Island, Before The Storm, Fishes Well

The rain’s coming down pretty good now, and the wind’s picking up, but right before today’s storm reached the Shelton, Wash., area, Island Lake fished well for “Uncle Wes” Malmberg and I.

Oh, and for Herc, his Maltese fish hound, too.

You may know Malmberg as Mr. Woolly Bugger — his favorite fly pattern, oft touted in his articles — but today, he switched things up on me, lashing a pair of size 6 Carey Specials at the end of the fast-sinking lines.

We pushed his well-used 12-foot aluminum off around 9 a.m. and couldn’t have been more than 100 yards from the ramp and heading northeast when the first fish whacked my fly. Didn’t stick, but a good sign for starters.

Malmberg’s all about “breaking down the lake,” a phrase I’ve seen over and over in his columns, and true to form, we broke Island down by trolling an upside-down U from the ramp all along that northern shore to the big bay on the eastern side, turning around and running another U except in slightly deeper water.

With those sinking lines taking our flies well down in the water column, we actually picked up a fair number of perch, though they were too runty to even bother filleting.

But the rainbows — they were anything but runty. For unknown reasons, I decided my first nice one, a 14-incher, had to go in the cooler. It was all up the yardstick from there — a 15-incher for Malmberg, another around that size that I released, his 18-incher which went 2.1 pounds on his Rapala handscale.

Then, as the cloud deck lowered, the sun went bye-bye and I said, “Hey, why aren’t we trolling the south end?”, I had a serious take that answered that question. The nice-sized ‘bow broke the surface three times in a row, came at me quickly, but when it neared the boat, began fighting seriously, diving underneath it, going airborne 3 feet again, pulling the line towards the engine. Mentally for a second, it was like I had a big ol’ meat salmon or steelhead on, and I got very careful. True, it wasn’t the biggest Island Lake rainbow to come aboard Malmberg’s boat, nor the biggest I’ve caught, but we both whistled at the impressive battler in the net. It also went 2.1 on the scale.

With our pairs of 14-plus-inchers we could have continued trolling for smaller ones — Island, planted with 3,601 8- to 12-inchers and 288 1.5-pound triploids, is one of around five dozen lakes in south Puget Sound with new size restrictions — but we could see the writing on the clouds and headed for the launch.

A QUARTET OF ISLAND LAKE RAINBOWS FROM 14 TO 18 INCHES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The only other boat on the water also came in as the first raindrops hit, reporting just a single 8- to 10-incher on PowerBait.

Down the road a ways, I stopped at Verle’s — where Malmberg bought those brown-and-olive-bodied, foil-wrapped Careys — and chatted with Michelle, Arnie and Ron who all keep pretty close tabs on the amazing trout and even bass fishing to be found in this corner of the Sound and Canal. Arnie said a young boy in a row boat had caught a rainbow of 5 or 6 pounds recently on Island.

Malmberg, who lives outside Shelton, extended an invite to come back down and fish, and with some free time coming up in early June, today’s trip means it will be a tough decision to try for steelies on the Sky and Snoqualmie, or head back to Mason County for more of a sure thing.

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