Coastal Cutthroat: Gurgler Action

Salish Sea calm

A calm Salish Sea has greeted me during my last few outings for coastal cutthroat.

Leading up to this beach session, the conditions on paper – well, on my iPhone, to be accurate – seemed to be about as good as you can get for July 1st: low tide at 1440h, high tide at 2210h, a good volume of water moving due to the recent new moon, sunset  at 2130h.

Sure, it was mostly sunny, but a few clouds were about, too. Water clarity was near perfect, and there was nary a ripple to be seen on the Salish Sea.

Adjustments were made for the calm, clear & bright conditions; a lighter tippet, a smaller & more realistic-looking baitfish pattern were tied on.

And then….nothing.

The three of us sat on the log for a bit after short bursts of half-hearted blind casting. A rare cuttie would jump or swirl, but they were either hanging deep and being selective, or just not around.

I gazed at my fly box. Finally I reached for my fugly florescent fuchsia “SPSS Gurgler” I tied this past winter – it’s the perfect fly for what I’ve come to call ‘eff it’ fishing conditions.

‘Eff it’ fishing conditions are located at either end of the fishing condition spectrum: fishing is either so awesome or so shitty, you look at a fly pattern (or technique or location) and say, “F**k it, why not?”

So I said f**k it, tied on the SPSS Gurgler and waded into the Salish Sea.

I hooked up instantly.

The cuttie followed the Gurgler a few feet from the rod tip before taking it. It wasn’t big, by any measure – heck, I swung the rod  up and grabbed the leader and fish before it even knew it was hooked – but it was something. And he chased it!

I hooked several more, had numerous follows, and the Gurgler was bumped many times (I think a smaller hook & shorter/sparser tail may have resulted in a few more hookups; more experimenting is necessary). And I laughed at the fun and hilarity of it all.

Tying on the SPSS Gurgler was a game changer for this beach cutthroat session, for sure.

SPSS Gurgler - details below

SPSS Gurgler – details below

Notes on the SPSS Gurgler:

The Gurgler, or, more correctly, the Gartside Gurgler, is a legendary fly pattern developed by the late, great Jack Gartside for striped bass in the Northeast. You can see the original recipe for the Gartside Gurgler on Jack Gartside’s webpage here. The Gartside Gurgler has taken dozens, if not hundreds, of different species of fish; Coastal Cutthroat among them.

The SPSS Gurgler is my bastardization of the Gurgler pattern; recall my “laziness breeds ingenuity” philosophy of fly tying (you can refresh your memory here if necessary).

And what does SPSS stand for?

The ‘SS’ stands for ‘Simple Shrimp.’ ‘Simple’ because it has four materials in it, and it can be tied in just a few minutes. The SP is code for the secret location my coastal cutthroat testing grounds, and y’all know I won’t be broadcasting that online.

The basic recipe of the SPSS Gurgler, as well as its predecessor, the SPSS  (the non-Gurgler version) can be found in my philosophical ravings about fly tying (link below).

Read ‘Developing a fly tying philosophy that works’ by clicking here.

Funny side note: I was chatting fishing with a guy recently. Nice enough fellow, but he was dismissive of fly fishing in general – too much work, trolling with downriggers was where it’s at, he said. My bullshit detector was going off regarding his claims of various species and sizes of fish, too. But I remained polite and conversational.

He got around to asking me about fishing cutties and salmon from the beach, and about flies. I showed him a picture of the SPSS to give him an idea. He proceeded to tell me about his neighbour inventing that fly and getting a lot of money off of it over the years. All I could say: “Oh yeah? Cool…” And here endeth the conversation.

I can only wish the guy who “invented” that fly got a lot of money…

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2 comments

  • I always laugh when downrigger fishermen say that fly fishing is too much work. I’ve done both, and saltwater fly fishing is far simpler than fishing downriggers. Gurglers rock for cutts and coho in the salt.

    • Think he was referring to the whole walking/casting/standing thing as opposed to taking a boat ride and trolling lines :)

      One of my goals for the year was to land a cuttie, pink & coho off of this Gurgler. One down, two to go!

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