Friday, October 23, 2009

Fly Fishing for Coho - Specialized Techniques

Chrome Northern Coho Salmon such as this 18 lb fish caught by Hamish Barley can be very aggressive upon entering their natal rivers - in this case, one of our favourite Lower Skeena Tributaries - and having the right flies and techniques in your fly fishing repertoire will increase your chances of bringing these fish to hand.

When targeting Coho Salmon on the fly, it's important to keep two things in mind: the type of water that you'll be searching to find fish, and their behavioural preferences. Though you can find Coho in a variety of water types, they most often hold in slower moving pools, on the edge of current seams in what our guides call the "froggy water," and, in particular, anywhere there is cover - most notably, logs, sweepers, and mid-stream boulders. These areas afford Coho the all important features of a river that make them feel comfortable: protection from predators, and slower currents where little energy is required to hold. The nice thing? When you find Coho in these areas, they are often very aggressive.

Locating fish aside, Coho generally require that your fly be animated. It's not that you won't catch fish by simply dead drifting your fly or by swinging it in front of fish, but stripping and twitching your fly so that it looks like it's trying to escape just seems to be one of the major triggers that converts fish into players. So, if you're a die hard Steelhead angler you'll have to modify your tactics slightly. Instead of casting down and across and mending to get that slow swing, cast your fly up and across stream, mend it until it's at the right depth (you'l l have to experiment to see what level they're at - sometimes they're close to the surface, other times, they'll be hugging the bottom), then start a slow, but jerky retrieve once the line drifts down below you. Animation in the fly is best achieved by doing a fast "hand twist retrieve" at the end of the strip - this slight, but essential movement causes the fly to pulse through the water and often makes the difference bewteen an average and exceptional day.

Now, a few notes on fly design and/or choice. For whatever reason, Coho are extremely prone to attacking flies that, when you impart action to it with the rod and line, have a jig like motion. To achieve this, nearly all of our Coho flies have a large metal bead at the front, which causes the fly to dive in the water column after being stripped. The same effect could be achieved by using dumbbell or hourglass eyes, tungsten and conehead beads etc. Next, and perhaps this might be the most importast aspect of fly design - Coho flies require a very liberal use of flash. Our favourites? Flashabou, hands down, as it moves in water much better than does other materials. Using Polar Chenille is also a good choice, and incorporating these two materials into your fly design is a winning combination. In our experience, the most effective colours are varying combinations of chartreuse and silver, but blue, purple, pink and orange are all mainstays in our fly boxes.

So, armed with a little more information on Coho Fly Fishing techniques, be sure to get out there and enjoy your fishing! And, if you want to head out for a day of instruction on our favourite river systems in the Lower Skeena watershed, don't hesitate to get in touch.