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Holiday Cutthroat Tradition

A holiday tradition unlike most happens at the Phillips household. My name is Josh Phillips, and I am the founder and owner of Spawn Fly Fish, a fly shop and brand here in Washington State. This tradition started long before the shop and this tradition takes place on the waters of Puget Sound.

More than any species in Washington State, I obsess over Sea Run Cutthroat. My father and I have spent countless lifetimes out on the water mastering this fishery. Our favorite time of year to target this species lies right around the holiday season. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas morning we rise before the rest of the family and venture out into the sound. With limited time due to festivities, the boat is prepared the night before and the rods are all rigged.

By sunrise, we are deep in the heart of Puget Sound casting flies at cutthroat. It is our favorite way to start off the holiday. Generally, this time of year the weather is cold, and the fish are hungry. The Sound is quiet and all ours. The sounds of the seals, herons and eagles dominate the foggy waters while we strip flies in the shallows.

We almost exclusively fish articulated ghost shrimp flies called the “Steamboat Island Leech” named after the island I grew up by. Floating lines are our preferred line and 5wt rods bring it all together. The waters we target are shallow – generally 5 inches to 10 feet deep. This shallow clear water creates a very visual fishery. We are watching every take and seeing these fish chase down the fly from every angle!

Generally, these days on the water are met with the desire to keep fishing while knowing that we must get home soon to see the rest of our family. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, we know we cannot be late so no matter how good the fishing is we leave with a smile headed back home to our family and a warm cup of coffee.

Some of our favorite cutthroat memories have taken place on these two holidays. Prior to the turkey, comes cutthroat and prior to the stockings come cutthroat. They have a special place in our heart and this tradition will live on.


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