The Carbon River is the main tributary of the Puyallup River, and begins it journey from the glaciers high on the north slopes of Mt. Rainier. Being of glacier origin, the Carbon runs dirty with glacial silt from June through October. Although there are a few summer runs caught each fall the Carbon is primarily known as a salmon and winter steelhead river.
My first winter Steelhead of each season are usually caught while I am fishing for Chum salmon on the Carbon, near my home in Graham, Washington. For the last couple of seasons this first fish has been caught on a small pink and white marabou jig fished under a float. Chum salmon hit this rig with vigor, as do winter Steelhead on the Carbon. Many times I will catch both species out of the same drift in early December. These first Steelhead signal the end of the Chum run on this river and hatchery Steelhead fishing picks up and can remain good until the Puyallup Tribe puts their nets in the lower Puyallup River around the third week of December. The nets remain in the river until around the middle of January. At this time their are good numbers of large natives beginning to show, which continue well into March.
I primarily fish the upper part of this river near the town of Orting. This water is better suited to my chosen techniques of jigs under a float, or spoons. Below the town of Orting the river flattens out and is easily fished with standard drift gear. I spend more time each winter season on this river than most, because I can be on its banks in a mere fifteen minutes from my home. Although the returns to the Carbon are not what they once were, I catch more winter fish on this river than all others I fish. The reason I do so well here is because I take the time to thoroughly learn a short stretch of river early in the season and stay with it through hell and high water. I learn every pocket and seam in this stretch during different river levels, and know where fish will hold under all the different conditions I may encounter. It is nice to have such a river available so close to home, that I can fish anytime I find myself with a few hours of free time.
I do a lot of experimenting on the Carbon, and have learned many valuable lessons that have made me a better fisherman. The different techniques I have learned here have been successful on the other rivers I fish during the year. The upper river is where I have developed my spoon fishing technique, and I will continue my experiments here this coming season.