What’s more productive? To have one really long session/trip? Or to get in several shorter sessions/trips in succession?
This is a question that I’ve been mulling over the last couple weeks as I’ve tried to adapt to this river challenge of catching a buck chum salmon in the final stage of its life cycle. I haven’t been doing either. I’ve been getting in a few hours in the morning infrequently.
Everything from rigging, to casting, to feeling a bite and fighting a fish in a river…is different from the kind of fishing I’m used to doing at home in Southern California. Trying to adapt to so many different variables at once makes me think getting out more often would help me build on each element faster.
I wrote previously about how when I was home in July, I really went all out while fishing for corbina on the sand. For around 2 weeks, I was out almost every day working the beach. Even though this is a very familiar kind of fishing for me, I was able to dial in a lot of small details. Details that led to me catching 8 fish 20-inches long or longer. Those 8 fish included one that taped out at 23.5 inches…a new personal best (left). The consistency of going daily allowed me to dial in my approach, leading to a very productive outcome.
I haven’t had the same luxury in this quest.
I’ve been trying to get out as much as possible, but I’ve also stepped up the pace of work in preparing my mom’s house for sale up here in Seattle. It’s been difficult to truly get in a comfortable groove where I’m just concentrating on fishing vs. the myriad of other details involved.
Three Days In The Chum Zone
I got a lot done on the house this last week though and rewarded myself by going out last Friday (November 20th). It had been raining heavily all week, but it finally started to let up on Friday. More rain means a fuller river and more debris going down it…therefore less fishable. I was already planning on going though, so I went.
When I got to the spot (Upper Bumhole), I was the only one there. It was nice to get in full, long drifts, but I didn’t connect on any fish at the beginning of the session. About an hour into it, Kevin shows up. Kevin is a local and was the guy who caught the first buck chum that I posted a picture of in last week’s article. Kevin and I got into a nice chat. I told him how I grew up here, but never fished the rivers.
He told me he’s been doing this his whole life and regularly logs 300+ salmon a year!
I started to pick his brain about an assortment of questions I had. Among many small details, he told me he likes the condition where the water is clear and the CFS (cubic feet/sec) dips below a certain level. He told me that you can look up the CFS, but a quick way to do it at the spot was when the water was below a certain bush by the shore…the bush in question is right behind him in the picture (left).
In addition to clearer water and less debris, Kevin explained that when the river is lower, the fish tend to funnel through the deepest part of it in the middle. When there’s more water, they spread out over the entire width of the river…reducing your odds of connecting with one.
I fished until about noon and called it a day. I took a skunk, but I felt like I figured out a lot during that session.
On the drive home, I remembered I had another rod that I had brought up a while back and had stashed in the trunk of my dad’s car. I found the rod. It is a 10’6″ long spinning rod, rated 8#-17# and 3/8 to 3/4 of an ounce lure weight. I’ve been fishing 15# line and either a 3/4 or 1-ounce ball sinker, so the specs matched up very closely.
Another thing Kevin told me was he likes to throw straight braid to the swivel in order to get that immediate response on the set. Made sense to me. I’ve been fishing straight mono and I’ve had a handful of bites where I hit flesh, but didn’t fully connect. I have a 2500 size spinning reel with me that is straight braid. The additional rod length (10’6″ vs. 8′) would give me a much longer swing radius on the set. Combined with the extra responsiveness of the braid, it should be a potent combo. Also, with the longer rod, I could fish the longer leader (10-feet) that was the recommended length (vs. the 8-foot leader I’d been fishing). Finally, I went online and looked up the CFS. The USGS publishes a forecast online and the river volume of water was going to be down the next two days…
I guess I’d be fishing Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, the conditions definitely looked better. The water was noticeably down…below the bush that Kevin had pointed out to me. It was also much clearer. It was more crowded on the river bank, but I found a spot and put in my time. Changing so many things about my setup: rod length, braid vs. mono, spinning vs. conventional, longer leader…I spent a good part of the day just getting used to the adjustments. Once I sorted it all out though, it felt good. I had the sense it would perform great given the opportunity. I took another skunk for the day, but some fish did get caught…including another buck that Chris landed.
I was excited to come back on Sunday to give it another try.
Sunday morning I was back on the bank. It was less crowded than the previous day. The water level was still below the bush. I had to fish a different spot than I had fished the two previous days, but not a big adjustment. It was a slow day. More than 2 hours into it, the only fish caught was a surprise rainbow trout. There were a couple of fish hooked, but none landed. My thoughts drifted to what I wanted for lunch when it happened. That slow heaviness on the line indicating a bite. I swung.
The snap of the line shocked everyone back into a state of alert. Fish!
I hooked it at about 2 o’clock from where I was standing, close to the opposite side of the river. As I leaned into the fish, I dragged it into the main current of the river. It used the current to run away from me. I just kept my rod tip up and the line tight. Even though I was fishing straight braid, the bend of the longer rod and the mono leader provided enough cushion to withstand the initial run. I got the fish onto my side of the river and slowly worked it back upstream. When I first saw color, I could see I had it hooked squarely in the corner of the mouth, so I took my time, letting it tire itself out, before guiding it into the net.
It was a bright silver hen. Not the fish I wanted, but still a very satisfying catch. All the pieces came together. I still have a problem casting in the prescribed manner, so I’m going to have issues if it’s too crowded, but everything else…the rod, the line, the rigging, the set, the fight…it all came together on Sunday. And because the fish was still pretty chrome, maybe this season lasts a little longer and allows me to get that buck.
I’ll keep trying while I’m still here. Good luck if you get out there.