"Same old, same old" for subsurface patterns but top water squid pattern was the "ticket"inches

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Roger Stephens, Apr 22, 2014.

  1. Over the last month the sea-run cutthroat fishing has been pretty good but nothing to get too excited about. I caught a lot of sea-run cutthroat but they all seemed to be 12 to 14 inches "cookie cutter" size with only a few large ones hooked but not landed. Subsurface patterns(clouser minnows and chum fry) worked much better than top water patterns.

    IMHO the sea-un cutthroat fishing this spring has been abnormal. Chum fry outmigration has been late with few sea-run cutthroat seen chasing after them. Large sea-run cutthroat also seemed to be delayed in the re-entry into saltwater.

    Any day I expected large sea-run cutthroat to show up in saltwater. So last Sunday afternoon I decided to fish five excellent walk-in locations from shore rather than going out in my boat. I ended up fishing only three of them since the top water action was so exceptional at the last location.

    Before I talk about the three locations fished, it will be helpful to note the importance of prime tidal current. IMHO recognizing prime tidal current conditions is a major factor to have success fly fishing for sea-run cutthroat on Puget Sound. 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 mph(slow to moderate walking speed) is the "magic" number. If the tidal current is too strong sea-run cutthroat will not "hold" there or will be hugging the bottom which makes it difficult to get a fly pattern down to them. Slow tidal current tends to scatter sea-run cutthroat. Successful steelhead fly fishers have calibrated their eyes to be able to identify prime streamflow that will serve as "holding" water areas. Successful salt water fly fishers for sea-run cutthroat should also calibrate their eyes to recognize prime tidal current(1 1/2 to 2 1/2 mph.)

    At the first spot I fished for about 20 minutes and nothing was going on. So I left. This location fishes best during the first 2 1/2 hours of an ebb tide.

    At the second location(one of the best sea-run cutthroat beaches in Marine Area 13) I have always fished it from my boat. It is often excellent through out ebb tides. In the past I had noticed that it might be possible to climb down a steep slope to get to the beach. Sunday was the day to explore and the climb down and up was no problem. The shoreline consists of large shallow shelf(2 to 5 ft. deep) with a current seam always forming on the down current edge of the shelf with a drop off. I landed a couple good sized sea-run cutthroat(15 to 17 inches) on a top water squid pattern which is shown in up left center above fish in first photo. Fish were caught at the current seam and up the beach on edge of strong tidal current and prime tidal current. I saw only 2 or 3 fish jump or swirl. The sea-run cutthroat were "just" there in locations which you excepted them to be. After about 1/2 hour it was time to move once the fishing slowed down.

    At the third location I have had many excellent days fishing top water patterns. It is a very large shallow flat(2 to 4 ft. deep) that fishes best on the last 3 hours of ebb tides. At the end of the flat there is a current seam and drop off which sea-run cutthroat prefer year after year. The top water action with a squid pattern was outstanding for about 1 hour. Many large sea-run cutthroat(16 to 17 inches) were landed as seen in photos 2 and 3. The fish were absolutely clobbering the top water pattern. There would be a big swirl/slash and the fly line would go tight. Every fish hooked was landed with no LDR's. The hook up ratio was litterally unbelieveable. If a fish took a swipe at the pattern close to 60% were hooked up. It seemed like every few minutes a fish was hooked up. I only saw only a few fish jump or swirl the whole time. The large sea-run cutthroat were "just " there like at the second location. Near the end the end of the ebb tide the tidal current was getting too slow. But I noticed some nice current 300 feet down the beach. Within 2 to 3 casts I was rewarded with the 17 inch sea-run cutthroat in the last photo. As I was swing/retrieving the top water squid pattern, there was a big boil that slightly stung the fish. I kept stripping and a couple of seconds later the fish came back and clobbered the pattern. What a thrill and memorable sea-run cutthroat. With that it was time to call it a day!

    I never did go to the "darkside" and use subsurface patterns. I am glad that I was not tempted! It was the best top water fishing that I have had in awhile. I was using about a 6 inch moderate retrieve most of the time to create a nice v-wake to the top water pattern.

    I sometimes see saltwater fly fishers with their rod tips 2 to 3 feet above the water like I saw on Sunday. IMHO it is best to have the rod tip just above the water or have the rod tip a couple of inches into the water. A better hook set can be made as you have more contact with the line and little/no slack in your line.


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  2. Excellent report and data! I have had a poor year so far but all these great reports keep me interested and hopeful. Alot of solid info and as you said the SRC fishing has been a bit of a weird one, especially for this guy.
    Grats on a great outing, but you have done your homework and it shows!
    Motivating :)
  3. translation? ....... Topwater shore-based action is heating up in MA 13
    Roger Stephens and Nick Clayton like this.
  4. Ban the Topwater Squid before it's too late! IMHO a 60% non-LDR rate is more than the Whulge's cutts can handle.

    Nice report and photos Roger.
  5. That's awesome Roger! That squid pattern had been producing for you for a couple of years now, and it's always in my box, and more often on my line! Looking forward to getting out soon and catching up, it's been a while.

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk
    Roger Stephens likes this.
  6. Nice! I can't say I've had stellar action yet. Two weekends back I had good action, but nothing like you mention and I've never been much of a top water guy in the salt. I've done it, but end up sub surface the majority of the time. I really appreciate your reports.
  7. Many before you have gone to the dark side. The force is strong..... ;)
  8. Inspirational stuff as usual
    Thank you

    Taking my nephews out this Sunday in south sound
    Hope we find ten percent of your success
  9. Roger, thanks for the report. I have fished SRC only 6 times or so and went out last weekend and was excited for what seemed to be a large tide (11 foot swing). I caught one nice cutthroat about 2 hours after high tide and the current became stronger and stronger after that. I thought this would bring even better fishing. However, as the current got stronger and stronger, my river fishing analysis kicked in and I realized it was probably TOO STRONG for SRCs to hold in because they would burn so much energy.

    So, hearing your guidance to try to fish "walking speed" water confirmed my suspicion that a super strong current isn't necessarily great for fishing. Seems so obvious as I write it, but took a bit for me to realize on the water. Now I know!
  10. When I have done well in fast current at an area I fish with large shallow bath tub like depressions, it has been with a led core fast sink tip attached to my intermediate line to get the stuff down fast. It casts like junk but I do it anyway. I end up swinging flies quite effectively and usually I get hit from within those depressions. They are great holding areas and if the SRC are at this beach and the tide is ripping, I know that's where they hold. I has gotten sketchy at times though...with extreme tide changes like that stuff can go wrong quickly... all it takes is unstable footing. :|

  11. You always come up with better titles:)!

    My "gut" feeling, as to why the top water squid pattern was so successful on Sunday, was that the sea-run cutthroat were just hungry/aggressive that day. Some luck was involved since I was there on the right day with the right fly. The top water squid fly might be replacing a slider sand lance pattern as my "go to" top water pattern as I become even more confident in this fly.

    [quote="Eyejuggler, post: 928748, member: 22009"Grats on a great outing, but you have done your homework and it shows![/quote]

    I was able to retire many years ago which has given me much time to do "home work". I am "home schooled" but my "class room" is a boat on Puget Sound;).

  12. Have you, or anyone, ever noticed any selectivity as to fly patterns when fishing top water? I haven't in my fishing, but I haven't done much to put that question to the test either. For much of the year it seems SRC are pretty eager to eat most anything that's skating.
  13. I did some testing of that exact idea over eager cutthroat one time and hooked 12 fish on 12 different topwater patterns. On another outing I tried the same thing and found one pattern really got more attention than any other. So I guess they'll hit anything with a good wake, but there are some days when a specific color or size will illicit more strikes.
  14. I hate not being to amortize the $5 bridge crossing with a few fish. Been the slowest season for me since getting into SRC fishing a few years ago... pretty bad when just seeing some fish becomes the highlight of the day... it will turn around. :)

    Great post Roger!

  15. Steve is a very knowledgeable top water fly fisher and his comments are right on the "money" IMHO.

  16. Roger I have seen injured or dying squid swimming in circles on the surface which prompted me to tie the one on top with a popper head squids.JPG
  17. Something that I discovered while fishing over a number of sea run Cutthroat that were feeding in a riffle along a beach. They were smacking away on the surface just like they might in a river when taking drifting caddis off of the surface, in sharp snaps. We were using baitfish patterns, surface flies like poppers and sliders, muddlers, chum fry etc. Nothing was working. We were presenting each pattern a dozen times or more. I began changing up the flies on every second cast. This caused some consternation in my fishing guest as he was not used to starting and stopping so frequently. He gave me some exasperated glances as we ran through all of the beach flies in my box over about ten minutes of constant casting work, changing flies every two casts. I got out my small stream box and began tying on smaller freshwater trout flies, size #12, two casts, size #14, two casts, size #16 . . . BINGO!!! They began taking a very small dead drifting Parachute Adams, right off of the surface. We caught almost a dozen Cutthroat trout in the next half hour. That really got my attention. Once one of them wanted that fly, all of them wanted that fly. I love those squid flies Roger! http://olympicpeninsulaflyfishing.blogspot.com
  18. Last time I was out I saw the same thing, they were rising to something but nothing I could see. I left scratching my head. What hatches out of the salt? Nada. Way to think out of the box Bob, pretty crazy, but next time I may give it a shot as well! I wonder if they para adams looks like something else in the salt. I've wondered if they are small jelly fish they are eating? I need to bring a seine next time so I can see what's really going on. Or maybe their river instinct hasn't left them yet...who knows. I've only ever had success with dries on the salt water with termite patterns.
  19. This past winter on the canal my fishing partners and I encountered lots of small black bugs flying around. They were very small, about size of which would have been imitated by a Griffith Gnat.
    There are a number of creeks nearby and they must be midges hatching off from them.
    While the fish weren't on them, my buddy who lives on the beach has seen then eating them before.
    Pretty interesting that they would target such a small food source when other larger prey are readily available.

    That is one of the cool things about fishing the salt. Just when you think you've seen it all something else new pops up that you've never seen before.
    Alexander likes this.
  20. Crab megalops?
    Bob Triggs likes this.

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