fly fishing for coho salmon
Assuming I return from this trip, this should be considered Part I. In a couple weeks I’ll cover the results of the trip. The contrast between what really played out as compared to this speculation will be interesting.
Nootka Sound, British Columbia. I’d never even heard of the place until my old college buddy “Fritz” called me up a few months ago and invited me to join him on a salmon fishing excursion to this location. To be honest, I’m not much of a salmon fisherman. I’d done some salmon fishing off the coast of Washington near Tokeland (which is nowhere near Weed, California for those wondering). That was back when I was in high school and college, but recent years have seen me fly fishing for trout and steelhead, with an occasional bass outing tossed in for good measure. The first thing Fritz asked me was if I wanted to catch and keep some fish rather than just “petting them”. Of course I recognized this as a good-natured jab aimed at the gentile practice of catch and release angling. I assured him that I am not the least bit opposed to keeping fish so long as the fishery is sustainable. I rather enjoyed some grilled and smoked hatchery steelhead last fall, as a matter of fact. Fish petting – I’m just so sure. See the photo below? That’s me with more hair (and less of it gray), and blood on my hands. Bring it, Fritz- the sleeves are rolled up and the petting gloves are off.
Anyway, Nootka Sound is northwest of Victoria, British Columbia on the west side of Vancouver Island. It is approximately (70 km) north of Tofino, if that means anything. It means nothing to me so I checked the conversion: it’s 45 miles north of Tofino. I’d heard of Tofino before, but have never been to that neck of the Canadian woods. Nootka Sound is actually a generalization, as our precise destination is Tlupana Inlet, location of Nootka Sound Sports Fishing Charters and Accommodations. We’ll be staying in a floating lodge that is reportedly just a few feet off the shoreline, and Fritz says it’s not uncommon for bears to wander down to the water’s edge and feast on fish heads. If all goes as hoped, the bears will stay on the shore and not swim over to the lodge. I expect some amusing photo opportunities.
Fritz, his brother and his dad have been visiting Nootka sound for the last 14 years to so, and have it pretty well dialed in. They take their own boat up to keep the costs of the trip down, which means I get to go for the cost of lodging. I may even chip in a little for boat fuel and beer. A vacation on the cheap suits me fine because I am, well, cheap. I was remiss in thinking that the vacation would be even cheaper due to the exchange rate being in our favor, but the current fact of the matter is that US and Canadian dollars are nearly equal in value at this time. I guess that’s good for the Canadians, bad for us. Or rather, bad for the Chinese, because they pretty much own us, don’t they? Sorry, I won’t go there.
To be very clear this is not a fly fishing excursion. Gear will be the go-to means of catching fish destined for the cooler. Downriggers, bait, gaff hooks and the whole nine yards. We may hit some Kings, though we may miss that run. Moreso we’ll be getting into Silvers, or Coho. Not Silvers OR Coho, but rather Silvers, also known as Coho. Not one to completely sell out to the dark side, I did a little research on how I might be able to make use of my fly rod on these fish. Talking to Leland Miyawaki, a wise sage of all things saltwater and the fly fishing manager at the Bellevue Orvis shop, I was told that I needed some top water flies – some poppers. Leland is famous for his beach poppers, so when he spoke, I was all ears. The shop was sold out of poppers, but being the gracious guy that he is, Leland tied me up a couple of Polar Bears and told me how to fish them. I was instructed to wait until one of the others on board had a fish hooked, then cast the popper near the scene of the crime. Apparently Coho are prone to following a hooked fish to the surface, be it out of curiosity or to swim alongside and taunt the hooked fish: “What a hoser – I can’t believe you actually fell for that ridiculous looking imitation!”
Anyway, this overconfident taunter is my quarry, and if I interpret things correctly, I’ll sorta be poaching off the other fishermen. I should lay out a cast, slapping the popper on the surface, give it a good tug to create some commotion and get noticed. Then I have been instructed to execute a couple of bonefish strips, leaving a gentle wake behind the fly. If all goes as Leland says, I’ll hook up with a Coho and have a little fun.
I’ve also got some baitfish patterns to try fishing beneath the surface. If I can find some kelp beds, Leland assures me that I’ll crush the Coho. The fish will not be leader shy, so I’m taking along some tapered 2X leaders in 10lb test, as well as some straight 12 lb mono. If those don’t hold I’ll just cut a length of whatever parachute chord is strung up on the gear reels. As with everything else in life, this sounds more easily said than done. I really don’t know how large the fish will be, so I’m taking what I have (a Sage XP 8 wt) and hoping it’s up to the task. In the event that the 8 wt is not up to the task, at least Sage has a great warranty. It won’t break my heart if a fish breaks the rod, because afterall it’s just a meat stick for nymphing steelhead when swinging with my Spey rod doesn’t produce backup rod for steelheading. Even if things don’t go as planned, it sounds like an awful lot of fun, in some very remote country, on a boat with some great people and an ample supply of Kokanee, Molson, Labatt’s and Moosehead, eh? I just have to remember my passport. The last time I crossed the border into Canada I didn’t need or have one. Of course that was also back when I had more hair, and less of it was gray.