Category Archives: Fishing Articles

borden special

Popular flies for searun cutthroat trout

Sandlance patterns

Sandlance, also referred to as candlefish, are a long and narrow baitfish that makes up a significant part of a searun trout and other salmonids diet. They are an important forage fish throughout Puget sound and therefore make an excellent food source to imitate with flies. Sandlance fly patterns for searun cutthroat are usually comprised of a long body of bucktail, or other synthetic hair like material, flash, and an epoxy head or body complete with eyes, either painted or stuck within the epoxy head. Fish Sand lance patterns in the saltwater and in estuaries when searun cutthroat are present.

Clousers and Deceivers

Clouser minnows are quite possibly the most widely used, and successfully used, saltwater baitfish flies in existence. The Clouser minnow could be considered the woolley bugger of saltwater flies. Tied in a multitude of colors, Clouser minnows incorporate bucktail, flash, and different size brass, or tungsten dumbbell eyes.

The Deceiver ranks right up there with the Clouser as one of the most prolific flies to grace saltwater fly fishing. The profile of the popular Deceiver pattern matches all sorts of different baitfish, which is why it is one of the most popular saltwater flies. It’s a safe bet to always carry an assortment of colors and sizes.

Spiders & Reverse Spiders

Spider, and reverse spider, fly patterns are a simple pattern consisting of a chenille body, often ribbed, and a mallard flank collar, or reverse collar and are very effective of searun cutthroat. The regular spider has a mallard flank collar that flows back towards the hook point. The reverse spider has the mallard flank collar tied in opposite, so that it extends out away from the rest of the fly and over the eye of the hook. Different sizes and body colors are effective for searun cutthroat.

Muddler Minnows

Muddler minnows, and variants like the rolled muddler minnow, are quite possibly some of the best all around flies for searun cutthroat. Why is this? Most probably because they imitate some of the most abundant food sources available in fresh water, whitefish and salmon smolts. Whether fishing the salt or the rivers it’s always a good choice to carry a few muddler minnows in sizes 10 through 6. A gold bead and gold body muddler is a good choice in rivers with strong whitefish populations while it’s generally accepted that the silver bead and body is better in the salt. Muddlers imitate a variety of small fish, and searun cutthroat love to eat them.

Traditional Patterns

Traditional fly fishing patterns have long been used to catch searun cutthroat. An example is the Borden Special which is a more traditional style searun cutthroat fly that maintains a traditional profile. The Borden Special is comprised of a mixture of pink and yellow hackle for the tail and collar, with a pink chenille body ribbed with silver, and topped off with a wing of calftail. Fish the Borden Special just under the surface, with a slow swing to entice a hungry searun to attack.

borden special

Woolly Buggers

No fly selection would be complete without an assortment of Woolly Buggers. Searun cutthroat with attack a Woolly Bugger readily at times. Available in any size and color combination imaginable, the Woolly bugger is a good fly to swing or strip for searun cutthroat. Popular colors include black, olive, brown, white, and combination of these colors. A bead, or tungsten cone, is often added to get the fly down in the water column.

Egg Flies

In rivers and streams with a healthy population of spawning salmon, the opportunity to find searun cutthroat, along with steelhead and bull trout, feeding on salmon eggs is quite possible, if not probable. This scenario is usually found further upriver, where salmon are spawning. When fishing egg flies, be sure to respect the spawning fish, and fish well below them as not to disturb their “happy time”. Egg flies range from balls of glo-bug yarn on a hook to intricate patterns of dubbing, marabou, sparkle and more.

Traditional nymphs, insects, and dry flies

After searun cutthroat have been back in their native rivers and streams for a while, they will start to key back in on the sources of food that they grew up with. This means nymphs, terrestrials, and dry flies. If your streamer patterns and spiders aren’t producing, try something different. Just because searun cutthroat spend a majority of their time in saltwater doesn’t mean that they forgot about their food sources that they were reared on. Match the hatch, and see what happens.

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coastal cutthroat

Fly fishing for searun cutthroat

The Searun cutthroat, also known as the Coastal cutthroat, is a popular fish for fly fishing enthusiasts.

The draw for fly fishing for searun cutthroat stems from the relatively large numbers of the fish, due to a good comeback, and the wide array of areas that searun cutthroat can be found. In the summer and fall, take a stroll down any Puget sound beach, or along the banks of any coastal stream, river, or tributary in the Pacific Northwest and you just might find a few coastal cutthroat hanging around.

At times searun cutthroat will slam flies with reckless abandon, and at other times they will display lockjaw to rival a coho salmon.

Once a few willing specimens are found, the searun cutthroat is a strong fighter, who can test a fly anglers gear. Although not nearly as large as their searun cousins, the steelhead, the searun cutthroat is a hard fighter and is a thrill to catch on fly fishing gear. Coastal cutthroat will grow to a decent size and can push the 20+ inch mark.

Fly Fishing Gear

Whether targeting coastal cutthroat with fly fishing gear in the saltwater, or in the freshwater streams and rivers they migrate in and out of, a 5/6 weight fly rod with a matching reel is adequate. A floating line will usually be your go-to choice, but sometimes an intermediate or heavier sink tip can be utilized effectively.

Clouser Minnow

Clouser Minnow

Searun cutthroat flies vary by situation. A good assortment of sandlance, clousers, deceivers, and muddler fly patterns will usually do the trick in the saltwater while spiders, reverse spiders, muddlers, rolled muddlers, and flies like the borden special work well in freshwater rivers and streams.

When fly fishing for sea-run cutthroat, it is a good idea to carry a variety of different sized flies to match the situation. At times, in the upper reaches of rivers and streams dry flies, and sometimes egg flies, will work wonders on hungry searun cutthroat.

Reading the water

Searun cutthroat like to hang in slow, protected water. This can sometimes pose a challenge when fly fishing for them since it is very different from the usual trout holding water. When fly fishing for searun cutthroat, avoid the usual trout holding water, and instead look for water that more closely resembles smallmouth bass water.

Slow water, around rock piles, undercut banks, and holding deep within submerged logs are key places to look for searun cutthroat.

Related articles:

Fly fishing for Searun Cutthroat in rivers

The best tide levels for saltwater searun cutthroat fishing

Washington state searun cutthroat fishing

Popular flies for searun cutthroat trout

Fly Fishing for Searun Cutthroat in Rivers

Throughout the spring and summer you’re likely to find searun cuthroat hanging out around estuaries near the mouths of rivers and streams in the saltwater. In the fall, searun cutthroat move up out of the estuaries and into the rivers and streams proper at which time fly fishing for them can be extremely productive.

Searun Cutthroat fishing in the river

Searun Cutthroat fishing in the river

This can be an exciting time to fish for them as they can be targeted around the various structures that will consistently hold searun cutthroat. Some of the best fly fishing techniques for catching searun cutthroat in rivers are to cast tight to shore or the structure and retrieve your fly with a few quick erratic strips before swinging the fly down with the current.

John Shewey points out, in is great book, Northwest Fly Fishing Trout and Beyond: Trout and Beyond, that searun cutthroat trout are more likely to be found in habitat similar to that of smallmouth bass, than other trout.

Fish in Non-traditional Trout Fishing Spots

You can fish riffles and slots where trout would normally be found, and have no success in finding searun cutthroat. Bluebacks prefer slow water, log jams, steep rocky drop offs, and cut banks. In other words, places to hide under cover.

Cast near one of these types of lies and you’re likely to be rewarded with a sleep silvery fish darting out and slamming your fly.

Learn to spot the likely holding water for searun cutthroat and your fishing productivity will skyrocket.

Once you’ve found a spot that holds searuns, remember it, because unless the river changes course or eliminates the hold, fish will be there every year.

The Best Tide Levels for Catching Searun Cutthroat Trout

Tide levels can play an important role in determining whether or not an angler will be successful in catching searun cutthroat trout on a given day or not.

A swift incoming or outgoing tide is often crucial to success when fishing for searun cutthroat. A moving tide tends to move baitfish and shrimp, and provide opportunistic feeders like the searun cutthroat with the perfect opportunity for a meal.

When reading a tide table, choose a day to fish when the low or high tide coincides with the early morning or late evening. Generally speaking, large tide swings are good because it gets the current flowing and helps move food around.

Even when in the saltwater, searun cutthroat like to hide around structure and obstacles and ambush prey as the tide brings it by them. An early morning on an overcast day an hour after high tide may be the perfect opportunity to cast for searuns.

If fishing an estuary area, or where the river flows into the salt, an incoming tide can help bring searun cutthroat into the estuary mouth to feed on crustaceans and baitfish. These can be great times to stalk bluebacks across the sand flats and around structure at river mouths.

Washington State Searun Cutthroat Fly Fishing

Washington state has opportunities for searun cutthroat fishing that are limited only by the amount of coastline available. That being said, huge amounts of areas within Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula, and south to the Columbia river have prime sea run cutthroat habitat. Any estuary area from full blown rivers down to small streams have the capability of harboring searun trout.

Searun Cutthroat Puget Sound beach

Searun Cutthroat Puget Sound beach

Puget Sound Cutthroat
From the southern part of Puget Sound near Tacoma and Seattle all the way up to Bellingham near the Canadian border, fishing opportunities for searuns are excellent. Puget sound is ripe with opportunities for anglers to chase searun cutts both in the saltwater and freshwater. With large areas of prime saltwater accessible to boat anglers and beach going anglers, Puget sound is a haven for searun cutthroat enthusiasts.

When fishing the salt, look for areas that provide cover and the chance for tidal rips or currents to move food around. Kelp beds, rocks, logs, estuary mud flats and more all provide premium habitat for saltwater searun cutthroat.

From small streams to full blown rivers, the Puget sound area is rich with freshwater opportunities. Pretty much any coastal stream has, or at one point had, runs of sea run cutthroat. In the late summer and fall when the searuns begin to move into the rivers, look for these seagoing trout in slow moving water around logjams, steep rocky embankments, undercut banks, and other hideouts.

River Searun Cutthroat fly fishing

River Searun Cutthroat fly fishing

Fishing the Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic coastal strip near Forks, Washington has many rivers and streams that provide excellent angling. Aside from the world class Steelheading, another draw to the area could be to chase the smaller, but equally spirited searun cutthroat.

From Neah bay all the way down to Queets, there are opportunities to catch searun cutthroat in the creek mouths, off the beaches, and in the rivers. A hike down any of the ample public beaches just might be rewarded with the opportunity to catch searun cutthroat off the beach and in the estuaries of any of the numerous creeks and rivers.

Searun cutthroat in Washingtons rivers
The rest of Washington state offers plenty of rivers and streams that searuns use for spawning and rearing. Google maps can be a valuable asset in finding small creeks and tributaries off major rivers. Anywhere where public access can be found to the mouths of such creeks and rivers can most likely be productive at times.