Our Man In Canada
August 25th, 2003

Pink Salmon in British Columbia

In each odd-numbered year, southwestern B.C. is inundated with pink salmon intent on entering fresh water and dispersing their seed throughout the vast Fraser River system. Pink Salmon take the fly surprisingly well in fresh water, probably due to the imprinting which takes place during their youth.

Pinks are not difficult to find in fresh water as they generally prefer very shallow, glassy runs with moderate current speeds. They also crowd into tight schools, resembling dark pulsating bands which may be detected even in the murky waters of the Fraser.

By the first of August, the inaugural run of pinks is in the Fraser. Those that are mainsteam spawners remain, while others continue up into streams such as the Harrison and Vedder. The run continues until about September 30, after which the fish are no longer fresh. Pinks deteriorate quickly on entering fresh water, so for hard-running, bright fish concentrate on the early runs and choose locations as close to salt water as possible. The fish are also quicker to respond to a fly during these early days.

Six- to seven-weight fly rods are adequate for pinks, but large, humpbacked males will be difficult to turn in the current, so going too light is not recommended. Longer rods are useful for the frequent mending required to manipulate the fly into position. Floating lines or slow sinkers are standard on the Fraser. Combined with lightly weighted fly patterns, such set-ups provide the most hassle-free angling.

There are two basic techniques. The most common calls for a drag-free, shallow-water drift, with or without a strike indicator, where the fly is allowed to bump seductively along. As when fishing nymphs, the slightest hesitation during a drift should be met with a hookset. Black rabbit strip tied onto a short-shank hook and fronted with a ball of cerise chenille is deadly with this technique.

Less well known, but gaining steadily in popularity, is the dry fly technique for pinks. The traditional drag-free dry drift has proven only marginally successful, but a downstream skated or waking fly will draw fish in shallow water (less than three feet) to the surface.

Pink Pollywog

The fly of choice is the Pollywog. This fly gained notoriety for taking coho salmon on estuaries and rivers in Alaska. The pattern is designed to float and skate across the surface, creating a disturbance which may trigger a response. The take is very subtle, visible only as a slight bulge in the meniscus. Wait until the weight of the fish is perceived on the line before lifting the rod. Then hang on and tell yourself how good life is.

Credits: Article from Fly Fishing British Columbia Edited by Karl Bruhn; Photo from Alaska Fly Fishers (www.alaskaflyfishers.com).

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