Between my bouts on the mountain streams around Washington, I have also been getting out on the Puget Sound a fair bit trying to chase down some coho salmon. This past week the coho finally started to really push into the Sound and with the early morning marine layer a good number of salmon have been up around the surface slashing on bait. However seeing fish and catch fish are two very different things. Coho are notorious for making anglers wish that they could coax a few more feet out of their casting, no matter how far the angler is cast. I was throwing a good 75 to 85 feet of line, but in their typical fashion most of the coho were feeding 100 to 120 feet off shore. As such after a couple early mornings on the water, three hook ups and zero coho landed was all that I had to show for my time.
So what do I do when the coho bite is off, especially once that marine layer burns off? Hunt down some sea-run cutthroat of course!
Sea-runs are kind of the odd ball of the anadromous world. First they are homebodies, instead of travelling thousands of miles out to sea like steelhead or salmon , they are quite content to remain within 5 or 6 miles of their home stream. Cutthroat in the salt water tend to seek out places that remind them of a river, highly diverse structure and a walking pace current and you are typically looking at good cutthroat habitat. They are also rather near shore oriented, generally cruising in two foot to twelve foot deep water. All of these factors make them a perfect target for fly anglers.
Fishing some ideal cutthroat habitat
So the other morning with a all too rare blue bird morning in on the sound and with the salmon off the bite, me and a couple of friends decided to go try and hunt some of these elusive cutthroat down. Cutthroat fishing on the Sound is always a bit of a cat and mouse game and as things go, there wasn't any sign of a cutthroat at the first spot that we tried. However we continued to search and at the next spot that we went to, we finally found them. I was fishing an attractor pattern called that sea-run bugger, that really doesn't look like anything that a right minded cutthroat would want to eat, but yet just about every cutthroat seems hell bent on trying to destroy. Within a handful of casts a beefy 17" cutthroat came across it and tried to do just that. As soon as I set the hook on this fish he was out of the water and in short unison repeated the process three more times. I thought that I finally had him on the ropes after the last jump, but right as I went to bring him to the net the hook popped out, saving me the trouble of taking it out myself.
On my very next cast I only had a chance to make a couple of strips before another cutthroat pummeled my fly. I apparently had a better hookset on this one and after quick but spirited fight I brought the beautiful 15" cutthroat to hand.
Beautiful native sea-run cutthroat in prime condition
Just another look at the fish...
While I we didn't find fish on every cast after that, fishing did stay good for the next hour or so with each of us picking up a could of smaller cutthroat in 10 to 13" range. Then as is typical got the optimum tide window closed and the fish vanished signaling that it was time to call it a day.