If there is one thing that I have learned about sea-run cutthroat it is that as soon as I think that I have them figured out, they will go and do something completely out of the ordinary and catch me off guard. This was one of those days.
Since I hadn't fished with Zach since July, he decided to join me on a day of scouting out new beaches in search of cutthroat and possibly some coho salmon. While the tidal conditions weren't too favorable for checking out standard beaches, since it would be high tide most of the day, we decided to concentrate our efforts on some estuaries. We decided to start our day at a local estuary that is rather well known, but that just doesn't seem to get any fishing attention. Usually there is a reason for a publically accessible beach not getting fished, but I thought that this might be an exception to the rule.
I beat Zach to the estuary and upon walking down to the water a school of about 40 coho and another 5 or so pinks swam by about fifteen feet off shore. A very good sign!! I hurried back to the car to grab my rods (6wt & 8wt) and rigged one up with a hot wire comet and the other with a small attractor pattern. Zach arrived not to long after I started fishing and although the salmon would show up in front of us about every 10 minutes or so, we could only get a few fish to even look at our flies and none to bite. Then the cutthroat showed up. I spotted the first cutthroat off to my left about 20 feet away, tossed my fly a few feet in front of him. At first the fly seemed to spook this fish, but then he noticed that it appeared to be edible and charged forward to get his "meal". I set the hook and after a quick battle I brought the little cutthroat to shore.
My little cutthroat
Over the next half hour we got a few more cutthroat including one nice 15" fish that Zach caught, but before long we decided that it was time to go check out the next spot. The second estuary that we fished was a bit more off the beaten path, but unlike the first one the salmon just didn't seem to be around yet and without the salmon the cutthroat didn't want to hang around either. We only spent about an hour at this spot and never once saw any sign of fish so we hit the road to another spot that was just as fish deprived as the second estuary.
A great little fishing spot, just missing the key ingredient... the fish...
Since we had met at the first beach anyways, upon arriving back there decided to check things out again. Walking out to the water we immediately saw a small cutthroat cruising the shallows. After a couple more minutes of scanning the water we spotted several other much larger fish between 15" and 20", all just sitting in one to two feet of water, something that I rarely see sea-run cutthroat do. The prospect of sight fishing to these cutthroat had us running back to the car to grab our fly rods. On his first cast Zach caught one of the smaller cutthroat, but I had bigger fish to fry so I set my sights on the largest cutthroat. This was sight fishing at its best and I tossed my hot wire comet right next to the 20" fish that I had spotted. While my fly landed within a couple feet of the 20" fish, there was also a 17" cutthroat holding behind this fish and he wanted my fly more than larger fish. As soon as the comet hit the water, this cutthroat charged over and inhaled hit. Like most sea-run cutthroat that I have caught, this fish put up an exceptionally fight for its size, making several strong runs and jumping a number of times before coming to the net.
The 17" cutthroat
Zach and I spent the next half hour sight casting to number of cutthroat, although we didn't catch any more as large as the 17"er we did get a number of smaller fish before the fish followed the tide out of the estuary.