Sept/Dec 2007

Sept/Dec 2007
Sept/Dec 2007
Sept/Dec 2007
Sept/Dec 2007

TEMPTING TACKLE-BUSTING CHUMS


by Dr. Martin Lamont

Of the Pacific salmon, chums (Oncorhynchus keta) were of little interest to saltwater anglers until the 1990s. With El Niño-related disruptions in coho and chinook stocks during that period, more attention was directed at these late-running salmon and a popular fishery -- mostly involving trolling with lures or mooching with cut plug herring -- began to evolve. Those anglers quickly learned what fly fishers in rivers have known all along: chums are strong, brutal brawlers. In fact, many anglers feel that pound-for-pound they are the strongest of all Pacific salmon.

Large numbers of chums enter the rivers when low pressure weather systems of late fall sweep in from the ocean, drenching the West Coast with heavy rains. Chums seldom migrate far upstream, especially in short rivers like those found on Vancouver Island, and are often found in lower reaches close to the estuary. A good starting point is from the first tidal pool to a mile upstream. For this reason it pays to check local tide tables for the flood tide, which usually brings fresh, new fish into the lower reaches.

By the time chums enter a river, their ocean mantle of bright silver is taking on a distinctive pattern of mottled red-purple and green-olive hues. Their hooked kypes armed with fierce-looking teeth, the males are aggressive and spoiling to fight with each other over the redds. It is this attack mode a fly fisher stimulates by presenting a fly, which is basically an attractor pattern.

Some basic patterns are simple yarn flies in fluorescent green or red. In the often muddied spate waters of fall, green offers greater visibility to the fish. However, there is no exact formula for chums, so experiment occasionally with blue or yellow-orange yarn. My favourite pattern is the Green and Pink Frammus originated by Vic Stevens of Courtenay, British Columbia Although intended for winter steelhead, it works well for chums. It is simply a body of green chenille and a wing of pink acrylic yarn, or reversed with a pink body and green wing. I use No. 6 to 2 hooks, with the larger size for coloured water.

Those new to chum fishing often underestimate these heavyweights and use tackle that is too light for the task. While the average weight of male chums is about 10 pounds, they have been recorded at well over three times this size. Even 10-pounders can be unbelievably strong tackle-busters, so a 9- or 10-weight outfit is suggested. My favourite is a 12-foot, 10-weight fibreglass rod treasured for its ability to take the pounding and abuse of chum fishing.

A sink-tip line with a shortened head is useful for mending a dead-drift through pods of schooling chum. Alternatively, try a floating line in shallower flows. Tippets should be heavy -- nothing less than 10-pound test -- four feet long for coloured water, nine feet in clear conditions. Flies can also be presented with a classic down-and-across swing. At the end of each drift, let your fly hang downstream in the current for a short while, then retrieve upstream with steady, slow-to-medium pulls of two feet or so (reel to knee), and be prepared for an often subtle take.

Take care when approaching chums holding in thin water as they spook easily. In coloured water they prefer slower flows close to the bank or in back eddies, and often hold right at an angler’s feet. If you can see fish but they refuse to bite, remember that they are not feeding -- you must trigger that attack mode. Present your fly repeatedly over the same area and at the same depth before covering new water. Fish fresh from the ocean are ready takers, but shortly after settling over the redds they lose interest in biting flies.

The window of opportunity to tangle with these exceptionally strong, challenging opponents is admittedly short, but we who are addicted to chum salmon feel they are well worth the effort.

(Excerpt from Fly Fishing Canada - From Coast to Coast to Coast.

Available from www.flyfishingcanada.net)
 

Huxley’s Run: 

THOUGHTS ON AGING


by Dr. Adipose Huxley

My then seven-year-old daughter was busily running her fingers through my hair as if she were searching for vermin.

“What are you doing?” I asked, moving my head away from those little fingers.

“Nothing,” she said, her face for some reason flushed with sadness
.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she answered before walking quietly away, her shoulders hunched and her head down.

Perplexed, I figured I had somehow stopped her fun, whatever it was, and I felt foolish. “Come here, Honey,” I said. “I don’t mind if you do that. I was just wondering what you were doing.”

Usually when there was a major pout happening, any kind of reconciliation on my part was dutifully ignored and the pout intensified. But this time she stopped, turned around and walked back slowly to where I was sitting.

Her large eyes seemed almost on the verge of tears, and I suddenly felt helpless. “Oh, Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked, taking her in my arms.

She gave a huge sigh and started sobbing quietly, her face buried in the crook of my neck. I hugged her tightly, fearing I know not what and feeling incredibly helpless. For a long minute I sat there, rocking back and forth while her tears poured forth. I knew whatever it was that was troubling her would eventually come out, but not before the bottled up sadness was emptied.
Then her head pulled back and she looked at me through red eyes. Her hand came up and touched my hair just near the temples. “You know, Dad, they have a shampoo thing that can cover up your grey hair.”
I laughed, but she didn’t. Then I said that I didn’t mind my grey hair, it didn’t bother me and it was just a part of life I accepted.

She started sobbing again. “But it makes you look old and I don’t want you to ever get old.” And her head buried again into the crook of my neck. I cried a bit, too. But I soon told her that her dad was as young as he ever was, and then we started playing all sorts of silly games and ate naughty treats and watched cartoons until the red eyes were gone and she was smiling and laughing again. She got over it.

I didn’t.

From that day forward I changed a few things. I rode my bike to work, I exercised, ate a little better -- and checked those grey hairs in the mirror at least three times a day to see if they were disappearing. They weren’t. But I soon realized that while participating in an active lifestyle, one tends to forget things about age.
And so it was that I went to the Campbell on a lunch hour for some fishing. I had forgotten my waders and fly box at home, but I still had a fly tied on the leader and knew that I would be able to reach the cutthroats from shore.

Before long, in fact, I realized that fishing with the bare necessities was just like being a kid again. It felt good to just get fishing instead of putting on gear and making too much of a simple thing. I felt refreshed and young, and I even hit a fish or two.

A fellow fishing downstream had been watching me, and before long he walked up and said, “You’re Doctor Huxley, aren’t you?”

He didn’t say it in an accusing or threatening tone of voice, so I allowed that I was, indeed.
“I read your column and really enjoy it.”

I thanked him for the compliment and we chatted idly as we continued fishing. He said that he was fairly new to the area and also to fly fishing, but was really enjoying his time in Campbell River. I think his name was Mr. Pinder.

It was quite amazing -- the impromptu fishing, the joyful simplicity of my approach to it, and a totally unexpected compliment had pretty much made my day. However, lunch hour was over and it was time to go. I reeled in, hooked my fly in the keeper ring, and then turned to say goodbye to my newfound acquaintance.
“Goodbye,” he said. “Very nice to have met you.”

I started toward the car.

“By the way,” he called out. “You should really change your picture in the paper. You look much older in person.”
 

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