Tips for SRC Newbies (from a Newbie)

East Coaster

Active Member
Hi all. This is my first post – I recently joined, but I have been lurking for 5 years or so. I live in NJ, but get out to the Seattle area about once every year or so, and usually read this forum for the couple of months in advance of a trip. I started to devote one day of each trip to fish the Sound for sea-run cutts, and while it took a couple of tries, I have been pretty consistent in catching fish my last 5 trips (just came back from this year’s trip).

Thanks to all of the knowledgeable people who post here, I learned a lot from reading this forum, as it helped me understand what I was seeing on the beach (pretty much all of my fishing in NJ is for wild trout in small streams). As a way of giving back to the forum, I thought I should summarize a few things that I have found helpful. I think sometimes people who fish the beaches all the time don’t realize that a lot of the things that are second nature to them aren’t that obvious to people just starting out beach fishing. I hope as a relative newbie myself, I can emphasize a few key things that should help out fellow newbies:
  1. It’s been strongly recommended here many times to pick a beach and learn it – I couldn’t agree more. But don’t pick just any beach. Make sure you start out at a place that is known to have cutts most of the year. Ask a friend if they’d be willing to recommend somewhere. If that’s not an option, drive around and look for people fishing and observe. If you see SRCs being caught, you’ll know to go back there and try it yourself.
  2. Once you find your beach, fish it through a complete tide cycle (this might take a couple of outings). As people have posted often, some beaches fish best on incoming, some on outgoing. I’ve found (in my limited experience) that the same beach might fish well on both, but at different parts of the beach. Look for current, and then look for current seams (just like in a river or stream) as those are very likely places for trout to be holding.
  3. Related to this, all tides aren’t the same. I only figured this out by being out and seeing that an hour before ebb on a big tide change can look a lot different than an hour before ebb on a small change (I hadn’t really thought about it before seeing it). So the fish might be in a different spot at that same relative time. Another way of looking at it is they may be in the same spot, but at earlier or later in the cycle. This is very important if you are trying to target seeing the same conditions on a repeat visit – pay attention to the magnitude, not just the time.
  4. Don’t fret about bright sun. If it’s a sunny day, and the tides for your beach would fish best at noon, go fishing! I’ve caught most of my fish in the middle of bright, sunny days. That’s not to say low light wouldn’t be better, but if you’re able to get out, don’t let the amount of light discourage you from making the trip.
  5. Pay attention to what’s going on – as highlighted above, the fish won’t always be in the same place on the beach. Look for splashes, jumping baitfish (they’re not jumping for fun), anything that signals there are feeding fish. Then focus your casts in that area. Seems obvious, but I know that my first couple of times out, I was more intent on covering a lot of water (it seems so vast!) than on spending time to look for the most productive water.
  6. Don’t spend a lot of time changing flies. If it’s the time of year where baitfish are the prevalent prey, pick a baitfish pattern and using the tips above, work it through the most productive-looking spots, varying the retrieve technique (short/long strips, change rhythm, etc.). If it gets no interest, try adding weight. If it still gets no interest, then pick a different baitfish pattern/color and do the same thing. If you’re fishing a beach that gets pounded, then fly selection might be more important, but I’ve limited myself to one bright and one drab subsurface pattern and one light and one dark popper, and it’s worked.

I want to emphasize that all of this is intended for newbies – as you start catching fish, you’ll certainly want to develop and refine your approach to catch more or bigger fish (I can’t help you with that), but the tips above should help you start down the path. My thanks again to all the posters on this forum for sharing their knowledge and experience. I can’t reciprocate but I hope this helps pay it forward. And I hope the experts out there will correct and/or add to this thread, so that it becomes even more useful.
Great post, so not much to add except for also pay attention to the very shallow water to see what is there in terms of baitfish. The omnipresent sculpin is always something to emulate (muddler minnow pattern) if there is no obvious baitfish around (not this time of year as there are plenty around now).

Also, look for current rips as that will concentrate baitfish, create a food conveyor belt for SRCs to stage near, and they will be more apt to hit a fly that is swinging from fast current to slow than one they can inspect quite a bit in the slower water. Also, the SCRs could be anywhere in a location in which there is not much current, making it much harder to get your fly in front of a fish.

Driftless Dan

Driftless Dan
WFF Supporter
First, check out these books:
  • Fly Fishing for Sea-Run Cutthroat by Chester Allen
  • Fly-Fishing for Coastal Cutthroat Trout: Flies, Techniques, Conservation by Les Johnson.
Then search the threads on this forum, as there is a crap-ton of great advice already given, particularly in the saltwater section. There you'll find information about time and tides, best patterns, even a tiny bit of information about where to fish (if you read carefully between the lines).

But what you've listed is a great start and will put you in a good place to be for your first trips.

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