Coho on the Fly- Part II
Like miniature torpedoes, Coho can be seen pushing ĎVís through a shallow
tail out on a flooding tide. They are entering a holding pool
where the riverís current stagnates and just about comes to a
halt. Aggressively these fish snap at each other and chase smaller
fish as they circle and become familiar with their surroundings. A
dark pulsating creature enters their world and immediately some of
the fish move over to investigate. Curiosity keeps the fish
following until one finally mouths this strange creature and finds
a hook solidly embedded into its jaw.
This is the second article of a two part series in which we will discuss
the inís and outsí of taking Coho with a fly in fresh water. In
the first part we talked about the necessary gear and flies needed
to pursue these game fish. In this article we delve into the
techniques and nature of the fish, particular to the Fraser Valley
and Vancouver Island.
Fly_fishing for Coho relies heavily on timing and the aggressive nature
of the fish. There are no set rules to when Coho will go onto a
bit or become aggressive, but a few guidelines can be followed.
Fish that have just entered or are getting ready to leave a pool are
usually "turned on." These Coho will usually circle the pool or,
in the case of larger pools, circle an area of still water.
Coho move most during low light _ the biggest movement of fish is just
before daybreak or just after. On dark cloudy days fish will
sometimes move all day. This holds true especially on larger
On lower elevation rivers and sloughs, tide can affect the movement of
fish. High tide will usually find the fish moving fairly
quickly,and they will tend to ignore a fly; low tide will usually
force the fish to slow and rest, leaving them very aggravated.
Fish that are forced to "stack" together tend to have very little
patience with each other and with intruding pieces of feather and
When the water is high the fish tend to spread out, Coho will be tough to
entice with a fly. Look for slow, calmer water where the fish are
forced to stack up before moving on.
The best fly water for Coho is still or extremely slow water. This is
usually found in the lower sections of rivers. Look for back
eddies, sloughs and any other impoundments where fish can enter
and exit freely. This is cast and retrieve water, the same water
where spinners and spoons seem to work exceptionally.
Floating lines or intermediate sink tips are all that are needed in this
water, as Coho will often rise for a fly in dead water. Coho are
notorious for following the fly. They will often move up to
fifteen feet with a fly before taking it, therefore a steady,
rhythmic retrieve is important for success. Fish the fly right to
the shore. Some of the most exciting strikes happen right at your
feet. Remember that Coho will sit in extremely shallow water early
in the day and move to deeper water as the day wears on. Coho in
calm water will almost never take a fly the same way twice, so be
ready for the slightest gentle bites from the fish.
If fish can only be found in current, you might have to switch to a
heavier sink tip (type IV to Type VI). Cast your fly slightly
upstream or straight across, depending on the current, make a
strong upstream mend and allow the fly to sink. When the fly has
reached its desired depth, usually right off the bottom, and
begins to come under tension, preferably at about a 45 degree
angle downstream, start a slow steady retrieve. Again the Coho
will often follow a fly for a few feet before taking it. Try
different retrieves and speeds; just remember to keep it all
rhythmical. Often if you hesitate or stop retrieving the fly, as
you would do with trout, any following Coho may break away from
Another effective technique is called short_lining or glo_bugging. This
is very similar to nymphing in a stream for trout. Start with a
long leader on a floating line. Add a strike indicator, usually a
large corky, at the top of the leader then tie on a glo_bug to the
end. About 18 inches above the glo bug add a few small split shot
weights. Cast this out, quartering upstream, and begin to mend
immediately, trying to dead drift your strike indicator on the
surface. As your fly passes you, start to mend and feed extra line
to get a longer drift. If you keep getting hung on the bottom draw
the strike indicator closer to the fly. If you are never touching
bottom then give yourself a little more line between the indicator
and fly or add weight.
Always keep your eye on the strike indicator, as this is your only means
of detecting a strike. Sudden movement of the strike indicator
registers the strike; this is not necessarily a downward motion.
Often the indicator will move side to side or just tremor a
little. Short lining is an effective technique when fishing
shallower runs and tail outs, usually further upstream. Pocket
water behind boulders and logs can often be fished in this manner,
but remember that this gear is not the most pleasant to cast.
Remember that Coho are schooling fish and that if you find one you have
probably found quite a few. Salmon, in general, will also use the
first pools and resting spots that the initial run of fish used.
In this I mean that Coho will often by_pass perfectly good holding
water to enter some other waters where their earlier piers have
stopped. How they know or why they do this no one really knows,
its only important that you understand that just because you found
fish in one hole one year they may not use it the next.
This concludes the 2 part series for Coho on the fly. This is only a
short over view of what it takes to hook Coho with a fly; the best
teacher is experience. Hopefully you could find enough information
to get yourself on the water and starting to learn the habits and
techniques needed to entice Coho to the fly.
Photo of Teom Lim (artist)
BACK TO GOC