Making A Better Hood Canal

 

Hood Canal is already an amazing place to get outdoors.  Crystal clear waters, solitude, and, oh yeah… The fishing is pretty spectacular.  However, as a healthy marine resource, Hood Canal could use a hand.

That is where Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (HCSEG) comes in.  HCSEG has been apart of making Hood Canal a better place since 1990!  HCSEG has partnered in the Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Project, Summer Chum Restoration, and the Hood Canal Steelhead Project! Not only have they worked on these projects, they have been in the community as well!  HCSEG has K-12 camps, citizen science programs, and provide great volunteer and internship opportunities for folks looking to get their hands dirty. PLUS they operate a sustainable farm you can visit in Belfair WA at the Salmon Center!

Hood Canal Summer Chum

Hood Canal Summer Chum is a threatened species.  Since 2000 HCSEG has been working to bring the Union River stocks up to a healthy populations. We directly can see the results of this in the early spring time as the chum fry dumps back into the Hood Canal. HCSEG is looking for volunteer help with this project now if you are interested in lending a hand.

Hood Canal Science

Steelhead…  Simply the most magnificently eerie reminder of what  could happen if we do not protect our waters. HCSEG not only is doing a 16 year restoration project. Furthermore, they are also studying the best ways to do restoration projects on steelhead streams!  In conclusion of these projects HCSEG might be able to restore 3 steelhead streams, and have the scientific recipe on how to restore small steelhead streams across the northwest. Volunteers are the cornerstone to all non-profit groups of this nature. Consider donating your time please!

Last week, Mendy and the crew at the Salmon Center invited me down to talk about how to partner in their efforts.  Future guest will have a chance to sign up for their news letters, and have membership sign ups right from the boat. Furthermore, this fall we are going to throw a little party, details for that will come soon!  In the mean time, take the family down to the Salmon Center and see what they have going on, and how you can help make Hood Canal a healthier environment for everyone!

Open Season For Open Water

Our summer is finally here in Western Washington!  We could not be more deserving of great weather and better fishing!  With this push of heat we need to change our focus from the hidden bays and back waters to the open water.  Sure there will still be fish hanging in the protected structure, but the big fish…  They know the bait likes that cold push of current! Here are a few things to consider to find the big fish!

Open Water Doubles

Sincerely, there are very few things that get me as stoked as “Let’s chase the big fish today.”  With the exception of blonde women who tie flies, tequila after I get off the water, and plane tickets to the tarpon grounds, my favorite things come down to chasing big Sea Run Cutthroat in the summer.  Fortunately, the season is here for chasing the big ones.  From now till mid September, we will find the biggest fish of the season. Here are the things you need to know!

Open Water

For the most part, until the water starts to warm, we find our biggest fish in the bays and back waters of Hood Canal and Puget Sound.  Rocky shore lines protected from the winds, hidden from most of the world, with steep shorelines that stay cool until the warmest part of the year.  As the waters warm, the baitfish and oxygen levels decrease in these areas, and the fish move to the open water and main current channels.  The fishing itself is still very similar,  however the locations tend to be a little less friendly to wading.  The currents are a little stronger making you think about how to present your cast in these open currents.   Furthermore the hunt is much faster and our mobility with the boat is much more important.  We run to our locations, make our cast and look for signs of fish and bait, then we run to the next spot.  We might cover a quite a few miles of water before finding the perfect location.

Retrieve

Our fishing is pretty similar, Cast, Strip, Cast, Strip….  Those acts are very much the same for the most part.  However, the fish seem to prefer a speed of retrieve this time of year…  Problem is, it changes throughout the day, with light, temps, and tidal flow.  I tell my clients; “Start slow, and speed up till you end fast.”  As we fish through this method you will see at a certain point in the retrieve we catch the most fish.  It might start off the fish want the retrieve fast when the water temps are 61 F and the light is really low on the water.  As it warms to 64 F the fish might like the slow retrieve and a deeper sunk fly with the high light.

Fly Selection

This is a preference…  I know a ton of different flies catch Sea Run Cutthroat.  However I do think there are a few things to consider as the weather warms and the sun is high in the sky.  Add Weight.  This can be an old school Clouser pattern, a cone head, or hidden tungsten beads/Loon Powder.  The flies that get down quick tend to catch more fish this time of year.  Maintain a big profile with a subtle foot print. When a Sea Run Cutthroat expends the energy to chase your fly, it is also exposing itself to predators, and typically moving a long ways for it.  Make the fish think it is worth it by keeping a big profile.  Herring, Anchovies, and Sandlance are all in good numbers and all have larger profiles right now.

Summer is the hidden gem of the north west!  We have endless options of outdoor entertainment.  Fishing for big Sea Run Cutthroat should be at the top of your list!  I hope this allows you to find more success!  Tight Lines and we hope to see you on the water!

Captain Justin Waters

Kids Fishing Opportunity

For years we had to recommend kids not come out on our trips. Sure we took a few kids out, however for the most part, it was not suitable for kids.  However, with the boat we now have the ability to safely, comfortably, and successfully take kids fishing! Wether the kids want to learn to fly fish, better their fly fishing skills, or just get started throwing light tackle, we can make sure their introduction to fishing be a fun and enjoyable experience!

The best part of taking a kid fishing is pretty simple. For the most part, kids love to fish! Fishing for cutthroat trout is pretty singularly focused for the most part. At the beginning, cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve with some minor interruptions to fight fish or untangle. As long as it is all in good humor both of those SHOULD BE exciting and fun. Cutthroat are a fairly honest fish, so if you can get a kid to do a few things right, the fish reward you. Furthermore, as the kids pick up those little skills we can continue teaching them, because they are used to learning from school and life at a young age!

We love having the opportunity to share our fishery with youngsters. Teaching them about reading water, fighting fish, and appreciating what the water teaches us. We want to ensure that kids know more than a Ipad and tv screen in the future. What better way than show them something they can enjoy for their lifetime! So bring the family along on the next trip, we love taking kids fishing!

 

To Catch A Predator- Stripping A Fly

There is no denying it, Sea Run Cutthroat fishing is becoming popular.  Fortunately, here in Hood Canal there is room for it too! It’s hardly a mystery why this fishery is catching on,  cutthroat fishing is super fun!  Stripping a fly through the cold, clear waters of Puget Sound and Hood Canal is a great way to spend a day!

Since we have concluded that stripping a fly is fun, let’s make it more productive as well.

Much of our success with Sea Run Cutthroat fishing can be attributed to simply getting the fly in front of them.  Therefore, on days when the fish are deep, we need to let our lines and flies sink down to their depths.  “One, two, three, four, strip.”  Counting down let’s our flies do their job at the right depth.

“Point that rod at the fly!” No one likes a lazy stripper, neither do the fish!  Accordingly, need that fly moving under a tight line to your hand. Pointing the rod tip directly at the fly keeps your line tight, your strip set ready, and the fish shaking in their scales!

Stripping A Fly

Play the game! One of the best parts of fishing is watching a fish move to a fly! Once they turn into a predator we need to keep that game going. No zebra stops when being chased by a lion. Just the same, no baitfish is going to pause mid chase from a predatory cutthroat trout. “Strip till you feel that steel punch them!” This is what we are all here for.

Following these rules will keep you hooked up while enjoying our fishery.  Get That fly down to them, keep tight, and play the game. Stripping a fly the right way will help you catch your predator!

Tyler Strip And Jump

 

#KickPlastic

Starting now!  All-Waters is going to #kickplastic.  We want to continue our effort to further serve our local fisheries and this means protecting them as well! What better way than to distance ourselves from the harmful effects of disposable plastic water bottles?  We are excited to join many other outfitters and fishing guides in this movement!

Every day on the water the discussion is how pristine the water appears.  However, every day we pull at least one item of trash out of the water.  I would guess that 50% of that trash consist of disposable plastic bottles!  We have decided that we want to lead by example and are challenging all other guide services in the Puget Sound to join us and help #kickplastic out of the fly fishing scene!

The average week of summer we go through about 20-30 bottles of water, some weeks even more! That is roughly a metric $h!t ton of plastic that is just tossed in the recycle bin each season just from our boat alone!

From here on out we ask that all of our clients bring a reusable water bottle on your trip. I will be carrying two Hydro-Flask water jugs and a handful of extra cups with lids! We have the Yeti available to all of our guest and encourage all to throw in any beverages you might want to bring along as well.

 

Bigger Sea Run Cutthroat

Bigger Sea Run Cutthroat

 

It doesn’t get much more American, than fishing for trophy fish. Bigger, stronger, faster! If you would like to make me happy tell me when you get on the boat that you want to chase the biggest beast in the water, not the most fish, or a fish, but the biggest fish. These are 5 ways to catch bigger Sea Run Cutthroat in Puget Sound and Hood Canal!

Big Sea Run Cutthroat 2

  • Cast better! The biggest limiting factor I see when taking anglers fishing is that they need to be able to cast further, lay the line out straighter, and do it all quicker! Let’s be honest with ourselves here. This would help all of us no matter how good at casting you are. If you could reach a target quicker, further away, and more efficiently we would all catch more fish, bigger fish, and better fish. Go take a lesson, practice in your lawn, and become a better caster! I don’t mind spending an hour or more on the water giving casting lessons, as a matter a fact, I love knowing you will be a better angler because you fished with me. I will be honest with you though, that’s an hour or more that we are not targeting the larger fish in the water and we are probably spooking some fish and missing part of the tide. I give lessons to anyone who schedules for $40 an hour. We can take care of this before any trip you have.

Brita casting

  • Fish deeper water! When my buddy Johnny and I first started fishing for Sea Run Cutthroat we scoured the earth for any information we could find on how to catch them. Everything we read stated to “fish parallel to the shore” which we did, and we caught some fish. However it was a rare day that we caught a Sea Run much larger than 12”. Years later and we are consistently fishing for bigger trout, and we are targeting 10’-30’ of water and fishing off of the steepest drop offs and current seems. Moving water is still our number one target, however number two is quick access to deep water. We are already fishing the right bait fish patterns, we just need to put it in the right place now!
  • Sinking lines. While floating lines are a ton of fun to fish with, and we love surface attacks, and intermediate lines are still pretty effective and easy to keep from snagging bottom with, TYPE III sinking lines seem to be just what the doctor ordered for finding the biggest fish in the water! Type III sinks at about 3” per second, keeping your fly down just a bit more while stripping your line in. This also allows you to get the fly down to the structure much quicker and in the zone of those big lurkers hanging off the drop offs! This may require that you work a little to keep the fly from catching bottom, however I assure you that it will catch you some bigger fish! My personal favorite line for this job is the Rio Outbound Short, this is in the freshwater series for tossing streamers in lakes and rivers. This line give flight to the hidden tungsten beads in my baitfish flies, and gets down to the nastiest of Sea Run Cutthroat in the Puget Sound or Hood Canal.

  • Cast Up Current! Big Cutthroat do not want to work hard for their food, they didn’t get fat swimming on a treadmill! The fish are targeting bait that is confused by current or is weak and being swept down current, so lets swim those flies just like they want it! Stripping down current also means you need to strip a little quicker to keep tight with your fly, particularly on a good tidal flow! This is another big bonus of a sinking line to keep your fly pulled down in the water column while stripping fast down stream.

  • Stay Tight! Keep that line tight to the fly! I can not tell you how many times I see clients  miss fish with their rod tip up. Their fly line never comes tight, and they don’t even know their fly was eaten until their rod tip gets tugged and the fish is gone. “Rod tip down!” “Strip a little quicker.” “Keep up with that fly!” However what I really mean is, “G@$D!%m it that fish was huge and I just watched it pick up your fly, pick its teeth with the hook point, and even admired the tasteful use of the Fish Mask, all before you even knew anything happened!” Stay tight to the fly at all times! Staying tight to the fly will assure your fly is always moving away from the fish, playing cat and mouse and triggering a chase instinct, and it will make sure you feel everything the fly does. If the fly is plucked at, picks up weeds, or if it is eaten, you will feel it and can act accordingly.

sea run cutthroat 3

These tips will ensure a much better catch rate and also a much larger fish in your net! I hope this was helpful in putting the puzzle together!

The curse of a nice day!

There is not much better than wading ankle deep in Hood Canal’s cold, clear water to push the boat off the trailer on a nice summer morning. The sun seems to be high before my coffee is gone, and clients are awake before they step on the boat. I truly believe there is no better spot to spend a summer day.

jacobs cast

With the high sun and clear water comes some very unique issues in pursuing fish. The fish seem to vacate our favorite wading beaches and they find shelter in the spots less frequented by the stick waving predator.

summercutty

Sea Run Cutthroat are just like every western trout, in that they need cold clean water to live. Unlike fish in a river these guys have hundreds of feet in depth and miles of shoreline to choose from to find exactly what they are looking for. So as that sun travels through the clear water and heats up the shallows below the fish are forced to move off the shallow flats and find their happiness in some deeper water. As anglers it is our job to find the drop offs and the depth they are hiding in and figure out a way to get our flies to them. This can be made easier if you know where the deepest points on your favorite beaches are.

colorfulone

Another method of dealing with the high sun and warming waters is to play the shadow game. Knowing the sun rises in the East we tend to fish the Eastern shorelines in the morning (if this is possible) and move to the deeper parts of the water column as the sun gets higher. It is easy to do this out of our boat, however when fishing the beach sometimes this is more possible when fishing in bays rather than the open water.

release lively

The last method for dealing with high sun is fishing the current line. When the sun is high the bait tends to ball up on the current lines, or under the weed lines in the tidal rips. When the bait gets in these tidal rips the weaker swimmers get turned around and the predatory instincts of the cutthroat kicks in full blast! These poor fish don’t have a chance when you toss a weighted baitfish into the current rips on a nice summer day!

I hope these tips can make your summer a little fishier!

Add it to your list!

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This summer feels like it has taken a decade to get here.  We have had an outrageously wet winter, a crazy unpredictable spring, and it’s finally arrived!  Summer time in Western Washington.  I know we have a ton of plans for the summer, get the yard finished up, go camping in the Olympics, head to the coast for some beach fun, and plenty of fishing in between.  However most of our plans involve fishing here at home on the Hood Canal for Sea Run Cutthroat!

Here are the top 10 reasons to target Sea Run Cutthroat this summer:

1.) Great fishing- Not to sound like a hater, but the river fishing in Washington doesn’t hold a candle to our sea trout fishery on the Hood Canal.  We go out time and time again and prove this is the best trout fishery in the state.  On it’s best days I would put it neck and neck with the Missouri in Montanta.  On it’s worst, I’d put it neck and neck with the worst days I’ve had on the Mo in Montana.  The big advantage Hood Canal has? You don’t have the crowds and the fish are true wild native trout!

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2.) Accessibility -Where else can you get miles of public access to great fishing water? Most of which is drive up access – you don’t even need to hike to catch fish on a good percentage?  Oh yeah, and with a boat you can fish almost every inch of the water without argument?  We have it good here in the Western Washington salt.

Boatdocked

3.) Solitude- Oh man, the crowds are killing me…  I thought I saw a boat about 2 hours ago off in the distance.  These damn eagles, porpoises, herons, and whales sure are crowding up the places though.

brita bombing

4.) Beautiful- If it was not for these wild shorelines, snow topped mountains, and amazing sunrises coming straight out of the Hood Canal it sure would be a beautiful place…  Not to mention the fish breathtaking as well!

Olympics 1

5.) Relaxing- Being barefoot up on the casting deck hooked up to a big hook nosed trout sure is stressing me out.  I am pretty glad you have that cold one frosting in the Yeti for after the battle…  Those sandy points are a pretty nice places to take lunch and kick back too!

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6.) Technical- You mean I can learn and enjoy what I’m learning at the same time?  Every time I go I will learn new technical skills that will improve my success rate?  Who wants to catch more fish anyways?

boat-photo

7.) Bi-Catch- It would be a bummer to accidentally catch a 15lb chinook today…  It doesnt happen every day, however for a good chunk of the year I get surprised by salmon pretty regularly. I even have a photo kicking around somewhere of a client with a Greenling…  Yeah I know, what the hell is a greenling?  (Stop emailing me, I know what a greenling is.)  The truth of the matter is while we fish water that is most conducive to Sea Run Cutthroat trout, occasionally especially when there is a ton of bait around, we are surprised by other fish!

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8.) Cool Factor- There really is not much cooler than fishing the saltwater.  Every day feels like an adventure.  Conditions are forever changing with the tide levels. Plus, pulling out fish that can’t really be caught in these conditions anywhere else in the world, and on flies and light tackle is pretty damn cool!

Hooked up!

9.) Wild- These are wild fish in wild places.  I know, cell phone reception is a little spotty in some places on Hood Canal, however I have been working on adding a tower to my boat…  I’ll solve that pesky back cast problem eventually.

Glassyrun

10.) Peoples Fish- I have been saying it for years!  The best part of fishing for Sea Run Cutthroat is that these are the peoples fish. Making them Catch and Release, putting no commercial value to them, makes their only value fun!  This fishery is the best example of what happens when we all work together.  It’s catch and release because some folks said “enough is enough” and banded together and fought for it.  These are the peoples fish! So come out and enjoy it!

cutthroat1

 

Building a Better Box

Saltwater fly fishing has plenty of things to overly concern yourself with. “Do I need to cast further?” “Is my line getting down far enough?” “Is there any fish on this beach?”. The answers to these questions is “Just cast the best you can.” “Just fish the best you can.” “You will find out soon if you do the previous two things.”

When Brita and I fish we have a running joke, she changes flies, and I almost never change flies. We both catch plenty of fish, we both enjoy our own style of fishing, and we both fish our flies almost completely different from each other. I always tell brita that she has chronic fly changing problems in-between fish. However, I would never tell her to fish any differently because she is enjoying herself, and I want to remain inside of the boat.

Brita casting

One thing you will immediately notice if you look in either of our boxes before a serious week of fishing or guiding is that our boxes are full, and our boxes are fairly well thought out. Even Brita’s chaos is organized chaos. I have my “Topwater Box”, my “A Box” and my “B Box”.

Fly Boxes

My topwater box is my favorite, it’s a old Cliff box full of fun. This is probably the most straight forward box as far as thought. One side is gurglers/popping shrimp, one side has a handful of sliders and injured baitfish, then terrestrials that might fall in the water. I don’t bust this one out as much as I wish I did, however when I do we have a lot of fun with the different ways of targeting fish on the surface. Surface attacks are addicting and this years overcast weather has resulted in some awesome surface saltwater action. Not unlike any addiction, once you open that box, it’s hard to go back.

topwater

My A box is the most used… hints “A Box”. This is a C&F Design saltwater box Brita bought for me from The Avid Angler. This is the baitfish box. This one goes from weighted to unweighted. This is the box that unavoidably ends up in any puddle, stuffed in waders if beach fishing, dropped on the deck of the boat, and falling off the tailgate at boat launches while rigging up. C&F makes the toughest box on the planet, and if you think the knock off fly shop logo ones make up for it, I’ll bet you the price of a new C&F that I will destroy it or the seal will fail within two months of guiding. These are the boxes that have the flatwings, the jungle-cock finish, and polar bear flies. Let’s not fill it with saltwater and hope for the best. www.Avidangler.com call them up and order yourself one. I promise you will never go back.

baitfish box A

The ol’ B-Sides box holds the back ups. The ones that are good enough to fish but don’t make you proud to tie on. It holds the A Box flies of years past. There are levels to fly tying and as you “level up” the flies get moved into this box. This is a larger fly shop knock off box, it doesn’t come out but once or twice a year, however it’s always in the boat bag. Truthfully I carry the B-side box for a few different reasons. 1.) a color combo is working and I run out of the best ones. 2.) I was filling my A box and left it on the tying desk the night before (almost never happens…almost) 3.) The A box somehow goes missing or falls off the boat while running. I have never had this happen but I have heard plenty of sad stories.

Epoxy Minnows

Putting thought into the fly box allows you to quickly get your flies in the water when changing flies or re-rigging a broken leader. My A box is always in my rain gear or on my center console right next to my tippet. The faster you can get the flies back in the water the more fish they will catch. The most efficient fishermen catch the most fish. That means not only covering the best water, but covering the best water quickly, confidently, and moving on to the next section of best water. Every aspect of your set up should be thought out to add to this. We fish out of a boat 99% of the time, meaning we can carry and do carry WAY more flies than we would ever need. These are a few ways that we try to organize our furry chaos.

 

 

Fish Mask

When I have a client that ties flies I always ask them to see their patterns. There is nothing fly tiers love more than catching a fish on a pattern they tied. When they see the rods rigged up with my flies in the morning almost all fly tiers ask about the heads. I tell them Fly Men Fishing Co. Fish Mask makes it quick and easy to make perfect looking epoxy heads every-time. There are a few different things they also allow the tier to do.

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1.) Build up a bulky front to add to a baitfish profile. Adding extra material to the front of the fly and pushing it back with the Fish Mask not only fills the mask and makes it look more epoxy like, it also makes the profile of the fly look more full and realistic in the water.

2.)The Fishmask allows you to add weight like a bead behind the eye of the hook and still have a strong platform for your eyes on baitfish. Pushing the fish mask over a bead head wrapped in dubbing hides the weight and adds a nice finished look to any conehead patterns.

3.)Add a cleaner look to any frizzy or overly threaded heads. We have all done it, stopped a little short on the hook shank or got a little greedy adding material to a fly and ended up with a overly dressed or way to many thread wraps on the end of a otherwise great looking fly. The fish mask allows for us to cover up these “oh shit” moments.

 

Fly Men Fishing Company has consistently provided tiers with the most innovative materials in the game of fly tying, and this is probably my favorite of them all. Give them a shot, you can get them at any worthwhile local fly shop or order them direct from Fly Men Fishing Co.