Fishing with Rod Discussion Forum

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  

Author Topic: Imitating Chum Salmon Fry  (Read 888 times)

RalphH

  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3614
    • Initating Salmon Fry
Imitating Chum Salmon Fry
« on: April 05, 2021, 10:20:10 AM »

For me the spring salmon fry migration is the high light of springtime fishing. It is mostly  brought about by cutthroat feeding on large schools of migrating chum fry. It's both frequently exciting and  just as frequently exasperating.

Let's have a look at the fry. First a good look at a sample dead fry I found at the waters edge just a couple of week's ago:



They are relatively long & thin. The flanks are silvery, the back a drab olive and are marked with darkish bars above the dorsal fin. The eyes are prominent. BTW if you look closely at the rear 1/4  or so of the fish you should see a triangular lesion. Perhaps that is why this fish died. I have also seen Siamese Twin fry and saw albinos in the tanks at the Chehalis hatchery back in the 80s.

In the past I sampled fry from the stomachs & measured them. They were near uniformly about 35mm  which is much longer than the typical fly patterns used to imitate them. Have a look at this photo.



When I started fly fishing the typical patterns were English wet flies like silver and teal series. Tied down mylar minnows with a body of silver mylar tube and a wing of mallard flank tied down at the back was a recent innovation. Perhaps the barring on the teal and mallard flank feathers imitated the barring on the fry. If you get to view the fry from the top, at close range the bars are quite noticeable.

My favorite was the Something Else:



Hook: #6 1x long nymph hook
Thread: white & olive for the head only
Body: pearl mylar tube wound with clear swannudaze or vinyl rib
wing: white polar bear or sub with rolled mallard flank dyed wood duck
Over wing: a few strands of pearl or silver crystal flash
head: Olive thread
eye: painted or 3mm stick on.

when I first started fishing this fly was super effective and I thought this fishery was dumb easy. Unfortunately the fish soon dashed my feelings as within a few seasons they demonstrated how maddeningly selective they could be. That was what lead me to sampling stomach contents and I added a long thin white tail to the Something Else and was again in business or so it seemed.

I'll still keep the Something Else in my fly box as it is a good general minnow pattern. Another good alternative is a sparsely dressed Rolled Muddler either in natural or with both the mallard flank and deer hair dyed light olive.

I follow up with more patterns and some suggestions how to anticipate this fishery and other tactics.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 05:19:00 PM by RalphH »
Logged

RalphH

  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3614
    • Initating Salmon Fry
Re: Imitating Salmon Fry
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2021, 05:17:26 PM »

As I said above most of the fish I catch fishing Chum fry imitation are cutthroat. But they aren't the only fish you may hook.

Some years I catch a few Bull trout:



It's not unusual to catch a steelhead or 2.



You can see the fly on it's gill plate.

On the day I took that nice hatchery doe I also got a bigger wild buck in the same spot within the hour. Some folks use fry imitations in the Vedder Canal. Steelhead rising to fry are hard to  miss. The make lazy swirls and don't seem as frenetic  as cuttroat. A good steelhead on a light trout rod can be a handful!

You can even catch a "nuclear" rainbow:



That football was well over 2lbs. It looks like it had been carried more than a few yards by a running back.

After I caught this fish in the Harrison I sent the picture to the Fish and Wildlife Regional Office. The biologist there said the fish had probably been stocked in Lake Erroch. As those fish were dropping out of the lake and competing with the Harrison cutthroat they have stopped stocking that lake.

Over 90% though it's cutthroat like this nice pair of hatchery fish I took a few years ago



You can see the girth these fish develop from gorging on fry. I think that's part of why they become so much harder to catch as the season wear's on!


« Last Edit: April 08, 2021, 08:50:12 AM by RalphH »
Logged

RalphH

  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3614
    • Initating Salmon Fry
Re: Imitating Chum Salmon Fry
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2021, 09:22:47 AM »

Back to some fly patterns.

In the first post I mentioned the Rolled Muddler is a favorite among many. I don't use it much in the spring but I have decided I need to use it more. It's got an excellent minnow profile and is adaptable to many situations. Here's the style I am tying it in for spring:



I won't provide the pattern as it's easy to find on-line or buy in a shop. I do use pale olive mallard for the tail and the wing and the deer hair is olive rather than the standard natural wing and hair.

I also mentioned the Tied Down Mylar minnow, a pattern that has all but disappeared but the general style remains popular.

Fishing the Alouette many years back I had one of the first days when my Something Else fly just wasn't what the fish wanted even though they were slashing through fry in a number of spots, I found a variation of the the Tie Down minnow on the dyke path. It looked similar to my SE. The wing was the same, the body was small gold mylar tubing, there was some red near the hook eye to imitate gills and has extra small stock on eyes. The back and the body was coated in thin epoxy. The hook was in like new condition so I fished it and caught 4 or 5 fish before I lost it in a tree!

When I got home I replicated that pattern to the best of my memory.



hook: #8 streamer 3xl or 4xl
Thread: white & oilve
body: small gold mylar tube or diamond braid
Tail wing: Rolled segment of Mallard flank dyed wood duck tied at back of shank
Throat: thin red wool
Head: olive thread
eye: 3mm stick on or painted
coating: UV resin, epoxy or 2 or more coats of Loon Hard or other fly cement

With the common use of UV resin it not necessary to tie the mallard at the back, just apply the resin, hold the wing in place and cure with a UV light.

While this fly never worked as well as my lucky find, it proved effective! As importantly it lead me to a number of variations.


« Last Edit: April 16, 2021, 07:23:04 AM by RalphH »
Logged

RalphH

  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3614
    • Initating Salmon Fry
Re: Imitating Chum Salmon Fry
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2021, 10:44:45 AM »

some more patterns:

Pattern 1



hook: # 8 2xl or 3xl streamer
Tail: Webby grizzly fibres from the base of a grizzly hackle fibre plus one or 2 flashabou strands in gold or silver
body: silver or pearl tinsel. I have come to prefer holographic tinsel. Lagartan is also excellent but pricey
back: tied down peacock herl strands or diamond braid or fashabou in green, olive or blue
head: red thread with stick on eyes
coating: UV resin, krazy glue, loon hard head or Sally Hansen Hard as Nails all work

this is my evolution of the tied down mylar minnow

Pattern 2:





hook: # 8 2xl or 3xl streamer
tail: 1 or 3 strands of flashabou; green, olive, blue etc
body: silver holographic tinsel or several strands of silver or pearl holographic flashabou
back: several strands of flashabou same colour as tail
head: red thread and stick on eyes
coating: as above

The tail on pattern 1 is short and the fly itself lacks some motion so I reasoned a longer tail of flashabou to match the 35mm length of the fry may be effective. It works but is far from fool proof.

Next post I'll write about the how and when of fishing these patterns and share some ideas I am working on for more more life like imitations.


RalphH

  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3614
    • Initating Salmon Fry
Re: Imitating Chum Salmon Fry
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2021, 04:40:24 PM »

So basically my experience is that this fishery really comes into it's prime sometime in the last half of March but more frequently in April, with an average of about the 10th of the month. It varies with the stream & the weather including how cold or mild the winter and spring has been. Having taken water temperatures over the years I have found it needs to be at least to be 45F and preferably 48 to 52. Some rivers seem to be ok with the lower end of the scale. But as I write this it is really happening now and last Friday April 9th was the first time this season I'd seen decent numbers of trout rising though I have seen sporadic schools of fry about 10 days before.

As for tactics and presentations. Unless you know places where trout find conditions suitable for ambushing schools of fr,y it's best to walk the shore or scout by boat watching for feeding trout. They are hard to miss. Some people may get confused by the presence of other activities such as bug hatches. The vigor of the rises should allow you identify that they are taking fry as should showers of fry at the surface or the marks on the water as large schools scatter and panic.

Mostly I use a floating line and a leader of 10 feet or so tapering to 2x or 3x. Slow sinking tips are worthwhile  as well. Cover the rises getting the fly as close to the location of the fish as you can estimate. They move fast and you need to  guess where they are going. Use a good strip of a foot or so to scoot the fly near the surface. Once the fish or fishes submerge and things settle go over the area with a cast or 2 and allow the fly to sink then try some slower short pulls and perhaps some rod tip action to imitate crippled fry.

When things are tough I try a variety of retrieves.

This all sounds easy but what I have found over the last several years if the fish quickly glut themselves till they look like this:



hooking fish may become all but impossible

The schools of fry will often contain several dozen if not hundreds of fry, densely packed and moving fast. I often think the satiated trout aren't even feeding with much intent and are just charging through the balls of little salmon for the sheer joy of it. I haven't come up with any specific patterns that consistently work when this happens. Some people say olive micro leeches will work and I've tended lately to concentrate on patterns that use fine artificial hair, arctic fox hair or marabou that provide lifelike movement, at least to my eye.










I had high hopes for the last one which is tied with craft fur but so far it's been ignored.

Sometimes I just have resort to these:



...and why not. They may not produce a banner day but a fish or 2 to hand makes me feel better than a total skunk out in the face of rising fish.

I hope you've enjoyed and found something useful in this series and my other posts.


« Last Edit: April 16, 2021, 07:31:51 AM by RalphH »
Logged

clarki

  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1589
Re: Imitating Chum Salmon Fry
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2021, 09:35:41 PM »

I hope you've enjoyed and found something useful in this series and my other posts.
Very much so! Thanks for posting
Logged