Fisher works the night shift on his home waters of Puget Sound...
Two weeks ago I began moving out of my old house in SE Portland and into a new one in NE. We spent the first week getting everything packed, out of the house, then unpacked, and set up in the new house. The second week was spent doing a hefty deep clean of the SE house. We got the deposit back! But I didn’t have time to fish during the move. And my fishing had been getting a little stale before the move. I’ve been scouring the Deschutes all summer, having an absolute ball, but the redsides aren’t quite the same thrill after so many weeks in a row, as when I first started. For the sake of fueling the fishing fire, I need to mix my fishing up; keep things fresh. When I finally returned to the water, last Sunday, I set my sights on a favorite South Puget Sound beach. I’ve fished the Sound quite a bit, but not recently. And I decided to add one more layer that upped the novelty exponentially: fishing at night.
Some of you may remember an early fishing report in which I made my first attempt at night fishing. I’d been wanting to give the beach at night another go ever since that first trial back in the spring. I tied up some glow-in-the-dark flies for the task. I use a material called Atomic Glow and wrap it around the hook to form the body of the fly. I mostly tied my typical Puget Sound fare: little chartreuse or tan clousers, generic baitfish, and a variety of euphausiids. But I invented a squid pattern that I was particularly excited about, if only because the creation process had been so much fun; not necessarily because I believed it would outfish my go-to flies. Squid tend to be most prevalent in the Sound during spring. But intertidal predators, i.e sea-runs, rezzies (resident coho), and blackmouth (resident king salmon), are opportunistic feeders. And I thought my little glow-in-the-dark squid looked so cool that I tied it on first thing.
Atomic Glow works by absorbing UV light and then fluorescing in the dark. I had left the flies in the sun all day so they could get well dosed. But I also hit my squid with the UV light I use for tying, giving it a couple of minutes before I started casting. I clicked the light off and found myself holding an opalescent firefly. I couldn’t see my casts or my line, but I could see the fly zipping back and forth. It was a ghostly flicker in the water whenever I stripped it in close.
The experience could not have been more different than my first attempt. That time I was blasted off the beach by a storm. This time the water was dead calm. I arrived to see the final angler of the day pack up and depart as the end of his casts started to vanish into the darkness. I was lively and well-caffeinated. There wasn’t a breath of wind. As it got darker and darker, I found myself wading through inky glass, watching shooting stars as I funneled line into my stripping basket. Casting into the silent, motionless, dark was an idyllic experience. I was hoping to catch some of the larger blackmouth Puget Sound has to offer. Of all the intertidal predators, they are the most difficult. And they tend to be more active at night, pushing up high onto the beach when they might stay deeper on a sunny day; or any day at all. Unfortunately, they were not to be found. But the big sea-runs were on patrol.
I only caught four fish. Rare is the day that one puts up prolific numbers of sea-runs in saltwater. But the big fish were hunting. Every so often I'd hear large splashes as the fish crashed on bait. All four trout were chunky, with a lot of pull in them. And the first one was a true beast by sea-run cutthroat standards, clocking in around 18 or 19 inches. I’ve caught a few bigger ones, not many, but if somebody is telling you about a whole day spent hauling in 15 to 18-inch sea-runs they need to more thoroughly familiarize themself with the concept of the ‘inch’. An 18-inch fish is within the bounds of normal, but it’s a fish you only catch every so often.
The takes that night were savage: classic tight line grabs, taking things from zero to one-hundred in moments. All on my squid.
I wasn’t ready to leave as the night went on. Or more like, I was ready to leave, I just wish the night had taken longer. I had a two-hour drive back. I am unhesitatingly willing to stay up all night to fish, but staying up late isn’t generally my thing. So I packed up at 2 am and was pouring myself into bed around 4:30. After washing the salt off my gear of course! I’ll be back out on the beaches again soon. I am eager to explore some new ones that are more accessible from Portland than from Seattle. It’s an opportunity to learn a fishery I love all over again.