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.


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!

Q & A With Captain Justin

Introducing the idea of our Q & A series…

I have toyed with the idea of doing an ongoing Q & A at several different times and have finally gotten around to starting this.

Other than the fact that I love to fish for cutthroat, I really love sharing this fishery with all of you. I love seeing the fishery grow, and it is awesome to hear I may have helped someone understand this fishery through answering their questions. I have some goals for the next year or so that will allow me to do that more than I already do. But for now, the blog, Instagram, and Facebook are where we are at. I think this will be a fun little series. I will continue with the Q & A as much as I can throughout the year and do a “Best Of” at the end of the season.

Q and A

Q – What are your set ups (rod, reel, line, leader)?

I have 4 rod and line setups on the boat at any time, with those consisting of Floating, Intermediate, and two Sinking lines. Obviously not every situation is going to call for these setups, however they will work 99% of the time.

  • Floating- 690-4 (6 weight 9′ rod) Sage X, Sage Spectrum Max reel, RIO Outbound, RIO 0x Big Nasty leader down to 3x FluoroFlex Plus tippet. I like the total length of my floating leader to be about 10′.
  • Intermediate- 690-4 Sage X, Sage Spectrum Max reel, RIO Camolux intermediate, 6′ Big Nasty leader to FluoroFlex 3x tippet. Total Length is about 8′.
  • Sinking- 690-4 Sage Salt HD, Sage Spectrum Max reel, RIO Outbound Short type 3 sink, 6′ Big Nasty 3x FluoroFlex (on clear days) 2x if there is color to the water.

Q – What is your favorite structure for those bigger cutthroat?

Well… I think this answer requires a 4 parts. I think it’s common for most people to think they “luck” into bigger fish by accident, however there is always a reason the bigger fish are there. Solving that puzzle will increase your odds at encountering larger sea-run cutthroat. Below are the 4 things I look for to increase our chances of encountering large fish:

  • You need a lot of current crashing into the structure you are fishing. A bay filling up or emptying out on a piece of structure for instance creates great opportunity for big fish to ambush bait.
  • Access to shelter is super important for the fish to grow in size. For example deep water, dark holes, kelp and/or longer eel grass, and undercut ledges all allow for good hiding. Anything to avoid predation and aid in the ambushing behavior we just mentioned. Less stress equals larger growth.
  • A reason for the fish to make the effort to hang out. Typically the “big fish spots” hold a few big fish, year round. The reason for this is they hold different types of bait and different times of the year. During the big influx of sand lance, the migrations of smelt, the chum fry, shrimp, herring… These are places that are year round good for a meal. A big fat fish doesn’t want to migrate every month anymore than a big fat guy wants to run to the salad side of a buffet.
  • Cold water. As a rule, if the water warms up, the big fish don’t hang there. Warmth = Stress

Q – Did Brita tie this fly? It’s super nice!

After Hours

I tie nice flies too, thank you very much.

The truth is she might have tied this one particular fly, and she does occasionally give me a fly or two to fish. If I am super busy I might hit her up for some once in a while. However, I really like tying flies and I tie my flies weighted how I want, as bulky as I want, and for the kind of water I like to fish. Also, I just plane like showing my clients my flies.

I am super picky about how my clients fish the flies, where they fish the flies, and when they fish the flies… I don’t just tie on any fly for any situation. Fortunately, Brita loves me and knows that so she occasionally will tie flies with my style in mind.

The answer is, you should assume it’s mine unless I am bragging about how amazing Brita is. She’s the best fly tier I know, and I am unbelievably proud to fish her flies and share them with people… However… I’ll be honest, this question hurts my ego just a bit.

Q – Whats the best tide for Sea Run Cutthroat?

Look, just go fishing. The fish do not care, go down current of a good piece of structure and go fishing. Sure some areas fish better at certain tides….. but they don’t fish at all if you are not fishing.

Q – Top three favorite fishing snacks?

Well, this is a fun question. Nowadays its Coffee, Hempler’s Beef Sticks, and LaCroix (Coconut). If I do two trips a day I love the brussel sprouts at Alderbrook Resort.

Q – Best tip to become a better caster?

Q & A

One word answer: PRACTICE. But, for those that don’t like that answer, I’ve included another detailed response.. If I could give one tip it would probably be to quickly come to a complete stop and just feel the rod unload. Most folks get it once they feel what it is supposed to feel like. Casting is fun, and when its done right it feels so good. I really love teaching casting lessons, and I do them for free at Alderbrook all summer long. I assume we could probably give more than 1 piece of advise.

… To Be Continued …

This was fun and I plan to do this more often in the future! I hope you guys enjoyed the Q & A. Feel free to email, message or… Instagram comment/direct message me any questions you want for the next one. I think we will have part 2 of the Q & A out next week!

Coastal Cutthroat IF4

Its Party Time People…

January 10th we have the International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the HULA HULA in Seattle! We are raising tons of money for the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition! This might be the most anticipated party of the year!

There will be a auction and raffle for guide trips, gear, swag, and flies. Buy some tickets, party hard, and know you are supporting a great cause! We have a pretty awesome “Package” that we have donated as well (more on that later).

This event has become a staple in the fly fishing community in Western Washington and beyond. We are excited to see all of you there and raise a ton of money for the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition. The greater Northwest is so fortunate to have such a great group of people supporting its fisheries whether in the field or with their pocketbooks!

In the past we have donated a full day guide trip in Puget Sound and a dozen flies. Although these were awesome, and we have had a good time. Furthermore raised a total of $1500 in the last three years at these events alone. We wanted to do much better this year!

This year we teamed up with our friends at Alderbrook Resort and donated a 2 night stay at the resort and a full day guide trip from the resorts beautiful dock. We are so stoked and plan on helping make this event the most successful one yet this year!

Thank You!

A huge thanks to Keith Robbins, the staff of the Hula Hula, and the folks at the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition for helping keep the science rolling and the fishery as exciting as ever! We are so fortunate to have this community come together and support such a great cause!

Continuing in the gratitude we want to thank Alderbrook Resort for helping out in putting together the best package we have ever done. Also all the other folks who are donating, buying, and all around helping out with this event!

Bid on our trip and party with us at Alderbrook Resort this spring!

Winter Problems

Winter Problems

Sometimes we all get them, Winter Problems, the biggest one being “It’s too freaking cold out, and/or I’m to freaking tired to fish.” Let me tell you… One of the two guys in my boat bailed out last minute on New Years day… Furthermore, he started texting around the time we started landing fish; SO, I thought I would share these with you.

“Oh man, sorry I couldn’t go, I wish I was not so tired!”

“Wish I was there.”

“I regret not going!”

“Hope you guys are having fun!”

“Are you catching anything?”

However, we were to busy laughing, catching super nice cutthroat and fishing to pay any attention to that. We kinda kicked ass all day on the fish. So our thought was just, “Should of woke up buddy.”

The biggest challenge in everything when it’s cold out is just finding the motivation to get out and go. Well, here is your motivation;

Reasons To Get Out

Let me tell you, these fish prefer the cold. Sea Run Cutthroat need the cold. They are less “trouty” in the cold. These guys are more predacious, thicker, stronger, and fight harder in the cold… Plus when it’s cold you get to call your lame friends who bail out names like “$%*$y”, “%!^@h”, “lazy”, and “still on the hook for half the trip.”

Winter Problems
Captain Mike slinging with a buddy on Hood Canal

In closing I would like to say, have a awesome 2019, we are off to a awesome start and can’t wait to see you this year! Let’s continue the mission to have more fun than ANYONE else on the planet, we are going to work hard to make sure we can keep that going! Further more, If you need help getting over your winter problems we have a few openings left for January 2019, and I will personally call and wake you up if you need help with motivation!

Fishing Report October 25 – 5 Keys To Success!

Fishing Report October 25

You know what they say?  Time flies when you are having fun!  So, besides rapidly screaming through the month of October, we are having a blast!  Fishing has been off the charts, we have shared the water with awesome folks, and we have been straight up slammed!  October has lived up to its hype this year once again! Heres 5 keys to success!

So whats the keys to success this late in the month?  Let me tell you!

5 Keys To Success

1.)  Find The Fish

It’s simple, you don’t want to waste your time probing fish-less water.  However, you also do not want to skip over a good fish spot in the name of moving.  Balance it out. We try to do more than one pass over a certain piece of water if we are finding success. First we cover it fast and see if we find some action, a follow, take, or fish! Second pass is where we methodically try to fish with a porpoise and make the most success on a spot. Occasionally we get them all on that first pass, but if we don’t see any action we move on.

2.)  Fish Flashy

Sure, a good ol fashion Wooly Bugger will catch them, as well as a dull classic Clouser Minnow. Perhaps you are correct.  However, you’re dull fly won’t be seen from 20′ away and have strikes from fish that you might miss without the glisten of flash.  Likewise, skip the super realism of summer bait balls and go to a more searching pattern.  Get the general profile of a baitfish and make that bad boy shine.

3.) Dress Warm!

No one likes being cold.  With the fog we have been having and the general dampness of the air, make sure you stay warm. Check out Captain Mikes blog on some hfelpful ways to stay more comfortable.  Let us know if you need us to bring an extra layer for you.

4.)  Branch Out

Late fall and early winter is a great time to be on the water.  The fish are plentiful and there are less crowds than summer time.  Check out that spot on the map you have been wanting to explore.  Shoot us a message and ask for some new spots you haven’t thought of. Maybe reach out to that buddy who you have wanted to fish with.  You never know when you might strike gold with a spot!

5.) Tequila

Bring your guide chocolate tequila from Mexico! What the hell man, that stuff is crazy good.  Sort of like a Mexican Chocolate milk.  I can’t remember the name of the bottle, nor do I know spanish… I will call it the El’Buzzed El’Coco Cow.  Yes, That does help the fishing.  (For the record,  I am not a big drinker, and  I will absolutely not drink with you on the water…)

Closing Argument

These are just some keys to success; However, we have said it from day one.  Those having the most fun win at the game of fly fishing.  I truly believe if you are in fact fishing; Meaning your fly is doing somewhat what it was designed to do in fishy water, if you are having a great time, you will catch fish.  It’s proven day in and day out on my boat.  It’s  not about being the best, the most equipped with the latest gear (although we always are, thanks Sage Fly Fishing) or even having the most know how, its about fishing smart, and having fun.  Cutthroat are honest fish. They are even more honest when the weather is cool and they are on their shallow hunting grounds.

The cool weather has the fish moved up in the shallows and hunting strongly this time of year.  It’s a pretty spectacular time of year to get out there!

10/15 October Fishing Report

October Fishing Report

 We have already covered the fact that October is down right amazing.  This week we have been welcomed to the water with beautiful fishing conditions.  Slick water, cool weather, and sunshine that has no end.  Did I mention we have been starting at 8am? Yeah, 8am… Eat it August!  I love October.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being spectacular sea run cutthroat Fishing and 1 being what happens when you try to fish in your bathtub… I’d say fishing is a full on 10.  The cutthroat are gobbling down anything we have tossed at them.

October Fishing

We have been finding most of our fish on intermediate lines pushed up on the shallows.  3-6′ of water has been our main target this week.  Have we found some in the depths? Sure have, but why bother when there are plenty pushed up shallow?  We have been using a wide variety of general baitfish patterns.  Mostly Money Makers in peach and orange or chartreuse and peacock.  As a bonus,  top water fishing has been awesome this October as the fish are pushed into the shallow water and more densely populated.  To round things out,  we have been fishing some worm flies  just to switch things up over the oysters.

To be honest, we have been having a lot of fun trying to see what the fish won’t eat.  They are not exactly picky… More like a vacuum than a traditional trout.

Coming up!

We have some great weather and fishing  the next couple of weeks.  Get your dates, a boat open on the 20th, 21st, 23rd, and 26th.  Let us know and we will get you on the water!

October Fishing Report

Future Dates

If you are going to miss out on October, I have a secret for you!  November is a lot like October… just a little later.  Fishing continues to be great, Cutthroat move closer to their estuaries, and we continue to have more fun than anyone else you know.

November 2nd, 6th, 10th, 13th, 16th and 18th.  Let us know, we would love to share the water with you all and show you why we love the fall out here on Hood Canal and Puget Sound!

October Fishing

Captain Mike’s Guide To Beating The Cold

Captain Mike’s Guide To Beating The Cold

(A brief note from Captain Justin: Captain Mike sent me this a bit ago and I have postponed posting this for when it gets cold. Now as it gets cooler I thought it would be more appropriate.   I don’t think there is a more qualified human being than Mike to do this.  Thanks man!  You are one of the best humans, fishing guides, and writers I know.


Your Wet You Don’t Have To be Cold

Raise your hand if you like to be cold.

(Brief scuffle ensues.)

Alright, now that the one madman is out of the room, we can have a reasonable conversation.

Reasonable is probably a relative term; I hate being cold. I loathe it. I would rather be waterboarded…

OK, that’s too far. (Also, I imagine any torturer worth their golf-cart battery would use ice-cold water.) But yeah, I really do not like to be cold. That being the truth, I have also spent 40+ years (20+ of those years professionally) pursuing sports which require frequent wettings, often in less than warm conditions. I have swum out of whitewater rafts in November and once guided West Virginia’s New River Gorge on a day when the high was 17°F. Was I chilly? Yes. Did I call off the day because it was cold? No, because I know how to dress so to be relatively comfortable in the wet and cold. OK, yes, also because it was February and I really needed a paycheck after starving through the winter… but that’s beside the point.

We Fish In Cold Water:

Individual bravado aside, here in the Pacific Northwest we fish in cold water, often with more cold water hanging in the air or falling from the sky. Perversely, those latter conditions can make for better fishing than we might find on a bright bluebird day. So we don’t get rained out; when we wake in the morning and see those clouds and wet air rolling in, we smile and our hopes begin to rise.

But then we walk outside and remember: It sucks to be cold.

It’s even worse to be wet and cold. Unfortunately, clambering through wet second-growth to get to a trout stream or chasing cutthroat from a boat in the driving rain means wet, or at least damp, is inevitable.

So, what’s the answer?

Step 1: Stay home on less-than-ideal-conditions days.

Just kidding, just kidding…

The real answer: Accept the inevitable, prepare, and remember that being wet does not mean that you have to be cold.

Eat right and stay hydrated:

(Disclaimer: Few reputable nutritionists would recommend as a daily diet the plan I’m about to lay out.)

Start with breakfast. Hell, start with dinner the night before. Make sure the engine of your metabolism has the fuel it needs to burn warming calories all day. A lot of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Maybe twice what you would eat in a normal meal.

Drink water. Drink water before, during, and after your meal(s) and while you’re on the water. Without this step, all that food is just going to sit. Give your body the fluid volume it needs to carry all those calories and nutrients you’ve consumed.

Dress in layers and NO COTTON:

Old news, I’m aware, but news I see ignored on a daily basis. Cotton absorbs and holds more water than your body can effectively heat. And your goose-down jacket, when it gets wet, is going to lose loft, effectively negating its ability to keep you warm. It is the 21st century, though, so you have a ton of clothing fabric options that will retain heat when wet. Most of these are the newer synthetics, but there are a couple natural fibers that will also serve. Just, again, NO COTTON!

Think of your clothing as a capsule. The idea is to hold warm air in a bubble around your body while limiting the amount of moisture against your skin. If you can do that, even if you’re wet, you will stay warm.

Take a good look at the weather (both current and forecasted). The clothes you pick for that day should require no more than three layers, not counting rain gear. Fewer layers mean fewer options for regulating your temperature. More layers means… We all saw A Christmas Story, right? If you can’t put your arms down, how will you double-haul?

Example 1:

OK, so the forecast for the day is a high of 50°F, rain, no sun, and when you wake up at 4:00AM it’s 40°F with heavy fog. Time to lay out your clothes.

Your three layers consist of base, mid, and outer.


Your base should be tight to your body and of a material that will wick moisture away from your skin. This is where those natural fibers really shine: I like both Smartwool and silk. They’re both stretchy, very warm, and comfortable against the skin. There are also many synthetic choices of base layer. These have all the best properties of Smartwool and silk, but they also share one serious flaw: They retain, and maybe even magnify, smell. Just something to keep in mind for that end-of-the-day stop at the local eatery. Whichever you choose, make sure to tuck your shirt into your long underwear when you dress. Skipping this step will mean lost heat every time you bend over.


The mid-layer should be tight but a little less-form fitting than your base. On the upper half, this is the layer on which I like to have a hood. Also, if the day warms, this is often the layer you end up wearing as the outer-most layer, so consider a fabric with some wind stopping ability.


The outer layer is the big warm air reservoir. Patagonia’s Nano jackets and pants come to mind. When you are first trying on this layer at the store, make sure it fits properly over the layers you plan to put underneath. Too tight, you’ll actually squeeze out some of that warm air; too loose and you will get too much air movement, like a drafty house.

Typically, on a day like I’ve described above, I would wear two layers on the bottom (long underwear and my Patagonia Shelled Insulator pants) and three layers on the top (long-sleeve undershirt, medium-weight hoodie, and a synthetic-down jacket). My rain bibs would go under my outer jacket; my rain jacket would top everything. If I was stream fishing, the outer jacket would go inside my waders to avoid it getting soaked if I waded deep. Then my rain Jacket over everything.

Ultimately, what you want is to be able to regulate your temperature by adding or losing layers. With that in mind…

You Do Not Want To Sweat!

Go back and read that line again, it’s important. What is the purpose of sweating? To cool us. If you dress so warmly that you sweat, you will eventually get cold. This is more a concern when stream fishing, where the day often starts with a hike to the river. On these days, you should be almost cold when you start out; you’ll warm as you walk. If you get out of the guide’s truck and feel comfortable standing there at the trailhead, shed a layer or two.

It’s a different story on the boat. Running in an open boat at 35mph creates a 35mph wind. If you are comfortable when the boat is sitting still, the wind chill is going to make you cold once the throttle is wide open. I often find that the best answer to this is just adding my rain jacket over the clothes I’m already wearing. This creates an effective wind block and lets my clothing hold onto the air that my body worked so hard to warm.

As to that raingear… Jacket over bibs or waders. This is the layer that keeps us from getting soaked by cold rain or melting snow. It is also the outer layer of our warm-air bubble. A breathable, waterproof, (Gore-Tex, etc.) fabric keeps the rain off while also letting out the steam made by our working bodies. Nylon and rubberized fabrics do well keeping the water out, but they hold in the steam. Eventually, this will make you wet, which will make you cold.

Forget about staying one hundred percent dry:

I have yet to find any outfit—including a custom-made drysuit—that kept me fully dry. What we want is an outer shell that keeps the great majority of rain or snowmelt out while allowing the bit that does get in to run back out. While the shell is d

oing its job, our inner clothing should wick moisture away from our skin, not hold onto excess water, and fit in a way that allows air to be held and warmed by our metabolism.

It’s The Accessories That Really Make The Outfit:

We’re talking about those little touches here.

Hat. Your head, face, and neck have a large surface area, roughly two square feet, about the same as your back. Would you want to be outside in the cold with your entire back exposed to the elements? No? Then wear a warm hat.

A buff or scarf. In the boat, as I said, you get cold while running. Your neck is a big hole in the top of your upper layer, letting that 35mph wind get in and steal your warm air. A buff or scarf makes an excellent baffle in that hole and can be pulled up over your lower face while running.

Gloves. Can you stand them? If so, wear them. I wear them, but I also buy the best-fitting, fingerless, gloves that I can find. If you’re going to handle a fish, take them off first. The gloves will stay dry, your hands will stay warm, and you won’t pull slime off the fish. This is good for the fish, and for the way your gear bag smells the next time you open it.


Justin was mocking my socks-under-sandals look just the other day.   Side note: My feet, which were in and out of the water all day, were toasty warm. In the winter, I’ll wear rubber boots, but only once it’s miserably cold out and only when guiding. If I’m actually fishing, I’ll still rock the wool socks and sandals, the latter of which will get kicked off once I have a rod in hand. I hate to be cold, but I refuse to bomb a perfect cast only to find I’m standing on my running line. If you do wear rubber boots on the boat, make sure you can kick them off with minimal work. This is a matter of safety. Swimming in rubber boots is, well… let’s just say difficult.

Avoid alcohol:

Alcohol dilates your distal blood vessels, allowing heat loss through your skin. (That being said, once I’m back in the warmth, nothing chases off the inner chill like a glass of Redbreast neat, just in case anyone is thinking of tipping with anything other than cash. Justin, I hear, likes Don Julio.) Leave the beer in the cooler and drink some more water instead. On that note…

Pee When You Feel The Urge:

You’re drinking water, right?  Well then, your kidneys will make pee. If you hold onto it, your body will lose heat into your bladder. Yes, man or (especially, sorry) woman, it is a chilling, difficult, task in cold weather while wearing all that clothing, but after you’re done, you’ll be warmer.


Like undressing a little to urinate, eating will actually make you feel colder (This is due to the food being less than body temperature, compounded by your body’s shunting of blood to your digestive tract to deal with this new load of food.)  but you have to keep the engine fueled up.  If you ate enough for breakfast, intermittent snacks will probably get you through.  I like Clif bars.  High energy, portable, and if you keep them in a mid-layer pocket they’ll be warm and gooey, which makes for a nice treat on a cold day.


This is what happens when you get too cold.  Despite all our preparations, it can happen, and it can be life-threatening.  Know the signs (clumsiness, confusion, slowed breathing, shivering or, worse, cessation of shivering without being warmed) and be willing to call it a day well before things reach this point.  Fishing is awesome, but it’s not worth dying for.

Parting Wisdom:

River or boat, there are a few things you should add to your cold-day gear list. Mostly these come down to safety. I like to have a way to start a fire (You should beach and get out of the boat first, btw.), extra water, extra food, emergency warming blanket, and one more layer than I think I could possibly need. In the boat, I also suggest wearing an auto-inflating Personal Floatation Device (Mustang makes several excellent options.). I wear one even on warm days, but on a cold day, wearing ten pounds of clothing, with ocean temperatures often in the high 40°F’s, life-expectancy in the water can be measured in minutes. A PFD is, literally, a lifesaver in this situation.

Being prepared for a cold day will not only let you get on the water more days, it will make those days safer and much more enjoyable. Winter brings some truly large fish up out of the depths into fly fishing range. It also chases a lot of people off the water, which results in less pressure on those big fish. And when you’re home, showing people the pictures of the netted monsters, you’ll get that question: “You were out on the water today?”

And you won’t be lying when you say, modestly, “Aww, it really wasn’t that cold.”

Renaming October- Fishtober

Renaming October- Fishtober

October is always a bitter sweet month to be a fishermen in Puget Sound.  The fishing is always pretty good out in Puget Sound, but it does not get better than October.  Sure spring is great, summer is fantastic, and Winter has amazing flats fishing… But October… Oh goodness.  Fishing in October is down right perfect (November is pretty sweet as well).  However,  there are a few down sides…  October marks the end of any hope for flip flops and shorts.  It ends any hope of the occasional bikini hatch at the resorts (I hear the comments from the dirty old guys!). No more swimming when we take a break for a snack. All of that aside, it’s perfect fishing, and I suppose what more could we ask for?

October slob

Get To The Point Will Ya!

What makes October perfect for fishing?  Well, I have asked myself this for about 8 years now.  I think after a ton of contemplation I am finally ready to say… It’s complicated.  Cold weather, less bait, concentrated fish, experience.

Chill Pill

Let’s start with Octobers weather, it’s unpredictably predictable.   October will average air temps in the  50’s.  Which means we will see similar air temperatures to sea run cutthroats favorite water water temperatures.   In conclusion there will not be a die off in the feeding throughout the day.  In contrast, July is wonderful, but once the mercury peaks, we are probably done with the best fishing for the day.

October Bend

Fish Snacks

Moving on from weather, is food sources.  October sees a decrease in baitfish from Septembers endless supply of fatty protein. The fish are still fat and happy, and obviously still well fed.  However,  the pickiness you see in late august/early september is completely void in October.  If you are going to be forced to put shoes on to go fishing for the first time of the year, you might as well fish to happy slob fish.

October Is For Concentration

Continuing on down the list… I always say October is the perfect time of year to fish for Sea Run Cutthroat, this is only true if you find them.  Cutthroat concentrate together way more in October-December.  In the summer we do these endless drifts down shorelines fishing every pocket and piece of structure.  When October hits (the first big cold spell) we notice that the fish concentrate more on certain spots.  Will we catch a single fish once in a while if we drift? Sure! Often though, you will find vacant beaches where we fish in the summer. Those fish have moved onto their cold weather holds. However, if you find the pods of feeders, we tend to double up, or have a dozen fish follow the fly in.  This is the time of year we will have a small fish eaten off the line by a larger cutthroat.

October Doctor

Time Served

Last is experience.  When we first started fishing for cutthroat we were stuck to the beach.  We fished the public (and often private) beaches that we knew we could pull a few fish.  The cold weather would come and some of these beaches would be best suited for contemplating life, and others would all of a sudden make you feel like a fishing god.  As we started exploring more, spending more time on the water, and getting off the beach, it became clear how these fish behave, and we started growing opinions on why.   This is a great time of year to pay attention to the successes and failures on the water.  October changes things out there more than any other time of the year.

October is here, we are stoked. To be completely honest, all of the cold months are pretty wonderful.  We will give you the tips on how to take advantage of it soon.