After Gil C’s. report of many many many Coho from the previous day, we decided to but out to hit the river once again for another day. Today we were joined by Shawn Y. a fellow I’d met recently at Orvis days, and had conversed with on a popular fly fishing internet forum.
We left Bellevue at 7:30 am to make the long drive up north, weather forecast looked ok, with no rain, but there was a little bite to the air temp. It was good however to see the leaves and smell the mountain air, really brings me alive. When we got to our launch site, I noticed the river was up a bit from my previous outing with dad from last week. It made for a couple of faster heart beat crossings, but we all managed out ok.
The spot where I was seeing alot of Coho was completely devoid of them however, and searching for them was the name of the game that morning. Gil found a pod and quickly hooked into one, I also found another pod and brought a nice male to hand. However, we were looking for some fresher fish and a place to get Shawn into some Coho as he’d never caught an ocean returning fish, only small residents from the beach.
When we did find fish, it was a big black mass of Coho backs and fins as evidenced by the video of Andy W. putting on a clinic for us. Andy fishes both gear and fly, he started with fly in the a.m. but his desire to fish this rip rap hole that most no fisherman in their right mind woud fish due to the extreme river crossing and the angle of approach that one has to make to land these Coho. It is a sweet soft backwater that holds many many fish. You can see just how many fish there were in there by seeing the black mass, and then once he lands the fish, the mass moves out, but then re-appears. I can estimate that those Coho numbered into the 100’s in that back eddy.
Gil proceeded to put on a clinic himself amongst four gear guys that were determined to grab a piece of his action. Once I’d pointed out the black mass at Andy fishing spot, Gil notice that along a faster moving riffle, he also noticed a black band that seemed to change in size. This would only be Coho and alot of Coho must have been stacked in this waiting water. This river is the oddest river in that the Coho will hold in the typical slack water, but they also like the faster moving water that looks more like classic trout water. The day prior, Gil was intimidated with the gear guys to fish this run, but today he took charge. He stood on his rock perch and proceeded to make a cast into the mass with his purple ESL and then wham… hooks a fish! Upon seeing this 4 gear guys descend on the run and surrond him fighting for position. Once he released it, he got back into position and hooks another one! This action happened several other times with him hooking into fish with the gear guys and nothing to hand. I guess this was the rare case of fly vs. gear, fly wins!
We were also joined by Chaz W. and his fried Mark who was visiting from Texas, both fly fisherman. I’d focused more attention on fishing around an island where I could see several Coho sitting in faster moving water. They were hunkered down, and I was determined to get to them. I hooked three but could tell that they were fouled. I guess I should have paid more attention to what Gil was doing and my hook ups would have been greatly improved.
Towards the afternoon, I did some more exploring and found a side channel of about 20 yards wide that was loaded with Coho. Not fast moving water, but swift and of about 3.5′ deep. I noted tht when I tried to intercept the fish from a side position they’d hold tight into the log jams on the bank, but if I was directly behind them, they’d spread out into the river and hold in the swift water. I proceed to lace up my line and sink tip and fly and throw a long cast into their holding water. Wham! Fish on! I’d landed three fish from this spot and told Shawn to come over. Shawn doesn’t have much experience with fishing sink tips as he was using varying lengths of T-14 to achieve the desired depth. After a few fruitless casts, I gave him my set up and told him what to do. Within minutes the line stops and I tell him to set and he is onto a nice buck male. Woo hoo! His eyes were as big as silver dollars and the rod was pulsing with the pull of that nice male Coho. We landed the fish, snapped off a couple of shots before that fish decided that he’d had enough of the photo shoot and flopped back into the stream.
I was really surprised at the number of people that were fishing and that were keeping fish. Most of the fish that were keep were dark and red, with carcasses lying on the banks of some very red Coho. I don’t care what anyone says, but I won’t keep a dark fish no matter how much you smoke it. It takes me alot of effort to process and smoke up fish and I believe the quality of the product is dependant on the quality of the fish. Although it wasn’t big numbers of fish caught today, I landed 7 the whole day, but fouled just as many, I did learn about some Coho behaivour that I’ll stash in my pocket for next year.
With this trip, it will end my 2009 Coho journey and my sights will move onto Ocean returning bright Chum. I’ve heard that bright Chum are good smoker fare. I guess I’ll have to find out using my ‘new’ smoker and proven dry brine recipe that has been well received amongst the recipients of my smoked fish. Until next week… tight lines!