June 17th Fishing Report

We have been out on the water just about every day for the last two months! Fishing has been great and we want to share the report with you!

Fishing Report

Most of our fish have been found in water temperatures less than 64 degrees. This is hard to find in the high sun on much of Hood Canal. So our days have been starting very early in the Lower and Middle Hood Canal, and trying to be off the water around 12-1pm. Our last post explains our methods of finding cold water, but to sum it up, just look for the fastest deepest water you can find and there will be your fish!

Our top producing flies have been my Money Makers in Herring and Sandlance, RIO’s Just Keep Swimming and RIO’s Precious Metals. The bait balls of both Herring and Sandlance are bigger than we have ever seen. The bait is absolutely everywhere and the fish are chunkier than ever! It’s been an amazing season for big stuffed cutthroat!

Open Dates

Our Summer is filling up super quick. Captain Mike has a handful of open dates.

Captain Justin has just: June 29th, 30th, July 3rd, 29th and 31st

Summer Time Pro Tips

This fish came back to pose with Terry

As summer time lures all of us to the water, I am left wondering about the folks who don’t fish… For instance the jet skiers and weird yacht people that never take off their deck shoes. Do they just not know? Or perhaps is it best that they never find out? Either way, I am glad that someone ruined my life by saying “want to go fishing” when I was a little kid.

Summer time brings out the best in me for sure. I love the sunshine, the cool water and most of all the lack of layers on the boat… Most importantly, pushing off the dock in the morning wearing shorts and a light hoodie with a grin from ear to ear.

Summer Time Pro Tips: Cold Water

Find Cold Water!!! Sea Run Cutthroat behave like a saltwater fish in the summer time. They crush baitfish patterns, leap through the air, and hunt like a Jack Crevalle or Blue Fish. It is easy to forget that they are still a cold water trout species. We checked the temps at the Alderbrook Dock yesterday and it was 72 Degrees! It’s still the first half of June. Here’s how to handle the heat.

Three Ways To Stay Chill

  • Run to the deeper fastest current- Alderbrook Resort is in the back of a small shallow bay. It is one of the warmest docks in all of Hood Canal. If you run out of the bay into the faster tidal current, the water dropped to 68 degrees. Still to warm for cutthroat fishing, however it is trending in the right direction.
  • Fish The Big Stuff- Hood Canal and the South Sound both suffer from warming water temps in the summer. The reason is they are at the end of the tidal exchange and much of the water does not completely flush during the tide change. If you are finding warm water and can not seem to get out of it move into a larger more main channel of water. If you are fishing Quilcene Bay on Hood Canal perhaps move out to dabob past Pt. Whitney. Or if you are fishing Eld Inlet, in the South Sound and temps are getting above 65 Degrees, move out to Dana Passage and see if it drops again.
  • Deeper and Faster – I think under perfect conditions a cutthroat will move a amazing distance to eat a fly. But when the surface water is warming, these fish do not want to be up high in the water column or in the froggy water. They want well oxygenated cold clean water. Where will they find that when it is 95 degrees? 6-12′ deep in the faster current. Move out of the bay’s and out on the points and fish the drop offs.
RIO OutBound Short Type III for getting down.

Summer Time Pro Tips – Take Care Of Our Fish (soap box warning)

Ben Paull with a piggy 91degree air, 59 degree water.

If you see us on here or social media releasing a fish by hand, one of two things is happening. First, I am walking someone through proper fish handling (it is our job) and filming it. Second, I have a very experienced angler on board the boat. Our resource is always more important than a picture.

Either way we are picking perfect conditions for it, where the fish is landed swiftly, left in the water, and the hook was removed easily. If any of those three things couldn’t or didn’t happen, it is never touched and the fish is dumped from the net without adding more stress. Our guest want photos of their catch, and we have to balance that with our morals of taking care of our fish. As a rule we never fish water above 65 degrees and we never sacrifice good fish handling for a photo opportunity.

How we release 99% of our fish. Untouched.

You know when a fish is released in the best condition possible, and you know when you made a mistake and the fish is swimming back in less than good condition. Ultimately we are anglers and we are harming these fish, let’s be as ethical as we can about it.

All-Waters May Newsletter

The All-Waters May Newsletter is out now! We shared some upcoming activities, casting lessons, tips and tricks and some May specials to get you out on the water!

Coming up?

Here’s the overview:

  • Alderbrook Casting Lessons start tomorrow and every Thursday for the month of May, and every Wednesday for the rest of the summer!
  • May 7th-9th and 16th and 17th are open for special rates!
  • Tips and tricks to finding success in the month of May.
  • Upcoming dates in May-July.

If you are not currently on our email list sign up today!

Post Easter Fishing Report

Sea Run Cutthroat






















Almost as stuffed as the cutthroat are?

Well… I know that I am still quite uncomfortable after eating enough for about 10 people at my in-laws last night. That washed down a pretty incredible weekend of great fishing and good laughs on the water.

What’s Happening?

What’s happening out there? Let me tell you, There are giant swarms of chum fry from about Alderbrook Resort on Hood Canal, north all the way up to the bridge. The wind might be a little brutal at times, but the fishing is anything but that…

A few tips for the coming weeks!

Here’s a few things we learned throughout the week that might make your efforts a bit more successful.

  • If you see bait that is infact being blown up by fish, start slow and end fast on the retrieve. Just speed up as you go. The fish are not having to work hard to eat the bait, so starting slow might be the ticket to keep you in the zone. However ending fast triggers the attack reflexes of these predacious trout.
  • Keep looking for the eddied water. If the tide is going from right to left but the water close to the shoreline is doing the opposite… The bait is going to get washed into those spots. This is a sure sign that if you are in an area that has both chum fry and cutthroat trout, you are going to be in the feeding zone.
  • lengthen your leader and make good cast. If you are flailing on the water with your false cast, you are going to spook the predators out of your bait. It’s just as simple as that.

Those are a few tips to hopefully help you out in the next few weeks of this chum fry season! Good luck out there and I hope you are attempting to have as much fun as we are!

Dates Dates Dates!

We have a handful of open dates coming up in the next couple of weeks!

April 26th, 29th, May 1st, May 7th, 8th and 12th. Summer time is coming and the weather forecast is improving. Get your dates now to ensure you have em!

Fight Talk

From the time I was a kid I was always fascinated with the idea of a good fight. My friends, my music, my movies, the sports I got into. All of it was aggressive, scary, and exciting. I remember my first punk rock concert being the smallest kid in the crowd and being picked up and tossed around the crowd and seeing the mosh pits, and seeing Fletcher of Pennywise throw his middle finger in the air… It was the best thing I had ever seen!


What Do You Mean “What Do I do?”

Just as impactful, I remember the first time I ever had a client hook a good fish. It took a Parachute Adams and screamed down stream! My client in pure panic looked at me, and yelled “What do I do?!” I was not prepared for this response and was in full on adrenaline mode. I fumbled on the words, cursed a lot, and eventually with both of our hearts pounding managed to get the fish in the net. We both laughed, high fives, and I was hooked. To the best of my knowledge he had no clue that I didn’t know what I was doing. I never looked at fishing the same way, how could I? I still to this day find guiding far more exciting than actually catching a fish of my own.

There is a lot of things I noticed immediately once I started guiding. One of the things is that most trout anglers never learn how to fight a fish. Particularly how to fight a fish effectively and efficiently as we should be. This all starts with a good hook set.

Set, Set, Set… Not Like That!

Before we can engage a fish in a fight, we have to make sure they are hooked in the best way possible. It’s sort of like throwing the first punch. If we wait to long, we get punched in the face, and thats no good. But if we jump the gun and just throw a wild haymaker out, we will probably miss and be left looking like an idiot. Setting the hook is all about timing and technique.

Strip Set

When stripping a fly the way we do for cutthroat, the hook set should be low, and it should start with an extra strip. The biggest reason on Sea Run Cutthroat that you want to start with a strip is the fish is a chaser, and when eating the fly is typically heading at an angle towards you. This causes slack in the line and if you yank back on your rod you are just pulling the slack out and “popping” the fly right out of the fishes mouth. So strip the fly into the fishes face, and pull to the side with the rod to get the rod bent.

Get Bent

The angle you pull the rod should keep the rod tip below your eyes, and should pull the hook through the fishes mouth finishing a great hook set. Adding an extra strip should set the hook into the corner of the fishes mouth, hopefully puncturing the flesh and allowing the hook to do it’s job. Yanking the rod low into it’s bent position should ensure that the hook is all the way through, and keep the pressure required to make sure it will not pop out. If you do both of these things you should have a huge head start on the fight.

Fish-Jitsu

Everything from here on out is about efficiency of the bend in your rod and shadowing your fish. If you are being efficient with managing the pressure on your rod, the fish will always succumb to that pressure and you will land your fish the fastest. Consistent pressure is always the best most ethical way to fight a fish.

Manage Your Bend Bro

The way to keep consistent pressure with your rod is by managing your bend. Many fish will pull agains your rod bending it deep into the blank. This is fine and fun! Allow line to feed out to keep your bend where you want it to avoid pulling the hook or breaking off. If the fish runs towards you or starts letting up on his output, bring line back in and keep the bend where you want it to avoid slack line.

Shadow Your Fish

If the fish runs to the left and your rod starts straightening out, change the angle, pull to the right and get the bend back. If the fish starts going right and lightening the load against the rod, pull left and bring that load back into your rod.

Eventually the fish will not be able to fight against the pressure that is consistently being applied. Once the fish wears out, it will be easily lead into the net. The faster this can be done, the less stress we are bringing onto the fish. The less stressed fish are likely to survive being released back into the water .

Prize Fighting

It’s our job as fishermen to be the fighter, the ref, and the doctor of these prized fish. It’s a job that requires doing all of these things at a high level to ensure the safety of the fish so we can come back every day and enjoy them. Fighting them effectively will keep them happy. Being the ref and knowing when to end the fight and put them in the net will keep them healthy. Being the doctor and deciding whether they are healthy enough to get a quick photo will ensure they survive and be there again another day.

Cheers guys, and I hope you enjoyed and I look forward to seeing you on the water!

Chum Fry Season Is On!

Chum Fry Season is on! I know I’ve written a pretty extensive amount on tips and tricks to fishing Chum Fry. Truthfully, I’ve written about this subject quite a few different times. This year, things are getting a late start due to the lack of rain, and the uncharacteristically cold spring. Despite the late start we are excited for the topwater chomping to continue for the next month or two!

As a fishermen, guide, and a human, I am always trying to improve and learn. One of the biggest things we have learned this year so far is to go with the flow. Chum fry this early in the emergence are not great swimmers, and you will absolutely not see a little chum fry swim against fast moving water. So we found our best method is to fish with the flow of current, not against it. This is how we figured it out, and what we are doing to maximize our chum fry season this year!

The Set Up

The places we search for chum fry are spots they get washed into. Meaning the current is pretty strong. When chum fry are out we are going to get takes from cutthroat, so in the past we have just looked at it as “We are getting fish, this is as good as it gets.” However, this year we have focused mostly on topwater or just barely under the surface. One of the things we have noticed is that we were getting refusals from bigger fish. Not just a refusal here or there, but we were getting refusals from ALL of the big fish. We were shocked by this and our first reaction was to go deeper, and we were not bringing those big fish back. I started breaking down the problem in my head and this is what I figured out.

The Problem

1.) Stripping a chum fry across the surface draws a lot of attention from fish of every size. However, we do not tend to CATCH the largest sea run cutthroat.

2.) When slow stripping chum fry in fast current, we are stripping AGAINST the current. When this happens our flies get refused more often than not by the larger fish we are targeting. The fish we catch tend to be less than 14″.

Look out… Justin’s got ideas.

These things started making me think, we must be doing something wrong. When we started noticing the fish that are refusing were larger fish, a lightbulb went off in my head. The thing that tends to give up that big fish are feeding on chum fry is that they sip them like a dry fly on a river. All you see is a nose and a ring. Let’s fish these flies like a dry fly. That was the missing puzzle piece to bringing bigger cutthroat to the net during the chum fry migration.

Solution

1.) Extend your leader out to 10-12′. 4x Rio Fluroflex is what we prefer, however 3x works as well.

2.) Cast the fly up current and bring it back down with the current.

3.) Strip just fast enough to stay tight and get the fly to move slightly faster than the current is actually moving.

4.) Keep your hook set LOW! Strip fast on the take and set the rod to the side. When I instruct clients how to strip most flies it is fast and aggressive. Because this method requires some finesse and is quite a bit slower than most of our other fishing situations, we are getting some seriously blown hook sets.

5.) Enjoy the fruits of your labor and be stoked on a super visual and exciting surface take, and fight your fish like a champ.

Fishing, like most things, is a bunch of small details that adds up to a big move. Fine tuning those details is what makes all of the difference.

I hope this helps your chum fry season this year! Looking forward to see you out on the water!

Q & A #3

The success and fun we had with Q & A 1 and 2 was so awesome! So, I am here to bring you Q & A #3! We have actually covered quite a bit with the other two, so if your question didn’t get answered today, check back with the other two to see if it was answered there. Let’s get right into this thing, Q & A #3.

What is your favorite knot for tying on a baitfish?

Lefty’s Loop Knot (Non Slip Mono Loop)- This loop knot allows the fly to swim freely and move as it was intended by the designer of the fly. I fish lighter tippet (3x RIO Fluoroflex Plus) paired with this particular knot and think the combination gives my flies the best action.

How did you decide to bring Captain Mike on board?

The decision to bring Mike on board was something I thought about for a long time. Mike and I have been fishing together for 8 years, and it got to the point that my buddy Johnny and Mike were the only people I would ever invite fishing. Mike is a traveling nurse and has a flexible schedule. He works super hard and is incredibly reliable. He also has a ton of experience as a guide and instructor. So, I mentioned the idea to Brita, and she jumped at the idea and told me to ask him.

Mike to his credit has been 100% willing to put in the work and start from scratch in a business that requires a lot of work for very little monetary payout when getting started. Plus his client list is growing and he is damn good at what he does.

What is your biggest pet peeve on the water?

I have ignored this question for the last two Q&A’s, just because I try not to be negative. I decided the question is not going away SO…. I’d say I am pretty laid back, however, when I read this question, 3 jumped out right away. So perhaps I am less “chill” than I thought I was.

1.) Trash In The Water

I hate seeing garbage in the water, particularly on Hood Canal. If you have fished with me, you have probably seen me stop the day to pick up garbage. I have also stopped the day to give basic human decency talks to clients if they toss something off the boat. Littering is my number 1 pet peeve.

2.) Gill Net’s On Hood Canal

This goes right along with littering. We work super hard all year to clean up any trash, to lower our output of garbage, and to promote salmon recovery on Hood Canal… Then the nets come out. Gill netting has been banned from every state on the east coast, the gulf coast, and the saltwater portion of the west coast outside of Washington and Alaska. I have a hard time calling us the “everGREEN state” while allowing gill nets in our water. Not to mention shrimping season and gill net season are the only time we see trash.

To be completely clear here, I do not have a great solution to this problem. I also do not want these men and women to loose out on a proud way to make a living However, I do think we should require the gill netters to switch to seine nets, and we should 100% ban beach setting as it has an incredible bi-catch of huge sea run cutthroat. .

3.) Stripping Line Off The Boat

When retrieving line back into the boat, just strip it onto the ground. This will help casting by reducing drag, reduce tangles by keeping the line from moving with the current, and keep your line out of the prop of the boat. Do not strip off the side of the boat… It’s actually more difficult to strip this way. Plus I start everyday by saying this.

What is something you can do to get better at fly fishing while not on the water?

I think there are a few things. None will be as noticeable as practicing casting. If you want to get REALLY good, you have to be able to get your fly to the intended target. Practicing casting is huge.

Another thing that is super helpful in improving angling skills is to read. Read about the bait, the currents, the depth, and even the history of the fishery. I believe there has been more books written on the subject of fishing than anything else. So the two authors I would recommend the most for this fishery is Les Johnson, and Bruce Ferguson.

I think the way you do anything is the way you do everything, with very few exceptions. Becoming obsessed with something might not be the healthiest way to do something, however it is the best way to get good. I worked in fly shops, went fishing, then came home and practiced in the dark in my yard to get good… While I don’t recommend the first on that list if you like paying bills, I would recommend the second two.

I Want To Become A Fishing Guide, Any Advise?

Do it! Life’s short, do whatever makes you happy. If you told me you wanted to be a cage fighter, but you were fat and slow, I’d tell you to train your ass off and try not to get hit in the head. I have the same advise for becoming a fishing guide. Train your butt off. Take a job in Alaska working 7 days a week at a camp/lodge. Or do the same on the Big Horn or Missouri River in Montana. Either way, go work as much as you possibly can. Take casting lessons from 100 instructors and learn how to teach 100 different ways. Make mistakes and learn from them. Make good choices and learn from them. Find great mentors and learn from them.

Oh I have more…

My other advise would be to strive to be the best. Be an outlier in a world of great fishing guides be over the top good. Study jokes, have stories, bring hand warmers when it’s cold… Do more than what they expect.

Folks are giving you their vacation. Trusting you with their families. Many of the folks that come on guide trips only get a few chances to do this a year, or a decade. Take that responsibility super seriously. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but if they have a bad experience, they may never go with a guide again, then you are messing with everyone who did do it the right way’s business.

Last piece of advise is never get burnt out. Remember it is a gift to be able to do this for a living. In a world where someones job is to change the diapers of the elderly, you are on the water teaching fishing. Someone is insulating a crawl space, getting bit by a rattle snake, and you are telling a joke on while landing a trout…

You talk a lot… How do you keep that energy?

When I am on the water, I am not going to get anything else done. So it’s easy for me to focus 100% on the trip.

I am a chatty Kathy, no doubt, I will always be the first to admit that. I am positive that my obsession with coffee is not helping that. Part of the energy comes from coffee, however I love telling stories.

Telling stories is something we don’t get to do anymore. How often do you sit in one spot with 2-3 people for 7-8 hours? Almost never. On my boat, we are fishing, which is as primal and traditional as anything has ever been. For 100’s of years people have fished and told stories. Probably not stories of stage diving, Jamaican jokes, and all the other nonsense that comes out of my mouth. However, if you love what you do for a living, and I really do, why not make an effort to get to know people while you do it?

Also, I run 1,000 mph from 4am-10pm… I plan my day down to the hour just to make sure that my energy is used up 100%. After that, I sleep like a rock.

Are you still doing the casting lessons at Alderbrook Resort?

Not only are we going to do them this year, we are improving the program.

They will start in May, and go through the end of August. As we did last year these will be 100% free to the public. You do not need to be a guest of Alderbrook Resort to attend.

We will also be offering privates throughout the year. I have always done private lessons however we will be doing them for groups as well as individuals. For groups we can accommodate up to 8 people.

All of these lessons will be personally catered to your skill level. If you are a expert caster and want to learn how to improve your roll, reach, or distance /accuracy. We can do that. If you are a brand new fly fishermen and want to learn how to string the rod up, we can handle that as well.

Fishing Report 1/14/19

The Good, The Bad, The Fishy

It’s going on the third week of the new year and the holidays are behind us. We are back in the swing of things here, and couldn’t be more excited!

We have had a particularly wet January, and from the looks of it, we are not getting to much drier in the near future. However, this has not slowed the fishing down one bit. Most of the cutthroat have been super shallow and tight to the beach. Additionally, almost every fish we have found has been accompanied by 5 or 6 other fish willing to eat or chase our flies to the boat as well.

Trick Of The Week

As I said, the fish have been pushed right up on the beach. Look for runoff creeks, or little springs draining into the water and cast at those. Many of these flows will create deeper low spots along the beach. Often times the cutthroat will use these low spots to ambush prey.

Coming Up

We have some openings coming up quick, and a 10 day forecast that shows a break in the weather coming up. First, Tuesday the 15th! We have decent weather and great tides tomorrow!

This coming weekend we have 1/20 open, as well as the 24th, 25th, and 27th open! Get your date while the sun is shining!

The Hook Lowdown

A old set of Epoxy Minnows tied on TIEMCO 800s

Prequel To The Hook Lowdown…

I mentioned in the Q&A that I would be breaking down my thoughts on hook choice. I get this question a lot and I realized there is not a whole lot of information out there about it. I went in deep on the subject and hope you all get something out of it and enjoy the read. It’s long, and it’s a little bouncy, but I put a lot of thought into it. So without further ado… The Hook Lowdown.

Responsibility

There is a giant elephant in the room when debating hook choice. It comes down to a question that we all like to ignore. What is catch and release fishing? We are trying to be effective at stabbing something in the face. Also, we want to grip it by the mouth and drag it through the water. After landing the fish, at BEST we let it go quickly without removing the fish from the water. At the worst we toy with it in our hands for a photo before letting it go.

Make no mistake about it. There is simply no way to catch a fish without the potential to damage or kill the fish. It’s like a cage fighter who denies the possibility of someone getting hurt. Unfortunately fish, occasionally are unable to recover from the damages of a fight. It is our responsibility to minimize the damage inflicted on the fish at every opportunity.

The 3 Factors Of Choosing A Hook

When choosing a hook we need to balance these three main things.

1.) The potential to cause unnecessary damage to the fish.

2.) Compliment the pattern tied on them. In both balance and size.

3.) Effective holding power.

We could end the hook lowdown right here… If you find those three factors while choosing a hook. You will be good to go. However, lets break it down a bit further.

That’s too small…

If you choose a hook to small, the potential goes up dramatically that a fish will swallow it, or get hooked in the gills. Not to mention the sudden “bad hook up” rate increase. A hook that is too small will fail all 3 factors of choosing a hook. Suddenly it becomes a health risk to the fish by being to easy to take deep into it’s mouth. It will not compliment the fly by balancing it out or becoming more of a weapon. A hook that is to small won’t catch the flesh in the corner of the mouth and be effective at holding the fish. So grabbing a size 8 SC15 might not be a great idea for a baitfish pattern.

Bigger Is Not Always Better…

Now lets go to the subject of hooks that are to large. For baitfish, I don’t think “brain hooking” cutthroat is a big issue. I can count on 1 hand how many fish this has happened to over the years. All of them were small fish less than 4 inches. I am not sure this is avoidable while fishing baitfish patterns. So let’s talk about why a hook would be to large. Brain hooking or eye hooking is obviously a consideration. As is causing unnecessary damage such as ripping big holes in fish or shredding the face of the fish. The other consideration is the hook being too large and blocking the fly from entering the mouth.

I do not think brain/eye hooking cutthroat is a big concern when fishing baitfish. However, I do think there are hooks that you should avoid for this risk. The size 2 Ahrex NS172 Gammarus hook has a HUGE gap that is potentially dangerous to cutthroat. A gap this big stabs through the cheek higher up causing damage to a much thicker portion of the mouth, and potentially could damage the eye of the fish with more frequency. Any thick gage hooks like the Timeco 800s beyond a size 6 is probably to big for cutthroat, causing more damage than necessary.

Sea Run Cutthroat are violent predators, meaning a hook to small could quickly end up in the back of their throat. A hook to big could harm them beyond what is acceptable in a sport based on stabbing things in the face. We want to find the sweet spot. That’s why we are providing the hook lowdown.

Hook Choice Considerations:

When considering what hook to choose, consider what is required to tie your fly. What are you trying to accomplish with your fly, what kind of water are you fishing in, are you adding weight or relying on the hook itself to keel out. Do the conditions you are fishing in require more hang down, or the hook to ride upright? There are plenty of questions to ask, and here are somethings I consider when sitting down to tie a fly:

Longer Shanks

EuroShrimp Tied on a Ahrex NS110. Lot’s of palmering required a longer shank.

If you are tying a fly where you have a lot of “wrapping” materials, you might need a longer shank such as a 811s Tiemco or NS110 Ahrex. Both make great hooks for Raccoons or Buggers (notice I said bugger and not squid), I use the latter for a few of my simple baitfish and shrimp patterns. Both hooks work very well for Clouser style flies as well. These are your more standard hooks for most saltwater applications. One that falls into a similar catagory would be the Diiachi 2546. I think the Diiachi hook falls short on being great at any particular level. Where the Tiemco is heavy and keels well, the Diiachi light for the gage, and keels okay. The NS110 is ultra sharp and holds fish tight, the Diiachi is pretty sharp and does okay.

Shorter Shanks-Wider Gaps

Flatwing tied sparse and light swims great on a Ahrex NS172. The open gap provides a “keel”.

When tying bulkier or fuller baitfish flies using a heavier stainless hook helps keel the fly. Keeling the fly essentially means balance the fly out and ensure that it swims well. The Tiemco 800s work great for fuller unweighted patterns that need bit of help balancing. The Tiemco 800s is heavy for its size and passes our 3 rules with flying colors. The Ahrex NS172’s shape will balance out many baitfish patterns that are not super bulky too. The NS172’s wide gap moves much of the weight below the fly creating a beautiful keel and a very “grabby” razor sharp hook.

My Top Two Baitfish Hooks

I like tying many baitfish light, with weight towards the eye of the hook. This eliminates the need for a heavy keel, to correct the fly in the water. My preference has become the Ahrex NS110 for skinny profile baitfish, and the Ahrex NS172 for shorter or bulkier baitfish. Both are razor sharp and have a great hook gap for what I am using them for. The whole “Nordic Salt” series of hooks are extremely impressive.

Surface Flies

Disco Shrimp has a great hook up rate due to the Ahrex NS122 hanging low in the water while the fly remains as buoyant as a balloon.

When I tie topwater flies I prefer the Ahrex NS122 over anything else. The gap hangs down low increasing hook-ups whether sipped or slashed. Of all the hook choices that I have mentioned, this one is the most noticeable. When cutthroat hit the surface, your hook needs to be as available as possible. This hook design is the best choice on the market. I’ll be completely honest in saying, I just don’t have a second option anymore for this particular application. Moving up and down in size depending on my pattern, my rule is to have the hook riding as deep in the water as I can, while keeping the fly as buoyant as possible. The shape of the NS122 is the best hook I have found for this job. From Gurglers, Disco Shrimp, Surface Fry, if it floats, this hook is what it is tied on.

Before finding the Ahrex NS122 I was using the Gamakatsu SS15. The SS15 is a great hook for surface flies because it is light and razor sharp. While it is great, I still find the Ahrex to be so far ahead of their competition that nothing compares.

A Trailing Note:

One of the things I am often asked about is why I do not use a “stinger” or “trailing hooks” off the back of my flies. My answer is the simple and direct, they are unnecessary for our fishery. From my experience with trailing hooks our “foul” hooked fish numbers increase astronomically. Fish that are almost never handled out of the net go up dramatically due to deeper hook sets and/or offset hooks.

All that foul hooking/extra handling is just unnecessary. Cutthroat just do not require the use of stingers because they CRUSH a fly. You don’t pull the emergency break at every red light right? Why would you when you have antilock breaks right next to the gas peddle. Why would you fiddle around with a trailing hook when it is completely unnecessary.

Another thing that goes up with trailing hooks is the amount of tangles the average angler experiences which directly results in less time fishing. As with the SC15, you simply won’t see a trailer hook on my boat… Did I mention the SC15?

Gamakatsu SC15 take a hike…

Obviously, there are good qualities of the SC15, or Gamakatsu would not sell any. Personally, I can not figure out what those qualities are. They are too light of a hook to balance most flies, they are too brittle to withstand any abuse, and they are too small to catch the corner of the mouth during an aggressive take.

The Gamakatsu SC15 in a size 6-8 hook is too small for a baitfish fly. That is just plane ol’ fact. Sea Run Cutthroat eat a stripped baitfish too aggressively to fish such a small, light hook. The hook is small and light enough to miss the corner of the mouth and catch gills, throat, or the tongue of the fish. Will this happen every time? No, of coarse not. However, it will happen significantly more with this hook than a Gamakatsu SS15 or a Ahrex NS110.

I also think the shape of a SC15 in 6-4, once you pinch the barb, has no gripping power. Which was what first encouraged me to move away from these hooks. Then Brita started talking about using the hook to keel flies, which changed my opinion on fly tying completely. The SC15 might be the worst saltwater hook ever made for helping balance a baitfish pattern.

Almost done with the SC15

For little krill/euphasiid patterns a tiny light hook like the SC15 might be more appropriate. The reason it’s more appropriate is all in the way a cutthroat eats euphasiidds verses the way it eats other fish. Think of a eagle catches a fish (violently snatching) vs. chowing on dead chum (lazily grazing)… However the Ahrex NS172 is the better option.

This covers all three factors in choosing a hook. The SC15 Fails #1, #2, and #3 decisively.

Massive Cutthroat on a SL12 SZ 2. This is the largest hook I would use, however no one can claim this hook is to big for the fly/fish.

Q & A Vol. 2

Q & A Vol. 2

Q & A Version 1

The Q & A we posted last week was ultra well received and we had a ton of great questions come through. The funny thing about fishing is no one wants to admit they do not know everything in an open platform. So most of our questions for Q & A Vol. 2 came through private messages on Facebook, and/or Email. We had quite the variety and I am excited to say that this will keep going for a while!

Q & A Vol. 2

We didn’t get to all of them, but here are a few from this week! So without further ado, Q & A Vol. 2!

Q. What is your favorite line from the beach?

My first answer would be a Rio Outbound short floater. However, that line is pretty limiting to how I fish. If conditions are perfect and fish are moving on the surface, I would be stoked to be fishing the floater. If every day of the year fell in the 3rd week of february through the 3rd week of April, I would fish nothing but the Rio Outbound Floater.

Unfortunately not every day calls for surface fishing, SO if I was going to own one line for beach fishing it would be the Rio Outbound Intermediate. FROM THE BEACH I think this line is the best year round line on the market. I don’t even own one right now because I simply don’t fish the beach very often. However, If I were to go back to beach fishing again, it would be spooled on my reel. My second go to would be the Coastal Quickshooter, simply because it is a super fun line to cast.

Q. Who cast better, you or Brita?

Well, home-wrecker, I am simply not falling into your trap. I will tell you Brita looks a hell of a lot better doing it than I do…

Q & A Vol. 2

Q. Best sunglasses for fishing in Washington State?

Here is the best gem anyone has ever sent me. Costa Del Mar 580G Sunrise Silver Mirror. Florida to Washington, these are the best lens I have ever had the pleasure of fishing with. Thanks to Florida Outdoor Experience for enlightening me to this amazing and unlikely pieces of fishing gold… Or silver.

The yellow lens gives me nightmares of headaches and sore eyes after trying them years ago for steelhead fishing. They are okay on days when there is absolutely no sunlight. However, pain city as soon as there is even the slightest hint of a glare.

Gray from (FOE) mentioned it and I stopped him dead in his tracks “Mirrored yellow?!! That sounds either genius, or like a nightmare.” He said “I am telling you, they are perfect.” A few days later I checked the mail and there were two Costa 580’s with Sunrise Silver Mirror. I get accused of lying about seeing fish with these things until I let clients try them. It’s the single best thing for finding fish since the invention of the Yamaha Outboard.

Q. Is That Hook To Big?

I shy away from putting this on the internet. However, I am going to dive shallow here, and write a whole blog post just on this subject. No. Think about it? If the fish is EATING (by definition swallowing another fish) your fly with large amounts of aggression. You want something sizable and sharp enough to stab into flesh before it gets to the back of the throat. Have you seen my Chumbodies Baby from Solitude, or any small baitfish that I tie. The hook gap is as large as I can get while allowing the fly to move in the water. We never go past a size 4 hook for anything for fear of the diameter of the wire the hook is built of, however beyond that, I say “bigger is good, bigger and shaper is better.

From a conservation standpoint I think we want to keep the hooks from the back of the throat, and gills. If you are pulling the fly away from the fish, the fly should never get a chance to go deep enough in their mouth to hook to cause the kind of damage often thought about with larger size hooks.

Stay tuned for a blog all about this subject.

Q. How do you drink cold brew coffee in the winter on the boat?

Well, this is a simple answer. It’s better for me. I drink a lot of coffee, roughly 60oz a day. I can not drink hot coffee fast enough, and cold brew taste better cold than traditional drip coffee does when it gets cold. If it is super cold I will drink a small warm coffee first thing in the morning to get the chill off, then switch over to my 32oz Yeti cup of cold brew… I’ve got this stuff down to a science.

Q. Does Lemmy come on all of your fishing trips?

Q & A Vol. 2

He comes on most. If it’s going to be cold and wet out he goes to Sage Fly Rods for the day. If it’s anything resembling a nice day out, he is on the boat. Lemmy is by far the best behaved boat dog I have ever seen or heard of. From what I hear he makes a pretty good office dog up at Sage as well. I know when summer comes the folks up at Sage are going to be pretty disappointed they won’t see as much of him.

Closing thoughts on this Q&A

That’s it for the Q & A Vol. 2. Let us know of any questions you might have for next weeks Q&A, these are pretty fun. I still have another dozen or so for the next couple of weeks, but I would love to kick some of the silly ones out for more serious questions (I like silly too). Again comment on our facebook, message me, text me, and/or email me any of your questions. If you have questions for Mike or Brita specify and I will have them answer too!

Thanks so much guys! It’s been a blast the last few years and I would love to hear any ideas of how we can make the blog or more importantly our trips more fun for any of you! Thanks again!