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
twilight.
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!

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
Sculpin

Bad Picture But Shows The Profile

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

 

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.

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!

cropped-all-waters_logo_colors-07.png

 

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

Processed with VSCOcam with 6 preset

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!

cutthroat1

 

Building a Better Box

Saltwater fly fishing has plenty of things to overly concern yourself with. “Do I need to cast further?” “Is my line getting down far enough?” “Is there any fish on this beach?”. The answers to these questions is “Just cast the best you can.” “Just fish the best you can.” “You will find out soon if you do the previous two things.”

When Brita and I fish we have a running joke, she changes flies, and I almost never change flies. We both catch plenty of fish, we both enjoy our own style of fishing, and we both fish our flies almost completely different from each other. I always tell brita that she has chronic fly changing problems in-between fish. However, I would never tell her to fish any differently because she is enjoying herself, and I want to remain inside of the boat.

Brita casting

One thing you will immediately notice if you look in either of our boxes before a serious week of fishing or guiding is that our boxes are full, and our boxes are fairly well thought out. Even Brita’s chaos is organized chaos. I have my “Topwater Box”, my “A Box” and my “B Box”.

Fly Boxes

My topwater box is my favorite, it’s a old Cliff box full of fun. This is probably the most straight forward box as far as thought. One side is gurglers/popping shrimp, one side has a handful of sliders and injured baitfish, then terrestrials that might fall in the water. I don’t bust this one out as much as I wish I did, however when I do we have a lot of fun with the different ways of targeting fish on the surface. Surface attacks are addicting and this years overcast weather has resulted in some awesome surface saltwater action. Not unlike any addiction, once you open that box, it’s hard to go back.

topwater

My A box is the most used… hints “A Box”. This is a C&F Design saltwater box Brita bought for me from The Avid Angler. This is the baitfish box. This one goes from weighted to unweighted. This is the box that unavoidably ends up in any puddle, stuffed in waders if beach fishing, dropped on the deck of the boat, and falling off the tailgate at boat launches while rigging up. C&F makes the toughest box on the planet, and if you think the knock off fly shop logo ones make up for it, I’ll bet you the price of a new C&F that I will destroy it or the seal will fail within two months of guiding. These are the boxes that have the flatwings, the jungle-cock finish, and polar bear flies. Let’s not fill it with saltwater and hope for the best. www.Avidangler.com call them up and order yourself one. I promise you will never go back.

baitfish box A

The ol’ B-Sides box holds the back ups. The ones that are good enough to fish but don’t make you proud to tie on. It holds the A Box flies of years past. There are levels to fly tying and as you “level up” the flies get moved into this box. This is a larger fly shop knock off box, it doesn’t come out but once or twice a year, however it’s always in the boat bag. Truthfully I carry the B-side box for a few different reasons. 1.) a color combo is working and I run out of the best ones. 2.) I was filling my A box and left it on the tying desk the night before (almost never happens…almost) 3.) The A box somehow goes missing or falls off the boat while running. I have never had this happen but I have heard plenty of sad stories.

Epoxy Minnows

Putting thought into the fly box allows you to quickly get your flies in the water when changing flies or re-rigging a broken leader. My A box is always in my rain gear or on my center console right next to my tippet. The faster you can get the flies back in the water the more fish they will catch. The most efficient fishermen catch the most fish. That means not only covering the best water, but covering the best water quickly, confidently, and moving on to the next section of best water. Every aspect of your set up should be thought out to add to this. We fish out of a boat 99% of the time, meaning we can carry and do carry WAY more flies than we would ever need. These are a few ways that we try to organize our furry chaos.

 

 

Fish Mask

When I have a client that ties flies I always ask them to see their patterns. There is nothing fly tiers love more than catching a fish on a pattern they tied. When they see the rods rigged up with my flies in the morning almost all fly tiers ask about the heads. I tell them Fly Men Fishing Co. Fish Mask makes it quick and easy to make perfect looking epoxy heads every-time. There are a few different things they also allow the tier to do.

FM1.1FM2.1FM3.1FM4.1

1.) Build up a bulky front to add to a baitfish profile. Adding extra material to the front of the fly and pushing it back with the Fish Mask not only fills the mask and makes it look more epoxy like, it also makes the profile of the fly look more full and realistic in the water.

2.)The Fishmask allows you to add weight like a bead behind the eye of the hook and still have a strong platform for your eyes on baitfish. Pushing the fish mask over a bead head wrapped in dubbing hides the weight and adds a nice finished look to any conehead patterns.

3.)Add a cleaner look to any frizzy or overly threaded heads. We have all done it, stopped a little short on the hook shank or got a little greedy adding material to a fly and ended up with a overly dressed or way to many thread wraps on the end of a otherwise great looking fly. The fish mask allows for us to cover up these “oh shit” moments.

 

Fly Men Fishing Company has consistently provided tiers with the most innovative materials in the game of fly tying, and this is probably my favorite of them all. Give them a shot, you can get them at any worthwhile local fly shop or order them direct from Fly Men Fishing Co.