September 2021 Fish Along Report

Thanks to everyone that attended our September 25th Fish A Long for Coastal Sea Run Cutthroat. This was an “exploratory” trip for our club, meaning most of us had only a vague idea of where to go or how to fish for Sea Run Cutthroat Trout. However, by the end of day we had a much better handle on what to do to be successful as you’ll see.

My day started early, waking up at 4am to finish packing and pick up George in Sherwood for the drive to the coast. We arrived in Tillamook just as it was getting light but had no idea where to start, so we drove around for about 45 minutes checking out various fishing access points along the lower Trask River. We eventually settled on the OFC #2/Burdick location a few miles above tidewater. There we were soon joined by Rich and his son. Since Rich actually knows how to catch Sea Runs, having him arrive at the same place as us was a confidence booster.

Rich and his son went downstream and George and I went upstream. We saw a few salmon rolling and a few guide boats pulling their way thru the super shallow riffles. The water was very low at only 74 cfs, gin clear and probably in the mid 60’s. After the warm summer the rocks were super slippery too so you had to move slow while wading. We saw a few cutthroat jumping in the deeper water close to the bank, but being new to the game couldn’t get into casting range without spooking them. We later learned from Rich it’s important to do your wading on the shallow side, then be stealthy as you cast to the far bank on the deep side then strip your fly back pretty fast; and keep moving! I walked upstream on what felt like a slip & slide and found a pool that allowed me to fish the correct way and connected with a small feisty Cutthroat. Downstream Rich got two nice Cutthroats in the 16-18 inch range. Around mid morning we decided to go to the Sollie Smith Bridge area on the lower Wilson and it was pretty much a repeat of our Trask experience: Rich got a couple nice ones and the rest of us got a small resident trout or two.

As I mentioned earlier, this was an “exploratory” Fish A Long. I received a few texts from people wondering where to go, but as I said earlier I didn’t really know where to go thus couldn’t really offer any advice better than “somewhere along the lower river would probably be best.” Sorry for my lack of knowledge, but our club made big strides on this fishery and next year will be better!

This fish a long was well attended and over a dozen of us met at the Wilson River Footbridge Trailhead.  Our club has a new sign that Ken generously helped design so people can find us when we are out in the boonies chasing fish. It was fun to trade fish stories from the day and nearly everyone got fish, but to be unusually honest for a fisherman not all were Sea Run Cutts! But, it was a very nice day and good times were had by all. Thanks again to everyone that helped make this fish a long a success. I’m sure we will do it again next year!

Sea Run Cutthroat Flies

It was good to receive Dave Kilhefner’s email about our upcoming fish-a-long on the Wilson and Trask Rivers for Sea Run Cutthroat Trout. According to some anglers, Sea Run Cutthroats (aka Blue Backs, Harvest Trout, Cutts, or Cutties) are arguably the best overlooked trout fly fishery in the state. So overlooked that even Dave K. says he has never targeted sea run cutthroats! (What a shock! I didn’t think there was a fish species in Oregon that had escaped being searched out by Dave.)

As their name implies, Sea Run Cutthroat trout divide their time between fresh and salt water. Unlike their relatives, the salmon and steelhead, they do not migrate far from their home rivers and return there in late summer, entering the estuaries in July and August, eventually working their way farther upstream. Cutties are aggressive predatory feeders and are known to be eager in going after artificial fly patterns.

I stopped in at The Royal Treatment fly shop looking for flies and sea run cutthroat information. Randy Stetzer, author of the book called “Flies: The Best One Thousand”, told me that you should keep moving if you are not finding fish. If the fish are there they are likely to be going after your fly. They like cover, so be fishing for them around logs, large rocks, root wads, cut banks, and shady areas. Josh Linn put me onto two fly patterns that seem to be on the go to list of many anglers: the Borden Special and the Reverse Spider.

Borden Special (developed in 1961 by Bob Borden, founder of HareLine Dubbin)

Hook: TMC 3761 #4-10, or equivalent 1X long hook
Thread: black 6/0, 8/0
Tail: yellow and pink hackle fibers
Rib: small silver tinsel
Body: hot pink rabbit or synthetic dubbing
Wing: white arctic fox or other suitable white hair
Collar: wraps of saddle hackle or schlappen; hot pink in front of yellow

Tying Instructions for the Borden Special—
Click on the following link to see Jay Nicholas tying his version of the Borden Special.

Reverse Spider (more of a style of fly than one specific fly pattern)

Reverse spider tied with
Lady Amherst tippet
Reverse spider tied with mallard flank

Hook: TMC 3761 #6-10
Thread: color of choice 6/0,8/0
Tail: feather fibers, or no tail at all
Rib: silver tinsel
Body: synthetic or natural dubbing; or chenille; color(s) of choice
Hackle: Lady Amherst pheasant tippet, or mallard flank fibers, or rooster or saddle hackles; color of choice; tied in with the fibers in reverse style, facing forward over the hook eye

Tying Instructions for the Reverse Spider—
Click on the following link to see Washington angler Preston Singletary’s version of a
Reverse Spider using Lady Amherst pheasant tippet:

Click on the following link to see Jay Nicholas tying his version of the Reverse Spider
using saddle hackle:

New club member Keaton Andreas is excited as he looks forward to his first fish-a-long. He forwarded some information to Dave Kilhefner about his experience in August with a guide on the Nestucca River fishing for sea run cutthroats. Keaton indicated that the fishing got better when he fished a reverse spider that was weighted, allowing his fly to get down to the fish. Try to track him down at the fish-a-long because he says he is going to tie up as many as he can and that he is willing to share them with others.

Keaton’s weighted Reverse Spider

Here is Keaton’s recipe for the weighted reverse spider he used:
Hackle: Chartreuse Lady Amherst Tippet
Head: Black Nickel Tungsten Bead
Body: Medium Light Olive Chenille
Tail: Chartreuse Lady Amherst Tippet

For more details about fishing for Sea Run Cutthroat trout check out the following links that Jay Nicholas posted on the Oregon Flyfishing Blog:

Sea Run Cutthroat Primer:

Sea Run Cutthroat Fishing and Behavior:

August 2021 Fishing Reports

August was another hot month but CFF members were able to get out and enjoy some good fishing. Thanks to everyone for contributing your fishing reports!

Here are our August reports; pictures first with the report following. Enjoy!

From Greg O’Brien: I started the month with a guided tiger Muskie trip with Mike Sturza that culminated in about a million casts with an 11 wt, 1 missed shot, numerous follows and a sore body  My buddy got one though. I then floated the Deschutes with my brother and a couple other friends and got some nice trout on swung flies. Finally I switched to warm water mode and got a few bass and a 20” pikeminnow in the Willamette close to home.  

From Ron Maben: Fished the Metolius River, which is new water for me.  The upper skinny water fished quite well for 8in – 11in fish, on a #14 light colored elk hair caddis; it was pleasant small water dry fly fishing. Then I fished down river from the hatchery & saw fish feeding on the surface but couldn’t tell what they were taking but they seemed to be ignoring the caddis on the water. Put on a #16 quigleys cripple and instantly tied into a measured 16 + inch fish that made three strong runs taking lots of line before I could finally get it to net. When I netted the fish, people across the river applauded!  

From Tim McSweeney: Spent a week on the Metolius chasing bull trout and red sides. The fishing was spectacular with bulls up to 30” from morning till afternoon and then dry fly fishing for redsides till I couldn’t see. It was a really great week fishing in many different ways.

From Dennis Murphy: August was a busy month and it was hard to find time to get out to the water. I had a couple trips, some successful and some not.

Put two weekends into fishing for surf perch along the coast near Cape Lookout. Both times I got skunked. The conditions seemed right, but even the gear guys were getting nothing. I was using my 7wt two hander to overhand cast a 30′ T-14 to 5′ of flouro with shrimp, minnow and sandcrab patterns. It was a heck of a shoulder workout and I was definitely sore after the first time. The second time out things felt much easier as I got the hang of the two handed overhand cast while wearing a PFD and stripping basket. The best part of the coast those weekends was dodging the high heat in Portland! The time of year isn’t great for surf perch so I’m holding off until they move closer to shore again.

Took one other trip up the Old Clackamas Highway on an exploratory trip with a friend. We took what seemed like an obvious trail down to the water but was more of a rock climbing adventure. After spending some time getting nibbles from small fish and eating our fill of blackberries we got ready to pack it up and head home. I decided to make one last cast into a good looking pool on the way out and got a good hit. A solid 12″ trout! Repeating the mantra “just one more cast then we’ll go” I landed a 10″ on my second cast. On the third, my fly was slammed and I was caught off guard by a 15″ trout. I made one last cast hooking up with another 10″ before respecting my mantra and heading out.

From Dave Kilhefner: Jim Bennett and his trusty dog Bob did well on smallmouth bass last month above Willamette Falls and agreed to show me & George Coutts the ropes. We put our boats in at Hebb Park and worked our way downstream, hitting several of Jim’s favorite spots along the way. Fishing was not hot but it was steady and we all ended up getting several smallmouths. Favorite flies were Clouser Minnows and Woolly Buggers fished on full sinking T-200 lines.