Saturday, May 21, 2016

Beach Bugs- "You can't catch sea-runs on dry flies"

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

"They said it couldn't be done. It was a tough job, and he knew it.
But he took that job they said couldn't be done, 
and by God, he couldn't do it!"

"You can't catch sea-runs on dry flies"

The Royal Wulff
   Once upon a time there was a big-time pro fly fisherman, you might even say that he was an "expert." And in passing one day, at the local fly shop, he asked me how the sea-run fishing was going. I told him that we were getting them on the surface, on dry flies that week. He stopped and frowned at me: 

"Don't be ridiculous, you can't catch sea-runs in the saltwater on dry flies."  

   I didn't know what to say, so I just shrugged. I knew that I had been catching sea-runs on  dry flies for a few years by that time. He walked out of the shop. I didn't think much more about it until a few weeks later, when I had a father and son out on the beaches fishing. At one point the boy asked, (in that way that only a teenager can ask): 

"When are they going to jump up into the air, like you said they would?" 

   Now, the interesting thing about fishing Karma is that sometimes things can happen that can't be explained. But by the way that they happen you get a sense that the fish, or the universe, is listening to you. Or maybe just trying to tell you something. Like the way someone will announce: 

"This is my last cast!" 

   And then, as they are winding in the fly and line, a fish will slam the fly. This is especially rewarding if they have not caught anything all day. Stuff like that. 

   Just as I was trying to come up with an answer to this boy's perfectly reasonable question, a big trout jumps up out of the water and cartwheels through the air, about fifteen feet in front of the boy. He was astonished. (So was I. But I did also feel a sense of relief as this burden of credibility had so conveniently been lifted from me in the moment.) Now this boy was a beginner and he couldn't cast much more than that short distance anyway. And to help him see the fly more easily I had tied on a Muddler Minnow for most of the day. But he had beaten most of the Muddlers that I had tied on for him into the rocks and shells and barnacles, on the beach behind him, all day. And I was out of Muddlers by the afternoon. So I had tied on a nice, fluffy #12 Royal Wulff fly, and greased it up to float. Because you just never know. And they are trout, after all. And trout eat bugs. I told him to try to drop the fly right where the fish had just jumped. And he did just that. Perfectly. There was a slow swirl around the fly, and a flash of silver and spray of water, as the big trout crashed down on the fly. Boom!  And the game was on. It took a minute or so for the boy to get it together, with a little coaching, and he got the fish into shallow water. I got the fish off of the hook, and we had a moment to look at a bright, strong, wild sea-run cutthroat that was every bit of 18 inches or more. I let the trout slide of of my hand and swim away. We were breathless. 
   Here's the fishing Karma part. As the trout swam away I heard a familiar voice exclaim: 

"Hey, that's a huuuuuge cutthroat!!" 

   And here, breathlessly stampeding up the beach, comes the big-time fly fishing pro! Like any fisherman would, he asked: 

   "What did you get him on?!" 

   So I held up the fly, dripping wet and still attached to the tippet, and I said: 

"A number 12 Royal Wulff." 

   And the big-time pro fly fisherman said: 

"Don't be ridiculous! You can't catch sea-runs on a dry fly in saltwater!"  

   True story.   

      Another exercise of incredulity. One afternoon I was watching an older fly angler working a fly off the beach for a while. He was fishing in close, in just a  few feet of water. He seemed to be "high-sticking" this fly through some riffles with a dead drift. Gradually raising his rod tip at the end of each drift, lifting the fly to the surface, and repeating the presentation. He had no strike indicator, but I could have sworn that he was nymph fishing in saltwater!  I watched him catch and release a few fish this way. When he walked back to the parking lot I had to ask him: 

"What did you get him on?" 

   He pulled his fly box out of his vest, (only tourist visitors wear a fly fishing vest on the beaches here), and he opened it up to reveal a few dozen black and yellow Kaufmann's Stone Fly nymphs. 

"They're taking the yellow ones today."  

   He was holding one up for me to look at, and it was still dripping wet, tied to the tippet. 

Who was I to argue with this? 

Trust yourself!  

Black Giant Stoneflies. Real ones!
photo credit @vonbeardly

One of my fly fishing heroes is Lefty Kreh. Aside from his living-legend status as a master angler, fly casting instructor, inventor, and author, he's also a great raconteur. One of Lefty's great quotes goes like this: 

"Watch out for the experts . . . 
An ex is a has-been, and a spurt is just a drip under pressure"

This is probably the most relaxing way to fish for sea-run cutthroat.
One angler, maybe two,  Call or write for details.

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, or row along the shorelines in the dory, fly fishing for sea-run Coastal Cutthroat trout in freshwater and saltwater, and in the rivers for Cutthroat trout and summer steelhead. This is all strictly catch and release, traditional, barbless single hook, 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 through advanced casters. I would be happy to help you plan your Olympic Peninsula fly fishing adventure, for all levels of ability, beginner to expert. 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 through October and beyond. 

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
2006 W.S.U.Beach Watcher / Water Watcher graduate
U.S.C.G First Aid/CPR/BLS/AED/BBP/HIV Certified

Phone: 360-385-9618

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