Fall gets my juices running (it is my favorite season) and
fortunately it gets the salmon's juices running too. They
are headed for their natal streams - which means fishing
opportunities for those of us who live close enough to the
saltwater to fish.
Fishing in saltwater isn't the same as freshwater fishing.
There are some things which relate to both fisheries, matching
the hatch translates to matching the color, silhouette and size
of the local baitfish. Reading the water still counts, in fact
it is more involved. Tides must be taken into consideration.
Incoming, outgoing and the speed at which the tide changes.
Fishing in a really ripping tide is almost useless. Fishing
on a high or low slack tide (that period of time where the tide
is not coming in or going out) can be very productive. Incoming
tides bring the baitfish in and predator fish know this. They
come in near shore for the smorgasbord waiting for them.
When the tide changes, rips or foam lines also develop. Bait
can be found along these too, and the broken water on the edges
of those rips provides cover for the larger fish. It is just
like fishing a stream or river in that respect. Drift of the
fly and presenting it so it appears to be normal bait in the
current is just as important as it is in freshwater.
Warm water and bass fishers know the value of structure and
cover. It also applies to the ocean, the weed beds of the
ocean can be floating kelp mats, or eel grass where various
types of fry hang out. Unfortunately the kelp beds create
huge problems on tide changes and every cast requires removing
'salad' from your fly or fly line. Changing your casting
location, sometimes only a matter of a few yards can help,
but most often it is just a case of waiting the tide change
out before the 'garbage' heads in another direction.
While stream and river fishing can be crowded, one usually has
enough room to feel quite comfortable fishing the ocean. There
are exceptions of course, like a really good point of land where
fish hang out on a predictable basis. The word goes out pretty
quickly, and both fly and spin fishers will be in attendance.
Still, there is an openness in fishing from the beach, or in
an estuary. Something akin to when one goes to Montana and
experiences the 'Big Sky' country for the first time. Regardless
of time of day, there is a real beauty in blind casting to the
immensity which flows beyond ones view.
Many of the places we fish the salt have freighter and cruise
ship traffic, great to see. Plus their passing presents us with
another opportunity. These big ships produce huge waves. If you
can time your cast correctly and fire it into the big waves, the
result can be a really big salmon. They ride the waves, expecting
to munch on confused baitfish.
There is also some danger involved with the big waves. You can
be knocked off your feet, or just get very wet if you misjudge
the height and speed of the incoming waves, and ship water over
the top of your waders. It's not a game, many of us have had
to run for the beach or shallower water.
Our available fish here in the Pacific Northwest are limited, we've
had problems with all the salmon runs. We do not have the variety
of fish the folks on the East coast have, but the size and fight
of the ones we do have is breathtaking. Silver Salmon here run
small, under fifteen pounds, even smaller 5 - 8 pounds for the
resident silvers. Resident silvers are Coho Salmon which have
been planted to provide a 'local' fishery. They were released
in the salt, so they have no natal stream where they would return.
They just swim around. I honestly don't know how long they live,
or if at some point they will find any stream and attempt to spawn.
We do have King Salmon, and those are larger fish, great fun on
a fly rod. The largest numbers of salmon we have remaining here
are Chum Salmon. The Chum (also called dog salmon because of
their very prominent sharp teeth) are probably the most
under-estimated of the salmon. They are large (over 20 pounds)
and they are really tough fighters. I've personally been spooled
on an 8 wt rod with 250 yards of backing more than once on the
same fish. Yes, I landed it. (That particular fish was about
24 pounds and I released it.)
There are a couple of places locally where the word on Chum
definitely is out and the fishing can be close to gonzo fishing.
Even so, a fly fisher can find a place where they can fish in
reasonable comfort and peace.
If you haven't tried saltwater fishing, it can be done reasonably.
For the beginner on salt, I would suggest an 8/9 wt rod, which
means of course a reel, backing and line to match - and it does
need to be saltwater proof. The Redington RedFly (RF908/9 graphite
rod) and Redington Large Arbor 9/10 Gold Reel are a great combination,
and will give you what you need. Saltwater can chew up a freshwater
reel in short order, and even the best of saltwater gear should be
thoroughly washed in fresh water and dried before putting it away.
If you have access to saltwater - and have fish of course, you
are missing a wonderful experience if you don't give it a try.
Salmon are the big fishery here, but you may have bluefish,
stripers, albies, ladyfish, redfish, sea trout, cobia and all
sorts of exciting fish. It will take some adjusting and
learning - but isn't that what fly fishing is all about?
We never know it all. ~ LadyFisher
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