Thanksgiving weekend 2007 not only afforded me a few days to visit Mom in Washington state on the shores of Puget Sound, but also allowed for some time spent fly fishing for SRCs (Sea Run Cutthroats) and chum salmon in the cold, clear, saltwater of the Sound. Being from Idaho I don't get a chance to fish saltwater or salmon too often, so I flew out to Washington not only looking forward to spending the holiday with family, but also in anticipation of a new fishing experience and the challenge of coaxing some saltwater species into my net.
Fortunately I had come across Jon Aqui's Fishing Blog earlier in the year and had followed along with his fly fishing exploits on the Sound over the months leading up to Thanksgiving. Once in Washington I contacted Jon, asking him if he had any tips for a newbie to the area like myself. He graciously responded with info that only a local experienced angler could provide.
Day 1 began on the shores of Narrows Park just prior to sunrise. I flogged about with a pink streamer for an hour or so as a pack of seals cruised by 100 yards out from shore and the sun rose over Mt. Rainier. It was one of those times where you are grateful just to be on the water. As I walked along the shore wondering about my choice of fly and if there were even any fish along this stretch of water, I was approached by the only other fisherman on the beach who had arrived just shortly after I. We got to talking and it turned out that he (Paul C.) was acquainted with Jon. Paul confirmed that we were indeed in a good fishing spot and that my pink streamer was a solid choice, but there just wasn't much action that morning. He was also kind enough to provide the saltwater rookie with a couple of his Clouser patterns. We talked for awhile as his Golden Retriever swam in the water and ran around the rocky beach, and then both decided to move on to other areas. I don't know where Paul headed off to but I got in my car and drove to Kopachuck Park.
It was windy on Kopachuck beach but the sky was mostly clear and the sun was shining through the trees. Maybe half a mile or so off the beach is a small island where the state record SRC had been caught. This might be a good place. I switched from my streamer to "Paul's Clouser #1" and waded into the water. On my second retrieve I felt a tug on the line and landed my first ever SRC shortly thereafter. At just under 12" the young cutt was not spectacular but was a memorable fish nonetheless. You never forget your first time, right? Several more casts yielded 3 more SRCs, although 2 of them got off before being landed. I fished for another half hour without any luck and decided I was cold and hungry, so it was back to Mom's for hot coffee and lunch.
The morning of day 2 was spent along the Purdy Spit. I casted about for maybe 1/2 hour at low tide before I noticed the chum salmon jumping and rolling across the bay. As I gathered up my things and prepared to drive to the salmon side of the bay I realized that I had left my waders back at Mom's. Ugh. Okay, there are other options. I decided to drive over to Minter Creek and see if any salmon had begun moving up the creek yet. I arrived to find plenty of chums in the creek and nearly as many fishermen lining the banks. Rather than join the fray I just watched for awhile from a bridge up above. Now Minter Creek is only about 10 feet wide and a couple feet deep, and the "fishing" that I saw consisted mostly of snagging salmon and dragging them onto the shore. I watched the carnage for a few minutes along with another gentleman who sarcastically quipped "These are some real sportsmen" as he turned to leave. So that was it for the rather disappointing morning of Day 2. But the evening of Day 2 was yet to come.
After dinner it was back up to the Purdy Spit, this time with waders in tow. The tide was in and one could see the occasional splash of a salmon as one gazed down the shoreline. Encouraged that there were still chums in the area I made my way down to where the action was and, after stopping to chat for a bit with another local, began casting about with "Paul's Clouser #2". After an hour or so of casting to various depths and varied retrieve speeds I finally felt a tug, followed immediately by a violent pull. Within 2 seconds a chum had taken the line to the backing as he jumped and sped off into the sunset and deeper water. As I struggled to haul him back to the shore my exhiliration turned to disappointment as it became obvious that he wasn't fair hooked - he was instead snagged just in front of the dorsal fin. I finally got him in the net, removed the hook from his backside and returned him to the water. The salmon had become quite active by this point, and as a full moon took over for the now-absent sun the serenity of a windless night on the Sound was disturbed only by the salmon which now roiled the water all around me. Within half an hour "Clouser #2" had hooked salmon #2. This time the hook set and ensuing struggle felt right and resulted in a fair hooked 32" chum.
That seemed like a pretty good way to end both the day and my inaugural Puget Sound fishing experience. I look forward to fishing here again when I come back for another visit.