Landing nets... A report and a comment.

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
@mtskibum16 and I were lucky enough to spend the day on the south sound with @bart morrow today.

It was a great day on the water, but not easy fishing for the bulk of the day. The sound was glass calm, which seemed to make the fish extra spooky towards the boat. The first chunk of the day was spent working likely looking cutthroat beaches, while breaking off to chase small pods of coho when we could spot them. The cutthroat beaches weren't producing much, but the coho made for fun sight fishing when we could spot their subtle rises, and slide in within casting range. Matt and I each had hooked a handful of fish when right at low slack we found a bunch of actively feeding fish. We spent the next three hours mostly sight fishing, spotting risers and doing our best to get casts in front of them. We each landed a good number of resident coho, a few blackmouth, and exactly one cutt each during this period. It was fairly fast action fishing, with quick casts needed when the fish would show themselves. It was a hell of a good time.

We each started off fishing intermediate lines but quickly switched to Bart's type 6 lines as the the strong current and drifting boat made it tough to get our flies down. I changed through a small handful of flies before settling on the little epoxy Popsicle stick pattern I posted in the What's In Your Vise thread last week. That fly produced very well for me and I stuck with it the rest of the day. I believe Matt got fish on a larger variety of flies but he was having no trouble getting plenty of willing fish as well.

At the end of the day we ended up near a popular south sound beach, which brings up the topic I wanted to mention here. I don't want this to come off as judgemental, or preachy at all because that is not my intent, but the reality is we witnessed some pretty poor fish handling today.

I got the impression that some of the folks we were seeing were possibly new to beach fishing, and we've all certainly been there, but I would really like to encourage everyone to be honest with themselves and if your fish fighting and fish handling skills aren't super great at this point in your fly fishing career I would like to make the friendly suggestion to carry a decent rubber landing net. This is especially important with the resident coho, as I strongly believe these fish don't do well with any sort of rough handling.

Today we saw several coho played way beyond the point of exhaustion, (Which, to bring up the 5 wt thread is a solid reason for using a bit more powerful of a rod), and then drug up to the rocks in little to no water where they were photographed as they flopped around, handled way more than necessary, and eventually released. On at least two occasions I witnessed fish being released that most definitely were dead/dying.

Now again, not trying to call anyone out or point fingers...We have all been there. I just think it's worth discussing as we can all stand to put some thought into this topic.

My suggestion for those who are new to fly fishing, or new to landing fish on the beach, is to carry a net. This allows fish to be quickly landed in deeper water, photographed if desired, and released with a bare minimum of handling. If you dont want to carry a net for some reason, then the best thing to do is land these fish in knee deep water, grab the leader and pull fish close and then grab hook with hemostats/hook pulling tool etc, and quickly pull the hook. There is just no need to drag them to the rocks, especially if you're new to fighting and landing fish.

I really think it just comes down to being honest with ourselves about our experience level and abilities. I have caught a lot of fish off the beach, and for fish I don't plan to photograph (I like taking fish pics as much as anyone!) I can quickly land and release most fish without a need to handle them. But I also understand being new, without much experience, and the excitement that comes from hooking a fish. I totally get it. But I simply encourage everyone to be honest with themselves... It's perfectly fine to be inexperienced and just starting out, and its perfectly fine to be excited and want to photograph your catch... I just really suggest a landing net be used to minimize handling, and to be able to land the fish away from the rocks.

Along the same topic, I get the impression watching some people that they are fishing 6x tippets the way they gingerly fight these fish off the beach. There is just no reason a 15" coho should take 4-5 minutes to land. I highly suggest using a strong enough leader that you can really put the heat on the fish and land them quickly. These fish are almost never leader shy. Today I was fishing a dark colored type 6 shooting head with 4' of 8 lb Maxima on a stout six weight rod. There was no shyness from the fish even having the fly so close to the dark colored line, and if I had to guess I'd say all our fish were landed in less than 45 seconds. Again, I'm not trying to judge or blame, just thinking it's possible that some newer salt anglers are getting bad info somewhere about the need to fish super light leaders, or are just so used to trout fishing in fresh water that they don't know any better. I truly believe we owe it to the fish to use heavy enough tackle to land and release them quickly.

Again I hope this doesn't come off as preachy. We've all been there, and we all kill some fish now and then no matter how experienced we are and how good our fish fighting/landing/handling skills are. I just believe we should all do our best to minimize the impact when and where we can.
 

rotato

Active Member
Right on Nick
The coho are slowly getting more smart down here
It's all about boat position
Seems like you need to be on the front side of the pods
Casting to the school from behind is not that effective
At least you didn't have wind

That beach has seen more traffic this year than I've seen for 15 years
How many glory shots of a 14 inch coho do you need?
Keep them wet please
 

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
Right on Nick
The coho are slowly getting more smart down here
It's all about boat position
Seems like you need to be on the front side of the pods
Casting to the school from behind is not that effective
At least you didn't have wind

That beach has seen more traffic this year than I've seen for 15 years
How many glory shots of a 14 inch coho do you need?
Keep them wet please


You are spot on here Nate. Boat position and control was crucial yesterday. For most of the day the fish were very spooky, especially on that lake flat water. Positioning the boat, quietly, to where we could get casts ahead of the fish was very productive, but not easy. Experience at the helm pays off big time here, as well as knowing your boat, how it drifts etc.
 

rotato

Active Member
Yeah I miss my riptide electric motor for sneaking up on them, although the Honda is a lot better than the old two stroke.

My best days this winter have been fishing from my canoe or inflatable commander
 

mtskibum16

Active Member
Big shout out and thanks to @bart morrow for not only inviting us along on his boat, but refusing to even fish while he spent the whole day getting us in to fish. It sure was fun to be out on the Sound in a boat again! We had a number of doubles and a Puget Sound Slam each. Nothing really big landed today, but the rezzies are fattening up nicely.
 

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
Big shout out and thanks to @bart morrow for not only inviting us along on his boat, but refusing to even fish while he spent the whole day getting us in to fish. It sure was fun to be out on the Sound in a boat again! We had a number of doubles and a Puget Sound Slam each. Nothing really big landed today, but the rezzies are fattening up nicely.


It was sweet getting doubled with cutthroat and coho at one point, and blackmouth and coho at another. Fun times.
 

Kfish

WFF Supporter
That's a good reminder, and even if you already have a rubber net try to keep the fish in the water as much as you can. A while ago at that popular South Sound Beach I saw this guy in the distance landed a fish, had it in the net, yet he carried it in the air back and forth dicking around for a long time. Who knows what he was doing but that fish was in the air for a long period of time.
Nice report, is that a wooden boat? Any pics of the boat? I'm a sucker for wooden boats.
 

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