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.

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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.

The Best Of Summer

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Brita Fordice

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Brita Fordice

Words by Captain Justin Waters

Photos from Brita Fordice

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

Wilderness

 

I have always been the guy that gets obsessed. I obsess over the details of anything I become passionate about. When I first became obsessed with the idea of becoming a fishing guide I decided I wanted to first become the best casting instructor I could be. If you have come fishing with me in the last 10 years you probably have noticed, I can’t help but point out the little things you can do to become a better caster. It’s because I spent my rent money and moved into a car to take casting lessons from as many instructors as I could. Not because I couldn’t cast (I did get WAY better) but because I wanted to see all of the different ways someone could teach how to cast a fly line.

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My recent obsession has been finding the most wild places to catch sea run cutthroat within the Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Some of the places we found are a bit of a run to some pretty fantastic spots. We left from Alderbrook a couple of days ago and fished some of my favorite pieces of water on the entire Hood Canal. I don’t go to these places every day, you can’t walk here, there are places to catch fish on the way, however when I get the urge to find some wilderness we make the extra run, and these fish NEVER see other flies.

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The first spot we stopped is the Cliff Creek (thats what I call it, not it’s name.) and we found quite a few smaller fish munching on Chum Fry, this was a good first stop to get the skunk off and get in the groove of catching fish. Also a good spot to get the dirty jokes started for the day. The fish were ultra aggressive, we just never found any size here.

Release shot

We then went full on committed to finding big fish, and that is what we did. We lost the first one, it always FEELS like thats the biggest one of the day! However after that we seemed to be on a roll of big solid sea trout! Finding big Sea Run Cutthroat seems to always happen if we commit to the cause, and I couldn’t of asked for a boat of better guys for the job. Thank you guys!Tylerimig2

Successfully Humble.

IMG_4979Being humbled on the water is a benefit that I think is lost to most anglers.  I am constantly humbled by the daily events that happen on the water. Whether it is by a fish refusing my “go to” fly of the day, or the schools of bait not being in the places I think they might be. Not guessing what the weather is going to do correctly, or just down right finding no fish on the first or second stop of the day.

However being humbled is a good thing, it teaches you lessons or reminds you to keep your wits about you on the water. We always get the fish because we are always in search of becoming better fishermen on the water. Learning new tricks, learning more about our local environment. Some times it takes getting your ass kicked to teach us these things. I do believe days on the water where things don’t go as planned and you still manage to have a good time and find a few fish make you a better angler and make you a better person off the water as well.

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Today we were searching Puget Sound for chum fry and we stuck it out at our first spot just searching, very little blind casting for the first hour of the day, we caught a couple smaller fish, but they just were not in the numbers we were expecting. Eventually I said, “well lets give plan B a try.” We motored for about 10 mins south and found some nice fish that were eating sandlance. We spent the better part of the day in this area and had consistent fishing for the rest of the day. I have fished this spot for a couple of years pretty consistently however standing up high searching the structure for signs of movement I noticed a pocket created by the creek mouth that is either new this year or I have never seen in the past, we cast into it and cracked off the biggest cutthroat we have hooked all year. I truly feel it takes a few seasons to really get to know a new piece of water, and getting your butt kicked is a good reason to be looking for alternative ways to attack.

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A humbled angler is a lot more fun to spend the day with than a cocky know it all type guy anyway. So spending some days trying new tricks is not a bad way to spend time on the water.

Puzzle Pieces

Eason7Fishing is all about riding the highs and lows of a day on the water and learning from them. We always hear the old adage “10% of the fisherman catch 90% of the fish.” and I do believe this is true. However I believe most anglers who care to catch on could easily raise the stats.

The edge pieces of the puzzle on any given day in Puget Sound are made up by being observant of the bait in the water. If it is chum fry season like it is now I would recommend targeting the places NORTH of the river mouths that chum fry flow out of. If it is July and the sandlance are all over the edges of the eel grass bed, eel grass might be the structure to fish to! Being observant and slowing down to think about why you are fishing the way you are is the biggest thing that separates the 10% from the 90%.

Efficiency in angling is the second bit of the puzzle. The time we are on the water is precious, making the most of that time is the best way to ensure the most fish end up in your net. This means becoming a better caster, improving your knot tying skills, fishing to the most productive parts of the beach rather than fishing through that mud flat to get to the good water. These are the reasons our clients catch the fish they do. I recommend my guys get casting lessons, if not from me, from some of the great instructors we work with.

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Those last few pieces of the puzzle fall into place as you put the rest of it together, your fly selection gets better because you are now thinking of where the fish are in the water column and how you need to present the fly to them. You are learning how to fish your beaches more efficiently so you are now starting to find where the “sweet spots” are during different tides and finding out that you might need a different line to fish your favorite beach as effectively as you would like.

The best part of this puzzle is it is never ending. When you catch a fish you should always think to yourself “why was that fish in this spot,” “Why did this fish eat so far out? is there a drop off?” Always ask new questions and give yourself new pieces of the puzzle. Eventually these all add up to more fun on the water!Eason5

Fish On!

The last week has been an emotional roller coaster of weather. Proving why you should never waste a beautiful day here in Western Washington.

Brita and I planned on fishing Monday and we left the day open, we woke up early to the nicest day of the year, ran the boat up to the north and got into some nice fish! We saw plenty of wildlife, with porpoise, seals, whales, and a outrageous amount of bald eagles. We do not get to fish together as often as we would like, however when we do we remember why we will never leave our home on Puget Sound.

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Our beach guide Brita Fordice

On Tuesday the weather decided “Remember how you thought it was spring… Wrong!” and we never got out of the foggy mist that the pacific northwest fly fishing is known for. However we caught fish from the time we made our first stop till the end of the day when the wind decided to pick up. Fishing was just fantastic! That Tuesday night the rain started, and Wednesdays clients toughed it out and were rewarded with some nice fish, we didn’t catch the same numbers as Tuesday, however the fish we caught were big, and they were happy! From then on, its been back to the windy rainy spring of doom. It’s supposed to start letting up early next week and we are back on the water then!

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Morning Coffee at Alderbrook

The Chum fry migration has not let up a bit, we are starting to see bigger chum fry and the early bait is starting to move off the bank a bit as they become better swimmers, so we are starting to see the fish spread out down the shorelines. We are also starting to see the birds catching on to the chum fry a bit better this week and they are starting to point out the pods of bait, this means faster run and gun style fishing in the months to come!

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Big North Sound Searun Bulltrout

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Sea Run Cutthroat from under a bait ball of Chum Fry