It is 0700, the day is overcast and calm and you are slowly wading on a local beach in approximately 3′ deep water. A 12lb silver coho jumps 50′ in front of you and another boils in the immediate vicinity. You make a quick false cast and lay out 55’ of dry line/leader leading the school of fish by about 5’. The instant your fly lands you see several dorsal and caudal fins poke through the water surface. Your heart is now pounding and your hands shaking slightly. You start your strip, fast enough that your 3” Clouser is darting quickly just under the surface of the water. The fifth strip elicits a large boil and a pressure wave forms behind your fly as at least one coho is now in pursuit. You feel the peck, peck of a fish nipping your fly, yet you continue to strip line, then, 15’ away you strip set the Clouser right into the corner of a fishes’ mouth as it grabs and turns on your fly. The cool part…you saw him take the fly…you saw the whole thing! As your reel spins faster and faster and the frantic fish heads out into the bay you smile to yourself and play the scene over in your head of this 15 lb male coho poking his head out of the water to take your fly…
I was born and raised a diehard steelhead angler, but over the years I have been pulled in numerous directions pursing different fisheries. None have resonated with me to the extent of beach fishing for coho. The attraction is a combination of the dynamic beach environment, incredible ocean scenery and fresh fish which makes this fishery one of my absolute favourites! I visited a local beach this afternoon and witnessed the first few fish of the year leaping out of the water. Got my heart racing and adrenaline peaking!
Sounds like fun? You bet! On good days double digit hook ups are possible and great days…well…dreams are made of these. As with most fishing, angling skill plays a significant role in your success beach fishing for coho. In general, the more time on the water, the better you will learn the patterns of behaviour of the fish on your local beach, how the beach sets up under different tides and which flies work the best.
Being able to cast long distances into the wind is of paramount importance. If you are a weak caster, you will suffer many indignities casting in the beach environment. A common complaint amongst beach anglers is “the fish were jumping 10’ past my best cast”. The angler who is able to accurately cast long distances will cover more fish and; consequently, will catch more. Another asset to the beach angler is being able to spot moving fish. Those of you who have fished bonefish or other flats fish know the importance of locating fish on the flat and the often imperceptible ways that fish show themselves. Beach fishing for coho is no different. Coho will often create nervous water, leap, boil or show their fins above the surface of the water. In fact, coho are so surface oriented that many experienced beach anglers will not fish until coho show themselves.
Being able to determine where the school of coho is and what direction they are moving will play a large role in your success. Each type of showing behaviour demonstrated by coho provides information we can use to help increase our hook up success. Three common showing behaviours are discussed below:
Jumping – Coho are typically moving in the direction they are jumping. Lead jumping fish in the direction they are leaping. Typically a lower chance of success catching leaping fish as they are often moving swiftly. Strip quickly to attract the attention of moving fish.
Boiling or Swirling – Can often indicate fish that are schooled up or swimming slowly. Schooled up and slow moving fish are often the best biters and your chances of success are high.
Finning – Indicates stationary fish or very slow moving fish. The best sign, especially if you see multiple fish finning, as you know the exactly location of the school of fish. High probability of success. Slow your retrieve, especially with smaller flies. Don’t cast into the middle of the school, but try and lead it by a few feet, or cast over the school with your leader and fly. Try not to cover fish with your fly line as they will likely spook.
In all cases, strip your fly using variable speeds and lengths of retrieve (fast/slow, long/short). Coho are notorious for following flies and often will give chase for long distances only to swim away once they see you. Coho can be very finicky and frustrating at times; however, proper retrieve variability can entice most fish to strike! Larger flies (Clousers) typically require a faster retrieve; as fast as you can move your hands at times (i.e., rolly-polly retrieve). Conversely, smaller flies (California Neal’s) generally require a slower retrieve (i.e., hand twist retrieve). If you are casting to (and beyond) fish, keep changing your retrieve and your fly until you hook up.
Your presentation and retrieve are often more important than your fly selection. In terms of flies, err of the side of sparser patterns. Each beach will have a different set of flies and colors that work best, but old stand bys are the Clouser, Mickey Finn, California Neal, Rolled Muddler, Silver Thorn and a variety of minnow patterns in various colors. I have weighted and unweighted versions of each fly in my box. Fresh fish are typically more likely to chase bigger, faster moving flies and will often aggressively take surface flies such as gurglers or pollywogs.
Beach anglers will have long, heated discussions about the merits of different fly lines when it comes to beach fishing. Shooting heads, heavy weight forward lines, sinking tips, full sink hover lines, spey lines etc. My new favourite line set up consists of a 9 weight RIO MaxII Shooting Head (floating) with a RIO Floating Shooting Line to assist with line retrieval, a 12’ RIO Bonefish Taper leader with 4’ of RIO 12lb Saltwater Fluoroflex. This combination allows me to cast over 100’ with limited false casting and turn over a heavy fly. This line set up also functions reasonably well in the wind. This line combination is matched to an 8 weight Sage XI3 and an Islander 3.8LX with 200 yards of backing.General | Comments Off
Over the past few years I have done a fair bit of fly fishing for sea run bull trout in a Fraser River tributary. What a great sport fish! Aggressive takes, they bite a swung fly, hold in the tail out like any self-respecting fish should and not half bad fighting ability. Over time, I have noticed that many of the fish I landed had net marks on their skin…this is quite disturbing! When you see these marks on fish you know they have been running the seasonal gauntlet of nets (commercial and First Nation salmon fisheries) in the Fraser River and by some miracle managed to escape! Imagine how many fish succumb to those nets…I mean seriously think about it. Most of the fish we hook are in the 3-7lb range and had made it through/out of a net. What do you think are the chances of a 10lb+ fish having the same fortune? Probably not very good. I have a few questions about this:
- Are the commercial and FN fisheries selectively harvesting the larger bull trout?
- What, if any, are the genetic consequences of losing the larger bull trout from the stock.
How many sea run bull trout are being lost to these nets?
- Does the provincial government know? Note: bull trout are actually an anadromous species of char and are managed by the Ministry of Environment.
- Which fisheries (i.e., sockeye and/or chum) are responsible for intercepting a higher number of this non-target species?
- Should this be a conservation concern?
- Are these net fisheries artificially selecting for smaller fish
As you can see I am formulating some thoughts on this and am considering writing a letter to the Ministry of Environment expressing my concern about the interception of non-target species in commercial/FN net fisheries and to see if they are aware of the what the interception rate is.Filed under General | Comments Off
Greetings! I am among the many who have great respect for Alexandra Morton and her research regarding the effects of sea lice on wild salmon. What I appreciate about Alexandra is, like any good researcher, she relies on science and the statistical interpretation of scientific data to guide her opinions and statements. I wish the same could be said for the federal and provincial governments…
In my opinion, federal and provincial governments have intentionally done away with considering science in decision making processes (especially when it comes to fisheries management) as science is a) expensive; b) not always conclusive; c) doesn’t always generate the results wanted or expected; and d) often leads to tough politics! An example of dismissing the role of science in fisheries management is the continued slashing of fisheries stock assessment budgets! That’s right… how can you make fundamentally important management decisions without understanding run escapement/recruitment numbers etc?
It is far easier for governments to turn their collective backs on science (e.g., Fraser River gravel removal, missing sockeye etc.) and make outlandish claims in the media such as a senior DFO manager when he claimed that (rough quote), “salmon farms had nothing to do with the collapse of the sockeye run this year”. How do you know that? WHERE IS THE SCIENCE/DATA BEHIND THAT STATEMENT? I understand that Alexandra requested that DFO provide the data supporting this claim. To the best of my knowledge, no data has been provided to date.
You know things are getting bad when a high ranking official from DFO, a federal government agency which is supposed to be managing fisheries for the BENEFIT of all Canadians, is making broad unsubstantiated statements such as this.
In what political back room was it decided that the new plan was to forgo conservation and protection of our wild salmon stocks in favour of big business and economic contribution to federal/provincial coffers? How did this happen that high ranking political figures have such a like mind about this?Filed under General | Comments Off
I had a conversation yesterday with Jason Tonelli, owner of Pacific Angler, about steelhead jigs caused me to reflect back over many years of steelhead fishing to the evolution of lures and baits.
I acknowledge that some individuals have been fishing jigs for many years; however, it seems to me that only in the last 2 to 3 years have jigs surged to the forefront and prominence at the business end of steelheader’s terminal tackle. As proof, Jason informed me that he cannot keep jig tying material on the shelves lately. From speaking with other anglers, I understand that a well fished jig is quite deadly! Guess it might be time to add a few jigs to my lure box… right beside the aero fly…
How about other lures that started with a small following and now populate almost every steelheader’s gear box? Pink worms, colorado blades and gooey bobs… The evolution of gear is quite amazing, although still hard to beat fresh bait. Even in the bait category, peeled shrimp had its day. I suspect that even old timers were pumping ghost shrimp way beack when; although, if I were a betting man I would wager that more ghost shrimp are being pumped now with the availability of good steelhead roe disappearing…
My opinion on the next big lure fad in BC? Spoons… Their day is nye!Filed under General | Comments Off