The Stillaguamish River, or the Stilly as it is locally known, is approximately one hour from Seattle and flows out of the Cascade Mountains near Darrington. The river has both a north and south fork which met to form the mainstem at Arlington. The North Fork has the most history of the two forks and it is the first river in Washington State to be designated fly fishing only for a portion of the year. The Stilly hosts runs of summer and winter steelhead, four species of pacific salmon and sea-run cutthroat and dolly varden char. The most well known run of fish are the native summer run steelhead which utilize Deer Creek as the major spawning tributary in the system. Sadly, the North Fork has suffered tremendous damage to due deforestation which has led to many slides which have poured a huge amount of silt into the river, especially below Deer Creek.
The North Fork has two major sections and Deer Creek represents the dividing point between the two. Deer Creek will color the river substantially after any significant rainfall rendering the river unfishable. Generally speaking, the river below Deer Creek is only fishable when the area has had extended periods without major precipitation or runoff. This means that the best time to fish this section is during the summer and early fall months or in the winter during and extreme cold and dry spell. The river above Deer Creek runs considerably clearer, however there are several slides that will still color the river during a rain. This section can be reliably fished through the season except during the heaviest flows of water.
The river opens on June 1st and the potential for an early summer steelhead exists, however, the numbers of native Deer Creek fish have dwindled considerably over the years. The river is not open to fishing for pacific salmon except for pink salmon (odd years) in the mainstem. The best fishing right now on the North Fork is for sea-run cutthroat starting in August and lasting until the fall rains blow the river below Deer Creek out for the winter. Hatchery winter steelhead return to the Stilly in fair numbers, but the river is difficult to fish with fly in high winter flows, so the river is best left to gear anglers who can ply the swift pools much easier. The river closes to all fishing at the end of February and is closed during March, April and May to protect native spawners.
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