I imagine that fly fishing for sea run cutthroat must be a bit of a mystery to most people. One warm and sunny august evening along time ago when I was young my dad took me to a local rocky beach to spin fish with silver spinners for sea run cutthroat. All you needed was a pair of shorts, an old pair of runners (barnacles on the feet suck) a light spinning rod, (and the ability to cast it), a few small spinners or spoons, and a tide table. Oh yeah and you need the fish too. We went down a few times that summer, and I caught one fish, a ten inch wild feisty cutthroat. The rod was too powerful for this small fish but it danced, dug down, spun darted and did it’s best to shake the hook, for it’s size it went absolutely crazy. Through the weird window that is looking down into salt water at the beach it was hard to get a look at the fish. My dad waded over and helped corral the fish and held it in his hand for what must have been ten seconds. we didn’t have a camera or a net or anything but that fish has always stayed with me. I remember the excitement. I also remember the late summer/early fall evening light, the cool water contrasting with hot air, the smell of the sea air(rotting seaweed), squinting into the low angle sun watching for rises amongst to floating eelgrass and light ripples of the tide. From that simple beginning my fascination with these fish has blossomed into a full blown obsession.
The colours of a sea run cutthroat trout are absolutely captivating and the places they live are second to none. Sitting on a beach enjoying the warmth and the sunset in the evening on a protected beach on the west coast is something that most people enjoy. Fly fishing for these fish on the beach is just one step beyond doing just that. I enjoy it whether I catch nothing, a ten inch fish, cabezon, coho, surf perch, or a 17″ silver gold husky adult sea run covered with spots, and spotted with sea lice.
I have definitely made it into something much more complex than those simple beginnings but it is not like almost any other fishery that I have ever seen. Switch rods, high tech salt water resistant fly reels, winter fishing, tying 100 variations of every fly, travelling to far off locations, have all added to this but fly fishing for these fish need not be complicated or expensive. If you can cast 40 feet with the cheapest or old setup and you can get your hands on(or better yet tie) a few simple minnow patterns or woolly buggers then you can catch sea runs. I know I can catch far more with spinners (and I have caught hundreds this way) but in spite of that I have chosen to fly fish for them. I don’t need to catch every single fish around, and usually I am targeting the larger older fish. One fish in a trip makes me happy and grateful that I get a chance to do this. There is way more to this fishery than just late summer along the beach. there are many food sources, tides, unique traits for individual runs, types of water and beaches, fishing from boats, dry flies. You can make it simple or complex. I have caught sea run cutthroat in every month of the year both on the beach and in rivers.
The best analogy I can make is that it is like steelheading but it’s fun and there is no BS, or angry people. My father was a winter steelheader and although I have tried I just do not understand or enjoy anything associated with this fishery. I have never seen more oneupmanship, bitterness and negativity associated with recreation in my entire life. Sea run cutthroat fishing is a challenging and fun antithesis to that fishery
It is as always my hope here to foster that fascination and appreciation for these fish, and the desire to protect them more than anything and I apologize for the ranting (another trait inherited from my father)