Fishing Too Early

Fishing Too Early

            We got out of the car to take a look at the inlet and the beach where we planned to fish for sea run cutthroat (“Cutts”).  It was the peak of the high tide and the water covered the beach and reached up into the bushes.  It lay deep against the break wall, too deep to wade out on the point where we wanted to fish.  We had arrived too early.  It would be two hours before the tide would run back out sufficiently to make our beach accessible.  A strange feeling, arriving too early for a fishing trip.

            My pal Jerry said, “I know another place.  Let’s head over to Purdy.”  It was only 20 minutes away.  When we arrived there we parked and looked down over the break wall at six to eight feet of water, a deep current that raced along the front of a 10-foot concrete wall.  I could barely see the glacial cobbles on the bottom.  We seemed to be here too early as well.  Jerry said he normally climbed down off the wall and walked or waded along the front of it.  It didn’t look right to him and he was ready to scout another beach much further away.

            But I wanted to take a closer look, so we made our way around a closed and vacant restaurant and cut in behind a service station.  This was not exactly a remote location but we had it to ourselves, and I did like the way the tide was running, and I liked the looks of the soft eddy that was forming 30 or 40 feet out from the wall.  So we picked our spots and started casting from our positions on top of the break wall, an unusual perch from which to fly cast but, ah well, one has to make do when you show up too early.

            I was getting a nice swing with my streamer fly, casting slightly “upstream,” letting the fly settle in the current, then stripping the line briskly.  I wanted the fly to look like a frightened minnow racing for cover.  Nothing happened at first, but as I stripped off more line and cast further out into the soft eddy,  I thought I felt some taps on the line which could only be fish because my fly was nowhere near bottom.  I kept casting and soon was briefly hooked to a fish that splashed on the surface and was gone.


Meanwhile, Jerry, fishing above me, wasn’t drawing any action other than a couple hookups on a submerged log.  I kept casting further and swinging through the soft eddy, getting strikes on every other cast.  It was a little amusing to be hooking all these Cutts standing on a wall behind a service station, but I wasn’t all that surprised.  Sea runs are a very nomadic fish that travel around the Sound in schools searching for food, and apparently they’d found some in this eddy. 

            I was getting a lot of strikes and hooking a lot of fish (7 or 8) but not landing any.  It seemed my position so high above the water gave me an unfavorable angle.  Or perhaps the fly was just traveling too fast as it swung with the tide and the fish were having a hard time catching it.  Finally I got a solid hookup to a nice fish and played it up to the face of the wall, and carefully drew it up hand over hand to grasp the fly and shake it free.  A minute later Jerry yelled and he was fast to a fish that didn’t get off until I took his picture with my cell phone.  After that no more action; they were wise to us.

            That meant it was time to head back to our original beach in hopes the tide had receded enough to give us access.  We drove back and looked down from the cliff overlooking the beach and saw immediately that we had de-watered beach that we could walk on, so we descended on the steep little trail down to the beach, climbed over the wall of driftwood, and headed up to a small point about 200 yards away.  The golf ball sized beach cobbles crunched under our feet.  We ducked under low hanging alder branches that reached out over the water.  We were anxious to get to the point where we could see the tide flowing out, creating a wide fish attracting riffle.

            I knew this point well, having fished it several times and caught some really hefty sea runs.  Most of the point was still submerged where its tongue reached well out into the inlet.  I knew from experience that the submerged point was home to oyster beds where the sea runs liked to hold in the current and ambush minnows and little shrimp.  We started casting from ankle deep water and waded out to thigh depth.  Our fly lines bellied in the current, sweeping our flies down and across the shallow point at a perfect pace.  I was alert, on edge, expecting a grab at any moment.  And the grabs came, sudden and jarring, first an average fish that I played and released, then a much larger fished that ran hard against the tide.  He was solidly hooked, so I thought, until he made an abrupt turn and the hook was out.  And that was it.  We cast another half hour without another grab.

            There was one more spot where we could get easier access to the beach, thus a place we might not have to ourselves, but it was such a rainy, squally day there might not be others around and, in fact, this beach was also unoccupied, so we waded in and got to work.  I didn’t think our chances here were real good, but I had caught cutthroat here before, so you never know.  I waded in and started casting, taking a few steps up the beach after every second or third cast.  I waded 30 or 40 yards with no sign of fish, then spotted what looked like a small splash in the tide current.  A feeding fish?  I cast to it and immediately hooked a small cutt that I brought to hand and released. 

            Now my eyes were glued to the tide current in front of me and I saw another, larger fish come up.  He thumped the fly without getting the hook.  I cast again, and again, and again, and on the fourth cast he struck again and I had him solidly hooked……but only briefly.  We would have continued fishing but a ferocious rain squall pelted us hard and drove us off the beach.

            The lesson in this story is should you ever show up too early for a fishing trip, don’t go home.  Stick around, with a little patience it might just work out.



About the Author

Olympic Fly Fishers of Edmonds
Olympic Fly Fishers of Edmonds is dedicated to camaraderie and the pursuit of happiness while fly fishing. We catch and release trout, salmon, bass, steelhead and other game fish in the fresh and salt waters of Washington, Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia.

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