August 2008

August 2008
August 2008
August 2008


by David Wei and Suzanne Clouthier

Reel handles spin in a menacing blur as the clicker wails like a siren. Fifty yards astern a silvery missile launches itself high out of the water in a shower of glistening, iridescent spray. It’s mesmerizing. You sit frozen for what seems an eternity, barely aware of the burning sensation in your palm from the exposed rim of the single-action reel, then your rod’s tip springs back and loose coils of line suddenly appear as just beneath the surface a torpedo-like shape races back toward you at high speed. It passes directly under your boat, pulling your two-piece rod down into the water to its ferrule. As uncoordinated fingers finally fumble onto the now motionless reel handles, a big coho tail-walks across the surface on the opposite side of the boat, 
  then streaks off again, once more burying your rod’s tip deeply in the water as it passes beneath the boat.
Whether or not your trophy is still hooked after all of this, you’ve experienced some of the most exciting first moments of fishing for coho. This is what will draw you back again and again to these scrappy fighters.
Smaller and more agile than Chinooks, when hooked a coho tends to go aerial much more often than its cousins; thus, the challenge of doing battle with them is enhanced by using gear that allows them to display their athleticism and high-leaping abilities.

Most coho occupy the upper part of the water column, meaning down to about 60 feet. In places like the open ocean off the west coast of Vancouver Island, you can even find them swimming right on the surface, especially at first light before the huge shoals of baitfish on which they prey descend back into the depths.
To find schools of coho, cover as much water as possible by using fast-action lures to troll without a flasher. Try a Hot Spot Apex, Gibbs Hockey Stick, or Tomic TNT in lengths of 3.5 to 6.5 inches, in pearlescent white or flashy chrome colours. Switch to larger sizes later in the season.

Slower-action trolling lures that are also good for locating coho include plugs and crankbaits. Use three- to six-inch Tomic plugs in colours like no. 500, 602, or the new 49X series of Holographic Plaid Insert plugs. Crankbaits, which are popular for salmon on the Great Lakes, are starting to make their presence known on the West Coast. Try a shallow-running Rapala X-Rap in the Blue Sardine or Hot Steel finish, Bomber A-Salt B146ASH or B146ADRO, or the jointed Bomber Long A B16JXSIG.
Anglers love the ease of use and huge variety of coho-attracting spoons, and coho love the glitter and action that these lures provide. Favoured models include the Luhr-Jensen Coyote and Diamond King, Tomic Road Runner, O’Ki Titan, Williams Sal-T, Blue Fox Matrixx, and Gibbs Gator, Clendon Stewart, and Gypsy spoons. Popular colours are Blue-Chrome, Army Truck, Glow Green/White, and Holographic Scale Finish, and with lengths ranging from 3.5 to six inches it is easy to match that of the baitfish.

Troll spoons about 50 feet behind a downrigger release clip so they can wiggle and dart a considerable distance from side to side. Work from the surface down to 60 feet, starting at a depth of 20 feet on one side of the boat, and 40 feet on the other. Coho can swim quickly and like to chase faster-moving lures, so don’t be afraid to troll at speeds up to 5 knots. If you must use a flasher, consider a Gibbs Farr Better Flasher that releases when a fish hits, or a tiny Hot Spot Micro Flasher. Either one allows you to enjoy a coho’s energetic jumps and high-speed runs.

If you wish to feel a coho’s take-no-prisoners strike followed by its first palm-blistering runs, then try drift-jigging or bucktailing. As you will be holding onto your fishing rod the entire time, you’ll fully experience those first exciting moments.

Drift-jigs tumble and dart erratically as they fall through the water, resembling wounded or dying baitfish. Lighter models give the best action, so lures weighing from one to three ounces are heavy enough to cover the upper water column that coho occupy. Remember, salmon tend to strike on pauses and during the drop-back, so be ready to set the hook if you feel any kind of a bump or hesitation.

Drift-jigs resemble baitfish like herring, anchovies and needlefish. Some are free-sliding on the line, while others incorporate wire loops or split rings and swivels for attachment. Some are of fairly soft lead, which allows bending them to customize the lure’s action, while others are of rigid metal. Good drift-jigs to try are the Luhr Jensen Dungeness Stinger, Gibbs Minnow, Deadly Dick and Rip Tide Striker. Blue/Chrome, Green/Chrome, Pearlescent, and 3-D Holographic are all good finishes.

Watching a coho strike a fast-trolled bucktail right on the surface is a truly unforgettable experience. These vicious attacks can occur as your fly skips along in the boat’s wake, or just beneath the surface as it zips along the edge of a kelp forest. In both cases the fly is in full view and only a few feet behind your boat, and as you are holding the rod in your hands the jolting strike is absolutely electrifying.

Bucktailing equipment is very simple: a long, bushy streamer pattern behind a small Indiana spinner (preferably with an abalone shell blade), tied directly to the mainline. Troll it on the surface about 15 to 35 feet behind your boat, just in front of the first stern wake, so it runs in the surface film and occasionally skips out of the water. For fishing beside a kelp forest, a one- or two-ounce keel sinker is often sufficient to take the fly down slightly to ambush depth. Bucktailing is mostly an early-morning event, when baitfish are near the surface. Again, fast trolling speeds are best, from 4.5 up to 7 knots.

A final point that re-rigging the tackle suggested in this article to utilize only a single barbless hook makes releasing coho that much easier, which is something to consider when targeting one of the world’s finest game fish.

Huxley’s Run: 


by Dr. Adipose Huxley

Something should have tweaked me when I saw the coloured hair elastics attached to my fishing waders. But the coho were in and the beach was alive with their jumping. I have not seen that many or such an average large size in almost five years. After spotting them I hurried to the truck and my hands were shaking as I put on my gear and strung up my rod. I didn’t give the elastics a second thought.

Soon I was waist deep in the ocean. Even at that depth the pressure from the surrounding water is considerable, and I felt the first dribble of cold water almost immediately. I had expected that. My waders are five years old and, as most waders do, they developed a small leak a year ago, which I have tried, unsuccessfully, to patch.

Those waders cost me about $320, so putting up with a little leak was no big deal -- and better than buying a new pair. After every fishing trip the inside of my right leg would be damp, but it was a simple matter of turning the waders inside out and then drying them overnight.

On this particular day, however, things felt... different. The sensation of cold water leaking into my waders seemed more persistent. What usually happens is that as the water leaks in my body quickly heats it. It still feels damp, but at least it’s warm. But this was definitely different. There are certain parts of the anatomy that are more sensitive -- especially to cold water -- and I was becoming more and more uncomfortable.

While it was quite obvious that the leak had enlarged for some reason, there were coho all over and I promptly forgot my discomfort as I worked my fly rod feverishly to cover the moving fish.

I had a couple of takes, but nothing solid enough to get into a fish. When it was necessary to take a wind knot out of my line, I held it up close and the first thing I realized was that my hands were shaking. Not from excitement, but from the cold. I was so engrossed in fishing that I hadn’t realized the water leaking into my waders was coming in so fast that my body heat could not warm it. With my entire body shivering uncontrollably, I realized that I was getting dangerously hypothermic and it was time to leave.

After stumbling across the beach to my truck, I shrugged out of my jacket and then peeled off my waders. While pouring out the water I simply couldn’t believe how much had leaked in through what was obviously a very small hole. I based this assumption on the fact that try as I might, even after a thorough inspection I was unable to find an entry point.

It was only a short drive home from the beach, so within a few minutes I crawled stiffly into a hot shower, which eventually stopped my shivering and loosened up various muscles and joints to something approaching normal.

I finished dressing just in time to join my family at the dinner table. While sitting down I commented about how good the shower had felt after being so wet and cold. My wife asked what happened.
“My waders,” I said. “That little leak has turned into a big, big leak. I was almost as wet as if I’d fallen in. But look as I might, I can’t find the hole it’s coming through.”

When she and our daughter shared a conspiratorial look, the warning flag went up.

“Is there something going on that I don’t know about?” I asked suspiciously.

“Blackberries,” she said.


“Neala wore your waders to pick blackberries the other day.”

I looked at my daughter and the hair elastics on my waders finally started making sense. “And?” I asked.

“Dad, they’re really great for picking blackberries,” she said eagerly. “But when I was sitting down to reach in under the branches for some of the berries that were down really low, it felt like a few thorns got through, right on my butt. I meant to tell you....”

I held up my hand as her voice trailed off. “No need to now, my dear. At least I’ve finally got to the seat of the problem.”

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