January/February 2014

January/February 2014
January/February 2014
January/February 2014
January/February 2014
January/February 2014



by Larry E. Stefanyk

Lures come and go. One season is they're so popular manufacturers can't keep up with the demand. The next, retailers can't give them away. Some, however, endure for years, Flatfish are one of the oldest after being introduced by Charles Helin — developer of the Flatfish in 1933 — and proprietor of the tackle company bearing his name for many decades, located in Detroit, Michigan. The Flatfish was originally constructed of wood, but in the 1940s they switched from wood to plastic as the lure gained popularity. Originally made in one size only, it was eventually offered in everything from the muskie size down to the fly rod F4 (1-1/2 inch) size. It is doubtful that many tackle boxes or vests are without at least one or two of these banana-shaped lures.

I first used a Flatfish in Sugar Lake, east of Lumby, many years ago. What the orange-and-black-spotted model F4 represented to the chunky Kamloops trout is beyond me, but the fish struck with wild abandon. Most folks trailed the lures behind willow leaf gang trolls, but those of us using the spinning tackle found more sport in casting them along the drowned trees by the shore or trolling them.

During that same period, model L9 green Frog Flatfish (006) was gaining fame, which is trolled near bottom behind a two-ounce keel sinker. Most anglers troll like they are in a hurry to go somewhere. Just put your Flatfish over the side on a short line and watch how it works when you start to row. As soon as the boat moves it'll start wigglin', and that's just about as fast as you ever need to troll 'em.

You really have to watch your speed, because each lure reacts differently as it's pulled through the water. Some have faster actions than others, so they have to be trolled slower. A speed that is just right for my lure might make yours spin or turn turtle, so what you do is change lures to suit the speed, or vice versa.

While trolling slow use the lightest line feasible. This not only makes the line difficult for fish to detect, but it also enhances the action of the lures. Use six-pound-test monofilament because a lot of the water along the shore runs three-to 10 feet deep and is usually crystal clear. A boat passing over makes the trout skittish, but with from 50 to 100 feet of line out they have usually calmed down by the time your lure passes by.

Another great tip for fishing rivers is drifting a Flatfish downstream in slow-moving water from the top of the pool. By moving your rod tip from side to side you can effectively swing the lure like the weight on a pendulum, thereby covering most of the potential holding water.

Fishing steelhead must be with single barbless hooks in all streams of region 1, all year. Replacing treble hooks with singles may dramatically alter the action of the finely-balanced lures, but with a bit of testing it is usually possible to arrive at a happy combination of size and weight.

Choose hooks that complement individual lures. For example, the lures I use most frequently for steelhead are model F4 to X4 Flatfish. On these are hung No. 4 to No. 1 Siwash hooks. The long point of this design offers excellent purchase in the jaws of fish, a consideration when fishing barbless hooks. Siwash hooks usually come from the manufacturer with the eyes left open, so mounting is simply a matter of installing them on the hook hangers, then squeezing the eyes shut. Do not do so, however, until you have tested whether the hook is compatible with the lure. Remove as much hardware from the lure as possible — meaning spreader bars, split rings tail-mounted screw eyes. Fill any resulting holes with a dab of silicon cement or epoxy. Test each lure by dragging it back and forth in a partially-filled bathtub. If it spins, turns upside down, or refuses to wobble, the hook is probably too large.

For small stream fishing it is difficult to beat a fairly long rod and an open-faced spinning reel filled with small diameter line. Use only enough weight to ensure the lure gets down near bottom. In larger rivers a sturdier outfit is usually called for, especially if the fish run large. Standard steelhead rigs — rods of nine feet and up carrying single-action, level-wind, or large spinning reels — are a good choice. Keep the leaders relatively long and as light as possible to ensure the lures work properly.

No single lure can be guaranteed to produce all of the time, but some are definitely better than others in given situations. Whether deep- or shallow-water trolling lakes for trout, or probing river pools for salmon or steelhead, a selection of banana-shaped plugs in your tackle box or vest could well save otherwise fishless days. I suppose, when all is said and done, that is about all anyone can ask of a lure.

Tips: Make sure the front eyelet is 100% vertical and be sure to retest the lure after recovery from a fish’s chops or pulling it off of a snag. Tune the F4 on about eight feet of line from the tip of the rod and you'll be able to see which way it’s running.
If your lines become tangled, and believe me they will, remove the lures from the snap before trying to untangle the mess. Be patient here and more than likely you'll be able to pull the lines apart as they spin off each other.
Use a small strong snap to attach your lure and about four feet up install an inline barrel swivel with a small bead on top to stop debris. The barrel will keep the tanglies or twist-up to a bare minimum. Flatfish like all crankbait style lures will spin when tangled or fouled, so remember the barrel swivel.

Huxley’s Run: 

A lot of great things happened this year in the annual Tyee Club of British Columbia tournamen. Mike and Richard Gage’s 61.5 pound tyee, Randy Killoran’s and Gord Gerl’s 38-pounder, the last fish on the last day after the duo also caught the first tyee of the season, being just two of them.

I will, however, remember the season for one look of horror on the face of a very good friend.
It was to be Paul Somerville’s second tide of the season and he hopped eagerly into my rowboat with his high-school-grad son Freespool (aka David). Paul had operated my outboard motor on the previous outing and did very well. His son Freespool, however, had inadvertently let line out with the reel’s freespool switch on. The rat’s nest that developed in the reel forced me to put the oars to the side, cut about a million miles of line off my reel and then completely re-string the rod. It happens, in Tyee fishing, to the best of them.
And it was Freespool who worried me that second night. I would, with a down-turned eyebrow, keep a wary eye on that lad, I thought. Paul started the motor. As some outboards are wont to do, it started and then revved up slightly. I motioned to Paul to throttle down before putting it in reverse. Paul, nodded, and instead put it in reverse before throttling down! The propeller kicked up and out of the water. The engine casing bumped Paul in the back, as it lurched forward. Thankfully we were still secured to the dock with the bowline.

In the ensuing seconds Paul knew he had to throttle down. But for some strange reason he throttled up, opening the engine to full. The propeller tried to be a helicopter and lift us to the sky. It broke the quiet of the Tyee Club dock with a riotous buzz of an airborne outboard motor propeller. Even in that alarming state, Paul had the presence of mind to press the kill switch. The engine died. I started breathing again, told Paul to calm down, and after a few minutes, asked Paul to start the engine again and make sure to keep the throttle low.

“Sorry about that,” he said, “I’ve got it now. Went brain dead there for a second.”

As the engine started I freed the bowline from the dock and immediately realized with dread that we were pulling away from the dock at an alarming speed, in reverse, and right towards the shore! I yelled to Paul of the danger and he nodded knowingly. Then, for some inexplicable reason, he throttled up! The boat leapt towards its deathbed, doubling its speed, propeller-first, right towards the rocky shoreline 30 feet away.
It was then that Paul’s face froze in time in a look of horror. But the look of horror on his face suddenly turned to a, well, contemplative look. He was staring at the floor of the boat, deep in thought. Like the sculpture of the The Thinker, he sat there, the outboard roaring in his ears, me yelling, “Kill switch! Kill switch! For the love of God, the kill switch!”

He didn’t even look at me or at the onrushing shoreline. He didn’t move. He sat there, staring at the floor of the rowboat as if there was some fascinating item there that completely absorbed him.
Freespool giggled nervously.

Everyone on the dock was watching, holding their breath, waiting for the crunch of propeller on rock. I tried to brace myself and thought of warning Paul and Freespool that if the collision threw us into the water, that propeller might still be going and the danger was very real of serious injury. But there was no time. I gripped the gunnels, leaned back and braced my legs. The water shallowed quickly and our speed increased to maximum. It was over. The Fat Lady of the Sea was just about to start singing.
Freespool giggled nervously again, only louder.

Just when I thought all was lost, Paul suddenly turned back to the motor, his whole bearing was as if he had just found a winning lottery ticker beneath his seat. He turned the motor’s throttle handle hard to the left. The rowboat turned on a dime. The propeller kicked up bottom sediment before heading back to deeper water. I was sitting in the bow as it swung in, like a tuber being pulled by a speedboat. The bow just brushed the shallows and Paul steered that tyee boat, from inside the tyee dock, out and around into the deep, safe waters of the Campbell River estuary. In reverse!

He revved the engine down. Put it in neutral and said, “Sorry about that. Kind of went brain dead there for a moment.”

Freespool giggled again and said something like, “That was cool. And Dad, about that lecture the other night about paying attention to Dr. Adipose and his gear? What do you have to say now?”

Paul mumbled something. I’m not sure what he said. Although it was imparted contritely.

I made a mental and physical note of adding another tackle item to my Tyee fishing gear for next year. And it totally Depends on who I am guiding.



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