Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Port Townsend Fly Fishing Guide- Summer Solstice

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Port Townsend Fly Fishing June

Solstice and a Super Moon!

  We are having some very fine late spring weather this year here. Mixed cooling clouds and  blue sky sunny warmth, a smattering of light rain here and there, but mostly very good weather, and not much wind. The fishing has been great! Another full moon is on it's way, for the Summer Solstice. This one is called a Super Moon, or Perigee Moon, because it will be at it's closest point in relationship to the earth in it's orbit. Because of the timing of this moon we will see it as "full" on both the 22nd and the 23rd this month. If the sky is not too cloudy this should be spectacular. And this moon will be bringing on some very strong tidal currents, with some very low low tides, and some very high high tides, in the tidal range. The great value in minus level tides, these extreme low tides, is that we can see the terrain that we do not ordinarily get to see beneath average low tide levels. This will help us riddle out the way things are as far as structure, flows, habitat etc. Not to mention seriously good clam and oyster digging. This entire upcoming week looks very good for currents and tides. This will move the bait around, and wash some terrestrials,( think hoppers, beetles, and ants!), into the waters along the shores too. Another occurrence is that many marine organisms, especially some species of the annelids, (marine worms), become very active during the new moon and full moon cycles, and can be observed in the shallows, and in softer currents, near dawn and dusk, often right up on top. The topwater fishing during the quieter stages of the tides should be very good too. Don't miss it!

 Of Crabs and Cutthroat

A Red Rock Crab, on the move in the tidal currents, following the scent of 1000 bait pots.
 This week there are about 1000 crap pots set in the bay, for the Tribal subsistence fishery opening.  Each one of them with a stinky bait pot, soaking in the tides. No doubt every single swimming critter in the area has gotten in on this feast as the strong tidal currents carry the scent of all of that protein out into the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Juvenile fish, smaller fish, invertebrates, eels, and even sea run Coastal Cutthroat will feed on some of this bait as it breaks loose from the bait pots. And the attraction of having so many smaller fish and other forage species, all congregated in one area, will be enough to keep the Cutthroat interested for a while. Be There!

 Here in the Port Townsend area we have learned to approach the months of May and June with a sense of guarded optimism, if not trepidation. Much of this apprehensive mindset comes from a history of disappointment with the wildly fickle spring and early summer weather patterns; With the false starts of brief, warm sunny weather, With the inevitable stints of cold cloudy and wet weather, With the failed forecasts, struggling vegetable gardens and lost barbeque weekends. This spring in particular has been especially forgiving here though, with an late April and early May spring dry spell that had everyone scrambling to find straw hats, sunscreen and a shady spot in the middle of the day. It is not often that I have had 75 to 80 degree sunny days this early in the year around here. Of course those of us who live here were also looking over our shoulders, expecting the typical  June-U-ary to resume the annual festival of clouds and wet cold rain, hail and sleet, freezing spells etc., at least until July 5th. The second half of May did see one of the wettest, cloudiest, spring cycles for that same period in many years. Some of us actually feel smugly vindicated in our apprehensions.

Welcome to Port Townsend!

 Now, With June here, it is nice and warm, and sunny again, and we have a wide open fair weather forecast for the week ahead. And the weeds are two feet deep. Happily, our fishing adventures begin close to home, often just a few minutes from downtown Port Townsend. We are situated on  Admiralty Inlet, between the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Our waters are nearly constantly moving with each tidal exchange, like a river, carrying nutrients and plankton rich, cold deep ocean water into Puget Sound. This makes Port Townsend an ideal starting point for sea run Coastal Cutthroat trout fishing and Salmon fishing for most of the year. We have so many opportune locations, that feature tidal rips, floods, ebbs, back eddies, etc., all of which are prime features of good fishing, but especially for fly fishing water. And driving but minutes from downtown Port Townsend we can access many local beaches, and we can easily work our way down the Hood Canal shore and it's tributary rivers and streams. There is more fishing here than we can do in a day, a month, or even a year. Some lucky anglers who come for multiple day trips will enjoy planning  a kind of fly fishing odyssey here, fishing saltwater, rivers, and maybe even lakes, in the course of a few days. For trip planning here you can try these local links to food, entertainment and lodging Plan well ahead as this is a very popular summertime destination.

www.ptguide.com and www.ptleader.com . Nearby, within 30 minutes of Port Townsend, is the resort community of Port Ludlow: www.portludlowresort.com

Tropical blue sky in early May, and a hefty sea run to hand.

 The interesting thing about sea run Coastal Cutthroat trout fly fishing in salt water here in the spring is that the fish do not seem to care much about the weather. They are on the feed now, and they cruise the shallows and edges in search of forage fish at every stage of tide, under a  bright sun or a cold, cloudy grey sky. As long as the water is not too choppy, they don't seem to mind, and we can fish for them. Wind too does not seem to put them down much here. We adapt, and we fish the flies and presentations that will work in whatever conditions that we may encounter. Right now, again, it is downright tropical around here. Generally we begin the season around the 1st of May, with smaller flies, my Chum Baby fly, for instance, will work well in the early weeks, even down to size #8 or #10, with or without a bead head. Most of my spring ties are much smaller, sizes #6 through #12, some tied on fine wire dry fly hooks. Juvenile Herring this time of year are very, very small. Small bright flashy flies work well at times. But I like more naturally colored flies, in earthy and subdued tones, with less glitter and flash than most fly patterns call for. I am trying to achieve the ghostly translucency of  a real fish under water, with the light shining through the fly, more so than reflecting on the surface it. Most commercially available salt water bait fish flies are far too dense and opaque.

A nice sea run Cutthroat caught in very shallow water.

 In these weeks of June, I will be sure to carry a broader mix of flies, ranging in sizes from very small, to quite large. I will tie some of my Chum Baby flies anywhere from one inch to one and a half inches, size #12 and #10, right on up to a size #6, then as long as two to three inches. Many of the wild Chum salmon fry that we will see passing through this region will now be quite long as they have had several months, since February and March, of living in the salt chuck to feed and grow. We will also encounter Chinook, Coho and Sockeye salmon smolt on their seaward journey through these passes. My Herring and Sand lance flies will be tied in some very small sizes now, from one inch upward, and very sparse, as there are plenty of juveniles around. But we also see some very big Sand lance now too, well over three inches long, and some of the adult Surf Smelt and Herring too can be quite big. Bigger than you will be tying them on trout hooks. It is amazing how big a forage fish  a sea run Cuttthroat can choke down into it's gullet at times. Sculpin have always played a role in sea run Cutthroat forage and should not be ignored as an option anytime, weighted and non weighted, from very small to downright huge. A good example is Mike Lawson's Wool Head Sculpin, in Olive, Brown, Grey or Black, which is about as heavy as can be, and casting that fly is akin to casting a chrome Zippo lighter. It works- swung deep and slow. And you do not need a weighted line or shooting head to cast it- just a double taper fly line and a decent stroke to begin with. Stickleback are also present in great numbers, usually adjacent to watersheds, especially salmon spawning rivers. I like the Matuka fly for imitating these forage fish, in sizes from #6 through #10. Wherever you fish for sea runs, do not forget to bring some good old fashioned Deer Hair and Marabou Muddlers, size #8 and #6. I grease them up and skitter them like crazy across the surface, on the swing etc. With or without current, these simple flies really produce.

"At The Ready" . . . The Clouser Minnow

 One saltwater fly that I have worked on for some years now, for sea run Cutthroat trout, and for salmon too, is my "Beach Baby" fly. I tie this in several versions, from very sparse and small, to quite large at up to three inches in length. The limber, flowing softness of the Marabou material, the slight suggestion of lateral line and barring in the hackle tip sides, the iridescent peacock herl topping, and the Jungle Cock eyes, the distinct black head, all are an impressionistic suggestion of our forage fish species here. Most of the salmon that we catch on our beaches are caught while we are sea run Cutthroat trout fishing, on light rods- 5wt and 6wt- and tippets down to 4X, and with any of these same trout flies. I once caught a very big ocean run silver salmon on a #6 Muddler. It was in  two feet of slow moving tide water, at my feet, right against the beach, in bright sunny light. We have caught some pretty big salmon as early as June here, while sea run cutthroat fishing, and we have landed a few. And the occasional Steelhead too! Always released without avoidable injury.

 Tie Your Own:

 If you want to learn how to tie your own Chum Baby or Beach Baby flies: I will send you two sample flies, one each of these patterns, for you to use as a model pattern to work from, with  detailed written tying  instructions for each fly.

 Send $5.00 and a self addressed stamped envelop to:

 Bob Triggs
 P.O. Box 261
 Port Townsend, WA

Little Stone's Beach Baby fly (here in size #6)

 As exciting as early spring can be for Puget Sound sea run Cutthroat fly fishing, I feel like June is the big transitional month for these fish. They have had time to grow fatter by now, feeding aggressively in the saltwater, after spawning earlier in the year. The forage fish species have already spawned, and the juveniles are growing, spreading out into broader areas. Often in June we will have some  big number days, when so many Cutthroat seem to show up all at once to feed along our beaches. The shoreline here is heavily vegetated, and there are logs and woody debris on every beach. The shore is a rich habitat for insects, terrestrials etc., which by now have had time to hatch out and grow. So our options for fly selection increases to include ants, beetles, termites, moths, hoppers etc. This is expected to be another big tent caterpillar year again, so some soft, webby dry flies etc., might do the trick, in a beige or cream color, about size #8 or #10. So do not hesitate to have some nice little Royal Wulffs, Stimulators, Caddis etc., in your salt chuck fly box. There is a sense of expectancy on the beaches now, as the salmon work their way down the North Pacific coast, toward the straight of Juan de Fuca. Soon we will be seeing them along our beaches. The Coho run forecast is once again very strong. And they forecast some 5-6 million Pink salmon on the run here this year as well. We usually see the Pinks here by early July.

 With the rivers here now open for trout fishing we have some nice options for fly fishing these waters too, and sometimes we can include a tidal reach on some rivers here, and have the opportunity then to fish for sea run Cutthroat trout, and summer Steelhead, all in the same day. We have had another excellent water year here, with significant snow pack developing well into early spring, and a nice slow runoff between these spring freshets. The rivers are in very good shape now, and the forecast ahead is just about as perfect as it can be. Strange, but true. Maybe the hardest part of all of this is just making up our minds about which place to fish first. "Fate favors the prepared".

Summer Run Steelhead Fly Fishing in tidewater.

      Remember: Catch & Release, Fair-Chase, Fly Fishing Only!                                                                     

        Booking walk and wade fly fishing trips on the wild waters of the Olympic Peninsula.                                                                                                               

  Bob Triggs
  Little Stone Flyfisher
  Licensed Washington State Guide
  Certified Fly Casting Instructor

  Telephone: 360-385-9618 / Toll Free: 866-793-3595
  Email: littlestoneflyfisher@mail.com

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1 comment:

MTG said...

This is a really good summary of what I want to learn about saltwater cutthroat fishing. Thanks for the post.