2014 Saltwater Report (Pic heavy)

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
Rather than posting a bunch of individual reports throughout the summer I decided Id throw together something of a year in review. I fished a ton over the past 6 months, and it wasnt too feasible to post report after report. I had an awful lot of fun, caught a lot of fish, and fished with some GREAT people. I hope my pics and words will do the year justice.

First off I want to give a huge thanks to everyone on the forum who I fished with and shared info with. The list is long this year....Stonefish, Dimebrite, Mtskibum, Josh Smestad, Sciguy, Bagman, Emmcauley, DryflyLarry, Rob Ast, Ira, Chris Bellows, Alexander, Adrian, Ian..... The list goes on Im sure. I fished with old friends, and made some great new friends. Building a strong network of friends to share intel with is such a huge tool when it comes to saltwater fishing. There wasnt many reports on the salt forum, but there was a ton of info shared via pm and text message.

The main start to my saltwater season started May 1st when Puget Sound ling cod season opened up. After buying a boat the previous year ling cod had been on my brain over the winter. The months leading up to the opener found me acquiring a 10 wt setup, tying foot long flies, reading about heavy sinking lines, and researching as much as I could.

The opener came with disaster, as I spun a prop on my main motor as Bagman and I were heading to the fishing grounds. That set me back a few days, but after getting the parts and replacing the prop and hub, we were back out on the water.

I think I managed about 8 trips out on the sound to try for lings. Not every trip was fly fishing, and most trips were fairly short...fishing thru slack tides. In those 8 trips I managed to catch (1) 32" ling, 3 undersized lings, and lost/missed a few, and caught a few rockfish. Not exactly hot and heavy fishing, but hot horrible for my first attempt at this style of fishing.

I learned alot thru those first trips. I learned that slack tide is the prime time to target these fish, both for the ability to get a fly down easier and the lings aggressiveness. I learned that boat control is key, and that finding good structure in Puget Sound is a skill.
I fished the whole season with a Cabelas 10 wt, a Allen Alpha II 9/10 reel, a floating running line and 30' of T17. This setup actually doesnt cast too badly, and the T17 will get DOWN.

Around the middle of May, Halibut season opened at Neah Bay. My brother flew in from Kansas, and along with our best friend we headed to Neah for the Thursday opener. This trip would mark many first for me.... first time fishing Neah Bay, first time halibut fishing, first time fishing with my brother since we were kids. I didnt do much fly fishing on this trip, as I was more interested in learning the area, putting some meat in the freezer, and showing my brother a good time. This trip turned into quite the adventure. We ran all over the place, as far south as Umatilla. I enjoyed learning the capabilities of my boat in the ocean, and learned alot of little things about boat control. We drank a lot of beer, had a lot of laughs, and caught a few fish. We fumbled our way thru landing some lings, some rockfish, and on the last day managed to put 2 halibut in the boat. 25 lbs and 37 lbs. For 3 guys on a first time adventure, we were pretty happy. I even managed to bust out the fly rod one calm afternoon and caught a small handful of 18-22" lings.

After that trip I made several other trips to Neah Bay targetting lings, rockfish, and salmon.... Most of these trips were fly fishing oriented with little bits of gear fishing here and there.

Bagman and I made a day trip where we caught a couple lings, a bunch of rockfish, and a couple big fat cabezon. Ira and I made a day trip as well where we caught some small kings, a few silvers, and some rockfish.
Then I was lucky enough to spend 3 days fishing with Chris Bellows and Ira in August, targeting silvers. We fished hard for the first 2 days, with no salmon to show for our efforts. We just couldn't find any concentrations of fish, and the heavy fog kept us from venturing far off shore without radar. Luckily the rockfish were extremely plentiful, so we were not disappointed. We had a blast catching fat, strong rockfish cast after cast. Ira rigged up his floating line, indicator, and patented balanced clouser and caught fish after fish off the bow. Chris decided to tie on a popper, and proceeded to raise rockfish right to the surface no problem. What a show!
On our last day Chris arranged a buddy boat for us to follow offshore. This boat had radar, so we ran out to Swiftsure bank. The fog made locating fish difficult, but we caught fish off and on all day. By Chris' standards, fishing was slow. Coming from a Puget Sound beach anglers perspective, fishing was great! I learned so much from Chris over those three days that I feel it completely changed the rest of my season. Highlight of that trip was Chris hooking and eventually landing a beautiful king on his first "cast" upon arriving at Swiftsure. Even the fish checkers back at the dock were impressed with that one!

After that trip I was lucky enough to squeeze in another 2 day trip to Neah with Mtskibum Matt, and his father in law from Montana. We went in early September, hoping to find some silvers still hanging around, but were unsuccessful in that department. We did have an absolute blast catching big rockfish on flies, as well as getting our asses handed to us by some big lings. We had seal lions attacking our fish at the boat, had whales nearby several times, and had amazing weather. I think it was a great first time to Neah Bay for Matts out of town visitor.

That turned out to be my last trip to Neah for the year. I managed to squeeze in a handful of day trips down to Westport where I experienced some fantastic gear fishing for kings and silvers, as well as got great bar crossing experience. My boat is a little older 19' Arima with older 2 stroke power that I bought at the end of last summer. This being my first season fishing it, it really blew me away with what a capable little boat it is. I had her out in some awfully big water and never once felt that I was in danger. I crossed the Westport bar a handful of times, including one poorly timed crossing near max ebb that was pretty gnly, but the little Arima just took it no problem. It fly fishes 2 guys extremely well, with a third fly fisherman an option when calm. I know most folks dont think of Arima as a fly fishing platform, but IMO it works pretty damn well.

Once July 1st came around, and with it the area 9 opener, I started to mix in beach fishing between boat outings. As much as I loved spending time in the boat, beach fishing for silvers is what I was really looking forward to all winter. I had tied a ton of flies in preparation, and fished the beach more than I ever have in the past.
This was a very weird season for silvers in the sound. It seemed early on that there was just no resident fish around to keep us occupied until the ocean fish started showing. Thru the month of July I caught exactly 1 silver, fishing at least 20 days out of the month. I did manage to hook and lose 2 kings during that time, which was pretty awesome. The first one I fought for several minutes, got his initial run slowed, and thought I had a chance but in the end it got so far out I just couldnt keep good tension and the hook slipped. The second king I hooked simply freight trained me. It was a thrilling 5 seconds, but I never stood a chance.

August came and fishing improved a bit, but it was still pretty slow overall. I caught fish, but man I had to work for them. I fished hard thru the month. Shortly after my birthday in the middle of the month I landed a gorgeous 9 lb buck that was my biggest beach caught fish to that point. That fish was made even sweeter by the fact that Ira had had met me on the beach that morning.
I was having decent success thru the month, but not as much as I had hoped. It also seemed that everyone else was in the same boat. Fishing just seemed slow all over the sound. I was receiving daily reports from buddies and it was slow slow slow. I was catching fish, but mostly just random fish. You know, mid tide, mid morning....nothing going on and then boom, hookup. I fished some great water thru some great tides, but the bulk of my fish were just random. The fish I was hooking were taking with lots of aggression, and I didnt seem to be missing that many fish.

September came and I had high hopes, but unfortunately the fishing stayed about the same. I fished just as hard, caught some fish, but nothing spectacular. The highlight of the month was a 28"x17 1/2" pig that I landed one afternoon while solo on a beach fishing thru high tide.

September was gone in a flash, and before I knew it October arrived. More and more Im starting to put Oct. at the top of my list as favorite months to fish, and this year didnt disappoint. By this point I had heard every theory imaginable to account for the slow fishing. Warm off shore water, netting, fish running deep, fish getting smarter etc.... Were all commonly heard on the beach. My personal thoughts are that the warm off shore water had alot to do with it, but Im no scientist.
What I do know is that October was a great month in area 9. I had some great fishing, and crowds were minimal. Lots of other stuff going on in October disperses the crowds, and most days I was either solo on the beach, or with buddies.
I had many good days this month, but the highlight was a beast of a fish that measurements put at just shy of 12 lbs. Add that to the 6-7 lb fish I had already landed, and the 2 other fish I lost, and it makes for a dandy morning. The fact that my new friend Eric was there with me made it that much more enjoyable.

When it was all said and done, Oct was my best month on the beach I think. After the slow start it was nice to finish strong. My last fish to the beach came on Oct 21st, but I hooked and lost fish clear up to the 28th. It was great having action so late into the month!

Overall it was a fantastic season, even though the fishing was tough in the sound. I started keeping a journal at the start of the season, but my laptop crashed after a while so I lost that. Near the end of the season I got a new smartphone and started a fishing log on there. Eric showed me how he did a journal on his Iphone, so I copied his method. Downloaded a journal app, and update each fishing trip with critical info such as weather, tides, fish hooked, observations etc. I include a pic of that days tide chart for future reference.
All said and done I put 26 beach caught silvers on my card this year. I released a handful more, and lost/missed I dont know how many. Considering how tough of a season it was Im pretty happy with my results. My second best season numbers wise, but if I was to average out hours per fish it would not be great. I fished probably 5 days a week average since July 1.

I didnt change much technique wise this year. I fished a pink over white clouser 95% of my time on the beach. I truly believe color doesnt matter most of the time. I believe in sticking to what I have confidence in, and fishing it hard. More than anything else, time on the beach is what puts fish on the beach.
I did do much work on my strip set, and I finally feel I have gotten to the point where strip setting is my natural reaction. It has taken a long time, but trout setting no longer seems my natural response when I get a take when Im half asleep. In fact, I believe I caught several fish this year that I would have flat out missed in the past. I also didnt lose anywhere near as many fish once hooked, which I attribute to improved strip setting. The later the season went, the lighter the takes were, and the strip set became even more important.

I fished almost the entire season again with my Link 890 and Rise reel, but just a couple weeks ago splurged and added a Sage Salt 890 and Nautilus CCF X2 reel. What a sweet setup! I urge anyone in the market for a new beach stick to check out the Salt. It feels like it was custom made to throw an Outbound short, which is my line of choice for beach fishing. I fished an intermediate the whole season, but I do plan to add a Type 3 to the arsenal for a few applications next year.

In the end it has been a fantastic year fishing the salt. I made so many great memories its hard to pick a favorite. Seeing Eric land his first silver is right up there, as was watching Chris land his big king. My first ling on the fly is a memory Ill never forget, and the excitement I felt after beaching my biggest silver was amazing. I consider myself very lucky to be able to fish so much, and to be able to fish with so many awesome people. The fish are great, but its all the guys I fished with that truly made the season special.

Im hoping to squeeze in some chum fishing, and maybe a blackmouth trip or two before the end of the year. Looking ahead to 2015 I am hoping to spend some time focused on learning src in the sound, spend every August day possible at Neah Bay, and focus much more on lingcod, halibut and rockfish. I truly cant say enough about how much fun rockfish are on the fly. Its hard to beat a STRONG, (these fish will take a 10 wt to the cork no problem) saltwater fish willing to gobble flies on almost every cast.
I have recently added a 12 wt setup that Im stringing with T20 to try for a halibut on the fly next year.

Anyway....on to the pics!




Ethan got out and spent a lot of time on the boat this summer

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Random Neah Bay scenery

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Chis hooked up...Ira not far behind

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Chris' king

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Matt puttin the wood to a rockfish

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I even managed a few


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Whales

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Lazy seagull we encountered in the straights

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Bagman

Active Member
It was a slow start, but you really did well. It was nice to be able to fish with you as much as I did. Learn a lot from those times.
 

mtskibum16

Active Member
Good times buddy! Can't wait to do it all again next year! Oh, but you forgot the FIL's king hookup on his first couple casts on the first day out at Neah! The only adult salmon hooked on our trip! ha Beginners luck is strong with that one!

Obviously the season is full of great memories, but I must say that my top two are as follows: Our AMAZING trip to NB being the primary. I really appreciate you taking me and my FIL come along. I can guarantee he'll never forget that trip! Those rockfish (and lings) are just SO much fun especially coming from beach fishing PS where the fish can be few and far betweeen. The second is my last day beach fishing for silvers, sole soul on the beach, where I went 3 for 3 two of which being my biggest of the season and one my biggest ever easily over 10 lbs. It was a gorgeous wild fish that I was compelled to let swim away, so I got no measurements or weight.
 

emmccauley

Active Member
Nick Clayton ROCKS!!!!!!! I love fishing with you Nick and I appreciate all I've learned from you about saltwater fishing over the last couple of years.
+1 on what Ira says.
Seeing you beach that 12 # silver was definitely one of the top highlights of my season. Nice new avatar picture by the way!
You have been a tremendous resource for me Nick and "thank you" just isnt enough. You are an awesome friend and fishing buddy and look forward to many more outings in the years to come.
 

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