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

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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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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The Best Of Summer

 

morning boat

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 than standing on the casting deck on Hood Canal.

Jacobfish

With the sun high and water clear there comes some very unique issues in pursuing fish. The sea trout seem to vacate our winter wading beaches and they find shelter in the spots less frequented by the stick waving predators of the northwest. There are some things to think about that might help you find success on the sunny days of summer!

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.

angryfish

One 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 mornings to stay in coolest water for the longest amount of time. As the sun rises we move to the deeper parts of the water column and focus on drop offs to provide shelter. It is easy to do this out of our boat, however when fishing the beach sometimes this is easier accomplished by fishing in bays with good tidal flow rather than the open water.

jimshadyfish

The last method for dealing with high sun is fishing the current line. When the sun is high, the bait tends to ball up or find shelter in the broken water along the current seams. The current brings in cooler water and provides some riffles to break up the sun. The fish use this current to hunt for bait and keep nice and cool on a warm day.

Carsonfish

I hope these few pointers will help you find success in the next few months of beautiful northwest summer!

Match The Hatch

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Sea Run Cutthroat in Puget Sound and Hood Canal feed on many different bait fish. Right now we have a aquarium of bait in Hood Canal. Chum fry are spilling everywhere still From about Hoodsport north we are still seeing giant swarms of chum fry. We have Sandlance swarming in and out of the more developed eel grass beds, herring bait balls are as large as the eye can see in the more northern reaches of the canal, and the perch are starting to spit live babies all over just to further add to the massive buffet of food.

First lets talk a bit about Chum Fry and why these baitfish are so spread out in timing. Hood Canal has a diverse run of Chum Salmon. No I am not going to give up the run timing of each creek, but Hood Canal gets a run of chum fry in the summer (February-April Chum Fry) then again we get a run of chum in the fall (March-May Chum Fry), then we get a run in the early winter (March-June Chum Fry) which means, these fish are pretty accustomed to eating chum as a little snack this time of year.

britamatchthehatch

Brita Fordice

Sandlance are the next stop on the baitfish train. These fish spawn on the sandy beaches along shorelines of Puget Sound and Hood Canal and forage in the nearshore waters in the area, which happens to be the same places Coastal Cutthroat forage. These baitfish make up a big portion of the diet of Sea Run Cutthroat and just about every other predator from kingfishers – some of our local whales. Because these fish are active for most of the year they remain some of our top baitfish patterns.

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Brita Fordice

Surf Smelt spawn at high tide on shaded beaches and seem to be very predictable in their timing. The bulk of the returning adults (two years of age) seem to come into Hood Canal in the late fall and winter months. It does not take many of these adults to fill up a Cutthroat and make them lazy in their attack of flies. However the young surf smelt look like clear chumfry and are a great snack for aggressive Sea runs!

 

The Pacific Herring are a baitfish we have a love/hate relationship with. These baitfish tend to draw the biggest strikes, biggest fish, and most aggressive cutthroat in the water. However it takes one or two to slow the fish down and the schools tend to gorge the entire beach. What we have found is if we can get ahead of the schools a bit and throw a weighted herring fly we can find some serious fish. The trick is simply getting ahead of these huge schools. Two- Three year old Herring start spawning for the first time in the early Spring-early summer in HUGE schools or baitfish. This brings the bait right onto some of our favorite beaches to hunt big cutthroat. We can watch cutthroat literally throwing up herring as they eat our baitfish flies.

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Brita Fordice

Our friend the Party Goblin are the old reliable among all SeaTrout fishermen. The Sculpin is among the most prevalent year round food sources in puget sound. The young sculpin seem to be under almost every big rock in the sound and spread up along just about every beach we can think of. These fish are scavengers in nature however will absolutely crush a lazily stripped fly, so if you end up catching one my advice is “speed up your strip.” The sculpin has spines on its gill plates that prevent the larger ones from being a favorite food source of Cutthroat, however the smaller sculpin seem to be a big hit with Sea Runs of all sizes.

britmthsculpin

Brita Fordice

If aliens existed they would be in the form of polycheate worms… Slowly I am convinced these creatures are trying to invade land and take over our youth… This could be why Missy Elliot was so popular in the 90s. Either way the cutthroat love to feed on these nasty sea worms whenever they present themselves. After full moons we see them washed up on the boat ramps and shorelines after spawning by moonlight and we find that the Sea Trout are throwing up the remains of a moonlit feast. I give polychaetes a hard time, however they have outlived 5 mass extinctions, come in every shape, color, size, and feed just about every species of fish in Puget Sound. Plus some of these worms have a pretty wild sex life. Bundling in giant worm orgies on the surface while being picked off by fish and birds then breaking apart to release their young. Being a great food to cutthroat, and knowing how to party, they quickly become a favorite pattern of most Cutthroat loving anglers.

polychete

Brita Fordice

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Brita Fordice

Words by Captain Justin Waters

Photos from Brita Fordice

Cheeseburger In Paradise

Out in the wilds of Hood Canal we are still seeing plenty of Chum Fry. They are about an inch and a half long, starting to fatten up, and jumping all over the surface. We are still even able to catch some small cutthroat on good ol’ Epoxy Minnows and other chum fry patterns. However, the larger fish have pretty much all transitioned over to the bigger fattier meals. Meaning if you are going to get a big fish to chase a fly down and crush it, you might start thinking of the other baitfish in the water.

epoxy minnow

Hood Canal has literal buffet line of baitfish in the water for the next 6 weeks, and what we find is that representing all of them and none of them at the same time seems to be the most effective fly choice. In other words a fly that might represent the profile of a Sandlance, Smelt, Anchovy can be more effective than say one that is meticulously designed to be a single species of bait. The amount of life in the water right now is unparalleled for the rest of the season, so there are plenty of possibilities for patterns and we find that having confidence in them and keeping them fishing results in the most hook ups.

baitfishloon

Looking in the water from the casting deck can be mind-blowing in May- June.  I took a good friend of mine Mike out on Monday to explore some new water (more on that in the next post) and he asked if he could run the push pole for part of the day. which made me realize that I had only ever cast off the front of the boat maybe 3 times ever. So he got his work out for a while because I was blown away by how much life was in the water, and just wanted to look down and I think I’ve earned the “Bow Hog” status for a few hours. I envy each person that gets on the deck for the next 6 weeks of the giant baitfish migrations.

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The Big One

IMG_0030We all dream of catching the biggest fish of any species.  Wether it is a 40″ Musky, a 200lb Tarpon, or a 20″ Sea Run Cutthroat.  We all want the story of the big one.  Here’s the thing though, in the pursuit of all of these beastly creatures, we have to commit to the cause.

I have been fortunate to guide hundreds and hundreds of people onto a great deal of Sea Run Cutthroat, we have caught quite a few in that 20-22″ range, and a couple that have even been closer to 24″.  However a great deal of those fish were caught because I had those special guys who just said “I want the big one today!” or “I want to go where you want to fish today!” Almost the entirety of those clients were fishing with me for the second or third time and were tired of hearing me tell stories about the epic ones and wanted to see it for themselves.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When pursuing the biggest fish in Puget Sound we need all the pieces of the puzzle to come together.  All big fish need a steady flow of food, so Oyster beds, Eel Grass beds, or Kelp forest, to hold bait need to be coupled with good tidal flow near by.

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The next thing needed to grow big fish is shelter from predation.  This can be in the form of big boulders to hide in, a steep drop off to spook off, or some other form of structure that the fish can use to escape or hide from seals, eagles, or other predators.  A big Sea Run Cutthroat is a lot of protein for Lucy the harbor seal to crunch down on.

Bryant fishing

 

The last consideration we think of when targeting the biggest Sea Run Cutthroat is kind of two fold.  We need the conditions to be right.  We need an area that has a steady turn over of tidal water to keep the temperature nice and cold, this allows cutthroat to continue hunting vigorously year round, and keeps them nice and happy to chase a fly down and eat it.  Also we need a condition in which the fish are not constantly pressured by anglers.  I want to know that the fish we are fishing for are not being harassed and put down by Captain Zander and his clients.  Thats why we don’t mind sending each other business, but we don’t share our GPS coordinates.  Cold, clean, and undisturbed water is paramount to growing fat, happy sea trout.

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These considerations have helped us put the biggest fish in the net for the last 6 years in Puget Sound.  Now let’s go put this to the test!

Captain Justin Waters