Winter is here! Take advantage of the Floater!

Like it or not Winter is here in the Pacific Northwest! Days are shorter and wetter, and steelhead are trickling into the rivers.  Chum salmon are all but wrapped up and everything seems to have a squishy texture to it.  Well, that means fly tying and half day season is upon us.

winter topwater

Feeling cabin fever already?! That’s because we live in Washington, and you are not supposed to be cooped up inside.  It’s time to get out the floating line and take advantage of some great top water sea run cutthroat! It’s not worth trying to cram another fly in that sadly full fly box of yours!  With the beautiful views and the great fishing, it’s a shame to waste the winter inside!

This is the best time of year for the floating line!  We can pull out the gurglers and  traditional baitfish patterns this time of year and really do some of the most enjoyable cutthroat fishing of the season! Cruising the shorelines  tossing the floating line this time of year is a blast.  The water is nice and calm, and with a jacket and some active fishing it is a pleasant time of year to catch fish!

Washington State has a ton to offer the year-round fly fishermen, between the winter steelhead and the sea run cutthroat we do not really get a lull in the fishing! If the rivers blow out and your steelhead guide has to cancel, you can just run over to the Hood Canal and never leave the Olympic Peninsula and still get great fishing!  Here are some tips to keep you hooked up this time of year!

  • Current seams- The bait is scarce this time of year, so the current seams are critical to cutthroats hunting plan.
  • Fish The Floating Line! We have great topwater fishing this time of year. When the fish will not commit to coming to the surface, move just below on the same floater!
  •  Make a disturbance. If your fly is moving quick and making a commotion, the fish will find it this time of year. We have the advantage of the fish being aggressive this time of year, so lets have as much fun with that as we can!
  • Keep moving, as you work a stretch of water just keep moving on down, when you find the fish they will let you know!
  • No bad days! Fish hard, keep at it, and make a day of it. This time of year calls for hot coffee, great fishing, followed by a cold beverage to reward your efforts!

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

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!

 

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?

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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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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.

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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

 

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.

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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.

mikefish