Sunday, 29 November 2015

Winter Spring Time – 2

Winter Spring Time – 2

A few observations that you may find useful:

Net head first – because fish only swim forward, you want to net head first, so that if they struggle, they are only moving into the net. Also the centre of gravity is closer to the head, than tail, so you need less of the fish in the net before scooping up once the point is on the rim or into the net.

And with winter chinook, take that extra minute to play them because, unlike coho that roll continually, once they tire they tend to lie beside the boat granting extra time for the net routine.

Don’t stop the boat – particularly if you are on your own or have canopy stays on your deck. Once the boat is stopped, the fish can swim under it or pretty much anywhere. Being in motion means the fish is being brought in in one direction, not allowing it to swim in other directions.

Staying in contact with the fish – you will catch more fish if you fish more frequently. Your technique will improve, and you will have more current information on tackle that has been successful in the recent past, not two weeks ago.

It is no surprise that guides catch more fish. They are better fishermen because they fish more often, but they also know where the fish are. Fish move around, but tend to be in a particular area for a few days and then move en masse. An example of this is the Oak Bay Flats, not a high percentage place in late spring, but was one of the hotspots for fish in the 20s in May and June this year. And so, guides from many areas fished the Flats. As terminally directed, the fish moved from Sooke across the Waterfront and staged on the Flats, before moving on. There is no point fishing behind or in front of fish when the greatest number of them are in one spot.

Farr Better flashers – if you have never tried one of these Gibbs flashers, buy one and use it. The pin in the trailing edge pops out when the fish bites and you are not fighting the flasher shear when you fight the fish. The fight is more memorable because the fish is not hampered. And those fish you lose when a conventional flasher clears the surface, you will no longer lose.

You can make your own with the pins from teaserheads, and drilling a couple holes in the trailing edge of whatever flasher you use. If you don’t have a large plastic ‘ball’, a large split ring will work the same way for the leading edge, and it is a simple clip to the ball-bearing snap on your mainline.

Pay attention to the pattern of the tide when you fish. Winter fish are keeping close to lunch, and will be found in roughly the same spot based on the tide. Once, while fishing Pedder Bay and being skunked for hours, I followed the tide and found the fish on the west side of Church Rock, and landed five, with zero bites in the preceding five hours. Remember that it takes time to move fish, and to use the same example, you may find the fish behind the 47 foot rock just off Christopher Point a couple hours earlier in the ebb.

Saanich Inlet is dead calm, but chinook are so consistent in their behaviour, that on one piece of structure they will be on one side of it on the flood, then on the other side on the ebb, even though you cannot see a perceptible current on the surface. At Bamberton, for example, the V off the cement slag, and Jimmy’s Hole are consistent in this regard, as is where you veer off shore nearing Shepherd Point. In fact, it is so precise, that if you fish frequently, you can sometimes say, the fish will bite now, and it does so. There are five spots on the Bamberton troll that are consistent with this observation.

Spoons – can be fished with and without a flasher. If you fish them alone, rig up a dummy flasher and line to clip into the downrigger line at least five feet away, most often below, so it is the first thing that hits bottom, not your tackle, with the spoon mainline attached to the downrigger line.

Don’t hold fish with the new, thin slim, spoons like Coho Killers because they bend which can completely eliminate the fishiness of the spoon and you won’t catch a thing. Confounding this rule, remember that in the olden days we would introduce a bend across the longitudinal access of a Red Krippled K, meaning a bent bend, and that could make one of your spoons far out-fish the others that to your eye looked identical.

And, you should always remember which of the lures you are fishing so that you always use the fishy one in your first spread. And – another and – make sure you have at least two of the hot lure on board. It will be crystal clear why this is so when you lose a hot lure, but don’t have a back-up.

A similar point is to improve a lure by fishing it so that when you lose a hottie, you have another lure that has been nurtured into a lure you know will catch fish. This is common with plastics because a hot hootchy should never have its leader, etc. changed, only fished as a killer until you lose it. If you change it, you will ruin its magic and it will not catch all those fish before you lose it. If it’s a real dud, throw the lure out, so it is not around looking like a likely candidate for fishing; it will only give you a skunk.

Winter water is clearer water – that is why you can fish a spoon in deep water without a flasher. Fish can see farther, are more prone to bite, and light transmits deeper than in summer. A much nicer fight.

Troll with the tide – for covering territory, you want to fish with the tide, circling once you have contacted the fish.

Fish with what you are best with – Many fishers will recall the laconic Harold who bought Jimmy Gilbert’s boat rental in Brentwood Bay, and his huge boat that you could see ten miles away and his splay-legged, big, old, happy German Shepherd slouching around the docks. They made a real pair.

I stopped in once to get the day’s hot lure before going out in the evening, and was surprised by Harold’s advice to: fish with what you are best with, meaning what you catch the most fish with. In other words, it is not always a hot lure, but the hot presentation of a lure that works best. I was going to fish a couple of hootchies, but the real rig to perfect in Saanich is Large Strip from Rhys Davis in a pale green glow teaser.
I used strip and caught fish. That advice has stuck with me, and while you should always decide before you go out the first three lures you will try, keep in mind to return to what you are best with if all else fails. In the long run, you will catch more fish.

Circle in back eddies – this one is so obvious, that it is hardly worth mentioning, but because winter chinook are not going anywhere they will be moved by the tide keeping in contact with lunch, and lunch is even more prone to being moved by the tide. Circle that back eddy before moving on.

Form a 3-D image of the bottom – wherever you fish, make sure that over time you build a good mental image of the structure under, in front of and behind your boat. This way you are intentionally fishing, not simply putting along. Being wired with a plan makes you catch many more fish in the long run.

Try new things when there are lots of fish – when you are getting frequent bites, it is time to try new things, rather than throwing out something that you may not have faith in. You will still catch a fish to take home and also gain experience with something new.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

DFO Minister’s Marching Orders

Justin Trudeau, our new Prime Minister, sent notes to each of his new Ministers, apprising them of their mandate of action based on election campaign promises.

You can find the letter to DFO Minister Hunter Tootoo here:

Part of the Preamble to Tootoo: As Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, your overarching goal will be to protect our three oceans, coasts, waterways and fisheries and ensure that they remain healthy for future generations. Canada is uniquely blessed with an abundance of freshwater and marine and coastal areas that are ecologically diverse and economically significant. Canada has a responsibility to the world to steward our resources with care.
Specific objectives for Hon Tootoo:
·         Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to increase the proportion of Canada’s marine and coastal areas that are protected – to five percent by 2017, and ten percent by 2020 – supported by new investments in community consultation and science.

·         Restore annual federal funding for freshwater research, and make new investments in Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area.

·         Restore funding to support federal ocean science and monitoring programs, to protect the health of fish stocks, to monitor contaminants and pollution in the oceans, and to support responsible and sustainable aquaculture industries on Canada’s coasts.

·         Use scientific evidence and the precautionary principle, and take into account climate change, when making decisions affecting fish stocks and ecosystem management.

·         Work with the provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, and other stakeholders to better co-manage our three oceans.
·         Support the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to renew our commitment to protect the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Basin, and the Lake Winnipeg Basin.

·         Act on recommendations of the Cohen Commission on restoring sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

·         Work with the Minister of Transport to review the previous government’s changes to the Fisheries and Navigable Waters Protection Acts, restore lost protections, and incorporate modern safeguards.

·         Work with the Ministers of Transport, Natural Resources and Environment and Climate Change to formalize the moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast, including the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound.

·         Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources, to immediately review Canada’s environmental assessment processes and introduce new, fair processes that will:
o    restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments of areas under federal jurisdiction, while also working with provinces and territories to avoid duplication;

o    ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public interest;

o    provide ways for Canadians to express their views and opportunities for experts to meaningfully participate; and

o    require project advocates to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.
·         Re-open the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland and the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver.

·         Work with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to meet the commitments that were made for new Coast Guard vessels as part of the National Shipbuilding and Procurement Strategy.

·         Work with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to improve marine safety.

·         Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Science to examine the implications of climate change on Arctic marine ecosystems.

In response, here are a few comments:

Marine Protected Areas, this is one where the Sport Fish Advisory Board and the Sport Fishing Institute should become part of the consultation process. Sport fishers want these areas open for, at the least, salmon fishing. Also, let’s remember that the SFAB, after asking DFO for 12 years to set aside some Rockfish Conservation Areas, got them to take us up on this in year 13. The SFAB set up scores of these all along the coast line. In great measure, these were needed because of serial depletion of stocks by the commercial sector.

Since we have done this, we should be reminding Tootoo that we have already done our part, and been the leaders in the process. In addition, the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition, has received agreement from DFO to set up chinook netpens in the greater Victoria Regional District to provide food for killer whales and, by golly, a few for us, too. Good for Tootoo, too, to do.

Increased freshwater research expenditure, yes to this, and also binging back the Experimental Lakes that were vital for freshwater research in Canada and the world. In addition, do remember the research libraries that were axed, particularly the one in Winnipeg. We want them back.

Saltwater research. This one would bring back the scientists cut at many facilities by Harper. He intended to let go 200 scientists. Some of those that were let go, included staff close by at the Institute of Ocean Sciences at Pat Bay.

On the other hand if this includes leaving fish farms in the ocean, I think that is a non-starter in BC. You may recall that Chief Bob Chamberlain sent a letter to Tootoo last week pointing out that the association of First Nations of BC wants these out of the water. Also, the Ahousaht First Nation in Clayoquot Sound is taking its demand for all 22 fish farms to be out of the non-flushing Sound, a UN Bio-sphere, to Norway in January to join with aboriginal Sami in that nation that also wants fish farms out of Norwegian waters. See:

Then both move on to Oslo to present the petition to get them out in both nations. I would guess it’s not long before the aboriginal groups from Finland, Chile, and New Zealand will become part of this movement.

Cohen Commission. The 1,200 page tome with 75 recommendations has languished under the previous government and the Environmental Petition that I worked through with the federal Auditor General’s office received bland pap as an answer when I asked for a disaggregated budgets and FTEs – staffing. It is on that site, if you care to look.

The first 22 recommendations of the Cohen Commission regard fish farms in BC. The most important recommendation was taking the conflict of interest with respect to fish farm support out of DFO, and DFO getting on with the Wild Salmon Policy, etc.

Re-enacting Laws, for example, the Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and other legislation, with respect to salmon. The Royal Society of Canada, several environmental law organizations, scientists, previous DFO ministers and British Columbians told the previous government that the laws should not have been changed. See the Huffington Post’s searing article on weakening the laws:

The post with that link will take you to the Cohen Commission website. Or, look here:

DFO had deleted the Cohen site, but so many people across Canada complained that they had to bring back an archival version. It is complete.

The Tanker Ban has already been put in place, suggesting that the Northern Gateway pipeline is toast. On the other hand, the new government has said it supports the Kinder Morgan pipeline. We shall see.

Reopen Kitsilano Coast Guard Station. A popular move in BC, which should also include bringing back the marine traffic stations that have been closed. These stations are like airport controllers and keep tabs on all commercial vessels 24 hours a day. The Estevan site was closed, with Port Hardy, and Ucluelet on the way out as well. Having done the Inside Strait at night, I can tell you that there is more commercial traffic in the dark than all day long, and it is some impressive to be connected 24 hours a day to traffic control, so you know what is coming at you or catching up.

Climate Change. This should include ‘on the BC coast’. We have watched chinook not be able to get into rivers, even pinks on some northern Van Isle rivers this past summer, until late rains occurred. We need to plan for: dry, hot summers, of high water temp and low oxygen; elimination of side-streams and their essential coho fry; cold, dry winters putting ice on side-streams; and monsoons in October/November that bury or scour laid eggs. All of these need technical solutions. I hate to suggest high system dams as that just opens the Run of River power debate, but extra flow, such as the Campbell River system, and the Lake Cowichan weir, would be good to have during changing weather patterns.

To sum up, I think the big issues facing salmon are: habitat work, including the 70,000 culverts out there dissuading fish from crossing to feed or spawn; climate change response; changing DFO, making it a BC-centred department for salmon (rather than Ottawa), and perhaps by passing its habitat money to the Pacific Salmon Foundation that leverages every dollar seven times. Also, as noted, local decision making with respect to fish stocks, for example, Regional Aquatic Management in the Port Alberni style, would be good in other areas; getting fish farms out of the ocean and putting them on land rounds out the top five.

I have estimated BC fish farm sewage cost at $10.4 Billion, more sewage than the entire human population, and also that we are subsidizing them, compared with Norway that auctions saltwater licences for up to $12 Million each, $1.56 Billion because our licence fee is only $5,000.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Winter Spring Time

Well, once again it is winter spring time. Six months of two and three year old ‘nursing’ chinook, feeding and fattening up before heading to the open ocean. Now is the time for the most consistent fishing of our season for 5- to 15-pound fish.

As with all springs, winter ones are structure related, meaning you won’t find one 100 feet deep in 700 feet of water. Instead, you will find them on the bottom, in back eddies behind islands or points of land or keeping close to lunch. Off the Victoria waterfront, for example, the fish are staying close to adult herring that stage in 200 feet of water for January and February before passing up the Inner Harbour to spawn in March and April.

Find the bait, and you find the springs. While fishing the 110- to 120- foot contour from the breakwater to east of Clover point is usually the best choice for trolling, the other pattern is fishing in 180- to 200-feet of ocean for fish as deep as 140 on the downrigger. These fish are not on the bottom, but herring are usually mid-water swimmers, so this influences these structure related predators.

One of the patterns off Sooke to Otter Point, is, again, to fish bottom contours, as this is also a flat, from Secretary Island west, though more quickly descending than in Victoria. Alternatively, on Constance Bank, it is the edges where most fish are caught. The flat gently slopes up from 150 feet over a mile or so from the east, and ends in several bumps of 60 feet, before dropping off the west end. Fish the 140-foot lip and the bumps extending west from the south west corner, too.

On the Oak Bay Flats and some of Sidney waters, the bottom is flat and so tackle is fished on the bottom. Both areas have predominantly needlefish that usually inhabit the bottom, or within several dozen feet of it.

 In herring areas, medium anchovy is the ticket, while in needlefish areas, small anchovy or Tiny Strip from Rhys Davis is the more common bait; this rod should be fished on the bottom and set up on the opposite side of the boat so the captain can see and attend to it first. It is the deepest rod of the spread, with others ten feet above bottom or higher.

Typically, bait catches more fish than artificial lures, so it makes sense to make it the port side rod, most easily seen by the boat handler. Since it is fished on the bottom, where possible, it is the one that most frequently needs adjusting as the level, bumps and points rise and fall under the boat. Bait is also the one most frequently brought up for a check – every twenty minutes – because it shreds or becomes misaligned much more frequently than other types of terminal tackle.

Go and check my column on wire-rigging teaserheads for bait: Take a Saturday and rig up 25 of these, along with 6 foot leaders with a size 3 or 4 treble and trailing 3/0 to 5/0 single kirbed Octopus hook and, after assembling, add a ball bearing swivel, three to four feet above that attaches to the ball-bearing swivel on the bottom of the flasher. If the flasher does not have ball bearing swivels on both ends, add them.

As we fish deeper in winter, teasers with glow or UV properties are favoured. Some common ones are glow-green, my favourite, Pearl (aka, 602), Blood and Bones and so on. Purple Haze comes in more than one background, either silver or with clear Jellyfish colouring that changes to a cool light purple once it hits the water – this is an enticing colour for anglers because we all know that chinook have a purple tinge to their dorsal and shoulder regions.

In flashers, the Lemon Lime, Purple Onion, and Madi have been good the past year. But don’t throw out the old flashers and tackle. What caught fish for you in the past will catch fish today. An example of this is Army Truck in a plastic bait. We tend to forget this as Purple Haze and other hootchy colours came in and became more popular.

Some old colours that work well in Oak Bay are Mint Tulip, Irish Mist and J-79 squirts. And I throw out the old Hotspot glow green sometimes, along with the newer flashers, and it still catches fish in deep dark waters. And I have some flashers that came over on the Lusitania.

More next week.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Q and As - November

Tackle: If you are looking for winter spring tackle, here is some that works well in the Victoria area. Flashers: the Gibbs Lemon Lime, Madi and Purple Onion; from O’ki the Betsy/Super Betsy series that produces an electric current in saltwater to attract salmon. Bait: medium anchovy, and in needlefish areas, small anchovy or Tiny Strip from Rhys Davis. Teaserheads: Purple Haze, Bloody Nose, Blood and Bones, Pearl or 602, glow green. Spoons: G-Force No Bananas, Cop Car, Glow/Green, Irish Cream, Coho Killers in Spatterback, and all silver. Hootchies: Army Truck, Purple Haze, Glo Below. Squirts: Pistachio, Purple Haze, Glow white, Pickle green, J-79, Jellyfish, Electric Chair, Mint Tulip, Irish Mist, Jellyfish. Try to pick up tackle with glow and UV properties.

Instructions for Wire-rigging a Teaserhead: The most popular post on my fishing blog is the instructions for wire-rigging a teaserhead: There are two images of rigged ones at the bottom that show how they look finished – of use if the explanation in words leaves you wanting an image. You will note many of the teaserheads in the tackle section above. Rig up 25, for a whole year.

Base layer product: Every now and then I pick up a product that far exceeds my expectations. In a base layer product, try the Columbia, Omniheat, full, arm-length shirts. They have a mirror like finish on the inside, and fit snug to the body. I have found them terrific for warmth, passing through sweat, and since poly-ester has been thoroughly updated it seldom collects body odour as it did in the past. I walked six miles in all my fishing gear last week, and neither was cold – though it was 0 degrees at the start and my fingertips were some frozen – nor got sweaty later in the day.

Fly Fishing Gear and Books: Bill Langford, long time Haig-Brown Fly Fishing Association member is getting out of fishing. Attached are two lists of his stuff, interesting to read, and some good bargains. Email address not yet nailed down. Ask me for it, if you want it.

Watershed Watch Weekly Newsletter: You can get on the email list for this weekly newsletter. It covers salmon issues in Canada, the USA and other international links: Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

Sport Fishing Institute: On November 27th, the Sport Fishing Institute will hold its Annual Industry Policy Conference at the Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond.  This event has become a key forum where elected officials, public servants and those in the sport fishing industry meet, share their perspectives on the issues facing the recreational fishery and receive updates on preliminary expectations for the forthcoming season. See:

South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition: This is a group that all of us should join as the purpose is to support saltwater sport fishing in our area. Membership is $40 per year. The site is: The newsletter from this group – connected to the SFAB process – is really worth reading and you can send them an email (on their site) to be put on the list. The Oct 26, 2015 issue of the Newsletter is attached.

One subject is increasing the chinook in our area for… killer whales, and other reasons, like, say, sport fishing. The SVIAC has now stick-handled the Sooke system toward those ends with 500,000 chinook going into net pens in Sooke Basin in 2016, with 100,000 of them marked and with coded wire tags to identify caught fish. DFO is on-side and the fish will come from the Nitinat Hatchery as those fish are part of the same gene pool, due to historical releases in the Sooke River for the enhancement society.

When the SVIAC comes asking for a donation, please consider doing so as it is the best outcome for local anglers in a long time, and deserves our support.

Halibut Season: Halibut season will continue in our area until Dec 31. In-season data had erroneously indicated that the season should have closed on Sept 21, and been 10,000 pounds over our total allowable catch. However, it turned out that west coast Haida Gwaii was double counted. Careful eyes representing sport interests noticed this discrepancy, and thus why we are still fishing in the Victoria area. We owe the reps our thanks.

Steve Vella: My girlfriend suggested I take her fishing. I have fished Muir Creek mouth but not up-river. What is the access like? I am looking to take her hiking and throwing a spinner for coho to pass the time

A: First things first: keep your hands on this girlfriend. She likes fishing and that is a good recommendation for any significant other – should be on her CV!

On Muir: go up the right bank from the bridge, and soon you will have to cross over, where there is a pool just above, opposite a small cliff. The issue is how high the tide is. The rest of the access above there is a bushwhack. 

The simpler thing to do would be a walk up the Sooke River, which has an easy, maintained trail. It is fly only though, with probably a few chum remaining.

Alternatively, if you want to go out to Harris Creek, try below the bridge for coho. Alternatively, the clear-cut section some clicks above on your left, gives access to a good pool which would have coho, too. It is above the canyon. And, since the Harris is open to gear fishing, you can toss spinners in both places.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Coho Time in Rivers – 3

To close out this series of articles on fishing for coho in freshwater, I’d like to tell you a few stories that taught me a lot. The point is to think about what happens while you are fishing and remember it for subsequent years.

I assembled Colorado blades in my early fishing – because they were inexpensive – by buying the blades, clevises, hooks, and so on, and attaching them on two- to four-foot leaders. The top end was attached to the main line at a swivel. To the four inch tag end of the mainline, a piece of pencil lead was attached as the weight, crimpled only tight enough to not come off in casting or fighting a fish, but that would slip off on a bottom/log snag. Depending on the depth and speed of the water, a dink float was sometimes put on the mainline before the swivel, and slid up or down so the blade was at the right depth.

One day in the rain, I caught a beautiful, new 20-pound coho in a narrow seam. I few minutes after the release I caught another 20-pound beautiful coho and released it. At the time, I did not think anything other than it was amazing to catch two identical fish from the same run, along with another fish or two. Many years later, I realized that, yes, indeed, I had caught the same fish twice, evidence of just how turned on coho get in heavy rain and rising water. Typically fish will not bite twice.

The day that changed my mind occurred at the Falls Pool on the Stamp River just below the provincial campground. This is a well-fished pool because it is a choke point with high velocity falling water, a spot where fish stop in the pool before trying to get over it.

And it is where Beaver Creek enters the Stamp – a side stream in which coho spawn. It rained more than two inches as we fished. I fished the pool with the plan I mentioned last time of managing a school, standing in the middle of the flow of Beaver Creek. I had forgotten my box of spinners and scrounged a spoon out of a 1960s box in the clutter of the trunk. Blue and nubby silver. (We often forget that blue is a prime coho colour; after all, Haig-Brown’s iconic fly is the Coho Blue).

It was a beat-up, ancient lure that I had no confidence in, but it was all I had. I decided that I would retie the lure every second fish. Then I began to plumb the water on the near side, then far down the near side, then the other side, then far down the other side, then back to the middle and far down middle. And so on, changing rod tip position to amend the retrieve angle through the same zone.

And the creek began to fill, first from ankle deep, then calf, then knee and finally almost waist deep. I found I caught fish everywhere I cast, and was getting bites right in front of other anglers’ feet. At least a half dozen other guys were there in the rain, but I had picked the best spot: right in the middle of the side stream, that, once deep enough, the coho would all pass up.

I caught a large female with an identifiable mark on her snout. As the day wore on, I caught her four times. The same fish. That is proof that coho intensity rises dramatically the higher the water level, meaning the taste of rain, and that they are programmed to get active about moving forward to spawn.
I also caught another fish – a hook-nosed male – with a cut on its flank, and then caught it four times as the afternoon progressed. Same explanation. And I retied that lure 26 times, far out fishing everyone else, just because I had sense enough to put myself in the best spot as the water rose, and to manage the school.

As you can imagine, the other anglers, in the wrong spots, and not methodically 3-D identifying where the fish would be and where to cast, and where to cast to in the progression, became good and pissed off. Had I been in their shoes, I would have felt the same.

And that lure was so ugly, I doubt it would ever catch another self-respecting fish, until the same extreme conditions reoccurred  By the time I left, Beaver Creek was so high that in getting out of it I was almost swept away. But it became etched in my brain that the heaviest rainfall produces the most coho.

On final comment on this story is that animal rights activists often say that fishing and catch and release should be abolished because fish feel pain and are terrified. My response is that if you can catch the same fish several times in a row, the fish can’t feel that bad. Oh, and I have never had a fish I let go, say it would rather have been bonked.

Moving on, sometimes you can feel the intensity of the fish in the air. It is so electrifying it is hard to put on lures and even to cast. Hundreds of porpoising coho in front of you, and you’re so jittery you can’t cast. On one day of this, in heavy rain, I could not get a single fish to bite. I was fishing Colorado blades, with a dink float several feet up the line. I finally put the rod under my arm and just stood there cursing the fish. This was a backeddy with a seam on the outside that passed down stream.

It crossed my mind that I could no longer see my float. When I lifted the rod tip, there was a 13 pound coho on the other end. After its release, I tossed the blade out and let the current move the float in circles, and watched. Darned if it didn’t disappear again and a nice coho was on the other end. And I took more than half a dozen other fish the same way.

While lure spin would not get a fish to bite, the lure hanging straight down in the water about six feet under the float, just floating along, was deadly. The fish were whacking it with abandon – odd but true. Two other wet anglers on the other side of the rising side-stream, with coho passing up, were tossing spinners, too, but catching nothing and giving me the evil eye. I ended up giving them my spot, and explained what I had been doing.

They politely laughed at my explanation, thinking it was the spot that was important, so I slogged through the rising side-stream to where they had been standing. It was not as good a spot, as the back eddy started twenty feet below it, just where I had been standing. I cast out and let the float pass without any mending, and, yes, it disappeared and I got another silvery coho.

Over the next couple of hours, they caught nothing and finally were so mad that I had caught another half dozen fish – where they had been fishing – and they had not had a bite that they left. I moved back down to the better spot, and continued catching fish.

And, yes, I have never forgotten this unusual coho behaviour. Because of that experience, I carry a simple red and white bobber in my fishing raincoat, all year round.  It is only used in coho season, but the reason is that you don’t have to cut the mainline and put in a dink float when you are fishing in spots where that approach isn’t the best one, for example, in deep pools or ultra-clear water.

You just attach the mainline around the bottom and top hangers on the bobber and then cast out. One day, I noticed some turned-on, porpoising coho about 150 feet below me. The shore was a tangle of ugly bushwhacking vegetation and if I had shoved through, there was no place to cast, because the tangle of willow stuck out ten feet into the water.

On went the float, then a small cast, and I let the float carry the spinner down stream. When it was in the fish zone, I clicked out of free-spool, and the bobber went down. The result was a 20-pound coho. Hard to believe, but over the hours, because I had that bobber was able to catch another half dozen lovely coho I had no other way to reach. It has worked in many succeeding years.

The point is, if you catch a fish, figure out what the special circumstances are that made it bite, write that in your notebook and next year, take it out, and do it again. And so on.

Okay, one more story. Once in the pouring rain, I passed a stream and stopped to look and yes, dozens of large coho porpoising in the tail out. At the top end of the pool, I slid into the water and it rose to two inches from the top of my waders – I had miss-judged the depth – and found myself with only a foot of water from the surface to the branches above the water to make my cast.

Sidearm, I could cast only 10 feet. The fish were 70 feet below. Out went the spinner, and once the blade thump was on my rod tip, I let the line free-spool so the stream carried the lure – because of its blade drag – down to the fish, whereupon, I set the reel in retrieve and the lure swung in front of the coho. The good news was that I got a bite right away. The bad news was that the fish went directly downstream and the line snapped when it went around a corner.

I had eight spinners and tied successive ones on, let the reel carry the spinner down and so on. A 20 pounder would bite, and then it was over the tailout into the next pool. Snap. On my last spinner, a Mepps white-glow one, the fish moved toward me and ultimately I landed and released it. I lost 7 lures in all. But it was a large fish and the first coho I ever took in December. Memorable.

It was the first time that I had used the white-glow spinner, and it would be written down and remembered for successive years. Some years it is the best colour. The point is to adapt what you know and see if you can make it work. So, over the years, you build up a list of strategies to try every day out.