PUGET SOUND - A crazed angler will do just about anything to find water that is hardly ever fished.
I proved that to myself Thursday morning when my friend Ed Sauriol took me on a little hike to his favorite sea-run cutthroat beach.
Ed made me promise to keep this beach a secret. That promise will be easy to keep, as most people aren't crazy enough to make the trip.
I found myself inching down some very steep slopes. These slopes were the kind that are easier to climb up than climb down.
I know this spot is great - even though I landed only one fish. I lost a few others, and saw quite a few fish boiling. I also didn't see beer cans, snarls of monofilament line or trash.
I have fished all over South Sound for almost 11 years now, and I've caught sea-run cutts at a lot of spots.
Now I know six great beaches - thanks to Ed.
It's rare for Puget Sound cutthroat anglers to share favorite spots. We find our beaches through legwork, trial and error and generous doses of misplaced hope. Sharing a beach with another angler is a gesture of friendship and trust.
Ed showed me a sensational shoal that cutts prowl on the falling tide.
I hooked and lost two nice fish on the shoal - and then watched Ed hook and land a skinny - but beautiful - cutt that probably spawned recently and was back in salt water to fatten up.
Catching a trout in saltwater is always a miracle to me. You feel as though you're on a big lake, but the water on your fingers is salty, and there are all these barnacles and shells on the beach.
I got a nice surprise when a little resident coho salmon whacked my Muddler fly while I was casting to a current rip.
I bounced the little coho - it was about 12 inches long - in quickly and released it.
Puget Sound anglers have caught lots of resident coho this winter, and all of us are hoping that these fish stick around all summer and grow into beefy, big fish.
Most resident coho are hatchery fish that are kept in state Department of Fish and Wildlife net pens until they're more likely to stick around Puget Sound instead of rocking off to the Pacific Ocean.
Coho are eating machines, and a lot of those fish could be four to six pounds by August or September.
If you're catching coho, give Andy Appleby of Fish and Wildlife a call at 360-902-2663. Appleby is one of the masterminds of the resident coho program, and he's trying to keep tabs on the fish.
Confession: I'd rather catch a 22-inch-long sea-run cutthroat than a 15-pound wild steelhead. Why? Well, a 22-inch cutthroat is much more rare - and I just like cutts.
I also like fishing with Ed.
We talked about raising our daughters, fishing in Mexico and Maui and how we used to run up steep slopes when we were in our 20s.
Finding good angling friends isn't easy, and talking with Ed reminded me of a letter I got from Matt Smith of La Crescenta, Calif., a few weeks ago.
Matt said that his grandfather, Patrick Mailey, lives right here in Lacey and sends him my columns every week.
Matt wrote this about his grandfather:
"He is one of the best salmon fishermen ever to fish Puget Sound and has created three generations of fishermen. He is the main reason I fish today. When I go up to visit him, he is still willing to go down to the pier or beach and watch me fish. This is quite a feat for a man of his age and shows me how much he truly cares about his family."
Matt said his grandfather, Patrick Mailey, turned 85 on Sunday.
Happy birthday, Mr. Mailey. You've caught a lot of fish in your life, but it sure looks like your grandson is your biggest and best catch.
Back to the beach
I managed to lose every cutthroat that ate my flies Thursday, but I didn't care. I just kept thinking about how many fish were boiling - and how many times I'm going to fish this new beach in the future.
By the way, this beach is public property. There are so many great beaches out there - and great friends.
I'm going to share one of my favorite beaches with Ed in a couple of weeks.
As for this new beach, I'm not going to share it with anyone. Not even my wife.