Fly fishing for sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound

After reading Chester Allen’s book “Fly Fishing for Sea-Run Cutthroat“, my fishing buddy Doc Reedy bought me a copy, and we took his class on the subject at the Albany Expo. When Chester invited us up for a day of fishing, we jumped at the chance.

In retrospect, I think we were a bit eager, we didn’t see many Chum Salmon fry, and they were quite small – I think our cold weather this winter slowed them down, but the cutthroat we did find were looking for them, and went for the fly aggressively. In another couple weeks it should be in full swing, through May.

It was a rich, different environment to fish, with the salt air, clam beds, birds, etc, and no one other than the occasional group of shellfish workers – all 20 minutes from bustling Olympia. The spring out-migration of chum fry into the salt, by the millions, brings the fry to the shallows, seeking safety, and the opportunistic cutthroat, to line up on seams and rips and wait for dinner. The fish we caught were 10-15 inches, fat and strong, fish to 20″+ are out there.

Stealth is in order when approaching a rocky beach, most littered which clam shells, as while they are aggressive, they are also alert. To avoid injury to the fish, hooks should be barbless, and not too large – size 8-12, and saltwater safe (tinned or stainless).

Finding public access on Puget Sound is initially daunting, most of the 2500 mile coastline is privately owned, and much of the south sound also home to a large shellfish industry, one beachfront property at a time. But by looking for light green patches on the map, and boat landings, roads on the map that end at the water, etc, one can find fish-able water.

You want a beach with rocks on it, the mud flats can be treacherous. The fact that the entire sound is catch and release for cutthroats means there is little fishing pressure, and the shellfish interests support water quality efforts, to the benefit of salmon and cutthroat trout.

The weather was perfect – overcast but not raining (not that the fish mind the rain), and the fishing good. Chester’s book is both an enjoyable read and full of detailed information about a unique fishery.


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