Monday, July 30, 2007

Flies for salmon

Not salmon flies, though.

They deserve a post of their own, perhaps next spring if I actually manage to catch the hatch. We frequently have a pretty good hatch of those big guys down here in the southwest.

These are flies for coho, also called silver, salmon. I'm headed off to Alaska for a fifth annual salmon trip and I've been busy filling fly boxes. I thought I'd share a few with you all:

That's a Toad, tied in the fashion of an Egg-sucking leech, seen below:

The Toad is a saltwater fly which works well for salmon, too. The trick to the Toad is the action. The tail is made from a strip of dyed rabbit with the hair left on or from marabou, either of which tend to pulse, flex, and wiggle in the water. In the front end are a pair of lead eyes, which cause the fly to ride with the hook point up and to dive for the bottom nose first. The body is made from bouyant yarn trimmed into a flat coin shape, helping the fly to plane up and down. When retrieved, the fly darts up and then planes down, leaving that wiggling tail up in the current. Altogether, the action tends to get predator's attention. The colors are appropriate for salmon, purple with a bright head, or chartreuse:

That purple egg-sucking leech shown up above this photo is a standard salmon and steelhead fly and one of the most successful. The theory behind it is that the salmon see a leech preying on salmon roe and strike it to kill the scavenger. I'm not aware for the explanation as to why purple generally works better than olive or black (though black can also work) which are standard leech colors. For many years, one of the best flies we've found has been a varient of a chartreuse woolly bugger:

which is a simple fly that can be quickly tied. The tail is, once again, marabou for the pulsing action in the water. The body is something called Polar Chenille, once again very active in the water, and the whole thing is heavily weighted with an underbody of lead wire to get it down in the heavy waters we fish. Last year, however, the reliable chartreuse bugger was outfished by the Popsicle:

which is a fly consisting of a pink marabou or rabbit tail, succeeded by layers or red or wine material, then topped with purple behind a bead-head. The bead is brass and helps give the fly that important up-and-down pulsing action in the water. Sometimes, the fish want a flash fly-here are a couple:

These flies are sort of like Mepps spinners for fly-fishermen. Weighted, they have silver tinsel, a bit of color, and lots of Flashabou, a reflective, slightly opaque material. Drawn through the water they pulse and glisten. Their reflective qualities also keep them from photographing well. More fun to fish than all of these, if a person is lucky he might find some fish holding in still water where they will strike a Pollywog:

That's not a traditional 'wog, which originally was created from spun and clipped deer-hair. The original version requires a lot of time and effort for construction, then tends to become waterlogged and ravaged by salmon teeth. This guy is made from closed cell foam, painted the appropriate hot pink, then sealed and tipped with a slinky marabou tail. With luck, it will stand strikes from a dozen fish and manage to land half that. When the cohos are in the right mood, they follow such a fly stripped across the surface in short jerks repeatedly striking and slashing at it. For an angler, there isn't much more fun you can have than that!

Most of these flies named are shown with names I've picked up from other fishermen, articles, or the occasional reference. Far from definitive, they are an example of the weird things coho salmon choose to strike and some of what has been occupying my time lately.

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