Think pink: Fly-fishing for these salmon is simple, fun

Think pink: Fly-fishing for these salmon is simple, fun
Think pink: Fly-fishing for these salmon is simple, fun

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario (MCT) - Going after pink salmon is perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to catch salmon on a fly rod. The techniques are so simple and so much fun that they should call this Salmon Fishing 101.

The chinook salmon runs were pretty sparse in Michigan tributaries to lakes Michigan and Huron recently, apparently running late during this unusually cool and wet summer.

So to satisfy a salmon Jones, I headed to the St. Marys River Rapids, where guide John Giuliani said that the pinks were as thick as fleas along with fair numbers of Atlantic salmon and steelhead.

It took Giuliani two casts with a double-nymph setup to hook the first pink from a nice school that had just moved up into a deeper slot in the fast water 15 feet in front of us. The three-pound male somersaulted over the water three times before boring out toward the center of the river, pulling out all of the fly line and getting into the backing.


"I think that pound-for-pound they're the toughest fish we have," he said. "A three-pound steelhead would jump, but it couldn't pull like that. A lot of these fish are fresh, really silver. They must have just come up into the rapids overnight."


About 30 seconds later I hooked a four-pound male with a hooked jaw (kype) and a Quasimodo-type hump that showed he was ready for spawning and which gives the species its nickname: humpbacked salmon.

He fought hard, but it only took a couple of minutes to turn him toward shallow water where Giuliani could grab the leader, remove the hook and get the fish back into the water quickly.

"That's something else I like about pinks for beginners - you can catch and land 20 of them in the time it takes to land one big chinook," he said. "The real trick is learning how to hook them. Once you've got that, you can use the same technique for every species of salmon."

We were using eight-weight fly rods with two No. 10 or 12 caddis nymphs on a nine-foot leader. The top nymph was about six feet under a small bobber, sometimes euphemistically called a strike indicator, and the nymphs were about two feet apart.


"When I see someone fishing for pinks without an indicator, it tells me he doesn't know what he's doing," Giuliani said. "You can see today that the bite is so subtle you'd never know you had a fish on without the indicator."

And on most drifts he was right. Sometimes the bright green, acorn-size foam indicator jiggled a little without going completely underwater. Other times it suddenly slowed down. Either occurrence was a signal to raise the rod tip and feel the sudden, hard headshake of a hooked fish.

Once I saw a white belly flash underwater at about the place I knew the point fly should be, so I lifted the rod and felt plenty of weight. A second later, a nice male humpy porpoised upstream, but the indicator hardly moved. It wasn't until another fish jumped that I realized I had hooked two pinks, one on each fly, which were headed in opposite directions.


On this morning, we never made more than eight casts without a hookup, but we had ideal conditions - cool and overcast with occasional drizzle. But even though fish were tasking, Giuliani changed the colors of the nymphs every half hour or so.

"They like green today, but they're taking a black stonefly, too," he said. "I like to see what they want, and if a fly doesn't produce real fast, I change it."

The Great Lakes are the only places pinks are found outside their native waters on the North Pacific coasts of North America and Asia. Only a handful of tributaries to lakes Huron and Superior produce reliable numbers for anglers, although biologists suspect they may be reproducing in streams along Georgian Bay.

Pink salmon on the Pacific Coast make a spawning run at age 2, and streams there get a pink run every other year. The pink runs in the Great Lakes started out that way, but over time, the St. Marys and Garden rivers started getting runs every year.

Scientists believe that's the result of a sparser food supply that caused some of the pinks to stay in lakes Superior and Huron for three years before returning to spawn.

Now some tributaries of both lakes get an annual run of pinks. The older fish tend to be bigger - three to five pounds compared with 1 ½ to 2 ½ pounds for the 2-year-olds - and pinks from Lake Huron are bigger than those from Lake Superior.

 

© 2008, Detroit Free Press.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead gets new product details from Simms Fishing Product's John Frazier about the new waterproof 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch.

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Pure Fishing's Andrew Wheeler tells Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead all about the brand new Abu Garcia Virtual rod that integrates Bluetooth technology through a free ANGLR smartphone app.

MLF Pros: What

MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them. Reels

10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them.

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish time after time. Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish...

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some strategies. Catfish

Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

See More Trending Articles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.