Westport Tuna Trip 9 September 2021

cabezon

Sculpin Enterprises
WFF Premium
It was time for my third tuna trip in 8 days. Up at 3AM, out the door at 3:30AM, and in the parking lot at Westport before 5AM (a half-hour early…). I joined the rest of the crew for the day: @Bagman, @tallguy, and @Matt B. All are experienced tuna fishers. We caught up with Nick and his deckhand Jake at the boat, stowed our gear, went through the safety review, and donned our life vests. We would be heading northwest to the area that Nick and Jake had fished the day before; that trip netted 30 tuna. That was encouraging after the disappointment of Tuesday.
Excited to be on our way, we were the first boat in the All River fleet off the dock.
DarkDepartureP9090003.jpg
Out of the Westport Boat Basin, Nick cut across the mouth of Grays Harbor to the North Jetty by Ocean Shores. We passed over the bar without much trouble. Not far offshore, we ran into a fog bank that reduced visibility to 100’. For the rest of the 2+ hours to the offshore fishing grounds, we popped into and out of fog banks.
FogSunBattlesP9090010.jpg
The fog bank had largely burnt off by late morning but we ran back into fog closer to land when we returned at the end of the day. The weather was all over the map: bright sunshine to heavy cloud cover witha bit of drizzle in the early afternoon.
The trip out was not too bouncy. The swell heights were about 5 feet and there was very little wind associated with the fog. Conditions were lumpier at the fishing grounds. The winds had picked up and created wind waves that were at a different angle than the swells. So, we were fishing from a pitching boat for most of the day.
When we arrived, there were a few birds scattered around, mostly pink-footed shearwaters. I put on a shock-and-awe pattern
ShockAndAwe5510.jpg
and @Bagman tied on a flatwing. @tallguy switched patterns throughout the day, and I do not remember what fly @Matt B was using initially. We deployed our rods and Nick started us on the troll. It was quiet on the boat and quiet on the radio until @Matt B yelled out fish on. @tallguy worked his fly on the slide to a stop. As @Matt B fought his fish, he could see a tuna trailing @tallguy’s fly, but the tuna broke off the chase as it neared the boat. While @Matt B fought his fish, Jake threw out some live anchovies and we cast and retrieved in a pitching boat. @Matt B gave the tuna no quarter and it was soon gaffed and in the fish-box to cool down. Team Fly-Guys had landed the first fish of the day for the All-Rivers fleet. As Nick did not mark any tuna under the boat, we resumed our troll.
The fishing then turned ice cold for several hours. The birds disappeared and there were no signs of life in an apparently empty ocean. And based on the radio chatter, we weren’t alone with slow fishing. Nick did the usual tricks: throw in some S-turns, speed up, slow down, look for anything that might be different. Quiet, too quiet.
We trolled back into an area where more floating kelp had been carried offshore. We came across a floating kelp mat at least 10ft in diameter.
LargeKelpMatP9090022.jpg
Nick returned to the mat and we began to cast to it. I dropped a fortunate cast just off the mat, waited a second or two to let the fly descend a bit, and began to strip it back. A few feet off the mat, I had a hard grab and did a strip set. I felt a few head shakes and then the fish took out the rest of the loose line and started pulling line off the reel. And then it was gone…. The hook pulled out. AAAHHHH. We cast to the kelp mat a few more times without any action and went back on the troll.
Later, this failure got worse…. Mark Coleman, owner of All-Rivers and with extensive blue-water fishing experience, and Nick discussed what it might have been on the trip back to Westport at the end of the day. They have a suspicion that our unknown fish might have been a yellowtail. Here are their thoughts in support. 1) The fish was in shallow water associated structure. More yellowtail, less albacore. 2) The fish made some head shakes when hooked. More yellowtail, less albacore. 3) The fish’s initial run was back toward the structure. More yellowtail, less albacore. 4) The run was shallow and not down toward the depths. More yellowtail, less albacore. Given how the rest of the day went, I am happy that I did not know of their speculation concerning my exotic encounter until the end of the day.
Back on the troll. An hour of nothing and then I had a hard strike on my shock-and-awe fly. The line screamed off my reel and I was soon deep into the backing. No head shakes this time, just raw speed and power. Nick threw the boat into neutral and the others continued to cast and retrieve their flies in the hopes of eliciting another strike. The tug of war between me and this tuna began in earnest. Between the wind and waves pushing the boat around and the albacore going where the albacore wanted to go, the flies of those casting and retrieving wrapped around my fly line twice as I fought my fish. But fortunately, they came off the line with a minimum of fuss and I could focus on the late stage of the battle.
As is often the case, I did briefly have the fish up near the surface, but it made another blistering run under the boat. I led my fly line around the twin 250 engines to the other side of stern. I put the screws to it again and brought it back to the surface. This time Jake was able to sink the gaff in the fish. And it went right into the fish box to cool down.
Back on the troll. Quiet hour after quiet hour…. We switched positions on the boat, added “action” to the fly, switched fly patterns. And we were succumbing to “troll hypnosis”. About noon, another random fish grabbed @Matt B’s fly and he was in battle again.
TunaGaffP9090030.jpg
After the usual hard battle, Jake gaffed this fish
InTheBoatP9090031.jpg
and it was soon on the fish box.
BloodyTunaP9090033.jpg
Third (and final) fish of the day.
Back on the troll. Three hours of mind-numbing nothing. Nothing was interested in our flies (or the lures that the other boats were using either, apparently). Finally, it was time to head back to barn.
Perhaps I had been spoiled by the great trips in 2020. As the day began, I had been hoping that this tuna season would end with a bang and not a whimper. In total, three fish in three days. And the light today was poor for bird photography or when we saw birds, I had my rod in hand and no one to pass it off too quickly. We’ve all had days like this: great expectations crushed by an ugly reality. The memory of this day will be balanced out by the magical day last summer when we boated 38 tuna on flies.
Folks that I had talked to indicate that this has been a very unusual tuna season – hot one day and ice cold the next without a clear driver of the difference between the two. The ocean conditions (“clear green” with offshore floating kelp) were atypical as well. Underlying reason – who knows. Will I go back? Not this year, but I’m already looking at dates for next summer. The albacore bug is hooked deeper than a single off day or season.
Steve
 
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Evan Burck

Fudge Dragon
Been a challenging year for everyone because the fish don't seem to be congregating anywhere for long. When you're on em, it's as red hot as anything we've ever seen, but they are moving fast. So you'll get a red hot report from an area one day, then just deadsville the next.
 

Charles Sullivan

Active Member
I've been once tuna fishing out of Westport. It was a few years ago. We got 3. It occurred to me that given the amount of time and the early hours and pounding crossing he bar etc. that you need to make sure of a few things before you do a trip like this.

1. The guide/ captain- I am a reluctant guided angler. I dislike being told what to do (I dislike the GPS voice for this reason) and I dislike marketing and guides who feel they need to explain a bad day. I have only had a couple guides I have ever liked. If the trip goes wrong and you dislike your captain (as would be my default setting) it can be a tough day of holding your tongue. I suspect a boat with Nick would be the only way I go out of Westport again. Frankly, I don't know him, but he conducts himself honestly here and always has.
2. The crew- For many of the reasons outlined above, going with a crew that you generally like could save an otherwise slow and expensive day.
3. Expectations- It's wise to keep them real. I've heard of 20 fish per person days. In my one time out, I did not feel a fish.

Maybe next year I will go again provided I can get 1 and 2 right. After going through a slow day before. I have #3 dialed in.

Go Sox,
cds
 

Evan Burck

Fudge Dragon
I've been once tuna fishing out of Westport. It was a few years ago. We got 3. It occurred to me that given the amount of time and the early hours and pounding crossing he bar etc. that you need to make sure of a few things before you do a trip like this.

1. The guide/ captain- I am a reluctant guided angler. I dislike being told what to do (I dislike the GPS voice for this reason) and I dislike marketing and guides who feel they need to explain a bad day. I have only had a couple guides I have ever liked. If the trip goes wrong and you dislike your captain (as would be my default setting) it can be a tough day of holding your tongue. I suspect a boat with Nick would be the only way I go out of Westport again. Frankly, I don't know him, but he conducts himself honestly here and always has.
2. The crew- For many of the reasons outlined above, going with a crew that you generally like could save an otherwise slow and expensive day.
3. Expectations- It's wise to keep them real. I've heard of 20 fish per person days. In my one time out, I did not feel a fish.

Maybe next year I will go again provided I can get 1 and 2 right. After going through a slow day before. I have #3 dialed in.

Go Sox,
cds
I run my own boat and it's a lot of the same. I have friends I enjoy fishing with in freshwater that I'd never think to invite offshore for a number of reasons. The crew makes or breaks these days for me because we're doing everything ourselves, so you need guys who are willing to get their hands dirty and be the one to put a rod down to help net/gaff/clean/gut fish, etc.

One day with a crewmember who was only interested in reeling in rods with fish on them made me re-think my crew planning. I've skipped nice forecast days because I couldn't get a crew put together in time.

need buddies who will get that blood cleaned up and get the fish taken care of between stops.
 

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Jake

veni, vidi, fishi
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hah, i don't doubt that. but then reality sets in when i start making calls the day before saying "hey the forecast just cleaned up and we're running out of Depoe Bay. Let's meet at my place at 2:30am. I get a lot of "fuuuuuuuck that" responses.
I imagine many would. My wife would, for example, but if you got me between end of June and the beginning of September next year you’d be overwhelmingly more likely to hear “I’ll be there in 6hr 21min.”
 
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SilverFly

Active Member
It was time for my third tuna trip in 8 days. Up at 3AM, out the door at 3:30AM, and in the parking lot at Westport before 5AM (a half-hour early…). I joined the rest of the crew for the day: @Bagman, @tallguy, and @Matt B. All are experienced tuna fishers. We caught up with Nick and his deckhand Jake at the boat, stowed our gear, went through the safety review, and donned our life vests. We would be heading northwest to the area that Nick and Jake had fished the day before; that trip netted 30 tuna. That was encouraging after the disappointment of Tuesday.
Excited to be on our way, we were the first boat in the All River fleet off the dock.
View attachment 294935
Out of the Westport Boat Basin, Nick cut across the mouth of Grays Harbor to the North Jetty by Ocean Shores. We passed over the bar without much trouble. Not far offshore, we ran into a fog bank that reduced visibility to 100’. For the rest of the 2+ hours to the offshore fishing grounds, we popped into and out of fog banks.
View attachment 294937
The fog bank had largely burnt off by late morning but we ran back into fog closer to land when we returned at the end of the day. The weather was all over the map: bright sunshine to heavy cloud cover witha bit of drizzle in the early afternoon.
The trip out was not too bouncy. The swell heights were about 5 feet and there was very little wind associated with the fog. Conditions were lumpier at the fishing grounds. The winds had picked up and created wind waves that were at a different angle than the swells. So, we were fishing from a pitching boat for most of the day.
When we arrived, there were a few birds scattered around, mostly pink-footed shearwaters. I put on a shock-and-awe pattern
View attachment 294938
and @Bagman tied on a flatwing. @tallguy switched patterns throughout the day, and I do not remember what fly @Matt B was using initially. We deployed our rods and Nick started us on the troll. It was quiet on the boat and quiet on the radio until @Matt B yelled out fish on. @tallguy worked his fly on the slide to a stop. As @Matt B fought his fish, he could see a tuna trailing @tallguy’s fly, but the tuna broke off the chase as it neared the boat. While @Matt B fought his fish, Jake threw out some live anchovies and we cast and retrieved in a pitching boat. @Matt B gave the tuna no quarter and it was soon gaffed and in the fish-box to cool down. Team Fly-Guys had landed the first fish of the day for the All-Rivers fleet. As Nick did not mark any tuna under the boat, we resumed our troll.
The fishing then turned ice cold for several hours. The birds disappeared and there were no signs of life in an apparently empty ocean. And based on the radio chatter, we weren’t alone with slow fishing. Nick did the usual tricks: throw in some S-turns, speed up, slow down, look for anything that might be different. Quiet, too quiet.
We trolled back into an area where more floating kelp had been carried offshore. We came across a floating kelp mat at least 10ft in diameter.
View attachment 294939
Nick returned to the mat and we began to cast to it. I dropped a fortunate cast just off the mat, waited a second or two to let the fly descend a bit, and began to strip it back. A few feet off the mat, I had a hard grab and did a strip set. I felt a few head shakes and then the fish took out the rest of the loose line and started pulling line off the reel. And then it was gone…. The hook pulled out. AAAHHHH. We cast to the kelp mat a few more times without any action and went back on the troll.
Later, this failure got worse…. Mark Coleman, owner of All-Rivers and with extensive blue-water fishing experience, and Nick discussed what it might have been on the trip back to Westport at the end of the day. They have a suspicion that our unknown fish might have been a yellowtail. Here are their thoughts in support. 1) The fish was in shallow water associated structure. More yellowtail, less albacore. 2) The fish made some head shakes when hooked. More yellowtail, less albacore. 3) The fish’s initial run was back toward the structure. More yellowtail, less albacore. 4) The run was shallow and not down toward the depths. More yellowtail, less albacore. Given how the rest of the day went, I am happy that I did not know of their speculation concerning my exotic encounter until the end of the day.
Back on the troll. An hour of nothing and then I had a hard strike on my shock-and-awe fly. The line screamed off my reel and I was soon deep into the backing. No head shakes this time, just raw speed and power. Nick threw the boat into neutral and the others continued to cast and retrieve their flies in the hopes of eliciting another strike. The tug of war between me and this tuna began in earnest. Between the wind and waves pushing the boat around and the albacore going where the albacore wanted to go, the flies of those casting and retrieving wrapped around my fly line twice as I fought my fish. But fortunately, they came off the line with a minimum of fuss and I could focus on the late stage of the battle.
As is often the case, I did briefly have the fish up near the surface, but it made another blistering run under the boat. I led my fly line around the twin 250 engines to the other side of stern. I put the screws to it again and brought it back to the surface. This time Jake was able to sink the gaff in the fish. And it went right into the fish box to cool down.
Back on the troll. Quiet hour after quiet hour…. We switched positions on the boat, added “action” to the fly, switched fly patterns. And we were succumbing to “troll hypnosis”. About noon, another random fish grabbed @Matt B’s fly and he was in battle again.
View attachment 294940
After the usual hard battle, Jake gaffed this fish
View attachment 294941
and it was soon on the fish box.
View attachment 294942
Third (and final) fish of the day.
Back on the troll. Three hours of mind-numbing nothing. Nothing was interested in our flies (or the lures that the other boats were using either, apparently). Finally, it was time to head back to barn.
Perhaps I had been spoiled by the great trips in 2020. As the day began, I had been hoping that this tuna season would end with a bang and not a whimper. In total, three fish in three days. And the light today was poor for bird photography or when we saw birds, I had my rod in hand and no one to pass it off too quickly. We’ve all had days like this: great expectations crushed by an ugly reality. The memory of this day will be balanced out by the magical day last summer when we boated 38 tuna on flies.
Folks that I had talked to indicate that this has been a very unusual tuna season – hot one day and ice cold the next without a clear driver of the difference between the two. The ocean conditions (“clear green” with offshore floating kelp) were atypical as well. Underlying reason – who knows. Will I go back? Not this year, but I’m already looking at dates for next summer. The albacore bug is hooked deeper than a single off day or season.
Steve

Great report Steve - even if the fishing wasn't so great.

BTW, I'm going with yellowtail based on the expert analysis and seeing two myself last year. Unfortunately we'll never know - so welcome to the "what-the-hell-did-I-hook" club. ;)
 

cabezon

Sculpin Enterprises
WFF Premium
Great report Steve - even if the fishing wasn't so great.

BTW, I'm going with yellowtail based on the expert analysis and seeing two myself last year. Unfortunately we'll never know - so welcome to the "what-the-hell-did-I-hook" club. ;)
Yes, the one that got away...
It is tempting to just describe the days when the fishing is "lights-out" but it would be disingenuous to not describe the days when you are working to scratch out a few fish and you may even end up blanked and not get a single grab (much like a typical steelhead day). There are not that many folks (but the numbers are growing) that have experienced this fishery and it is worthwhile, in my view, to provide a balanced perspective.
Steve
 

SilverFly

Active Member
Yes, the one that got away...
It is tempting to just describe the days when the fishing is "lights-out" but it would be disingenuous to not describe the days when you are working to scratch out a few fish and you may even end up blanked and not get a single grab (much like a typical steelhead day). There are not that many folks (but the numbers are growing) that have experienced this fishery and it is worthwhile, in my view, to provide a balanced perspective.
Steve

Agreed. This fishery takes a significant degree of commitment - sheer luck, and frequently both. There are definite parallels to winter steelheading. Waiting out blown rivers, covering miles of water, all for a few fleeting moments you'll remember for years to come. Although the runs are a tad deeper, less crowded, and the possibilities unlimited.
 

jasmillo

WFF Premium
I did my first two trips this year. 5 fish to the boat on each. All 5 fly caught with Nick the first time out. Only 1 fly caught the second time I believe with a different outfit. Slow both days and although I only ended up with one on the fly rod over those two trips, I get the appeal of the fishery and will be back for more. In the end, I am not a guide guy. Besides a couple of trips to lodges in AK where guides are required, my two tuna trips this year are the only other guide trips I have ever been on. I have to say both the captain and deckhand on the boats I were on were great. Enthusiastic, knowledgeable and excited to have fly fishers on the boat. Nick was everything people have posted about on the forum over the years. He is not heavy handed in his guidance in the least bit and instead comes off as a guy sharing knowledge and tips for success versus laying out minute by minute instructions. He obviously knows his profession and I don’t think there is anyone more excited in the boat than him when the fish show up.

Unfortunately, my last trip tomorrow got cancelled. If anyone has a last second bail on their crew the rest of this year, keep me in mind. I still have a bunch of vacation days to burn :).
 

tallguy

Active Member
One observation for tying flies for tuna from yesterday: most tuna trolling Nick was doing was at 4-5 mph or so. That's actually on the faster side of "typical fly fishing" practice although I know gear is trolled up to 8 mph, and I even saw reports of people catching tuna at 15 mph troll (intentionally). So flies need to work and track at higher speeds

I had some issues yesterday with flies spinning on the troll, and I lost some confidence in a couple flies tracking well while trolling even though they were on heavyish 3/0 hooks and cleanly designed. I actually intentionally did not use stinger designs to help tracking, and was relying on the hook point to ride them well. But that wasn't always enough. I think when you jig or strip a trolled fly, it's getting to 7-9 mph and making it easy to spin or foul. Plus the heavy prop wash means the fly is rarely riding in clean water and has alot of chances to get up on its side or over.

I note that I have been tying for ~30 years, and feel I tie a pretty darn balanced, even, great looking fly. But at least 2 of my flies did at least some spinning, unexpectedly to me, and I came home thinking about how I can insure my flies track better out there.
 

Jake

veni, vidi, fishi
One observation for tying flies for tuna from yesterday: most tuna trolling Nick was doing was at 4-5 mph or so. That's actually on the faster side of "typical fly fishing" practice although I know gear is trolled up to 8 mph, and I even saw reports of people catching tuna at 15 mph troll (intentionally). So flies need to work and track at higher speeds

I had some issues yesterday with flies spinning on the troll, and I lost some confidence in a couple flies tracking well while trolling even though they were on heavyish 3/0 hooks and cleanly designed. I actually intentionally did not use stinger designs to help tracking, and was relying on the hook point to ride them well. But that wasn't always enough. I think when you jig or strip a trolled fly, it's getting to 7-9 mph and making it easy to spin or foul. Plus the heavy prop wash means the fly is rarely riding in clean water and has alot of chances to get up on its side or over.

I note that I have been tying for ~30 years, and feel I tie a pretty darn balanced, even, great looking fly. But at least 2 of my flies did at least some spinning, unexpectedly to me, and I came home thinking about how I can insure my flies track better out there.
Sounds like tying in-the-round might help
 

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