Sauk River, WA

Weather and Flows Links

Fly Fishing the Sauk River

Approximately 90 min. from Seattle, the Sauk is a free-flowing river and one of the primary tributaries of the Skagit. Unparalleled in its beauty thanks to a rugged character and remote feel, the Sauk river ranks as one of the top experiences in Washington fly fishing. Not only is it a part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, but also it boasts some of most storied and scenic waters anywhere on the Steelhead Coast.

Prone to cloudiness due to sediment runoff in wet weather, its waters are indeed temperamental. However, if you catch the river at the right level and you’ll see a tint of river known to local anglers as “Sauk green”—the perfect level of clarity to make a fresh run of grabby fish feel secure. Hooking into a chrome native steelhead is no longer as common as it used to be due to early closures, but getting to know the Sauk in all its seasons and moods is always worth the trip.

When is the Sauk River Open to Fishing?
  • Fishing regulations are subject to emergency closures and they change from year to year, so before you go, know what you are fishing for and always check the regs: Feel free to give us a ring with questions. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
  • From its mouth to its confluence with the Whitechuck river, the Sauk river is generally open to fishing from June 1st until January 31st. . You can fish up to 3 flies. All trout must be released.

Sauk River Sections

The Sauk has three distinct sections that are of interest to fly anglers. From the logging town of Darrington down to the mouth of its major tributary, the Suiattle, the river is smaller and more difficult to fish due to limited public access.

From the Suiattle down to the local spot known as the “Native Hole" the river widens a bit, takes on more water from the Suiattle and has numerous sections which are choked with large boulders and faster water. This section is easily accessed from the highway bordering the river.

In the lower Sauk below the "Native Hole" the valley widens and the streambed becomes much more meandering. Smaller rocks and sand have filled in this section quite a bit and each year this section changes with every high water that occurs. Most of the water here is best accessed from a boat. The whole river is very temperamental for fishing as rain in the mountains can color the water easily due to sediment runoff.

Sauk River Species and Seasons

The Sauk opens on June 1st. Due to heavily silted water from glacial runoff, summertime is not an ideal time to fish the system. The waters clear later in the fall when cooler temperatures bring in low-altitude freezing levels and winter storms are still a few weeks away. The Sauk gets a few silver salmon and chum salmon each year, but most anglers target the bull trout that inhabit the river feeding on the bounty that comes in the form of salmon eggs and flesh. The real prizes of the Sauk are the native winter steelhead which easily average 10-12 lbs. Larger fish are hooked each year and every one is thick shouldered and strong. Current fishing regulations protect the majority of the run due to the river’s closure on January 31st.

Tips on Fishing the Sauk

As a tributary of the Skagit river which is prone to high water with minimal clarity, the most difficult aspect of success on the Sauk is going when the river is fishable.

  • Reading the hydrograph each time you go is essential. Not only will it let you know when the river is potentially too high to fish, but over the course of several outings, you will learn which runs fish best at what water levels and get a general sense of when the river is in shape. Rule of thumb? Wading the Sauk when the water levels at Darrington are around 1,200 C.F.S. is a good level to start at.
  • Cover the water in its entirety. The Sauk, a smaller river compared to the Skagit, can hold fish in surprising places. The runs are generally easier to read, but don’t neglect fishing thoroughly from the head to the tail, and always let your fly swing through to the hang-down.

Guiding and Expert Instruction
A guide can take years off the learning curve. The best way to experience the Sauk is during a full-day float of the lower river, or during a full-day walk-and-wade trip. We also offer steelhead schools and spey-casting instruction.

Recommended Equipment

Double-Handed Rods in 7 – 9 Weight
  • Rods under 12 ft. 6 in. – “Switch” Rods
    •   Shop Favorite: CF Burkheimer 7117-4 Presentation
  • Rods over 12 ft. 6 in. for lower sections
    •   Shop Favorite: CF Burkheimer 8139-4 Presentation
Single Handed Rods for bull Trout 6 - 8 Weight
  • 6 weight Fast Action Fly rod
    •   Shop Favorite: Sage Igniter 697-4
  • 8 weight deep loading rod suited for One hand spey
    •   Shop Favorite: CF Burkheimer Single Hand Spey 8104-4
Single hand lines
  • Integrated sink tip line
    •   Shop Favorite: Scientific Anglers Titan Sink Tip - Type VI
  • Micro Skagit Line for variable sink tips
    •   Shop Favorite: Scientific Anglers Spey Lite Integrated Skagit
Spey lines for the Lower River
  • Skagit-style shooting heads
    •   -Airflo Skagit Driver Shooting Head
    •   -Airflo Skagit Scout Shooting Head
    •   -Nextcast Winter Authority
  • Scandi-Style shooting heads and mid-length spey lines
    •   -Airflo Scandi Long Shooting Head
    •   -Airflo Rage Compact Shooting Head
    •   -Nexcast Fall Favorite
  • Running Line
    •   -Rio Connect Core Metered Shooting Line .032"
    •   -Airflo Miracle Braid
    •   -OPST Lazar Line
  • Sink tips in varying lengths and densities (Fall and Winter)
    •   -10ft Rio MOW tips in t-8, t-11 and t-14.
    •   -12ft OPST tips 132 gn riffle, run, and bucket.
    •   -15ft Rio replacement tips Type III, Type VI and Type VIII.

Recommended Flies

Winter Steelhead
Intruder-style flies

    • Bantam
    • Howell’s Signature Intruder
    • Jumbo Critter
Large-profile flies

    • Morrish Trailer Trash
    • Bjorn Stinger Prawn
Small-profile flies

  • Hickman’s Fish Taco
  • Hobo Spey
  • General practitioner
  • Marabou Flies
    • Comets
      pink, purple, chartreuse
    • Bunny-strip flies
      black, purple and chartreuse
    • Egg-sucking leeches
      purple and black
    • Starlight leech
      purple and black
    • Skiddish Smolt
    • Bull Baby
    • Pinhead
    • Bunny-strip flies
      black, purple and chartreuse
    • Egg Flies
    • Flesh Flies