The Blackfoot Angler 130: Chasing Secrets and Puget Sound Cutthroat Trout

Every dedicated angler has a few secret fishing spots. I definitely have mine. These are the places you won’t find on blogs or forums. Nobody at your local fishing shop is going to point them out on a map. And there’s usually a good story about how the secret was revealed.

Last year I spent hours and miles searching for public access to a small river that supposedly hides big trout. The river is guarded by private property and steep canyons.

After another failed attempt to find access, I spotted a man walking towards me along the opposite side of the road as I packed up my gear. He had a bounce in his step and a smile on his face. I flagged him down and he introduced himself as Adam.

We spent the next 30 minutes comparing fishing notes. Adam would later tell me about a family who owns 40 acres along the river I was after. The property is along a lazy stretch of water with deep pools, he said. By the end of that roadside chat, Adam revealed that, in fact, he owned the 40 acres. I passed his test. Thanks to Adam, I can tell you that the rumors about big fish on that river are true.

Paddler in an inflatable fishing kayak with mountains in the background

But as the temperatures drop and the rivers close for the season, I usually settle in for a winter of kayak fishing for salmon and sea-run cutthroat trout.

During the winter months on Puget Sound, wind howls and weather conditions can be dramatically different just a handful of miles away. Big tidal swings lead to day-long battles with shifting currents. Cold rains can make for long days without a single bite.

Winter fishing is tough. The right rod, line, and reel for the environment, comfortable waders, and layers are all important pieces of gear. But a versatile and durable inflatable fishing kayak means I can cover more water and carry more gear for the day.

Aquaglide's Blackfoot Angler 130 is one of the best tools I have in my fishing kit. It's incredibly stable and has plenty of room for coolers and extra gear. Universal mounts for rod holders, fish finders, and anchors are everywhere I want them to be.

A fly fisherman sorting through flies on the beach while standing next to a kayak

The metal framed seat is comfortable all day long and provides plenty of lift to cast while sitting. The drop-stitch floor is so rigid that I can easily go from a sitting position to casting while standing.

Having an inflatable fishing kayak is great for transport and storage, but I also love that I can keep it on standby without the hassle of hauling a trailer. It’s quick to set up when I need it and packs down small enough to store in my trunk when I don’t.

Recently I spotted a small Puget Sound bay on a map. At first glance, it looks like a lot of the inlets and coves along the shores in northwestern Washington. But after researching the freshwater that dumps into this particular bay, I thought I might have a shot at finding sea-run cutthroat trout.

I called a few of my local fly shops for advice about the bay. I was surprised when I didn’t get much from the guides I talked to. Puget Sound has a lot of water to explore and sometimes taking a drive is the best way to research a new location. I grabbed my gear and the Blackfoot and headed out.

I had the entire place to myself, or so I thought. Sunlight glimmered across the water and mountains burst from the horizon. The tide was outgoing and the mud was thick. Fishing from the beach was not an option. I inflated the Blackfoot and spent the afternoon negotiating with trout to take my fly.

A fish and wildlife officer arrived as I pulled the Blackfoot onto shore at the end of the day. He explained that he had seen the kayak on the water and wanted to know what I was fishing for. As he checked my license, I asked if he knew of any spots that are off the beaten path. He told me about a few of the popular spots in the area that I already knew about. I eventually gave up trying to pry his secret spots loose and thanked him for the info.

Not long after the officer was out of sight, a muscle car with fading and chipped cream colored paint stopped to admire the Blackfoot as I was packing up. The driver said he lived close by and was in the market for an inflatable fishing kayak. We talked about the various fishing gear I had stashed throughout the Blackfoot. He was particularly interested in the types of drinks I kept in my cooler.

I asked him if my hunch about finding cutthroat in the Bay was right. I wanted to know why I had this beautiful spot all to myself. He smiled and told me that I could be right about the trout. He said that maybe I was the only person fishing because it’s just not a good place to catch fish. Or, he continued, maybe I found a really special spot that’s hidden in plain sight and I would be wise to keep it quiet. Not as warm and fuzzy as Adam, but I got the message loud and clear.

I didn’t catch any trout in the Bay. But I think I will. What I did get was a boot full of mud, an afternoon paddle in the shadows of mountains, and a new story about a secret hidden in plain sight.

A paddler standing in mud up to his knees while pulling in inflatable fishing kayak up a beach

Wild Human is a Pacific Northwest-based media agency that tells stories about people and brands that are doing good things for their communities and the planet.

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