Article Fly Fishing The Salt For Searun Cutthroat Trout

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Greg, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. Greg

    Greg Member

    Dec 31, 1969
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    Gig Harbor, WA, U.S.A.
    Fly Fishing the Salt for Searun Cutthroat Trout
    Article by Greg Tims

    Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout in Puget Sound are all wild fish. In 1998 the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission gave Sea-Run Cutts catch-and-release protection in all Washington marine waters. If you fish for them, please use barbless hooks, don't overplay them to the point of exhaustion and handle the fish as little and as delicately as possible to ensure their safe return to the water. It's a great fishery that's receiving a lot of interest lately and we all need to do our part to keep it that way. The local chapter of the Federation of Fly Fishers continues to lead the efforts to protect this fine fishery as it has over the past years.

    • Sea-Run Cutts spawn in the upper reaches of creeks and streams that drain into Puget Sound
    • Many Cutthroat remain year round in the shallow waters of Puget Sound close (20-50 ft or so) to shorelines and estuaries in the intertidal zone (water between low and high tide).
    • Younger Cutts feed primarily on amphipods, isopods and shrimp.
    • As Cutts mature, small Candlefish (Sandlance), Smelt and Herring become an important part of their diets along with the various shrimp-like creatures.
    • Cutts are opportunistic feeders
    • They actively feed on an incoming tide.
    • Sea-Run Cutts really like fast moving water.
    • They will "hold" to bottom structure. This can be anything from a large rock to a depression in the bottom or even a submerged log to a gravel bar with a drop-off. They also like to "hang" over oyster beds.
    • Most Cutts taken from the salt will be in the 12-18 inch size range with larger ones not that uncommon. As far as I know, the state record Sea-Run Cutt is still 6.0 lbs caught by Bud Johnson somewhere in Carr Inlet back in 1943
    EQUIPMENT: No need to get really fancy here. The rod, reel and line you currently use for trout fishing will be adequate when fishing for Cutts. Keep it simple, functional and thoroughly rinsed with freshwater after a day of fishing the salt. That includes rinsing your line. If your hooks are not "saltwater" hooks, don't return them to your flybox without a thorough fresh water rinsing first or else everything in the box will rust in short order.
    • 5-7 wt rod…most folks I've met use a 6-wt.
    • Appropriate matching reel - no need for a disc drag, but I like having one none-the-less as I use the same gear for Coho throughout the year as well.
    • WF-F or Intermediate Sink-Tip line is all you need. Multi-tip lines (e.g. Rio Versitip) will work well as will shooting head systems. There's a growing trend toward use of a clear intermediate line (e.g. Cortland Clear Camo.)
    • 5-7ft tapered leader with 6# or 8# tippet
    • Neoprene or breathable waders
    • Stripping basket (VERY useful.) I use the one from Orvis and I like it. Some folks make their own from Rubbermaid containers and they work equally well.
    FLIES: Many flies will work on Sea-Run Cutts and there are certainly many fly fishers casting a wide variety to them. You won't need to carry a wide assortment of flies. Again, keep it simple; one from each the following categories that you like to tie and you've got it covered. I've suggested some flies only as a starting point…what works for me may not work for you. Size 6 or 8 is all you should need.
    • Streamer/Baitfish Pattern - I tie these on Tiemco 811S hooks
      • Herring pattern (my personal favorite that is also my favorite Coho fly is a #6 White & Peacock Angel Hair Clouser.)
      • Candlefish pattern (a sparsely tied #8 White & Peacock Angel Hair Clouser with a strand or two of pink in the middle or a Lambuth's Candlefish for me)
    • Shrimp Pattern - my #1 top producing Sea-Run Cutthroat fly is a Pink Krystal Flash Shrimp tied on a #8 Partridge Saltwater Shrimp hook. I use #6 or #8 Gamakatsu SC15 hooks for smaller Euphasid and Amphipod patterns.
    • Topwater attractor such as a Humpy or Stimulator skated on the surface. (I like a #8 Orange Stimulator and usually tie it on #6 Gamakatsu SC15)
    • Estuaries (the part of the mouth of a river where the river's current meets the sea's tide) are always worth exploring for Sea-Run Cutts if you can find access to the beaches that border them.
    • The greater the difference in the height of the tide between low and high, the better the fishing seems to be.
    • I've found Sea-Run Cutts to prefer a rocky bottom to a sandy or muddy bottom.
    • The middle two hours of an incoming tide at daybreak is the absolute best time. Next best would be the middle two hours of an outgoing tide. Fishing at dawn or dusk is far better than high noon.
    • Scrutinize the area at low tide and look for areas where a Cutt might "hold."
    • If you find a rocky beach with oyster shells strewn about in a cove or inlet, chances are you've located a good place to find Searrun Cutts.
    • Casting to tide rips (where moving water meets calm water) is often productive.
    • Fish the "near water" first before wading in.
    LOCATIONS: Essentially anywhere you can get your feet into the South Sound will produce good Sea-Run Cutthroat fishing. The spots I personally fish for Sea-Run Cutts include:
    • Point Fosdick in Gig Harbor near the mouth of Wollochet Bay
    • The beach behind Pearls By The Sea Restaurant at the Purdy Bridge in Purdy
    • The beach at Kopachuck State Park in Gig Harbor
    • Cutts Island State Park off Kopachuk State Park (need a boat to get to it - State Record Searrun Cutt came from somewhere around here.)
    • The beach at Olalla on the Sound (east) side of the bridge (facing Colvoss Passage and Vashon Island.) There's a property rights issue here, so be cautious.
    • Penrose Point State Park on the Key Peninsula near the mouth of Mayo Cove
    • Near Belfair State Park where the Union River dumps in to Lynch Cove
    • Estuary at the mouth of Coulter Creek near the Coulter Creek Hatchery
    • The mouth of Gig Harbor on the beach at the lighthouse at certain times of the year.
    Most other areas I have only anecdotal knowledge of although I have fished several at one time or another.
    FURTHER READING: Several excellent books have been written by authors from the Puget Sound area who have amassed a great deal of knowledge through experience and study. Anyone considering fishing the salt would do well to make the following a permanent part of their reference library:
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2016