Fly Fishing the Southern Salish Sea – Part Two

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, MT

The point at Fort Flagler

The point at Fort Flagler

The kayak trip behind me, I must endure Saturday with the relatives and see one of the last unmarried nieces introduce her boyfriend to the family. But Sunday and Monday are mine. With promising morning tides in mind, I venture off well before dawn to public beaches in parks along the Puget Sound shoreline.

Blake and his guys at the fly shop helped me round out the fly box with some must have flies. With my fast 6 weight in-hand, I headed over to the Olympic Peninsula and north to Port Townsend to the beach at Fort Flagler State Park on an overcast Sunday morning. If it wasn’t insanely crowded, I was going to try for some Pinks along the point at Fort Flagler. At the peak of the bite, there were about a dozen anglers at the point and along the beach. Most were hardware or bait guys, but a few of us were tossing flies. As far as I could tell, most everyone was respectful of each other’s space.

This nice Coho fell to a small pink shrimp pattern

This nice Coho fell to a small pink shrimp pattern

The fishing held up for about four hours as the tide poured into the sound. Most of the fish being caught were Coho, but there were a few Pinks brought to the beach. Before I left the point, I happened to meet Vic Cutler, a fly fishing industry insider now with Pac Bay International out of Sequim, Washington. Vic used to work for Fenwick and we chatted for about a half hour about the fishing in the Puget Sound and the state of the fly rod and reel industry. Funny who you might meet on a popular fly fishing beach.

Monday morning, I was off early to a more isolated beach–Maury Island Marine Park–hoping to tangle with more cutthroats. Maury Island is an island like peninsula of Vashon Island and lies just off the mainland between Seattle and Tacoma. Accessible by Washington State Ferries, I was hoping Vashon Island’s remoteness would limit the number of shore bound anglers this Monday morning.

Maury Island Beach Park at low tide

Maury Island Beach Park at low tide

Maury Island Marine Park hosts over a mile of prime public beach shore line along the western edge of the main Puget Sound channel. A strong incoming tide this Monday morning would rip along the beach over rocky structure and eel grass changing the water level by 10 feet in just 8 hours. I made the 5:05AM ferry from Ruston to Tahlequah across Dalco Passage and reached the park by 6:30 AM. After gearing up, it’s a 3/4 mile walk down the hill from the parking area to the beach. I would fish the beach just like a river, wading knee deep, casting offshore allowing the fly to swing down the tidal current. After a few casts at each stop, I’d take a few steps down the beach repeating the procedure. At low tide, the massive eel flats and pothole were accessible to wading a long way out from the beach. I was all alone on the beach a morning with a great view of sound and lots of interesting flotsam on the beach. This park has good picnic facilities at the beach and would make for a good hike anytime, especially at low tide.

Robinson Point Light

Robinson Point Light

Four hours at Maury Island Beach Park didn’t generate any fish so I drove up to the Point Robinson Light to see if there were any Pinks or Coho at the point. Two hours at the point didn’t generate any fish as well despite a strong incoming tide ripping across the point. The Pinks hadn’t made it this far south into the sound yet, but by mid-August, this point should be a hot spot. Although I was skunked for the day, I had ventured onto new beaches for the first time, cast away for more than six hours, doing what I enjoy most, hunting fish is beautiful places.

Fly fishing the Southern Salish Sea, aka the Puget Sound doesn’t get a lot of headlines or coverage the fly fishing media. Even though two-thirds of Washington State’s population—4.2 million live within the Puget Sound region, fly fishing on the sound is more a novelty. Most anglers fish from boats with bait or hardware to salmon or bottom fish. Although sea-kayaking is popular, kayak angling for cutthroat and salmon is also a novelty. Yet with over 2500 miles of shoreline, a plethora of local, county and state parks providing access to hundreds of miles of shoreline, the Puget Sound is a great place to fly fish, especially from a kayak. As with any body of water, experience will help you learn where, when and how to fish. It doesn’t take any special gear, just the right flies and time on the beach or in a kayak to tackle the salmon and cutthroat fishery in the Puget Sound with a fly rod. I learn something new every time I go, am always trying new spots and most importantly, occasionally taking advantage of guided trips. If you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, try fly fishing the Southern Salish Sea.

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