American Fly Fishing

By Loren Elliott

Washington boasts many truly remote waters—lakes and streams off the beaten path, reachable by driving a few hours and hiking a few more. Oftentimes life doesn’t afford the opportunity to take three days off to go fishing; I still need my fix, though. Enter Lincoln Park. Located in West Seattle, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump for city anglers to get to the beach and wet a line. Though it may be an urban park, there is no shortage of natural beauty. With towering trees behind a driftwood-strewn beach and views across Puget Sound, this setting makes me forget I’m 20 minutes from my Capitol Hill apartment. Getting tight to a feisty sea-run cutthroat or salmon makes it all the easier to forget.
The inevitable downside of Lincoln Park’s accessibility is that when the salmon run peaks, specifically the pink run, which occurs only in odd-numbered years, the beach gets quite crowded. Even in the predawn hours, anglers with headlamps line up, ready to go, in August and September. That’s the nature of pink salmon fishing in the Puget Sound, and there are few locations where you can find quality pink action and solitude. In even-numbered years, when silver salmon are the target, far fewer anglers are about. The silvers aren’t as numerous, but it is a quality-over-quantity game, with the ever-present possibility
of a trophy.
During the rest of the year, from October through July, anglers are few and far between at Lincoln Park, yet fantastic action is at hand for cutthroat and small resident silver salmon. The winter months are slowest, as the larger cutthroat are spawning in fresh water and the weather can test a fly angler’s dedication, but even in the dead of January one can experience a standout session. During spring, as the water warms, cutthroat become more numerous and resident silvers start roaming the waters off Lincoln in search of baitfish and crustaceans. By June and July these fish have fattened up and the warmer water has them feeding aggressively. Top-water flies become productive and are a blast, proving especially effective in low light.
Lincoln Park offers public parking along Fauntleroy Avenue, just north of the ferry terminal. From the lots, it’s an easy walk down to the beach, where a bike path runs from the ferry terminal to the point on the north end. 
I prefer a 5-weight rod for cutthroat and resident silvers, a 6-weight for pinks, and a 7-weight for adult migratory silvers. All these fish will take near the surface, so floating and intermediate lines cover all bases. A range of flies. from tiny euphausiid patterns for finicky cutthroats to big poppers for coho, stay in my Lincoln Park box. Clousers in a variety of colors, sizes, and weights are another staple. 
When I attended Seattle University I often needed a study break, and made a quick run to Lincoln for an hour of casting. The release of forgetting homework and catching a cutthroat or two was just wonderful. Better yet, I’d be back in the university library within a couple of hours of hatching the idea in the first place. Few metropolitan cities allow such an escape. Willing and wild fish within city limits are a blessing that many Seattle anglers overlook. You aren’t going to mistake this for the headwaters of an Olympic Peninsula west-side river, but you’ll likely find yourself more than content after the first chunky cutthroat of the morning boils on your fly before work. Just don’t tell everyone else in the office.


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