Popper action?

In Steve Raymond's book on estuary fishing, he says that working with a dry fly is one of the best ways to search for cutthrouts in the sound but it has to be in motion. I have recently been trying to learn to fish in the puget sound and had a small foam popper I was working on the surface. I got a few fish but I was generally more successful with an underwater presentation with a streamer and knew the fish were there.

What are the most effective way of retrieving poppers? Is it better to have lots of short quick jerks to resemble a panicked prey, a slow continuous drag to create a v on the surface, or infrequent tugs tocause the occasional disturbance. What works best for you?

I also caught a fish I am not sure of its ID. About 16-18" silver sides (salmon-like) with bright green dorsal area contrasted with dark green "wormy lines" white belly.

Joe Smolt
Joe Smolt,
Every question you posted is answered in my book, "Fly-Fishing Coastal Cutthroat Trout". Steve's fly and his technques are in the fly chapter in regard to fishing his Cutthroat Candy. It may be one of the few places a photo and info on the fly exists. In the fly chapter you will also find the Floating Candlefish and Leland Miyawaki's Popper.
Most of the time a subsurface presentation is preferred by coastal cutthroat. However, Steve and Leland use their surface patterns almost exclusively and do very well.

Good Fishing,
Les Johnson

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
I will second the mention of Leland Myawaki's Beach Popper. The takes on this fly are nothing short of heart stopping. If you want to see how fast and hard and mean a Cutt can hit you in the salt- use Leland's Popper. I do like dry flies for the same reason. Big Wulffs, Humpys and Stimulators work well for me. Lots of action, v-wakes and short fast strips. Bring them in all the way to the tip of the rod.


Active Member
I have been working two kinds of strips lately. One is a slow and steady two-handed strip and the second is a little difficult to explain but let me try. It's a single-handed strip where I pull the popper then release it then pull and release again and again. I do this in hard moving tides and don't strip any line in. I believe it looks like a baitfish struggling to maintain it's forward speed but keeps getting pushed back by the tide. Both methods work on cutthroat as well as salmon. I believe these slow strips will also get me any blackmouth that may be on the prowl.

Thanks for the responses.

No I didn't recall a black gum line. What struck me about this fish was that the dorsal area was a lighter bright green contrasted by thick wiggley darker green lines that were more lateral over the back. No spots. Other than that it looked very much like a trout or salmon.

I previously caught a very small version. Lifting out my line on a back cast, I felt a small tug and glimpsed something extra on my fly. It wasn't there on my return cast, so I moved out of the water and search the back cast area. I found the poor guy flopping in the sand. I picked him up and returned him to the water. It was only about 2 inches long. This made me question whether this was anadromous in nature or whether it started its life in the salt.

The puzzling part is the "wormy lines". I can't think of a salmon/trout/char that shows those characteristics beyond brook trout-- except may tiger trout or splake. It sounds like a mackerel more than anything...but I can't envision mackerel inside Puget Sound... the Strait, yes, but...
Where does foam back gurgler's fit in? I've had some success with them but find myself back down under most of the time.

Am I missing the boat by not fishing on top more often?
The Gurgler is a pretty good surface bug. I was introduced to it while fishing for a week at Cape Cod for stripers a few years ago. Tom Rosenbaur, who demonstrated his method of just pulling it along with steady strips making a "v" shaped wake, much like we do with Leland's Beach Popper. The Gurgler did take several striped bass for us including one of 35-inches (taken by Tom). I do recall that the Gurgler had a tendancy to nosedive if pulled too hard.
Good Fishing,
Les Johnson
Wormy lines may be a misleading descriptor. What I should say is irregular dark green lines with more of a lateral direction over the dorsal area. I originally used the term wormy to try to avoid the idea of consistent symmetry to the dark features. They were generally very irregular, perhaps about 1/4" thicK. I think the total dorsal area was slightly more of the light green than these dark green areas.

I reviewed fish ID pics for various salmon and I generally found them to be spotted on the dorsal area as you would imagine. All the pics in Les's book show the cutthrouts to be spotted. It was the absence of spots that kept me from confidently thinking it was a salmon or blackmouth.

Guess this is just going to drive me nuts. I was going to take a pic, but before the camera came out, it wiggled free and took off.

I agree with Bob about the fun of fishing on the surface. Some jumped out of the water missing the fly completely. Sometimes there was a swell right behind the fly. The few I caught violently boiled over the fly. The unknown fish was subsurface with a minnow imitation.
No spots and lines doesn't sound like salmon to me. Just to eliminate a possibility, check this photo out


That's a Pacific mackerel which does show up in these waters, but in the ocean and not near stream mouths. There are some variations and species differences as well...there have been reports of mackerel showing up off the coast recently. In the past, they've gone at least as far into the Strait as P.A.

If this is definitely out as a possibility, then I'm stumped.

Just the though of having mackerel showing up that far into Puget Sound is pretty unnerving. I remember years ago when we were first alarmed when they showed up off of Westport and outside of Tatoosh at Neah Bay. Hope that wasn't a mackerel.
Good Fishing,
Joe Smolt:

I used a Tom Thumb(B.C. freshwater fly) to catch my first SRC on floating pattern on Puget Sound. It was a thrill to land that fish. A few years ago I started using floating Candlefish patterns with good success for SRC and silvers.

Below are some thoughts/observations about tactics and retrieves for skating/popping surface patterns for SRC and silvers when I fish from my boat.

1. When using floating patterns for SRC, most of the time I am fishing over a shallow gravel bar or shelf with moderate current and the water depth less than approximately 6 feet. When resident and adult silvers are actively jumping along a current seam in deeper water(6-20 feet), I will also use a floating pattern.

Under the above conditions I will cast down and across the current at about a 45 degree angle. I make quick short(2-3") strips of the line every second or so to keep the fly skating/popping as it moves down/across the current. A few quick line mends at the start helps to keep the line from belling and swinging the fly too fast. I keep the rod tip just about parallel to the water surface during the retrieve when the fly is swinging.

It is tough to hook fish when the fly is swinging because of line bellying and amount of line on the water. So being attentive and quick on the trigger for the hook set is important.

2. Once the fly is down current below the boat, I will use 6-8" retrieves every 1-2 seconds to keep the fly skating/popping up current. The fish hook-up ratio goes way up since there is little/no line slack when you keep your rod tip just just above the water surface. As a side note: When fishing full sinking lines with a baitfish pattern, I will put 2-3" of the rod tip under water to have good contact with the fly.

I have devised a floating candlefish tube pattern which is tied with two foam strips on top the tube. I have had good success with it over the last several months. I have been playing around with tail materials(marabou and synthetics) but keep coming back to bucktail. Softex seems to work better than silicone or epoxy for a light coating over the foam body which is wrapped with sparkleflash. I just have to "tweek the final version" a little more and then I will do a write-up on how to tie it.


May the Lord bless all of us with great fishing for anadromous fish from mid-Summer through Fall.