Eddie Bauer fishing guide Andrew Bennett has traveled the globe to remote locations in search of some world-famous fish. But one of his favorite fishing experiences is in his very urban hometown of Seattle, Washington. The Puget Sound is known for its salmon and steelhead fishing, but amidst the skyscrapers, sprawl, and nearly constant traffic back-ups, one of the often overlooked favorites of the 206 fly-fishing crowd is the sea-run cutthroat. Bennett gives us a basic education on our special hometown fish. —LYA Editor
Words by Andrew Bennett, Images by Keith Robbins and Ed Sozinho
Here in the Puget Sound region where Eddie Bauer makes its home, salmon and steelhead are the best-known game fish. In the early 1900s, Eddie himself was an avid salmon fisherman, and salmon and steelhead anglers today put in many hours on Puget Sound locations near Seattle and on the rivers in the area.
One local fish that’s often overlooked, though, is the sea-run cutthroat trout. These beautiful local fish provide great angling opportunities, with incredibly easy access just minutes from even downtown Seattle.
Sea-run cutthroats, or SRCs for short, have a life cycle that’s a lot like that of a salmon or steelhead. They hatch in freshwater rivers and streams, head out to the saltwater to feed and mature, and then return to the freshwater to spawn. During the time that SRCs spend in the saltwater, they don’t go to the open ocean like salmon and steelhead do. They typically stay within 10 miles of their native stream. That makes for excellent fishing nearly year-round in areas with lots of stream mouths like Puget Sound!
SRCs do a lot of their feeding in very shallow water right off the beach. Fly anglers using 5- and 6-weight rods have great chances to catch fish by simply casting on foot from one of countless public access areas around Puget Sound–even big public beaches like Lincoln Park and Golden Gardens. No complicated gear is required–just the same rod, reel, and waders that you’d use trout fishing on most rivers, and a saltwater fly line. Most SRC flies imitate the baitfish that make up the bulk of the diet of these fish. Old standards like the Chartreuse and White Clouser have caught countless cutthroat trout in the saltwater.
Beach fishing is a really easy, low-maintenance way to catch SRCs, but there are also some benefits to chasing them from a boat. Boat anglers still cast into shallow water off the beaches. They just pull the boat close to shore, drift with the tide, and cast towards the shoreline. Setting up these drifts on the tide allows boat anglers to cover more water in their search for fish, and if a particular beach doesn’t seem to hold fish on any given day, it’s quite a bit easier for a boat angler to just pick up and move! Local guides like Keith Robbins and Chris Senyohl take care of all the details and deliver an incredible day on the water–just minutes from the Space Needle.
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