Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

November 16th, 1998

Doping It Out

Our local salmon fishing has pretty much become non-existant, at least in any great numbers. Our neighbors to the North, British Columbia and Alaska still have good runs of King and Coho salmon, but for us living near the Puget Sound it's pretty much Chum salmon. To our friends up North, Chum fall into a trash-fish catagory. But when in Rome as they say, fish for Chum.

Chum are probably the most under rated of the salmon, at least as fighters! They really are tough fish, and a ton of fun on a fly rod.

We have been fishing for them in the fall for several years. And really have done better than other fly rodders. Credit for that goes to Castwell and his Chum Fly. But something happened that even improved on that!

Guests from the eastcoast planned a day of fishing Chum with us several weeks ago. We put together a group, six of us fished - and caught a lot of salmon. So many were lost however, we eventually ran out of Castwell's Chum Fly. Our guest, ran through his fly box and picked a Clouser Minnow. He fished it very successfully, and commented that he thought the Chum Fly should be weighted, since the fish on the top of the water were mostly playing around. He fished the weighted Clouser, which also rides hook up, and quit counting how many fish he caught. That sure seemed to be proof.

So Castwell tied up some weighted Chum flies. Some with a little more weight and some with less. The idea was to get the fly in the right place in the water column. In deeper water the one with more weight worked best. As the tide changed and the water became more and more shallow it didn't work. Change to the lighter weighted on and that worked, sort of.

That particular run of salmon finally dwindled down, and another one started. Off again with an assortment of weighted flies. (By the way, we were fishing with a sink tip line with these flies.) The new run was in an entirely different physical situation.

We caught an occasional fish - but nothing like the numbers of the previous place. Back to the drawing board. We don't mind casting all day, but it is even better when there is more than a fish or two connected on the fly.

What were the major differences? Water depth. And the first place had a fairly good head of water flowing from the stream. Now we have little flow from the stream, and a very big, shallow estuary. We made the decision to try floating lines, florocarbon leaders and the "original" non-weighted Chum Fly. Bingo!

Fish on! When fish were around, we could land 5 to 10 fish each an hour. A really big improvement in the catching one or two fish in a whole day, just one day before.

Notice the hand position, using the strongest grip to "tail" the fish.

The point here is this: We all work at figuring out a particular fish, or a place. We can get it down to almost a science. And it is rewarding too!

But change something, change anything and those tried and tested methods may not work. Even fishing the identical place with a change in water levels is enough to do it. Time of year, where the temperatures may go up enough to warm the water can do it.

You can continue to fish the same way, with poor results, or dope it out!

Take inventory. Be observant. Figure out what has changed and change with it. You will catch more fish.
~ Deanna Birkholm

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