Define your "exceptional" searun cutt


Active Member
What Smartie said; WORD. 16 inches is a darn nice sea-run. I don't complain ever if I am catching sea-runs. I don't care if they are 6 inches or 16!


Proud to Be Alaskan
I was just reading the washington report in FFA and it was talking about the excellent searun brown trout fishery we have here something I'm pretty sure doesn't exist.
Do they mean escaped atlantic salmon? :beathead:

My biggest cutt was 16 inches, I don't expect to ever catch anything much bigger than that as a sea run fish (theres a couple lakes in this general area which are rumored to have 26" fish... But those are residents). I think a 20" fish in the salt would be exceptional.
Exceptional src's have very little to do with size. Last fall I was targeting salmon on the Skokomish. The chinooks were their usual tight-lipped selves but I noticed src's taking bugs off the surface. I took the 8wt to the car, gabbed the 4wt and tied on my best october caddis pattern. I took "exceptional" fish between 10 and 15 inches for the next hour or so. Those cutts turned an uneventful trip into a memory that will last forever.


"Chasing Riseforms"
I beached 6 SRC yesterday on the Canal. Nothing giant, but lots of fun with one running 15+. A smaller fish of about 13 or 14 came "screaming" out of the water with my fly in her mouth before I had the chance to set the hook. It was wild. Just like a rainbow. I did manage to beach her tho. Damn I love those fish. A few of us crazy SRC fisherman will have to get together sometime. :thumb:
People who write about coastal (sea run) cutthroat oftentimes have little understanding of the very unique trout we are priviledged to have along our coast and in our rivers draining the coastal mountains. There is a Washington fishing guide book written by an out-of-state writer who simply lists a chapter, "Sea-Run Cutthroat" and never refers to them as a coastal cutthroat. This is not the case with some of our superb local writers like Steve Raymond and Doug Rose to name a couple who come to mind.
It is warming to see that most members of this web site have learned to spot these articles based on very little research and call it out. It solidifies my contention that members of this site:
1. Have learned to understand, fish for, and become stewards of our coastal cutthroat...or,
2. Are in the process of understanding, fishing and becoming stewards of our coastal cutthroat.
A well-rounded understanding, or learning to understand our precious wild cutthroat is, in my view a huge factor in the present health of our coastal cutthroat trout. I pray that this trend continues.
I do believe that our cutthroat fishing in Puget Sound (I'm not so certain of Hood Canal) has improved since sportsmen demanded regulations changes to make them c&r in marine waters in 1997. We are, in my opinion seeing more large cutthroat (16-18") since they now have enough time to reach maturity (8-10 years) but I cannot say that the population has grown numerically to any extent. There have been no studies to done that I know of that verify this.
I do admit that I have caught very few cutthroat of 20" or more in some 65 years of fishing for them.
Good Fishing,
Les Johnson


Active Member
A 20-inch sea-run cutthroat is an exceptional fish. Sadly, most of the reported 20-inch cutthroat are, like 20-inch Yakima River rainbows, more wishful thinking than fact. A thoroughly experienced Yakima River guide once told me that in thirteen years of guiding the Yakima he could count the number of actual twenty-inch rainbows he'd seen caught on one hand. A twenty-inch sea-run cutthroat should be considered in the same light as a twenty-pound steelhead, a fish to be remembered for a lifetime. I had an acquaintance who used to catch twenty-inch cutthroat, usually several of them, every time he went out, oddly enough this invariably occurred when he was fishing by himself.

In all of my years of fishing for sea-run cutthroat in fresh and salt water, I've only caught one that went over twenty inches (a bit over twenty-one). Last year I only saw one twenty-inch cutthroat and both I and the fellow who caught it thought he'd hooked a coho. As Les pointed out, sea-run cutthroat are relatively slow-growing fish; an eight-year-old is an old fish. According to Pat Trotter, the oldest sea-run cutthroat ever recorded was a ten-year-old fish from Sand Creek in Oregon; he notes that sea-run cutthroat "seldom live beyond age seven or eight, nor normally grow much beyond 500 mm in fork length".
The more I think about that Washington State fishing report in FFA, the more pissed off I get. Many of the reports are turned in by fly shop owners who get the shop's number included in the report. However, BSing about the common 20-inchers; or that the fishing has never been better; or the fact they forgot to mention that it was the sportsmen who rallied for protection of the coastal cutthroat for 30-years before the WDFW gave in is simply indefensible. Shopkeepers had better become stewards of our cutthroat if they intend to maintain this unique resource to people who buy rods, reels and other fishing paraphernalia. Just taking classes of newbies to the beach to teach them how to catch cutthroat is a small part of the big picture. Teaching people to catch fish but not a thing about the fishing is is just not enough.
Good Fishing,
Les Johnson

Milt Roe

Active Member
Great point Les, but telling people the resource is fragile, representing the true size distribition, describing the actual catch rate, and saying not to target it due to its vulnerability wouldn't sell issues.
I agree. FFA operates on immediate gratification, which has, sadly become the mantra for too many people in the industry, not just fly fishermen. After slugging it out with WDFW and Fish and Wildlife Commission for 35 years I feel that now that we can enjoy fishing cutthroat with a decent chance for success with a larger percentage of good sized fish. We all need to treat the resource with respect however since it has always been fragile and always will be. With other fisheries in decline, pounding on the cutthroat just to sell tackle is a pretty short-sighted practice. And lying about the fishery is even worse.
It sounds from most of the comments on this thread though that the WFF members are way too smart to be taken in by FFA.
Good Fishing,
I have never caught a 20" SRC. If I did (when I do) I promise that at least for me that will be a truly exceptional fish. I would bet that 9 out of 10 FF is salt would agree. For all we know this guy is from Montana and has fished for SRC once...maybe twice :)
There was a fork length distribution of Puget Sound SRC's caught by netting published in a recent study. I tried to cut and paste it into this post, but couldn't.

They caught 497 fish. Largest was 490mm, or just under 22 inches. Only 2 fish were bigger than 460mm (about 20"). Only 4% of the sample exceeded 360mm (16"). If 96% of the fish are smaller than 16", anything larger would in my mind be an exceptional fish, and anything over 20" would probably be a fish of a lifetime for most of us.


Active Member
As a admitted "cutthroat nut" each and every sea-run cutthroat are for me an exceptional fish. I look forward to each and every one that allow me to be connected to it for a brief moment or two whenever I happen to fool one into taking my fly after which I hopefully I'm able to release it none the worse for wear.

While I have caught more than my share of 20+ inch fish an exceptional fish in days fishing is that one that sticks out from the others; sometimes it is a 16 inch fish that is significant larger than the others seen that day, other times it is one of those special fish that seems to capture the fall colors in its golden hues, and at other times it is one that seems to think it is a summer steelhead and repeatly leaps about the river.

Preston -
Good call about a 20 " sea-run being on par with a 20# steelhead. In more than 45 years of fishing western Washington anadromous streams I have caught about equal numbers of both though I do have to say that in terms of % of the fish caught the 20 inch cutthroat for me has been several times rarer than a 20# steelhead; though I average many more cutthroat/day than steelhead.

I have to agree with Skeena's cited study that on the average I bring to hand a true gaint sea-run that would measure at least 20 inches in roughly 500 or so encounters.

Tight lines