Pro Tips: The Joys of Sea-Run Cutthroats, and How to Catch Them

Written by: Leland Miyawaki, former Fishing Manager, Orvis Bellevue (WA)

A beautifully marked sea-run cutthroat caught on the surface with a Miyawaki Beach Popper.
Photo courtesy Leland Miyawaki

When fly fishers think of the Pacific Northwest, they think of wild rivers full of salmon and big wild steelhead. But when the salmon are still meandering their way down from Alaska and the steelhead rivers are running high and dirty, the savvy fly fisher picks up a fly rod and heads to the nearest beach. Yes, you’re reading me right, beach, as in Puget Sound, the big inland sea that makes Seattle what she is.

Coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki) is our native trout and has the most diverse lifestyle of all salmonids. They spawn multiple times in their natal freshwater streams, and most importantly, they can spend almost all of their adult lives cruising and feeding within thirty feet of the waters edge along the hundreds of miles of public shoreline!

Old-time trollers are fond of saying that, “if you can’t see the bottom, you’re too deep,” and it’s true. We fish gently sloping rocky beaches with floating lines, long leaders and small baitfish imitations. Fish either the ebb or flood tides, look for moving water, and don’t bother with the high or low slack tides.

The author fishes for searuns off Penrose Point State Park on Washington’s Puget Sound.
Photo courtesy Leland Miyawaki

“Searuns” are always on the move, searching out prey along the beaches. Sometimes they’re here and sometimes they’re there. If you’re looking to count numbers caught, go poach a hatchery. If you’re looking to spend a few hours on pristine, clear waters, with spectacular scenery, and catch and release (mandatory) a few beautifully marked wild trout, then this fishery is for you.

What you’ll need:

  • 9-foot, 6-weight fast-action rod
  • floating line
  • anodized saltwater-ready reel
  • 9-foot 0X leaders
  • Flies: Chartreuse Clousers; Olive and White Lefty’s Deceivers; Gold Rolled Muddlers; and did I tell you searuns love surface flies! You might want to try a Miyawaki Beach Popper (a surface fly of my design sold only at the Orvis Bellevue store). All flies in size 6.

If you need more information or want some hints on where to start, give us a call at Orvis Bellevue (425-452-9138) or check out our Facebook page.

2 thoughts on “Pro Tips: The Joys of Sea-Run Cutthroats, and How to Catch Them”

  1. Fantastic article, I have always targeted salmon and steelhead but there are some very good spots in Washington for cutthroat fishing.

    Thanks for the great information.

  2. Hi, was this a catch and release fish or did you eat it? Just wondered why it is laying unprotected on the rocks?


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