Coho on the Fly - Part I
Rick Stahl
Steelheader Contributor
  This is the first of two part series in which I’ll outline the process of fly fishing for Coho when they’re on their spawning run in fresh water. We will concentrate on Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island techniques as Coho further north seem to have different characteristics and habits to their southern cousins. In this article we will review the necessary equipment and flies needed to approach these fish. In the second article we’ll discuss recommended techniques and Coho habits.
  Contrary to popular belief, fly fishing for Coho can be extremely effective often out_doing the spin and drift fishers. It adds a new dimension to a sport fishery that traditionally supported heavy gear and a meat mentality. As fly fishing for Coho becomes more and more popular, we might also see a refreshing rise in ethics on the river.
  Before rushing off to the river, you must consider the basic tools needed to tantalize Coho. First a #6 to #8 rated fly rod is necessary. Longer rods, between nine and eleven feet can help make casting into the wind and mending in the current more plausible. Also the longer softer rods will tend to protect a light tippet and will still have enough power to beach a good_sized fish.
  Unlike trout fishing, the fly reel can play an important part in your arsenal. Coho will almost always force you to fight them on the reel, using their size and the current to wear you out. A smooth running reel with a large capacity spool will aid you in the process of landing larger fish. Rim control, the ability to add drag to a reel with the palm of your hand, is a must on all fly reels used for salmon.
  The type of lines you use should coincide with the water and fishing conditions you encounter. To properly fish most situations you need three basic lines: a floating, a type III sink tip or clear mono line, and a heavy sink tip (type IV to VI).
  In the last few years the use of "head systems" has added versatility while reducing costs for the angler. Head systems consist of a floating line that is cut at a particular place in the belly. Loops are attached to either side of the cut and to the back end of different sink rated heads. One can easily remove the floating head and put different sink rated heads on by running the head’s loop over the running line loop and then drawing the tip end of the head through the open loop of the running line. This is quick, easy and efficient. Rio, 3M and Cortland are now all producing these high bred lines, and considering the fact that no extra spools or backing are required makes them very attractive price wise.
  A blinding array of flies can be obtained to fool Coho, but basic variations of five different patterns will cover most situations. The Rolled Muddler Minnow is by far the most popular and you should never be out of a variety of them in different sizes (four to ten) and colours. I always carry muddlers tied in olive, natural, red wing, black and gold. I also carry quite a few of these flies with bead heads __ some tied sparse and some tied heavy.
  Christmas Trees in sizes 6 to 10 are very effective for coho as well. Again tie some sparse and some very full for different water and light conditions. Also try putting some weight at the head of these flies to give them a pulsating action in the water.
  Black and olive Woolly Buggers in sizes four to eight tied sparse with some flash in the tail are great all around patterns. Coho Blues (sizes four to ten) round out the streamers patterns. Again, tie these flies with a flash __ the sparser the better.
  Lastly, you will want to have some glow bugs on hand. Sizes four to eight tied on short shank bait hooks will do. Here, peach is the number one color, but don’t overlook the pinks and chartreuses as they can make the difference in certain light and water conditions.
  Leader material is usually decided when considering water conditions and the wariness of the fish. Fish that are just entering rivers are usually very aggressive and not yet overly educated. Therefore you can use a heavier tippet in the 10 to 12 pound range. As the fish spend more time in their new surroundings they tend to become a little more leader shy. This will often call for lighter tippet in the 6 to 8 pound area. Water clarity plays a role in the selection of your tippet as well, the darker the water the heavier the tippet.
  In the last few years fluorocarbon leader has revolutionized the leader industry. This material has excellent strength, is twice as dense as mono and resists abrasion and UV rays. What makes it very appealing to the fly fisher is the fact that it has almost the same reflecting quality as water. With this I mean that as light passes through the fluorocarbon it bends almost the same angle that water does, making it almost invisible underwater. The downfall of fluorocarbon is the price and the knot strength; make sure you tie your knots properly with it.
  In the next issue we will discuss some of the different characteristics of Coho salmon. We will also go over some techniques used to take Coho under different water conditions. Until then keep your fly in the water.
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