Sea run cutthroat 101 course

Len Steves Workshop

While the field of courses catering to coastal cutthroat fly fishing is definitely crowded these days, I just wanted to put it out there that I will be hosting a series of upcoming events in conjunction with the Cumberland fly shop focusing on sea run cutthroat fly fishing. In addition to the fly tying night and on the water beach and river course, there will be a free introductory sea run cutthroat fly fishing talk at the Cumberland fly shop the evening of friday March 31, 2017 7-10pm. This evening is for anglers of all skill levels focusing on covering all the bases needed to begin to enjoy this fishery. While it is geared to the novice I’m sure there will be something for a more experienced angler to engage with. We will cover a lot of ground including biology, history, angling techniques, fly tying, salt and freshwater specific topics, conservation and more. (BYOB)


One may freely ask why I am doing this, when I have been so vocal against commercial   exploitation of salmonids. It’s not for money, I think there is so much more to this world than just fishing, and I believe education and mentorship are so important in protecting salmonids against the many threats they face. This is an opportunity for me to pass on the appreciation of this species, and I’m going to take it.


Belated FOTM November: The Gurgler

Life gets so busy sometimes eh? While November (belatedly so) is probably the last of any month that anyone is thinking of sea runs…at the beach…with a topwater pattern, I find that this time of year, weather permitting, and with fish actually around, of course, Sea run cutthroat are usually quite amenable to a small skinny topwater patterns of which the gurgler has been my most successful. Many of the best sea run patterns are simple and adaptable, and this one, like many I’ve posted about is no different. Cutthroat in salt water this time of year are variously staging, roaming or fattening up for the winter’s spawning run, and while many have entered freshwater, there are areas that will hold fish throughout the year. (here’s a hint, half the fun of cutthroating is searching and striving to find these places) I find these fish to be hungry and aggressive and a gurgler tied fairly small, stripped slowly and periodically paused will often get a response, even in colder temps.


The gurgler was originated in 1988 by Jack Gartside, a well known fly tier who has many unique and interesting patterns It is a wholly adaptable pattern tied in a myriad of ways, for a truly wide range of fish species, The pattern displayed is my simple adaptation for our diminutive and sometimes strange anadromous quarry.

Tied short and fat or long and skinny changes the way they push water, depending on your intent


Hook: A nice small light saltwater hook like the Gamagatsu SS15 size 10 or 12 or similar such as the Daiichi X452 size 6 or 8, or the Mustad 34007 in size 6 or 8

Thread: your choice of 6/0 thread to match colour

Tail: wiggly material of your choice. The original pattern has a long bucktail tail 2x longer than the body, but I like a short one due to the tendency of cutthroat to strike short. A couple strands of krystal flash or other flashy material never hurts either.

*Tier’s note* a small short trailer hook eliminates this problem.

Body: skinny in a material of your choice, I have used everything from seal to Arizona diamond braid, to marabou. My preference these days is trimmed elk in various colours.

Foam: 3 mm closed cell white foam, or a colour you prefer, white tends to wash out a bit in the cloudy evening diffused light situations many cutthroaters find themselves in so often. I trim it in a skinny long wedge shape, tie it in at the back just before the tail facing backwards and then once the body is complete, fold it forward tying in place just before the eye. The widest part of the foam is tied ahead of the hook eye and kicked up slightly to pop, spit or chug, depending on the need.

Hackle: optional, a material of your choice, I like sparse saddle, or an elk beard

I have tied them small like this in tan, olive, and brown with success, but I’m sure other variations like light yellow or black with a red tail would work just fine. As far as fishing this pattern goes just a moderate slightly erratic short strip with random pauses seems to work wonders.