Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It's that time of year.

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide.
Catch & Release, Fly Fishing Only!

A well used beach dory gets a much deserved bit of annual restoration in the boat shop. By the time that I get done, I will have to burn my work clothes. Spring sea-run coastal cutthroat trout fly fishing is coming!

Scrape, scrape, scrape, spend $, patch, sand, patch, spend $, sand, sand, sand, spend $, paint, sand, paint, spend $ sand, paint, and a little bit of varnish . . .  
Until your fingers bleed. Then, put some band aids on your bloody fingers and and let the paint dry.

Photo credit gratitude to Kaci Cronkite

 It's Chum Baby Time!

The whole point! 
Photo credit U.S.F.W.S.
     March on the north Olympic Peninsula coastal rivers is peak spring spawning time for most of our sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout. So it's no surprise that we don't see very many of them on the beaches right now. With the milder winter we have had this year it is likely that many of them have already spawned, and some are well on their way to the salt. Maybe this explains why we see some robust, fat cutthroat in the saltchuck now too. But by mid to later April they will be showing up in greater numbers up here, chasing the juvenile Chum salmon all over the place, and fattening up. And it doesn't hurt a bit that we have had some very strong runs of these salmon returning to our watersheds to spawn. For the next few months or more, the regional fisheries biologists and technicians, using smolt traps, will be counting the out-migrating fry as they move out of the gravel redds and down to the estuaries. This will continue for many weeks to come here. And just about the time that the post spawning Cutthroat, and some of their younger brethren, have dropped out of the rivers and streams, and down to the estuaries and shorelines, the Chum salmon juveniles will be well distributed in the same places. And soon the Cutthroat will be feeding with reckless zeal.

    These fish, both predator and prey alike, have evolved through this dance over many tens of thousands of years here. As fly fishers it behooves us to learn about these things. Now is the time! The Chum Baby fly is also doing well up in Alaska, on the early season Lake Iliamna tributaries and Katmai National Park region Rainbows and Char, Grayling etc., that are feeding on fry and smolt in the rivers. And now some of my whacko smallmouth bass fishing buddies are cleaning up with the Chum Baby fly on the rivers and lakes too. So we are discovering that this fly has some application beyond the shores of Puget Sound country. You should be using this fly anywhere that the big fish eat the little fish!
    This fly has become a very well known, popular and successful pattern for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout fly fishing on Puget Sound regional waters and beyond.  
I worked this fly up over several seasons of trial and error on my local beaches. After catching many sea runs on it from late winter through early summer, from the north Olympic Peninsula and Admiralty Inlet to the Hood Canal beaches, I knew it was a winner. I originally intended the Chum Baby as an imitation of our out migrating juvenile Chum salmon, which are plentiful here along the shallow and warmer near shore areas, pocket lagoons and estuaries in early spring, and the trout eat them aggressively.

     What has come as a happy surprise is how well this fly can work at other times of year here, even when there are no Chum salmon fry around. And I use it in our rivers and streams too. Even in the fall. Some people are using this fly on the Skagit system for Dolly Varden / Bull Trout in the spring  And now many of my fly angling friends and fellow guides are using this as an all-around fry pattern; in Alaska for Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Char and Grayling, and on the Atlantic Coast for "Coaster" Brook Trout and Striped Bass. We are also using them on Snook, Redfish and Sea trout down south. This has been a very fun thing to watch evolving. And sometimes we need to remember that this whole fly fishing thing is supposed to be fun.

 The Chum Baby fly can be presented using a wet fly swing, dead drift, cast and strip, fast, slow, shallow or deep- as needed. One thing that you will notice about it is that the wing really lights up under water with even a small amount of sunlight. And the sparser you tie them the better this works. Juvenile salmon and other forage fish are not opaque underwater, they are semi transparent. The distinct dark peacock herl collar on this fly is meant to emulate the eye of  a chum fry. The glittering tinsel body is to imitate the gut and the two crystal flash strips represent the lateral line. The barring of the natural Fox Squirrel tail wing seems to work very well, even though most of the Chum salmon fry and older juveniles you see will be subtler in color, spotted, and usually more on the green, olive brown side. The peacock herl topping is simply because I am old fashioned, and I try to include some of the more traditional features of old world patterns in my flies. All in an impressionistic effort. Strictly speaking we can call this fly an "attractor" pattern.

 I tie them sparsely in the early spring, March and April, at under two inches long overall. By May and June I tie them much longer, and with a larger bead. They can be tied with a smaller hook, size # 8 or #10, and with a much smaller wing etc. But if I am tying it larger I do not increase the hook size above #6 as we are trying to avoid injury to these precious wild trout. I like these medium shank length hooks as we tend to get good hook ups, with only very rarely any deep hooking or tongue injuries this way.


    Dozens of Chum Baby flies are once again migrating across Puget Sound, over the I-405 Bridge, and all of the way upstream to the Orvis Bellevue Fly Shop!

If you are in the Seattle area, drop in to the Belevue Orvis Shop!

Tie your own Chum Baby flies!

   If you would like to tie your own Chum Baby flies, from my original pattern and written instructions, I will be happy to provide two sample tying model flies, tied by myself, with the written instructions. 

   Just send $5.00 and a self addressed legal sized return envelope to:

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

       We will be back on the water this spring! Just in time for the beginning of another beautiful season of wild sea run Coastal Cutthroat trout fly fishing on the saltwaters and rivers of the Olympic Peninsula, Hood Canal and Puget Sound. Drop me a note or give me a call for details. All trips, casting instruction sessions, public and fly fishing club presentations, and rowboat picnics, must be booked in advance.

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide and Instructor

      I am guiding fly fishers on the Olympic Peninsula beaches, rivers and streams. We walk and wade, fly fishing for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout in freshwater and saltwater, and in the rivers for trout and summer steelhead. This is strictly catch and release, traditional fly fishing only. Lunch, snacks, soft beverages, and use of some equipment is included. I also offer personalized and private fly fishing and fly  casting instruction for beginners.  I would be happy to help you plan your Olympic Peninsula fly fishing adventure, for beginners through expert anglers. Public presentations, Naturalist guide, Rowboat picnics, Tide Pool and  River trail day trips. Please call, write or email for booking details. Now booking for April, May, and beyond! 

This is the way to go fly fishing for sea-run Cutthroat!
SSShhh!!!  Listen to the quiet . . .
Bob Triggs
Little Stone Flyfisher
P.O. Box 261
Port Townsend, WA

Licensed Washington State Guide 
Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Trout Unlimited Aquatic Educator Award
W.S.U. Water Watchers and Beach Watchers Graduate
U.S.C.G First Aid/CPR/BLS/AED/BBP/HIV Certified

Phone: 360-385-9618

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