Fly Fishing For Sea Run Cutthroat Trout
First of all, Sea Run Cutthroats aren't found in every steelhead and salmon stream that
flows from the Pacific Ocean into freshwater streams. They can only be found in certain
streams. Those streams that do have runs of cutthroats are designated in the various
articles of the stream section of this site.
The Sea Run Cutthroat trout will generally come into the river after the first major salmon
run. They can remain in the tidal waters for a few days, coming in and going out with the
tides. As soon as they enter the rivers, they must revert to feeding on aquatic insects.
The saltwater baitfish they are used to eating don't exist in the freshwater. They slowly
change their eating habits back to the insects they were raised on. In some streams,
they feed almost exclusively on aquatic insects; however, in most cases, they will also
feed on small minnows and baitfish.
Since the Sea Run Cutts follow the salmon, fly fishing after a rain increases your chances
of finding the fish. Salmon prefer the higher water, especially when the streams are low in
the Fall season.
If the water is very clear, dark, cloudy days are always best. It doesn't seem to mater that
much if the water is stained, but it does if it's very clear. The low light conditions give the
cutthroat trout a much better chance of hiding and attacking the baitfish. They don't tend
to follow or chase bait in open water. If the water is clear, you want to fish the shallower
water under low light conditions. If it's a bright clear day, fish the edges of the channels,
pockets and deeper areas of water.
Up and across presentations of the fly usually work best. You can get much closer to the
cutthroat fishing in an upstream direction and make more accurate presentations than
you can make fishing blinding in large areas of the stream. Down and across
presentations, and swinging the fly works occasionally, but usually not as good as the up
and across direction. Many anglers will disagree with this but that's what we have found
to be most productive.
Most of the time a weight-forward, floating fly line is best. If you are fishing slow moving,
slick water, fish near cover and structure in the water. The banks are usually better than
mid-stream structure but again, that can vary with the particular stream your fishing.
Small, Spey flies will also work when your fishing the larger, open water streams.
Sometimes the Sea Run Cutthroats can be found in the same water you would find
Remember, the sea run cutthroats don't stay in anyone area for a long period of time.
They move around in the stream changing their locations. You should do the same thing
until you find them. Fishing the same section of a stream, waiting on the trout to come to
you is a poor strategy. Keep fishing different areas of the stream until you find the fish.
The sea run cutthroats move around in schools. Using a boat is usually more productive
than moving around to different wading areas but both methods work, and depend
largely on the particular stream your fishing. Larger, bigger waters often require boats
due to limited wading areas.
The Sea Run Cutthroat spend time in the freshwater from the time they are born until
they depart for the sea. Once they are back in the freshwater for a while, they revert
back to their eating habits they relied on before. They will eat small minnows and baitfish
but in most cases, the revert back to eating mayfly and stonefly nymphs and caddisfly
and midge larvae. The will also take imitations of terrestrials such as hoppers, ants and
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