Fly Fishing in the Saltwater Washington State

Steve B Howard

I taught myself how to fly fish in the early 90’s after seeing “The Hat”, the movie also known as A River Runs Through It. A fantastic short memoir as well. At the time I was living in Northern California near the California Delta and cut my teeth on warm water species such as Blue Gill, Crappie, Black Bass, Striped Bass, and the occasional Catfish (yes, they will tale a fly sometimes). Fishing in the heavy polluted CA Delta was excellent training though not only to help me improve my casting and fishing techniques, but also it prepared me to fish mostly catch and release.

In the mid-90’s I moved back to the Seattle area where I’m originally from and started teaching myself how to catch trout, steelhead, and salmon in the abundant streams, rivers, and lakes throughout Washington State.

I had read John Shewy’s great book Northwest Fly Fishing: Trout and Beyond and was intrigued, but at the time the amount of specialized gear and the cost made it seem a bit beyond my reach. So, I stuck with trout and salmon in the rivers and lakes instead.

Fast forward to 2001. At the time I was living in Bellingham, Washington attending classes at the University of Western Washington working on a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature. One evening after my classes for the day were over I wandered down to Bellingham Bay on the south end of town in Fairhaven. There is a little park there and since I had my fly rod with me so I made few casts. I wasn’t expecting much, but as the tide started to come in and the sun went down lots of bait fish started jumping and the backs of fish between what looked like 6 to 20 inches started appearing very close to shore. I assumed they were Sea Run Cutthroat. I went through all of my bait fish imitation flies, several dry flies, and several different sized black and olive Wooley Buggers, with absolutely no luck at all.

Frustrated, I gave up and walked back to the parking lot to my car. A guy saw me walking with my fly rod and asked if I’d had any luck. I told him about all the fish I’d seen, but that none of them were interested in my fly. He convinced me to go back and give it another try. A quick scan of the water by him immediately told him that what I had been seeing were in fact Pink Salmon and not Sea Run Cutthroat as I had first believed them to be. He asked me if I had any flies with pink or orange in them. I had one steelhead fly called a comet that was pink and silver.

I made two casts and was into a fourteen inch Pink Salmon. My new found friend and me spent the rest of September chasing Pink Salmon from Bellingham all the way up north to Blaine. We became great friends and continue to fly fish together to this day.

Before I moved to Japan in 2003 I caught Sea Run Cutthroat, Pink Salmon (during the odd years 2001/2003), Coho, Chum and the odd flounder. It was great fun and I continue to fly fish in the saltwater whenever I make it back to Washington to visit (sadly not since 2019 because of Covid 19).

If you are interested in giving saltwater fly fishing in the Puget Sound a try this is a pretty good video showing what a typical day fly fishing from the beach in many places in Washington State can be like.

Puget Sound Fly Fishing

This is an excellent short video showing what it can be like to fly fish out of a boat in the Puget Sound for Pink Salmon and other species as well. It is well worth watching if you are interested in giving Salt Water fly fishing in Washington State a try.

Of course both of these videos feature professional guides, which cost money, but having a guide greatly increases your odds of finding and catching fish in the saltwater. And I have found them to be well worth the price when it comes to reducing the learning curve that is usually needed to get to the point where you can regularly catch fish in the Puget Sound or along the coast line of WA, OR, and BC.

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I mainly write about fly fishing in Washington State, Classic Muscle Cars, and Stand Up Comedy.

Seattle, WA

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