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!

Stella&Cam

 

Fly Choice

Every day on the water the subject comes up;  “Gosh Captain, You are all that is man!”  After a short discussion on wrestling grizzlies, saving small children from fires, and how to street fight an army of ninjas, we pick up and go back to fishing.  However, the other subject that gets brought up often is fly choice.  “What made you pick this fly for this spot.” I tend to have a quite a few different reasons for the flies I choose. So next time you open your fly box, think about these three things.

grey flatwing

Fly Profile:

The number one thing I consider when choosing a fly, is profile.  The profile of the fly as it travels through the water is the first thing cutthroat see.  The way is holds a silhouette, pushes water, and moves all go into this factor.  For the most part, I want the profile to fit multiple baitfish to add versatility.  To do this, I try to fit it somewhere between a herring and a sandlance in size and shape.  I like the fly to move freely in the water like a baitfish as well, so we tie all of our baitfish with a loop knot.

fly choice flatwing

Weight:

Fly choice also comes back to having the right amount of weight.  I almost never choose a baitfish that is unweighted.  Not that I always add a ton of weight, I want just enough that if my clients are slow retrieving the line, the fly will dive between strips a bit. But rarely enough that it will effect the casting of the fly.  I do this with either soft weight added to the shank, or a bead tied into the fly.  When I do add more weight, it is usually in a larger bead hidden in the fly to get the fly to drop a bit more in the summer time.   Clouser style flies are rarely in my arsenal, I don’t care for the profile, and typically the weight factor is not an issue.  

Color:

There are a few things to consider when thinking about color.  If it is super bright we  can go a bit darker and not worry about losing the fly to the light. As the light goes down (early spring, late fall, winter) I tend to fish brighter flies.  In the summer I fish a lot of dark olives, dark grey, and greens.  On the shoulder seasons and winter I fish a lot of chartreuse, light olives, teal, peach and yellows.  The next thing to think about is what all of the baitfish have in common in Puget Sound. All of our baitfish for the most part have a white belly, darker back and silver highlights.  The other details we can add is that most of our baitfish have eyes that stand out. So adding some sort of eye to your fly will finish them off pretty darn well.

These are just a few factors when considering what fly to use when fishing for Sea Run Cutthroat. Our fishery is impossibly diverse and consistently changing every day, so there are tons of other opinions and “right” choices to make. I hope this will help you next time you are thinking about fly choice on puget sound.

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.

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

 

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!

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