Video and Words by Lucas Gibbons
My home state of Washington isn’t known for world-class trout fisheries. There is an abundance of amazing saltwater fishing spots, and thus the Emerald State is known for its top-notch salmon rivers, but compared to neighboring states, the trout waters are limited. However, for those who know where to look and who are willing to put in the effort, the sea run coastal cutthroat trout can be found in certain locales. In both the spring and fall, Washington’s rivers swell with salmon, and anglers looking to catch these anadromous fish quickly follow. Following their larger salmon relatives, the cutthroats make an appearance in these rivers and streams and create an opportunity to catch beautiful native trout in our local waters. Sea Run Sound is a cinematic documentation of a day spent fishing for these golden trout on Washington’s beautiful Olympic Peninsula.
Colin Smith and I have been fishing together for a few years, and, among other things, he has taught me quite a bit about fly fishing. (And he is also the person who got me hooked on Chums - their eyewear retainers, wallets, bags, and other outdoor accessories are crucial when out on the river.) Over the past couple of years I’ve watched Colin evolve from a casual angler into a full-blown trout bum. (Trust me, this is a good thing.) He spends every weekend and every day off from his construction job either fishing the Yakima River or exploring other fisheries close to his home in Olympia.
Colin and I had been talking about creating a fly fishing film for a while, and when I heard Colin’s stories about chasing sea run cutthroats, everything clicked. Between the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula, the uniqueness of the sea run coastal cutthroat, and Colin’s unbridled excitement for the zone he wanted to fish, it seemed like the perfect project to film.
"We found a cutthroat zone upstream of the legal salmon zones that allowed us to avoid all of the salmon fishermen - we had the river completely to ourselves."
The sea run cutthroat chase the salmon up the rivers on their way to spawn, so a lot of the lower zones of these rivers often become over-crowded with salmon fishermen. We found a cutthroat zone upstream of the legal salmon zones that allowed us to avoid all of the salmon fishermen - we had the river completely to ourselves. We parked in the national forest, bushwhacked to the riverbank, and spent the day hiking miles of river, fishing, and enjoying each other’s company.
The day started out beautiful and sunny, but in typical Pacific Northwest fashion, it started hailing and raining halfway through the day. Luck was on our side though, and the sun decided to reemerge just an hour or so later. We Pacific Northwesterners may be accustomed to rain, but we certainly prefer the sunshine. Over the course of the day we caught plenty of rainbow trout, whitefish, various salmon, and of course, a few sea run cutthroats.
If you find yourself in Puget Sound in the fall during the salmon run, I highly recommend bringing a smaller fly rod and finding a remote section of river to go explore, fish, and enjoy. In my experience, nothing beats the beautiful fall scenery in the Pacific Northwest, and hey - maybe you’ll get lucky and catch a big golden sea run cutthroat or two yourself!
Four Questions with Colin Smith
Why do you live where you live?
Growing up west of the Cascades, I spent a lot of time doing exactly what I enjoy doing today. Even after 20+ years of living here, it seems like it is almost impossible to exhaust my options [for] things to do. [This area has] allowed me to go deeper into my hobbies and really explore the different aspects of them all. Sure, it rains a good bit, but if it's raining on one side of the Cascades, then [I can] drive to the other side of [the mountains] and literally see the clouds break and find myself busting out the sunglasses and taking the layers off.
Why do you fish where you fish?
It's hard to say exactly why I fish where I do because the where is across multiple mountain ranges, the beaches of Puget Sound, and numerous high alpine lakes, just to name a few. But that's just it - close your eyes and throw a dart at a map of Washington and you're sure to find some fishy water. Every trip can be something new if you have the drive to go for it.
What intrigues you about the coastal cutthroat?
The coastal cutthroats’ recovery story has always had me interested in them, although that story is often overshadowed by the region’s much-needed salmon and steelhead conservation efforts. [The cutthroats’] recovery story just goes to show how a few passionate people can do wonders for a species like the coastal cutthroats, which makes catching them all the more special.
What makes the perfect fishing zone for you?
Man, that's another hard question. It all comes down to what you're looking for. But if I had to choose just one [type of zone], I would have to say a small creek or narrow river with miles of walking. Depending on where you decide to fish here in Washington, it can either be a true bushwhack just to get to where you want, or it can be as easy as pulling up along a dirt road and walking along the banks of a small tributary of some of our larger rivers. Regardless, as long as I have a hip pack (like the Chums Downstream 4L) loaded with the essentials, a couple snacks, and some water, it will be pretty hard to have a bad day.