thank you Marcus, Bruce and Mark, you made the day a pleasure!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January 4, Jason Cross goes fishin'! Plus fly tying fool.

So you would probably figure I go fishing all the time. Well, every chance I get I go. Most of the time I am out with clients teaching them how to do it and helping them catch fish. On Friday, a last minute cancellation opened up the day but I couldn't rebook it. A perfect opportunity to spend some time working on my spey casting technique in which I am still quite green. I spent a little time exploring waters that I hadn't visited this season but in the few early hours of daylight I spent swinging spey flies. Casting a spey rod is so much fun. I certainly can't wait to become proficient enough at it to land a steelhead with it. Doing that arm tuck and dive for your fish looks interesting with a 14 foot rod! I did catch a couple whitefish which is quite surprising on the swing. Water was perfect, just slightly off color.

We have been so lucky this year with water levels and fishing conditions. All of the runs have been slightly late and maybe that is one of the reasons. Wild fish should have flushed into the system in good numbers with the last small water spike. I will be out Friday and Sunday again after the long break.

I am hoping to have a steelhead tying class on the 22nd. Right now I am working with the venue to solidify the date and space. Keep posted. One of my good friends reported catching a nice buck on a spey fly that I tied. It has been a good year to fish smaller flies with the incredible clarity we have seen on the river. Speaking of spey flies. I am now tying flies to order and I am selling what I call the "Winter Steelhead Kit". The kit consists of 5-6 moal leeches, 4 egg patterns, 2 classic spey patterns and 2 marabous. No fly is repeated in the basic kit and thus you can order from the selection that I give you. You may change the order to whatever you want and whatever colors you prefer. The cost for a kit is around $30-$35 dollars depending on your selection.

Angler on the Fly and Jason Cross join Emerald Waters Team

Dave McCoy of Emerald Waters has signed me up to join his team of worldly guides. Dave's business which is based out of Seattle has been incredibly successful and has continued to grow and expand throughout Washington and throughout the world. Joining his team will give me exposure to some of the more southern rivers in Washington and will allow Emerald Waters to send customers northbound to the Nooksack River basin. I will be joining Dave at the Fly Fishing Show on February 2. I will blog the booth location when I know. Please stop on by and say hi.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hatchery fish: To bonk or not to bonk!

Wild North Fork Hen

That is the question. This discussion can get pretty heated for some people. If you catch a hatchery fish are you going to kill it? I have to say that for me it usually feels better to release a fish. I have kept hatchery fish and I suppose I will do it at some point again on the right healthy river. The Nooksack is obviously having some hatchery issues, thus the closure on the North Fork. New regulations have put the fate of hatcheries in their own fish. For example, the Kendall Creek hatchery can no longer supplement its egg take with eggs from other river basins as it has done for so many years. If people bonk all the hatchery fish the next few years there may not be any more hatchery fish to kill.

What they are hoping to see happen is to have some good genetic traits start to build in the hatchery population. Such genetic traits would increase survival rates of hatchery fish in the Nooksack as they develop and evolve to the environment of the Nooksack Basin. The most successful hatcheries in Washington have been doing this for some time. Don't you want more fish in the Nooksack? I do.

But what about the wild fish? Do we know the negative effect that hatchery fish have on wild fish? Is the wild strain still pure? Would the river be better off without a hatchery? Would the river be closed to steelhead fishing if there weren't a hatchery? These are all questions to think about and discuss. How many wild fish are finding there way into nets and coolers?

The North Fork closure may continue for the next four years if it is successful this season. This is probably a good thing. But I ask everyone, if sport fishing loses a section of river because there aren't enough hatchery returns, why is subsistence gill netting open 6 days a week? I have spoken with the netters and they are definitely getting steelhead.

Has anyone heard of egg boxes that are used in Alaska? Apparently they are extremely successful. I do not know much about them but I plan on doing some research. Recently, my friend signed me up for CCA, Coastal Conservation Association. I have been out on the Nooksack a lot this year and I think our river needs help. It's going to boil down to a major change for everyone or nothing is going to change for our fishery. CCA has joined the fight for Pacific Northwest Salmon and Steelhead. This a powerful, strong and active organization that is coming here to get things done. So if you want to see change, join CCA. I am not saying that our local organizations aren't doing anything, I am just saying that the problem we have here is bigger than any of them can handle on their own. There are so many issues with our fisheries that need to be re-assessed, re-evaluated and simply re-done. CCA can get us there. Please check it out!

January 1, 2008 Fly Fishermen Come out of the Woodworks!

Happy New Year! It looks like everyone's resolution was to catch a Nooksack steelhead! Our float yesterday was a major recon on the North Fork. Just 2.5 miles from Mosquito to Hwy 9. I figured we would work it hard and we wouldn't see too many people. Boy was I wrong! We were the first ones at the put-in. We never saw another boat but we sure did see the nomadic breed of fly fishermen. It goes to show that if you can take a day during the week, you will at least get the river somewhat to yourself. We were surrounded by gear fishermen from the get-go. Every time we stopped we would be passed by a foot brigade of fly fishermen swinging the daylights out of every good run. The river cleared out in the afternoon but I think the fish were in hiding.

Contstantine hooked a dolly varden trout deep nymphing egg patterns and a crystal leech. We never saw it though. Most everyone we talked to were blanked. It's time for some water to color things up a little. If you go out there, fish long leaders, small flies and a combination of sink tips. Some runs call for depth but most runs you can get away with fishing a type three.

Looks like I might be holding a tying class for steelhead flies sometime soon. We can't let this winter slip away without one. Let me know if you are interested. It would require some tying experience and we might be able to hold it somewhere that serves beer and food!

Thanks to Ed, Audrey and Constantine for utilizing my services once again. The fishing was great, the catching not so good!

Steelhead Stars Align!

My guests were due! I came into today with great anticipation. Sarah booked the boat as a Christmas gift for Glenn. I stayed up late the night before tying special egg patterns and planning how I could change my strategies to produce a steelhead landing. Hooking one is huge, but landing one is Northwest fly fishing's Holy Grail. The river has remained low and clear for some time now. These fish have seen some gear over the Holidays. The amount of new fish in the system is most likely minimal, but there will be some moving upstream and maybe some moving up and down different forks. We had been hooking a few fish on bright colors which I prefer for the hatchery fish. It is time to go smaller and darker and more natural.

Sarah said she had been fishing for steelhead for six years, but no fish had yielded to her efforts. Wow! Different runs produce good feelings at different levels. The run I chose had not looked very appealing for some time, but at this level it looked right. The top is fast and the fish will be tight to the bottom or shore. The tail out flattens out and needs a little effort to swing the fly through it properly, but it and the bucket are the most likely area to find fish at low water temperatures. Sarah worked ahead of Glenn with a smaller black and purple moal leech that she had picked out. I was up working with Glenn in the fast water when she reached the tail out. Suddenly I heard yelling from Sarah and I practically ran Glenn over and right through his line to get to Sarah, yelling encouragements the whole way! I couldn't have been more excited! The emotions that this occurrence creates are phenomenal!

Sarah fought the fish well. It made no major runs but it did the scary steelhead rolling to test her hook set. It was a great hook set and she landed the beautiful hatchery hen. In the excitement, we never got a tape on the fish but it was around 22"-24" and between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds. It was amazing! Way to go Sarah. The Holy Grail! Thank you, I was ecstatic to be part of it.

It's always funny when you look at a fish like this one. When you hold it, you say "Yeah, that is 5 lbs." When you get home and do the formula you are often surprised. The basic IGFA formula is length, times girth squared, divided by 800. I caught a beautiful 27" x 13" buck on the Grand Rhonde this fall. That comes out to almost 6 lbs. It sure seemed bigger. Some river systems need to alter the formula because the fish are different body shape and heftier. The Nooksack seems pretty true to the basic formula.

Glenn took this really cool water shot below. I can't wait for Glenn to get his first steelhead. The rest of the day was icing on the cake. We tried hard to get one for Glenn. Sarah hooked into another fish while drifting egg patterns. It seemed smaller so it might have been a dolly. There have been fewer dollies on the river. Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists said it is because of the 2003 and 2005 floods that hit right during the dolly varden spawn. Hopefully they will rebound. Well, that's it for 2007. Could there be a better way to end it?

Happy New Year- Back to the Blog

I apologize that I have been out of touch. I have hit the river several times since the last blog. Dec. 21, 28, 30 and January 1. The 21st was a good day with Eric and Royce out of Seattle. They fished hard, water levels were good, but all we produced is one whitefish. Thanks to Eric and Royce for being great sports and making the day enjoyable. It really is fantastic just having two in the boat. You can "nymph" really hard and hit more runs for the swing.

On December 28th the heavens broke loose and we had steelhead weather. Cheers to Phil, Carl and Ted for making it through that nasty day. When you persevere through such nasty weather, you kind of expect a little present from the fish gods. This was not the case. You guys fished well and you are officially Knighted as true steelheaders! I spoke with the hatchery on the 27th. In the last week they had over 70 returns. So through low water, cold temperatures and extreme clarity the fish continued there upstream migration. I have also heard of a few wild fish being caught along the North Fork. Here is a shot of the nicest weather on the 28th. This is the top of a nice run between Mosquito Lake and Hwy 9 on the North Fork.

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!