This past week I was able to take advantage of some time off to get out on the water with some friends and even get into a few fish while I was at it. Originally I just was supposed to have Wednesday off, so I talked to my buddy Tyler who was already planning on fishing the salt and we made plans to check out a few beaches. As always tides play a big role in success when fishing for sea-run cutthroat and luckily for us there were some pretty decent tides for the day, even if they were going to be a bit on the high side.
The first spot that we hit was on the Puget Sound and although we did see one jumper that came up about five times in the course of a few minutes, he was a little too far out to reach and we weren't able to find any other willing fish. The tide started ebbing off after a couple of hours, so we decided to take the slack period to relocate and headed out to a beach on the Hood Canal. This apparently was a good move.
Tyler had fished this beach a few days prior with some success, but this time it was really turned on as with two casts he managed to catch a fat 15" cutthroat.
Not bad for two casts...
I was using my go to fly an orange sea-run bugger and a few casts after Tyler got his fish, I had a fish chase my fly all of the way in, but couldn't get it to commit. However I made a quick re-cast to where the fish had been and a couple of strips later, blam! Fish on! The fish end up being a nice about 16" cutthroat and gave my 9'6" 6wt S4 a good work out, before coming to hand.
A well conditioned cutthroat that fell to the sea-run bugger
We each caught a few more cutthroat before the wind shifted and brought a bit of bad luck with it, as I watched it shift the angle of my fly line on a back cast and send my dumbbell eyed fly right into the tip of my rod. It was immediately apparent that the tip of my rod was done for as it was hang off to the side at a funny angle. My choices were pretty clear give up fishing during the middle of a cutthroat feeding frenzy or make some quick modifications to my mangled rod and keep fishing. Easy choice! After trimming things down to the closest guide, my now 8'6" rod was back casting again, surprisingly still able to toss about 70 to 80' of line. Three casts after the incident, I got a good tug, set and saw the flash of a big fish at the end of my line. The fish made a few good runs, but was no match for the now much stouter stubble S4 and before long I brought him to the net.
My big cutthroat
There is nothing quite like an 18" sea-run cutthroat to take your mind off of a broken rod! After catching the big cutthroat, we covered the rest of the beach and picked a few more fish, then covered it one more time and picked up a few more before the fishing died off. All told we ended up landing around 15 cutthroat between the two of us, which is a good day by my standards, broken rod or not.
Tyler and I were on our way home, when I got a call that Justin (another one of the shop guys) had booked some guided trips during my next batch of days that I had off and wanted to trade me for the next two days. He also said that Chris was planning on going out to the OP for the next two days, so I jumped on the offer!
4:00AM the next day and Chris and I were already on the road, hoping that make the best of a small window before the next big blast of rain hit. As is my typical luck, we picked much less than ideal conditions for this trip and flows were too low, but with the amount of rain coming in the would likely be to high by the end of the day. We decided that while the flows were still reasonable we would try one of the larger rivers out and see if we couldn't dredge up a fish or two.
Of course the rain had already started when we arrived, but the river still looked low so rigged up a couple of nymphing rigs and got to work. I borrowed one of Chris' switch rods as it makes life a lot easier on bigger water, however my bad luck from the previous day apparently wasn't done with me yet. Apparently the rod had a crack in one of the ferrules, as after about an hour of fishing a mend when bad and that little crack turned into a full on breakage.
A new way to fish the two hander...
Now one rod breaking I can understand, but two rods in two days is a new low for me and lets just say the event though this rod had a defect in it, I felt horrible that my bad luck had put another stick out of commission. Luckily I had my my single hander in the car and after a quick hike back and a re-rig, I was back in business.
Chris working some great looking water
Surprising after hours of ran the river still had its color and the flows had hardly even bumped up. However with the river still low and clear the fish weren't feeling like cooperating and the only signs of steelhead that had seen were one spooked fish and a couple of redds.
A steelhead redd - be careful where you step!
With our lack of success we decided to relocate and try our luck at swinging some flies. I had brought my new 13'3" Winston Spey just in case if we had the opportunity to swing some flies and I was a bit anxious to try it out. I decided to rig up with a marabou prawn pattern that I came up with on a type 6 sink tip and fell in line behind Chris and started casting. I had fished this run last April with my single hander and had felt way undergunned, but with the spey rod in hand, it was a whole new ball game. Utilizing a double spey, casting was effortless and about half way down the run I got surprised by a good tug. However that was all that I got and after throwing a handful of casts back into the spot it was clear that the fish wasn't going to fall for the same trick twice. We worked our way through the rest of the run with out another hit, so we decided to switch flies and give it another pass.
This time I put on a blue and purple GMOAL (Grand Mother of All Leeches), a monstrosity of fur and feathers that could pass for a small bird and started covering the water with it. I was a little below where I had the grab on the first pass, when I got a strong pull and this time got a good hook set on it. It was clear that it was a good sized fish, but other than a little thrashing at the surface it was staying down and doing a lot of tugging. As I got the fish into the shallows it became clear why, as there was a big chrome bull trout on the end of my line.
My first sea-run bull trout!
I know that it is no steelhead but, I have to admit that I was just as excited as if I would have caught a steelhead! I was clear by the coloration of this fish that it was an anadromous fish that had been in the saltwater not long ago. Knocking one more fish off of the list of fish that I need to catch to have caught all of Washington's anadromous salmonids. Heck in my opinion this was such a cool fish that one picture isn't going to do it justice, so here's another one!
A close up of the bull's face
Just as I released the fish Blake who had been fishing the OP for the day (and actually gotten a steelhead) caught up with us and the three of us covered the run until a lack of light forced us off of the water.
Flows allowing the three of us decided to fish together the next day and luckily although the rain had knocked some of the rivers out of shape, there were still some options around. We started the day on another one of the larger drainages but after about an hour the river turned to mud, so we turned our attention to some smaller options. On one of my last trips to the Peninsula, my buddy Jonathan and I had scouted out a few streams, so we decided to check out one of those.
When we arrived at the stream, it was raining pretty good, but the stream looked prefect so it was game on. Blake and Chris took the first pool, while I rushed downstream to one of the super fishy spots that I had found on the previous trip. I had one take down of my indicator in this stretch and felt some resistance when I set, but couldn't tell if it was a fish or something else before it popped free. At a snaggy log jam just downstream, Blake got a good hook up, but the fish had the upper hand and snapped him off before he could pull him out of the jumble of snags.
Blake re-rigging after a run in with a wayward steelhead
We covered a few good pools before Chris declared that it was time for the redbull, as we hadn't caught anything yet. So we all had to have a bit of redbull. Blake was a bit resistant to this idea, but finally gave in and let Chris try out his rod while he took one for the team and had some redbull. Like clockwork the redbull did its thing and Chris made two casts with Blake's 11'6" switch rod and hooked up.
Chris hooked up with a steelhead - note the redbull by his feet...Works everytime!
I would be skeptical of the redbull as a coincidence, but we had all covered this pool prior to cracking the redbull and this is not the first time that I have seen this situation play out. Chris' fish put up a good fight (as can be seen here), but Chris won out after a few minutes. Oh yeah and Chris does not like it when his fish is called a "little dinker" **listen carefully on the video....
Chris' "little dinker" - A nice about 10lb wild buck steelhead!
After Chris got his fish, we continued working our way downstream and I had a good grab that I missed the fish on before the days persistent rain turned into a persistent downpour and the river started rising and turning to mud, so it was time to hightail it.
When it rains it pours! Time to get off the water
By the time that we got back to the car the stream that had been a tea color when we started, had risen about a foot and turned to chocolate milk. However considering that we managed to pull nearly a full day on the water and a steelhead out of a day where just about everything was blown out I won't complain. Even though my luck with rods sucked and the weather sucked, the fishing more than made up for it and while I didn't get any steelhead I'll take native coastal cutthroat and bull trout any day.