Mike’s Fishing Report 12/19/2017

Our good friend Mike Hanford sent in a fishing report from 12/19/2017. I have been on the water the last few days and couldn’t get it up until now! So without further delay, heres Mike’s Fishing Report.

Mike's Fishing Report

Mike’s Fishing Report

“December 19, 2017
There were gale-force winds today. Luckily, in the Sound, there’s always somewhere to get out of the wind…
Despite knowing that, I still wasted my first ninety minutes out on Carr Inlet taking a beating in my small boat. As soon as I launched, I turned away from the shallow oyster bed (which was on a lee shore and where I knew the fish probably were) and bashed into the wind and waves to round the long point to the south, where I fished deep water while navigating foot-tall whitecaps. I spent most of a fishless hour-and- a-half with my fly line wrapped around various boat hardware. Eventually I came to my senses and gave up on that foolishness, letting the wind and tide blow me back around the point and carry me down to the oyster bed.
This particular oyster bed is short, perhaps a hundred yards long, but it does end on a soft point coming off a wide shallow mud flat. There’s a nice long rip current, lots of boulders, all those oyster shells; a cutthroat paradise. It’s just so damn short! The fact that you can float the whole thing in fifteen minutes is probably why I ignored it in the first place.
I spent the rest of the day—only another ninety minutes, unfortunately—floating downwind until I passed the point, then motoring back up to start my drift again. I fished a weighted bucktail flatwing and hooked at least one fish on every drift, including one heady period when I hooked up three casts in a row, although the third time was not on a fish but on a low-flying little grey duck. It was a moment of
pure coincidence; as my cast unrolled, the duck flew in from the right and passed directly beneath my falling fly. Luckily, the hook did not set in skin, but it did end up covered with feathers that I hadn’t added when I tied it the night before. The duck itself gave a single indignant Squawk! When the fly first landed between its shoulder blades but at last sight was still flying, steady and low, speeding off into the
I netted eight or nine fish—a few of those in the “Damn, nice fish,” category—and even the short ones were fat and chunky, well fed. The black sky, wind chop on the surface, and scattered rain had bolstered their confidence. They ate close enough to shore that I’m sure I would have done just as well had I been fishing from the beach. One of them ate in water shallow enough that when it first felt the hook and bolted, its tale sent up a wake of whitewater spray.
It was dark by the time I got back to the ramp. Despite the cold high wind, the rough conditions, the unfortunate duck, and the rain, it was a great evening of fishing.”

Mike is a great writer and one of the best fishermen I know.  Also the only person other than Brita I have ever let run my boat.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Solving The Problem Of Picky Cutthroat

I think we can all agree that Sea Run Cutthroat Trout are aggressive fish.  Although, following that statement, occasionally they do get picky!  On these days you can see the fish, you can watch them sipping like trout on the Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork.  These are the days that make balding men wish they had hair to pull out.  Sea Run Cutthroat tend to smash baitfish pretty regularly, these are the days they just want something else.

  1. Get Stealthy.  The first thing I do when my clients are getting the rejects is add a couple feet to the tippet.  For most days 6-7′ of 2x Rio Fluoroflex is enough. When the fish are following and it’s just not happening, I like to add a couple extra feet of 3x to that.
  2. STOP!  When we know the fish are there, and we are being sneaky with our leaders, and still not getting the takes.  I like to STOP!!! Stop casting for 5 mins. Drink some coffee, watch the water, take in the sights.  Just freaking leave the fish alone!
  3. DEEPER!!   Play with your depth,  I have had full days where the fish would not eat a fly on anything except floaters.  In that same respect I have had whole days when they would not eat a fly more than a few inches off the bottom.  Try playing with the depth, this is our number one problem solver.
  4. Switch It Up!  Perhaps, while you were leaving the fish alone maybe you noticed the juvenile anchovies swimming around.  Or, you noticed the fish were working the shallow points for sculpin or shrimp.  Remember, these fish WANT to eat, so its our job to feed them what they want.  These fish will even find small creel like Amphipods or Isopods occasionally on the menu. 
  5. Move It!  Some times, you have to own the defeat.  Don’t waste a whole day on a pod of fish that are not willing to eat your offering.  I call this “Finding happy fish,” and I think its an important part of fishing.  You know the fish are there, and you can come back and try again after the tide shifts.

picky trout

When the fish are getting picky, these 5 moves keep us in the fish.  I believe it was Albert Einstein that said; “I am not a rocket surgeon, however, we can’t keep trying the same thing over and over again.” Furthermore, if all else fails, I know where you can find the best tequila on the Hood Canal.

Staghorn Sculpin – The Party Goblin

Staghorn Sculpins, Party Goblin, Bull Head, Son of a… Are just a few names for this adventurous little guy.  We need to pay some respect to the “Party Goblin.”

Savage Sculpin

These little jerks ambush bait all over Puget Sound.  They prefer sandy bottoms, but we accidentally hook the larger Party Goblins over all sorts of bottom structure.  Typically, When picking up a sculpin or two, you should think about picking up the pace.  Sculpin are not slow or lazy, but their an ambush predator not a sprinter like a trout.  Sculpins are plentiful and diverse in size all over Puget Sound, making them great prey for Sea Run Cutthroat.

As far as bait goes, I believe sculpin are not Cutthroat trouts favorite. This could be because of their spiny heads, or the fact that they are hard to find in the rocks. However, in the winter, when the bait is scarce and the pickings are slim… The Party Goblin becomes a savory treat for the big Cutthroat trout that need the calories.

Britas Sculpin

Brits Baby BullHead

Tiers Tips:

  • Burry your weight behind the big fat heads
  • Show off those white bellies and big fins
  • Profile is all that matters (be creative)
  • 2″ is about all you need
  • Check out the Fly Men Fishing Company Sculpin Helmet

Bad Picture But Shows The Profile

Winter is here! Take advantage of the Floater!

Like it or not Winter is here in the Pacific Northwest! Days are shorter and wetter, and steelhead are trickling into the rivers.  Chum salmon are all but wrapped up and everything seems to have a squishy texture to it.  Well, that means fly tying and half day season is upon us.

winter topwater

Feeling cabin fever already?! That’s because we live in Washington, and you are not supposed to be cooped up inside.  It’s time to get out the floating line and take advantage of some great top water sea run cutthroat! It’s not worth trying to cram another fly in that sadly full fly box of yours!  With the beautiful views and the great fishing, it’s a shame to waste the winter inside!

This is the best time of year for the floating line!  We can pull out the gurglers and  traditional baitfish patterns this time of year and really do some of the most enjoyable cutthroat fishing of the season! Cruising the shorelines  tossing the floating line this time of year is a blast.  The water is nice and calm, and with a jacket and some active fishing it is a pleasant time of year to catch fish!

Washington State has a ton to offer the year-round fly fishermen, between the winter steelhead and the sea run cutthroat we do not really get a lull in the fishing! If the rivers blow out and your steelhead guide has to cancel, you can just run over to the Hood Canal and never leave the Olympic Peninsula and still get great fishing!  Here are some tips to keep you hooked up this time of year!

  • Current seams- The bait is scarce this time of year, so the current seams are critical to cutthroats hunting plan.
  • Fish The Floating Line! We have great topwater fishing this time of year. When the fish will not commit to coming to the surface, move just below on the same floater!
  •  Make a disturbance. If your fly is moving quick and making a commotion, the fish will find it this time of year. We have the advantage of the fish being aggressive this time of year, so lets have as much fun with that as we can!
  • Keep moving, as you work a stretch of water just keep moving on down, when you find the fish they will let you know!
  • No bad days! Fish hard, keep at it, and make a day of it. This time of year calls for hot coffee, great fishing, followed by a cold beverage to reward your efforts!

Just The Tip- Tipping Your Fishing Guide

I have dreaded writing this out for a while. Tipping your fishing guide keeps coming up in the past 6 months. I assume this is because of a post I made on Washington Fly Fishing.  Here is MY as non bias as possible opinion.

Should you  be tipping your fishing guide?  Well, of coarse this is a complicated answer;  Do you tip your waitress when he/she does a great job?  Did your guide work his butt off for you.  Do you feel like your guide showed you a great time?  Why did the subject even come up?

Look, I will be the first to admit, being a professional fishing guide is the best job in the world! I love every second I spend on the water with you guys. We catch awesome fish and we tell dirty jokes. We often share life stories, and we have a kick ass time every day! What more could I ask for?  Being the best fishing guide possible has been my life’s ambition for as long as I can remember. Hiring guides is a huge bonus for me.  Those two things give me a unique insight on the subject.

First, most of us were not around when the tradition of tipping your guides started.  I have looked on dozens of websites in preparation for writing this, and could not find how the tradition got started.  Research did show that most fishing guides when not tipped, feel they did something to offend their clients.  I can relate to that both an independent guide and a guide who has worked out of a few different lodges and shops.

Tipping your fishing guide should feel good at the end of the day.  If it does not, I personally would prefer you did not do it.  I personally do not factor my tips into my budget for the week, I look at it like a bonus.  I pride myself on my clients coming back to fish with me every year.  Tips are often a way to cover overhead like fuel, lunch, and services for the boat.  If I come in under budget for the week, that is a huge bonus for us, if not that is okay. I would say that 95% of clients do tip, and of the 3% that do not, they rebook on the day of the trip.

Here is how tipping your fishing guide typically goes;  There are three different types of clients when it comes to tipping.  One who talks about the tip from the first step onto the boat,  the other than hands you cash, and then the credit card tipper.  As a guide, we appreciate them all.  The first however makes all fishing guides feel awkward. We are not working for that tip!  Save it for the end of the day. The next guy pays his bill, hands you $50-$100 and tells you “Thank you, I hope to do it again.” This is how all guides like to leave it. The last is the Credit Card tip. This is the main way people pay.  If this is how you tip, make sure you tell your guide before you pay your bill.  The last two ways are the best ways to handle this.

This is the biggest thing with tips.  The best guides in the world can not avoid this. The dreaded skunk day.  Fortunately our fishery here in Puget Sound/Hood Canal does not have many of these… But we have had it, and as a fishing guide, it is the worst.  I would honestly rather be in the clients shoes than in the guides spot on those days, I remember the first time ever, I felt sick, sad, depressed, and rethought my entire life’s ambition.  It is the worst feeling you can possibly be in, and it is way worse to be the guide than the client. I’ve been skunked on $5,000 tarpon trips, $500 trout trips, and yes, here in Hood Canal it’s happened. The fish sometimes win, and as long as your guide puts in the effort, this should not reflect on the guide.  It just happens.

Look, tipping your guide should feel good, or don’t do it.  Just know that it is a tradition, and if you are not going to, let the guide know how you felt about the day. Give a review on their social media page, book another date, and all around be grateful.  Most fishing guides are living their dream on the water, and made serious sacrifices to do their dream job, just knowing their clients appreciate their hard work means a lot.

For The Guide:

Be honest, this is a career famous for lazy, late, unprofessional people. If you are any of the three, you do not deserve your clients bonus at the end of the day. A tip is not required or even expected, it is a act of appreciation for your extra effort.

Here are a few things you can do for your fishing guide as a client:

  • Show up on time! You are only doing yourself wrong by not showing up on time. Weather, Tide, and daylight all factor into the fishing you are about to go on.
  • Be patient with yourself and your guide.  They will judge your skill level as the day gets going and adjust accordingly.
  •  Be polite.  Don’t trash their boat and don’t get trashed on their boat!
  • Write reviews: These matter more and more to fishing guides these days. Word of mouth is still the best way for a guide to get known!
  • Tell people: Tell your friends, neighbors, coworkers, I know alot of guide who are starting out and could use the extra help.  If you notice the guide is fishing one particular company, let that company know what a great time they had with them.
  • DINNER AND A DRINK IS FOR DATES, NOT FISHING GUIDES.  Obviously there are exceptions to all rules. However, by the time they get their boat ready, put it in the water, fish, pulled out, washed down, and ready it for the morning. Thats 10-12 hours. I rarely have a cocktail with my clients anymore, not because I don’t love my clients, but because my kids wont remember my name if I do!



Fall Fishing Is Here!!

Fall fishing has set in this last week!  Crisp mornings have kept the big fish on the shallows waiting for a meal!  The big tides have the bait fish scattered throughout the shorelines like a buffet!  The afternoon winds have the fish looking up for a chance at easy pickings from the surface. October has started off with a series of big hard fighting cutthroat!  Our guess is this fishing will last through the rest of fall!

Fall Swim Up

I can not say enough about the topwater fishing this fall! Gurglers have been our most productive patterns for the last week, landing big fish, with violent takes.  casted into the shallows and dragged off the drop offs we have seen some of the biggest top water fish to date. If you like fast action, super visual takes, and exciting jumps, I’d suggest trying this method out. Our best techniques have been to cast out and pause. Start slow and quickly speed up to a fast retrieve. Make sure you fish these all the way to the boat, because you don’t want to miss a fish on the pick up!

Big Fall Fish

Fishing the baitfish, Our most productive colors right now are out silver, white and teal. or silver white and peacock. Short and strong strips. The name of the game this year is to let the fish know you are there. Make a commotion with the fly. These fish are fattening up as the baitfish is dispersing. Short, violent strips, and make sure you leave that rod tip down and pointed at the fly. Finally, speed up as the fish are chasing, and strip before you set that hook! Flashy flies seem to have the most action this time of year, so when in question, add flash. Chartreuse, Teal, Silver, White, Olive, and Blue all seem to be good highlights right now. November we traditionally add a lot of orange and peach to the mix!

Michael Folded

Come get yourself some action, we have a handful of dates from now till november!

Captain Justin Waters

Sea Run Cutthroat Termite Fishing

I know it does not quite feel like it lately, but summer is winding down into fall.  Fall is a favorite of mine out here on the Hood Canal! Chilly mornings and evenings, strong bi-catch of Coho, and big happy Sea Run Cutthroat make for some exciting days! So, it should be no surprise that I for one, look forward to these days! What marks the true fall season for me is the Termites.

Termite Morning

The purist view of our sport is the image of a trout sipping a bug off the water. In our saltwater environment this is our only great chance to be a traditionalist. To see these vicious predators turn into delicate trout… Or see these vicious predators come up and violently crush a dry fly off the surface. Termite fishing is down right fun!

Termite Fishing

Here are some of the best methods we have found to target this “Hatch”. It important to find the termites in the air, from the water the best areas to search are bays down wind of a wooded point.  Late afternoons seem to be the best time for this, however we have had full days in the past where the fish seem to be looking straight up for these bugs. What makes termite fishing even more fun is that these bugs struggle in the surface film, so twitching them and slowly stripping them works really well. They like movement, therefore adding rubber legs and foam to your flies makes them even more effective.

Termite Fishing

Termite fishing is pure fun, it’s easy, and we love the surface attacks. Furthermore it is a chance to do something completely different with your time on Washington’s saltwater! Tag us in photos of your favorite termite patterns and we will pick a favorite and send you some of ours! @flyfishingjustinwaters or @seafly907 on Instagram.

Captain Justin Waters

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.


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

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


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!