“Ah..Ha Moments” Searun Feeding Observations

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Dale Dennis, Dec 26, 2011.

  1. Over the years of chasing searun in the salt I have had many observations that have either puzzled me or opened up doors and given me insights to their feeding habits.
    Aside from the grass shrimp observation that I mentioned in another thread several of these have given me some Ah..Ha moments.

    I’m sure many have witnessed searuns leaping from the waters surface as much as 5 ft. or more I have actually had one land in the boat.
    For years I could only speculate it was some type of feeding behavior but wasn’t sure.

    One August day several years ago I was fishing the beginning of an incoming minus tide next to a deep shelf. On this day there were a fair number of 3-4” bait in the water but I was unable to identify what they were, they were not sand lance.
    While standing and observing a small ball of bait next to my transom out of no where from the bottom shoots a 15” searun through the middle of the bait so high I could have reached out and shook hands, on that day a door had been opened and a light turned on.

    One day while fishing over a rocky shoreline I netted a 15” cutt for my son. As soon as it was in the net it spewed up several half digested 6” rock worms. I know this has been talked about before but this put it into a real perspective for me.

    Another beach that I fish has a fair amount of small perch and sticklebacks 1 ½”-3” and on a few occasions I have witnessed them stressed on the surface some with visible wounds on their body but I have no evidence as to why. In the spring this area also has a fair number of Dolly Varden so this phenomenon still remains for me unanswered.
  2. Dale, about four years ago Roger Stephens and I were fishing for Coastal Cutthroat in the South Sound. We were having a great day. We motored by a small indentation in the shoreline, no more than 50 feet wide. The entire surface was covered with nervous water and every few seconds a Cutthroat rocketed out of the water following a shower of bait fish which we determined where Chum Fry. We were equipped with Chum Babies and soon had fifteen or more minutes of constant hookups. The show that these Cutthroat were putting on was so amazing that we both put down our fly rods and simply watched the carnage. It was a feeding frenzy that I will never forget but hope to repeat this spring. Roger, that is your cue to pull out your Journal and pick the target date for our outing. I am going to be tying some Puget Sound Sliders in Chum Fry colors so that we can try to repeat our epic day with topwater action.
  3. I have seen the water full of sea worms and then watched Searuns leaping as they dined on them
    I have seen them do that with bait fish as well
  4. I spent the early part of winter into spring chasing SRC with surface poppers. This was admittedly not the best winter technique on the Central Sound beaches I was fishing, but I was determined. I was able to find a fish and get a follow almost every outing, but rarely a strike. Finally I re-read Lelands notes in Les's book and went and talked to him at Orvis. His advice was to continue the retrieve and even pick up the pace after you see a fish. I had been stopping the fly dead, or slowing down, thinking I was letting the fish catch up.

    I finally got my brain to accept this advice, and started stripping faster after a follow. The cutt followed and I started stripping like a maniac... the fish turned and came back, 3-4 times before finally giving up. Several times it actually passed the fly to strike from the side, making my fly look like it was standing still. I was so excited I cast like a maniac for the next half hour without even changing the angle between casts. It finally clicked, "I am not going to out run a feeding cutthroat............and strip set you moron."
  5. Double D -
    Anotehr good topic!

    While I find bull trout (aka Dolly Varden) finding on shiner perch fairly frequently larger cutthroat will also take advantage of the beefy meal the shiner perch provide. Have observed that both the bull trout and cutthroat are pretty specific about what conditions will target them. I typically find that as a strong tidal current trap the shiner perch along the beach there can be a short feeding frenzy. Look for a current line during a strong ebbying or flooding tide with in a couple feet of the beach in 6 to 18 inches of water. Have had the best success of getting to the diesire location before the strong current push and as the activity begins make short down current cast within a couple of feet of shore. While the fish are targetting shiner perch any baitfish pattern seems to produce (unless the fish are heavily fished) . As mentioned while this is mostly a bull trout game it is no uncommon for the best cutthroat of the tide to come on that short (30 minute) shiner perch bite.

    Look for the shiner perch to move into the shallows from deep water in late May and June (at which time the trout will target the samller perch). Shiner perch give birth to live young (6 to 20 full formed perch) in July and August. Those young are in the 1 to 1.5 size range at birth.

    The three spine sticklebacks are prime cutthroat food. They are pretty common in eastuary/brackish watrer areas. Look for the cutthroat to target them as the stickleback are flushed from tidal channels and pocket estuaries. Sticklebacks are also summer spawners with most of the spawners dying after spawning. Those dying/struggling are easy forage for the cutthroat. Look for the cutthroat targeting those dying sticklebacks in tidal eddies downstream of those pocket estuaries and channels. BTW - Those large Lake Washington cutthroat regualrly take advance of the summer sticklebacks die-off.

    Steve -
    I agree it can be great fun when the cutts are targeting chum fry or in even years pink fry. Here in the north sound area on the tidal portions of the rivers and near-by beaches it can be pretty exciting as the cuttrhoat slash at the pods of fry that are being pushed along by strong currents (usually on out going tide). The cutthroat (as well as bull trout) will position themselves along beach in a couple feed of water. Those fish will reveal themsleves as the migrating school of fry are pushed along by the current - pretty common to see several groups of cutthroat working the fry along a beach. OUtside of the strong current push the fry typcially move into the shallows to feed. Look for the chum fry to hit the beches in April and May with pink fry a month or so earlier. An aside is that in the rivers the pink fry tend to migrate at night that habit seems to continue (at least for a time). Look to target the cutthroat feeding on those migrating schools of pink fry on a strong ebb tide early in the morning or late evening.

    Tight lines
  6. Steve:

    Just went through my fishing journal for the last 10 years and the "magic" date for the outing is the first week in April during a big mid-day ebb tide;). The fishing location will be about 4 miles west of Yellow Sign which you know well when putting on fishing "clinics" while I just sit there sucking my thumb watching you land fish after fish:beathead:. I will only take you to the above fishing location if you give me some of your Chum Fry Slider patterns to use as I don't want to be "schooled" again by you:D!

  7. Roger, it's a deal. I will have my new GoPro and we can take some video for the FFF presentation.
  8. Interesting post, very good info from some seasoned anglers. Those new to this fishery, should take notes and remember post like this to shorten the curve.
  9. I've seen this same behavior and after comparing notes with others I have found that the Cutts attack and attempt to stun the baitfish and then they go back and clean up. I've talked with Leland and as I recall, he told me that the reason he strips faster is to give the impression that the baitfish is trying to outswim the Cutt, in essence. I trust his expertise and have tied a bunch of poppers but I haven't taken the time to switch to a floating line and popper. In another post I described an outing for cutts where my reel was damaged. That was the day I was serious about trying the poppers but the damaged reel had the floating line so rather that switch the line over, I stuck with the other, less damaged reel and fished sub-surface. I'm hoping to get out this nweek to try the poppers.

    I've also seen the cutts chasing the shiner perch. Sometimes I wander down to the pier in Dash Pt and when the water is clear and sun is right, you can see sub-surface and watch the cutts come up from the bottom after the small fish. Same routine but it happens only at certain times of the year. Unlike Roger, I don't keep a journal. Lazy I guess. Just another thing I need to get around to.
  10. Dale,
    What are you referring to as "rock worms"? Doug Rose was telling me that he had recently read a study on saltwater cutthroat feeding patterns indicating that polychaete worms (pile worms) figured largely in the diets of some cutthroat. Another item on the menu that rather surprised me was clam necks!

    Roger S.,
    Why don't you post a picture of your pile worm pattern?
  11. View attachment 46733 View attachment 46734
    I did a wole swap on this with some really nice patterns i caught on of my largest sea runs ever on this flat wing worm pattern

    One of the "historic classics" I use is a historic clam fly worm pattern from Denmark they use for Sea Trout and Salmon over there called the Omoe Brush
  12. I know there have been a few discussions on how cutthroat take a fly when they strike. I don't really know the answer and sometimes one wonders while getting strikes, short bumps, or whatever and maybe not connecting right away. I did have an interesting observation this last Spring while watching some cutthroat off a bridge on the edge of an estuary. It looked like they were feeding on small perch. Anyway, I'm watching about a 16" cutt suddenly grab one nice sized fish. The cutt struck the baitfish perfectly "crossways" in it's mouth. It was a good sized fish and the cutt could not swallow it right away. It dashed about with the baitfish crossways in it's mouth then finally swallowed it. It made me wonder about the "angle of attack" on our flies. Obviously this cutt just "smacked" the baitfish from the side. I have no doubt they attack from all other directions as well. It sure was a kick to watch tho.
  13. Great observations by all particularly the perch observations.

    Speed of the retrieve can be a make or break day, when I have newcomers to the sport I always stress the importance of the speed of the retrieve, “if you think you’re stripping fast enough, strip faster” although this in not in concrete.
    Another factor that comes into play for those who fish from a boat and I think Steve and Roger would agree, “do not take the fly out of the water until you see what’s behind it” depending on the day up to 50% percent of the hook ups will be short lined at the boat.

    Steve/Roger - Moments like you have described are rare, that had to be a jaw dropping moment good luck this spring.

    Curt - Great insight on stickle backs and shiner perch your knowledge of our searun is commendable. I had always suspected them being an important food source because of their estuary behavior.

    Preston – My reference to rock worms is the pile worm variety. As a kid (very, very long ago) I spent a lot of time exploring the beaches of Puget Sound and I would find the green pile worms (probably another species) under rocks and use them as bait. One of the beaches I fish here in the north sound is covered with rocks and this is where we have witnessed this activity.
  14. Preston:

    Here is a thread about a articulated tube pile worm pattern that maybe helpful. It has a couple of pictures and minimum tying instructions. http:www.washingtonflyfishing.com/board/showthread.php?62596-sea-run

    Below are a couple of pictures of reddish/brown and olive colors for the articulated tube pile worm pattern. One advantage for tying the pattern as a tube pattern is that middle segments can be added or substracted to be able to shorten or lengthen the pattern. If anyone wants tying instructions send me a PM with your e-mail address or if there is enough interest I'll post a write-up on the Fly Tying Forum in the next couple of days.

  15. Roger,
    Interesting and realistic tie, I am curious to know the success of this type of pattern and how you fish it?
  16. Dale:

    I usually use the pattern with a 10 mm pearl sequin angled off to one side in the front of tube. The picture of the reddish/brown pattern shows the sequin in front. Using a sequin gives the pattern crazy, wigglely, gyrations. Since I prefer to use top water patterns, I will use the articulated pile pattern after sea-run cutthroat stop striking a top water pattern. I have had excellent success using the pattern as the fish usually hit it pretty aggressively. I use a short twitch retrieve and a short pause particularly when retrieving up current. When I am casting at a 45 degree angle to tidal current, I will use a very short twitch retrieve but use a longer pause so the pattern will not get moving too quickly. Even though I am using a full sinking line when fishing this pattern, I try to throw in a couple of quick up current line mends just as the fly hits the water to try to slow the pattern down on the swing.

  17. Thanks for sharing Roger, the food source in the salt is vast and changes in feeding behavior can change several times in an outing not to mention location. This is just one more to consider in my coastal arsnel.
  18. Roger great tie !

    here is the Omoe Brush a clam worm pattern from Denmark they use on sea run trout
    View attachment 46758 View attachment 46757

    here's one I watched get eaten by a big Sea Run as it drifted in the current
    View attachment 46759 View attachment 46767 View attachment 46768 View attachment 46769
    and a little fella I picked up eating them
    I noticed alot of worms in the water and that they moved up and down in the water collum as they wriggled sideways had several takes on the surface
  19. Dryflylarry,
    Interesting observation; over the years I've noticed, when fishing the Miyawaki Beach Popper, that many of the strikes (by both sea-run cutthroat and salmon) seem to come directly from the side. When a strike is missed and the fish hasn't been spooked it will often strike again from the other side. It sometimes happens several times in rapid succession; bam-bam-bam.
  20. True. Over the years, the searun follows and strikes from the rear are usually "onesies" and the strikes from the sides are mostly positive. The "pounces," like a cat on a toy mouse, are the most entertaining.


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