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Harvest Trout and Spiders

2326 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Jim Wallace
August is finally here and the best fishery going is on hand. Searun Cutthroat are moving into the rivers!!

These creatures of fresh and salt water are not timid critters. At times a bit finikey but generally willing players. It wasn't so long ago that they were in dire straights but the populations are rebounding and doing well in many systems.

Generally not big fish, what ever that means, but decent sized trout that are willing to give a good account of themselves. Ounce for ounce they hold their own and if you are lucky enough to hook into one in the 18 inch category you are going to be surprised!

Over the years I have come to preffer spider style flies. No matter how you fish them they just flat work!! Black bodies are my preference but pink bodies and yellow have their places too.

This forum is blessed with some phenominal cutthroat fishermen. Les Johnson, Leland, Roger Stephens, Preston just to mention a few. Browsing through Les's book looking for a new pattern I ran across Preston's Cutthroat Spider. Well the picture looked good and seemed like it will fill a nitch I have been looking for. After tying up a few all I can say is THANK YOU Preston!! Even without fishing it yet I know it is a fly that should be in my box of Spiders. I am going to tie a few with a slight variation. A single turn of Cerise hackle under the teal. Forgive me Preston for bastardizing a very fine fly. But I just have to do it! There is something about cerise at times that brings out the agression in cutts.

For those of you starting out fishing for searuns pick up Les's book and learn to tie some spiders. The most common mistake in my opinion is to over dress the hackle. Keep it somewhat sparse and tie a bunch of them!!

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I was born in southwest Washington where sea-run cutthroat were known universally as "harvest trout" because of the time of year when they return to the rivers, although the first fish would actually show in the Cowlitz (BD: before the dams) with regularity on about the 4th of July. I remember my father talking about he and my mother taking two limits of harvest trout at the mouth of Rock Creek (a spot that I can't even find anymore, though I clearly remember fishing there as a kid) one year on the fourth. The limit in those days was twenty fish and, of course, everything caught was killed so I won't even get into the potentially disastrous results of that kind of management.

Spider patterns are, of course, lineal descendants of the soft hackle fly but the first spider to become popular in the northwest was Al Knudson's Yellow Spider. Al developed this fly for steelhead on the Rogue River and, when he moved to Everett in the 'thirties, brought it with him. It quickly became the go-to fly for sea-run cutthroat and was tied in a variety of colors. The original had a yellow floss body and a very full mallard-flank hackle tied to lie well back along the body, but rather quickly (after all, no fly tier is ever satisfied with someone else's pattern) evolved into the more familiar chenille-bodied, more sparsely-hackled fly we're familiar with today.

I, and many others I'm sure, have tried to take the basic Knudson idea and somehow "prop" the hackle up to create more movement. Mike Kinney took this to its ultimate extension by tying the hackle backward to provide the ultimate in movement. I rarely use more than two (or, at most, three) turns of hackle on any of any spider patterns I tie. Mike's Reverse Spider was my go-to sea-run cutthroat pattern for many years but recently I've been tying and fishing Knudson-style spiders again, using sparsely-tied teal, pintail or gadwall flank feathers for their more pronounced marking.
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I grew up in Southwest Washington and looked forward to fishing for Harvest Trout on the Cowlitz River with my Grandfather. It was a memorable time though I had not discovered Flyfishing yet. I have often told the stories so I won't bore you again but they were feisty fish and I would imagine that a reverse spider would do the job, nicely.
And here I thought this thread was going to be another mention of how early the spider webs are out in everyone's back yards along with some early fish. Good stuff!
View attachment 33238

I kinda funkified the upload, but the above link should provide a shot of a nice 14"+ fish that I saw splash. I anchored, waited until it splashed again in the same spot, and luckily made a good cast...hit on the 2nd strip. Never had to touch the fish. Fly fell out by itself, but it was such a chromer that I had to make it pose. This was on the white trolling streamer based on a Knudsen Spider.

The two photos on the bottom are of another cutt that hit it while trolling in a completely different river system, and a shot of the dirty fraud itself.

I noticed that the Reversed Spider often twirls when trolling it from one spot to the next, badly twisting the leader, so i have recently tied some regular Knudsen Spiders and trimmed the hackle a bit on the underside to help the fly troll upright, and also adding a shortened red beard. I tied the first of these with bodies of white New Age Chenille and with natural Mallard Flank for the hackle, with mallard fibers over red hackle fibers on the tail. One has a small gold bead head, to keep it under when trolling if I am using a floating line. So far it has fooled a few in the estuary by trolling on a clear intermediate line, as well as when casting to a holding cutt and stripping back.
I tied these with some "Danville hot orange flat waxed nylon" for thread.

Try white! with some red or hot orange thrown in somewhre. The little bit of hot orange whipping on the butt of the fly seems good enough, but I'll put the red beard in the trolling patterns, and some red hackle fibers in the tail. Lately its been outfishing my hot orange and "Polar Shrimp" colors!
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