April Fly Selection
Sea Run Cutthroat have a unique menu this time of year. Swarms of Chum fry in the shallows, Herring hanging on drop offs, and small sandlance on the Eel grass. It gives an angler a few extra things to explore as they are out looking for Sea Run Cutthroat. When picking/tying your April Fly Selection we have a few considerations to think about.
Chum fry of coarse has to be the main focus due to the shallow water sight fishing that they encourage. Cutthroat porpoising like they are sipping caddis flies on the Missouri river in Montana… Chum fry are an absolute blast. Check out some thoughts on Fly Selection.
Chum Fry Flies
When the schools are small, we like to fish a real accurate chum fry profile like the “Chumbodies Baby”. I like the red egg sack head because it makes my small fly stand out a bit. I also fish this fly steady, but slowly. Keep tight with the fly, but don’t make it run to fast.
If I see thick schools of chum fry, I like to fish epoxy minnows, and really tear through the schools with fast strips and flashy chum fry profiles, if the bait is an inch, I would go a bit bigger, 2-2 1/2″. Why? It just seems to work. I like to pull the fly quite a bit quicker in these situations and try to find the feeding fish. When we have thick schools of bait and not a lot of crashing fish, I tend to think the fish are gorged or just not around, and we need to find them quickly. A good ol’ Epoxy minnow is a great searching pattern.
Now if I see cutthroat crashing chum fry and slurping them down like crazy… The “Frisky Fry” gets tied on the floating line. The small gurgler like head will keep the fly floating and skipping on the surface, but allow the bulk of the fly to skim just under the surface. If the Chumbodies Baby is the technical assault weapon, the Frisky Fry is the Whoopy Cushion “gotcha” of the group. I like to strip this fly just fast enough to make a commotion on the water and wait to see the bucket swirls of fish coming to the surface.
Sandlance are my favorite baitfish for sea run cutthroat. If sandlance was a people food it would be the nacho. Every cutthroat loves a sandlance. April is when we start seeing fish key in on them. Sandlance tend to spend most of their time in April schooled up along the edges of Eel Grass beds, and where a steep beach starts to flatten out. So If you have a steep drop off at the edge of your beach, its probably not the best place to find schools of sandlance. Sandlance are quick swimmers who dive when being chased and like to hide down in the eel grass. Cutthroat gobble these things up like candy bars and fat folks.
Sandlance can actually grow to be a pretty large baitfish. However, in April I tend to flirt with the 2 1/2″ epoxy minnow, or the 3″ Money Maker for most of my sandlance patterns. The epoxy minnows serve me double for when the chum fry are pushed off the shallow water and are hanging on the edges of Eel grass. The Money Maker is my go to fly for 99% of my Sandlance imitations. The baitfish profile cast easy and has a ton of movement in the water. This “Flat Wing” style fly uses a illusion of bulk without creating actual bulk and becoming buoyant. Design along with the tungsten bead allows the fly get right to business fishing from the first strip.
I hide a tungsten bead in almost all of my sandlance patterns, and like to give a three second pause before I start to strip. This gives the fly time to dive like a fleeing baitfish before the retrieve it. Our retrieve stays pretty much the same for these all year long. Short strips, start slow and end fast, don’t pause. If you have been on the casting deck of my boat before you have seen the fish chase them in, and if you have made the mistake of pausing you have seen the fish veer off of your fly and disappear into the depths of Puget Sound.
Herring is a overlooked bait source for Sea Run Cutthroat. I think much of this stems from the folks who write the books on Sea Run Cutthroat tend to be beach anglers. Herring hang on the dropoffs and ledges in Puget Sound, making them hard to reach for most beach anglers on all but the lowest of tides. Cutthroat will target herring when they venture into the shallower bays and when the herring are in big numbers. Typically when we are fishing with Herring flies we are targeting bigger Sea Run Cutthroat trout.
When we are tying Herring flies we need to remember a couple of things. One, these are not narrow baitfish, so we need to provide bulk for the material. Two, these are larger flies, so we need to pick the right hook. Number one you can learn at a fly tying class, and number two I have some pretty strong opinions on. The two hooks I like to tie my Herring flies on are the Tiemco 800s size 6, and the Ahrex NS110 size 4 or 6. The heavy gauge wire will keel the hook well with a bigger profile fly, and the larger gape in the hook will make sure your hookups are well placed in the corner of the mouth.
My herring flies are typically variations of the Money Maker, or traditional Flatwing. Both of these patterns are sparse while keeping a larger profile in the water. April is a great time of year to fish Herring patterns as they ball up near the shorelines. The large cutthroat will leave small chum fry to target the larger nutrient rich Herring. When retrieving the fly, you should be steady with short strips as the bait is pretty tightly balled up. If you pull the fly in quickly you will tend to foul hook bait, or pull the fly out from under the bait balls where the cutthroat are hunting.
April’s A Transition
Overall April is a transition month. The Cutthroat are spreading out from their winter holds. The eelgrass beds are growing back to their summer thickness, and baitfish are moving back into their summer shelter. Your April Fly Selection is all about being prepared for summer style bait balls, or spring chum fry…
April is also all about the All-Waters Spring Clean Up on April 29th! BBQ, Beaches, Fishing, and making Puget Sound great again.