July 2011

July 2011
July 2011
July 2011
July 2011

Bobbing for Pinks

By

Rory E. Glennie

 

One of the most exasperating things about beach-fishing for Pink Salmon is when they hang around just beyond your casting range. For whatever reason; perhaps they are following a familiar bottom contour, or staying under a comfortable depth of water or simply staying just outside a patch of eel grass at low tide, Pinks often taunt us with their outlying tendencies. Wade as deeply as you dare, double-haul a cast as far as you can and you still just reach them. One or two short strips to activate the fly and your offering is quickly away from the pod of fish with no hope of enticing one of them to bite. Unless your fly literally drops into an open mouth, and sometimes it actually seems like that does happen, your frustration level will rise in direct proportion to the drop in your confidence.

Think Laterally
OK, so your longest cast has just reached the pod. There is a chance one of those fish might see your fly and strike at it. Before that happens autopilot kicks in and you start to strip in line, after all that is the way to do it, right? It is if you want to repeat what has not been producing hookups in that situation.

Take your queue from the fish. Pinks in particular are prone to picking up an almost static offering as they cruise around. So, stop stripping in your line. The fish are staying put. Leave your fly in amongst the milling throng and increase the likelihood of a positive response from one of them. For most folks that is easier said than done. The urge to animate the fly is overpowering. A conscious decision not to move the line has to be made. It is a matter of retraining yourself out of an otherwise good habit. Tough, but necessary.

Gearing Down for the Challenge
It has become standard practice for beach anglers to use some form of sinking fly line. That may be a slow sinking intermediate line or one with a sinking tip. Alternately, some folks employ a floating line with a weighted fly and long leader to get down to the fish zone. OK, you are almost there, use the floating line with a short leader and a fly without any added weight. Tying the fly to a short, straight, three to four foot long leader of six pound test fluorocarbon is ideal. The standard fly patterns for Pinks will work, but they need to be fashioned differently to be more efficient fish catchers.

Technique de jour
The need to wade out as far as you dare and cast as far as you can remains the same, unless the salmon are closer in than that. Try to gently drop your fly right in the midst of the pod. Beach oriented Pinks are not usually bottom huggers so there is no need to tickle the barnacles. Just keeping the fly at about mid-depth is the aim. The floating line acts as a long skinny bite detector; the short leader keeps the fly suspended in the strike zone below. If you need a bigger target to concentrate on a small “strike indicator” can be employed at the line leader junction. This can be a purpose built “corkie” or simply a foam ear plug strung onto the leader with a sewing needle. After some experience and confidence building with this technique you may wish to lose the training wheels and fish naked without an indicator. Just like worming as a kid with a red and white plastic bobber, when the line moves or is pulled under, set the hook. Waiting that minute or so for the take is not like watching paint dry. It is way more fun than that, especially when the silvery hue is suddenly attached to the end of your line.

Heretical Fly Dressing
With your fly suspended and largely unanimated by a retrieve, the fish have a global perspective on your offering; they can come at it from any angle, at their leisure. Effective fly design needs to anticipate this eventuality. Although most common fly patterns will do, it is the hook which requires attention. Dress the fly on a tiny treble hook. Yes, that’s right, a small, more efficient treble. And yes, they are allowed under the tidal water sport fishing regulations, as long as they are rendered barbless. As well, the tiny treble is as easy to remove as a larger single point hook, and actually leaves a much smaller puncture wound. Tiny means a size fourteen on the treble hook scale. This size hook sinks slowly and does not readily pull-under the fly line; is in keeping with the small mouth structure of a pink salmon; and is strong enough to securely hold the fish.

 

Tying the Woolly Trefoil
Hook – Mustad 3551 or Eagle Claw size #12 treble, de-barbed and sharpened.
Thread – 1/0 Unithread, to match/accent desired colour scheme.
Tail – Krystal Flash™, 6 strands, to accent desired colour scheme.
Body – Poly braid, silver or pearlescent, wound around hook shank.
Veil – Steelheaders yarn, tied in the round, only to hook bend in length.
Head – Tying thread, lacquered, coloured or clear.
Note: A simple pattern intended to mimic a bit of krill or a euphausid which Pinks are used to feeding on. Yarn over the shiny body supplies life imitating movement with an inner glow. Acting like Velcro™ the yarn sticks in the fish’s fine teeth for better bite detection

Huxley’s Run: 

Tentanic

On that fateful day three years ago, Ken and I watched from 200 yards away as a spring squall whipped down the river, picked up our tent and then dropped it. We took cover behind a stump, peeking and squinting upriver as the swirling wind picked up the glacial silt from the shore and sifted it into a white, all pervasive, whipping mist. Then it hailed. Not just hailed, it was a sudden burst of 22-calibre shot that stung like two-pound bumble bees, even through our jackets. Then it rained. Not just rained, it was an open faucet of grape-sized raindrops that choked the oxygen out of the air and hurt only a little less than the hail. Then the sun came out.
We emerged from behind the stump like a couple of survivors of a nuclear blast. It had come and gone so quickly, it didn’t seem that it had happened at all. But itchy eyes and dotted hands and face told a different story. And then.
“The tent,” Ken said, his voice trailing off to nothing. I looked and saw the tent seemingly in tact. The wind had died, no leaf moved and small streamlets of steam lifted and quickly faded from the sodden sand. Ken moaned.
I asked what was wrong and he said, “The tent,” as he started quickly back down river and wading across at a good clip. I tried to keep up but stopped and wondered what his haste was all about. I looked at the tent and it was moving. Downstream! I bolted into and across the river. We caught the tent just before it headed into the down river rapids and pulled it to shore. All our stuff, and we were stranded miles from nowhere, was soaked. We dragged the tent to shore as it started to rain again. It took us an hour to put up a tarp and start a fire to dry our stuff. We finished just in time for the sun to come out again.
Fast forward to this spring — same river, same remote location. We arrived early, set up a great camp and pitched our tent on a soft blend of glacial sand. There was little wind and no rain. The fishing was good, the supper better and a great fire warmed us in the darkening night. It turned cold and the early start and full stomachs turned our sleeping bags into cloud nine mattresses. Ken and I shared his tent and he popped a quick sleeping pill to fight the good fight against my legendary snoring, which a friend politely describes as a cavitating outboard, with the prop out of the water.
Ken faded off to sleep and I listened to the river through tired ears. The cold swirled, trying to creep its icy fingers into my sleeping bag. In the joy of its failure I sighed, rolled on to my side and welcomed unconsciousness with a thankful smile.
Hours later something woke me. I lay still and listened, thinking of the wolf tracks we had seen earlier right where we had erected the tent. I could hear the river’s quiet roar in the distance and also its quiet lapping.
Quiet lapping?
QUIET LAPPING AGAINST THE TENT!
I bolted upright. I turned on my cap light and unzipped the tent’s front. The first thing I saw was my breath in a white cloud. The second thing I saw was one of my boots, floating on a black, inky surface. The river had come up. I shook Ken awake or as close to it as I could. “We’re afloat, get up!” I hissed. Ken groggily put his hand on the tent floor and asked incredulously, “You brought a waterbed out here?”
I blurted out our precarious predicament while stuffing my sleeping bag and clothes into garbage bags. I emptied my boots, put them on and splashed into the night. The river had surrounded us by 15 feet. Only the waterproof base of the tent had stopped a catastrophe. I carried my gear to higher ground and returned to find Ken, still half asleep, standing in his underwear and boots looking down at the tent, scratching his head and looking confused.
“Something about tents and water,” he mumbled.
It helped that I knew the inside of the tent was dry, that we had been incredibly lucky and that we could quickly salvage the evening and be snug as a bug in minutes. Maybe that’s why that cold, lonely river evening was shattered with my call of “Ship Ahoy!” and one of the best laughs I have ever had.

 

 

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