It's that time of year again folks, the annual chum salmon fry hatch throughout Puget Sound and Hood Canal is well underway, and the sea-run cutthroat are keying in on them. Rank this chum baby hatch right up there with the well known mothers day caddis hatch on the Yakima River, the monster salmon fly hatch on the Deschutes – heck it might even compare to some of those Kamchatka wild rainbows chasing mouse patterns. Yes, under appreciated it is!
Sea-runs aggressively chase chum fry and a properly presented fly is no different as it swings by in front of their noses. A fly pattern that represents a baitfish of some variation in olive over white, or light blue over white will convince searun cutthroat that it is worthy enough to suck down. Clouser patterns in these color variations work well.
Millions and millions of chum fry emerge from the spawning gravel and slowly are migrating their way out to ocean waters. Chum fry travel close to shore meandering their way along and serve as prime targets for hungry Sea-Run Cutthroat. Larger fish particularly key on in them at times! These little guys serve as a full-blown meal for these hungry sea trout.
Streamer fishing is the name of the game here, and full intermediate lines are my recommended “go to” line. I prefer the Rio Coastal Quickshooter, newly re-designed for this year. It features a 30 ft. clear head and high vis yellow running line. It sinks consistently at 1.25 inches per second. Loop on a 9 ft. leader and tapered down to 10 pound test and your good to go. Casting from a boat or shore? This is where those anglers that can consistently throw it out there 40-70 feet are going to shine. There is a direct correlation of success with anglers who can cast further – it just allows a longer presentation and increases fishing time, which puts your fly in front of more fish and can increase hook ups. So, if you haven’t taken an advanced casting course yet and learned how to double haul, and plan to pursue some SRS's, you might consider attending Red’s Rendezvous this weekend and taking Joe Rotter’s casting seminar. The guy is a heck of a great caster, and teaches even better.
You can expect the chum fry hatch will last through April and into Mid-May. The great part about this fishery is that feisty sea run cutthroat will remember just how tasty a chum fry is even if the peak of the hatch has passed through. You could compare Hood Canal’s chum fry hatch to a giant salmon fly floating down the Deschutes River – the big boys will always have a picture of them forever etched in their minds!