Island Fly Fisher – Coho

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Island Fly Fisher - Coho

Coho are well known for their aggressive behaviour and for their jumping and rolling tactic once hooked; they can vary in size, and can range from seven to 20 pounds. Like other salmon fishing, run timing varies on each river system; it pays to do your research before you head out to a new river system. Many VI river systems see relatively early returns of fish in September through October and other systems are known for their late returning fish, giving fly anglers an opportunity through December.

When beach fishing you will need to fish close to shore where current is minimal. Coho travel so close to shore, anglers are often wading out past where the fish travel. I have caught many coho casting behind anglers who have waded out too far.

For equipment, I like to use a seven or eight weight rod and a large-arbour reel, with enough capacity to hold 150 yards plus of 30-pound backing. It should have a smooth, powerful drag system and be able to retrieve large quantities of line very quickly, which is major plus.

For lines, I like multi-tip fly lines which is an obvious advantage to salmon fly fishing, and I prefer the Rio Versi-tip system as it allows me to change the head portion quickly. More often than not, water depth and speed can change two or even three times in a small stretch of river. Having the ability to quickly and easily change your line will often be the difference between success and failure.

I like to use a tapered seven-foot salmon/steelhead leader to which I then add another two feet or so of eight-pound Maxima as a tippet. I like to use shorter leaders with sink tips lines. Again, speed of current and depth will determine sink rate and leader length.

Stripping streamers is the most popular method of fly-angling for coho. In this technique, baitfish imitations or large attractor patterns are fished at medium- to high-speed by retrieving them with a stop-and-go motion, often pulling in or “stripping” line in six- to 20-inch bursts at the rate of 60 to 100 pulls a minute. This “herkyjerky” retrieve is often the ticket when casting to feeding fish, as it closely resembles the motion of panicked baitfish. The stripped streamer method lends itself well to casting over moving fish as well, and can be used with everything from full-floating to fullsinking lines with equal effectiveness.

Fly selection for cohos can be broken down into two groups, minnow imitation and attractor flies. Minnow imitations include Rolled Muddlers Sculpin, and leech patterns. Attractor flies would include just about any pattern that has flash, similar to Christmas Tree and Kelsey’s Hope. I prefer to tie my own using three basic colors of crystal flash, using blue, green and crystal. For flies, hook size can be very important; start with a #4 size hook then try smaller flies, which often lure fish to strike. Coho can be finicky, slamming anything and everything put in front of them one moment, and then becoming extremely tight lipped the next. Fly colour and speed of retrieve may make or break a day. During some outings one may observe coho chasing a fly 10 feet or more before engulfing it, truly a spectacle to behold. On other days, one leaves the river perplexed as to what would make these fish follow a fly. You just never know what makes these fish “turn on”, but when they’re on, there is nothing quite like it. It is this endearing trait that makes me love them all the more.

Blue Coho Rolled Muddler

The Rolled Muddler is originally from British Columbia, a fly that was designed by Tom Murray and is sometimes referred to as Murray’s Rolled Muddler.

The fly was originally meant for fishing for cutthroats along saltwater beaches and in the estuaries and there are several variations of this fly to be found. The one major variation is whether or not the fly is tied with a bead. Another variation is of course the colour, which varies a lot. The fly can be found in natural colors as well as dull blue and olive and even in bright yellow, chartreuse or orange. Some are also tied so fat and bulky that they remind me more of a standard Muddler Minnow.

Blue Coho Rolled Muddler

The Rolled Muddler should be tied as a slim and lightly dressed fly with a fairly skinny wing and a small and streamlined head.

Hook: Streamer size 8-6
Thread: 6/0
Head: Spun Deer Hair
Body: Opal Mylar
Rib: Oval Tinsel
Under Wing: Krystal Flash or Flashabou
Over-Wing: Blue Teal
Tail: Blue Teal

Tying Instructions

  1. Tie in Blue Wing Teal at hook bend for tail.
  2. Tie in Opal Mylar, wrap forward and then wrap Oval Tinsel in opposite direction; thread is forward leaving enough room for the spun deer hair head.
  3. Tie in Krystal Flash then tie Blue Teal for Over-Wing, sparse; tips should reach the tip of the tail.
  4. Lay a clump of deer hair between the wing and the eye of the hook, perpendicular to the hook shank. Wrap thread over deer hair; this should cause the deer hair to flare upwards. Make a few more wraps to secure deer hair, then whip finish, and head cement.
  5. The last step is to trim the deer hair to form the head. The head should be trimmed to a small size and should be rounded. Leave a few strands of deer hair, extending back over wing. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Larry, Excellent information, right on the mark. I agree with the snappy, jerky, retrieves. When asked “What is the best retrieve”?
    Bruce Ferguson replied: “vary your retrieve”.

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