PUBLISHED: 6:20 PM on Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Think still water for fall-run cutthroat trout
The lake is so glassy that even the soft morning mist casts gentle dimples on its dark obsidian surface. Echoing from a blanket of angelic fog, a loon cries in the distance. Only the wisp of my fly rod and the gentle drop of my fly interrupt its eerie call as I patiently work the water around a large windfall choking the lake's outlet.

Rich Culver photos
  As fresh water fishing in Southeast becomes more limited in the fall, cutthroat trout still offer opportunities for adventurous anglers.
Slowly, I swim my fly back to me in deliberate two-inch strips. My fingers are cold and wet and they've been burning from the get-go. Still, I proceed with my next cast, knowing there will always be time for them to thaw out when daylight fades. Then, without warning, there's a hard thump at the end of my line. Instinctively, I strip and set. There's a sudden splash of silver as a beautiful fall-run cutthroat trout shatters the morning calm.

As October slowly wanes fresh water fishing opportunities in Southeast Alaska become more limited. Silver salmon, the primary quarry of fresh water sport anglers in Southeast Alaska for the past month and a half, are no longer lustrous and chrome but instead, they now glow like candy apples or red sleds at Christmas. Even Dolly Varden once ubiquitous in the summer seem to have vanished from their shadowed pools. However, even during this seasonal lean period in Southeast, adventuresome sport anglers can still find and enjoy plenty of opportunities for angling relief in the form of still water fishing for fall-run cutthroat trout in our numerous lakes and salt chucks.

Fly-fishing for still water cutthroat trout is a pleasant reprieve to river salmon fishing. The rods and general tackle are much lighter and most of the fishing takes place from canoes, prams or float tubes The rods I choose when chasing fall-run cuttys are nine to ten foot six-weights. I prefer six-weight fly rods because they are light enough to still enjoy the tussle of a 12-inch fish, yet strong enough to push a tight loop through bitter fall winds mixed with rain and sometimes snow. I prefer a longer rod (9½ to 10 ft) when fishing from a float tube or while sitting when fishing from a canoe. This added length of the fly rod facilitates lifting fly line off the water during extended casts.

As for fly lines, the ideal line for still water conditions is one that sinks slowly and places the fly one to three feet below the surface. I prefer a type 1, intermediate, and I fish it slowly with deliberate two-to-three inch strips while pausing briefly in between each strip. The flies I use are small, size 8, marabou leeches. The natural marabou moves freely in the soft water undulating and pulsating when slowly retrieved which I find crucial to enticing fall-run cuttys in cold late-season conditions.

Sill water fishing in my opinion is the most underrated and least exploited segment of recreational sport fishing available in Southeast Alaska, yet it offers excellent early and late-season angling opportunities when local rivers and coastal streams are void of salmon or when rivers are blown out from heavy rains. In addition, still water fly-fishing offers peaceful solitude and many times hot action for fall-run cutthroat trout. Good luck fishing and tight lines!