Cutts and baby Chum

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Cutts can't resist baby chum or Chum Baby


As you read this, millions of baby chum salmon are flowing out of local rivers, streams and jump-across creeks right into Puget Sound.

The little chum salmon noodle along in the shallows, eating plankton and trying to get from the bottom of the food chain to the top as soon as possible.

The schools of young salmon dimple the surface when they feed. The little fish look like raindrops on the water.

Every now and then, you'll see a big swirl right in the middle of the peaceful dimpling. That swirl is usually a sea-run cutthroat trout gobbling down a little salmon.

This is the natural scheme of things, and there's nothing wrong with it. Baby chum salmon and dead adult salmon support a vast, intricate web of life in South Puget Sound, and it's been that way for thousands of years.

Of course, this also is one of the best times of the year to walk along a Puget Sound beach and cast a fly or lure for a greedy cutthroat trout.

And early spring is when we anglers need hot fishing for wild trout the most. We've eked by on winter steelhead for months, but we really need some fast fishing for nice trout.

A sign from the birds

I've been watching for the yearly baby chum migration, and it kicked into high gear this week.

So I raced to a favorite Puget Sound beach Thursday morning.

Great blue herons stalked the shallows, and gulls swam around and stuck their heads under water to spot schools of little fish.

I got the shakes a little because a lot of birds always means a lot of baitfish. And a lot of baitfish always means a lot of cutthroat trout -- and maybe a few coho salmon -- here in South Sound.

Better yet, I had a bunch of Chum Baby flies. This hot fly is a near-perfect imitation of a baby chum salmon, and hungry cutthroat just whomp this fly.

Moving water

There was a big drop from high tide to low tide Thursday morning, which made for a strong current. The current forced the baby chum to cluster near the shore, and ravenous sea-run cutts were nearby.

I'm no expert, but I notice that I catch a lot more sea-run cutts if the water is moving. Some beaches fish best on a rising tide, some fish best on a falling tide, but none fish well at slack tide.

I cast the Chum Baby near the milling fish, and cutts slammed it. It was the best sea-run fishing of the year -- so far.

By the way, if you're not a fly angler, a small Kastmaster with a single, barbless hook works really well.

The inventor

Bob Triggs, a top Olympic Peninsula fly-fishing guide and all-around cool guy, invented Chum Baby, and he generously shared the pattern with all of the crazed anglers on the site.

Triggs spent a few years developing his pattern, and he started sharing the recipe a couple of years ago.

Seasoned cutthroat anglers now make Chum Baby one of their go-to flies.

The fly actually is very simple, but it has the flash and the darting, flowing action of a small chum salmon.

I'm not surprised Triggs invented such a simple -- yet perfect -- fly.

I met Triggs a couple of years ago during Trout Unlimited's Northwest Youth Conservation and Fly Fishing Academy.

It was mid-June, which is prime business time for a fly-fishing guide, but Triggs volunteered for the entire week at the camp.

We talked quite a bit, and we even ended up taking some students to the Deschutes River for an evening caddis fly hatch.

It was a pleasure to watch Triggs put beginners on rising trout. He was a great, patient teacher -- and a very, very good angler.

So, catching some nice cutthroat on his fly is special.

Super fly

All anglers want to invent a fabulous, classic fly -- such as Al Troth's Elk Hair Caddis -- and I think Triggs might have done just that with the Chum Baby.

I've spent many late nights trying to invent an original super fly, but no dice so far.

Anyway, I've fished Chum Baby during the chum migration last year and this year, and cutts can't leave it alone.

I've also caught a lot of crappie in local lakes on the fly, and I suspect it would be a great fly for trout in lakes.

But right now is one of the best times of the year to find fast action on hefty, hard-fighting sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound.

As you fish, don't forget that Puget Sound offers world-class sea-run cutthroat fishing because of mandatory catch-and-release of all cutthroat trout.

And don't forget your Chum Baby flies.

Bob Triggs and Chum Baby

For more information about Bob Triggs and his guide business, call 360-385-9618 or 866-793-3595 or go to

For directions on tying the Chum Baby, go to
Jami -- thanks for the nice words about my words. I'm usually a lurker on this site -- I write enough about fishing as it is -- but I am a member and do chime in now and then.
I do get a lot of good information here, and I've learned a lot. We anglers are always learning, aren't we?
I also love to read other anglers' stories.
Chester Allen

Steve Rohrbach

Puget Sound Fly Fisher
Good post for "In the Salt". Bob Triggs recently tied the Chum Baby at the Olympic Penninsula Fly Fishing Show. He has added two peacock herl wings that contribute another dimension to the fly and add to it's movement in the water. It is a great addition to any salt anglers box. Mine will be testing several beaches tomorrow. Good luck.
Hmmmmmm I kinda feel like a doofus....As you can probably tell I have never fished for sea run cutts before.....I suppose I could of posted this in The Salt forum....oh well now I know and I have another fish to try for! How cool of Chester to be on the board eh....There should be a link somewhere to his webpage on here...he is always writing great stuff about fishing. (heh then I won't have to post it) :p

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
I'd also like to welcome you to the board, Chester. I always check the Olympian Thursdays for the fishing report (so I know where not to know...avoid the crowds:rofl: ) and Fridays for your column, which I always enjoy reading.

I had a Chum Baby that Bob tied up and gave me two years ago at the O.P. Fly Fishing Expo at the Gardiner Community Hall...and lost it to something BIG later in the summer of that year. Something socked it hard with a vicious grab and snapped it off in the wink of an eye. I told Bob, and he sent me three more! What a guy!

Hey Smulkowski...I refer to the Aberdeen Daily World as "The Daily Void." :clown:

It is definitely a violation of copyright law for that to have been reprinted here without express written permission of the copyright holder, be it the paper or the author (for first serial and electronic rights, probably the paper). Whether or not they care is a different question. For my own stuff, you'd better believe I'd be mad, unless it was something that was designed primarily to send people to my guide service (like the Yellowstone article that appears on WFF).

If I saw something from or one of the magazines I've sold stories to reprinted without permission, and it was something I had hope of reselling elsewhere, I would think about suing if it made sense money-wise. Considering I've never made more than $250 on a story, it probably wouldn't...
Well now I know and have talked to Chester, I will just post links. The last thing I want to do is get anyone in trouble including myself. But, for the record I did post who wrote it, where it was located and links. It's kinda free advertising but, still I don't want anyone ticked off.
Well, I guess I should be less of a lurker and more of a poster on this site. :)
Leland, I'd love to see a picture of a Chum Baby Popper. I was recently in Costa Rica, and I fished one of your poppers while inshore fishing. I had lookdowns, jack Crevalle, sierra mackeral and a baby amberjack whack the fly. I did spend most of my time out in the blue water. Hooking sailfish -- and one blue marlin, which promptly ripped up my leader -- on a fly rod is addictive.
Paul, I'm still kind of fuming about the director's reply as well. He was kinda nasty and really didn't attempt to answer my questions. Basically, he said we need lots of big smallmouth in the Columbia to eat all the little smallmouth. I'm confused but not surprised.
Jim and Sterling, thanks for your nice words. :)
Jami, no one is ticked off at you.
Another great thing about the Chum Baby is that it's so easy to tie. I talked to Bob Triggs last Thursday, and he said it's a guide fly, which means he can whip out a few in just a few minutes. Isn't it amazing how the simple flies, such as Clouser Minnows, Chum Baby, Wooly Buggers and the like often outfish the ultra-realistic epoxy-dipped flies. That said, I like a lot of epoxy flies....
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