Setting on milling/staging Salmon?

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by salt dog, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. salt dog card shark

    Posts: 2,306
    Edmonds WA / Mazama
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    Here's a question for the learned members on this site: the numbers of pinks available on the salt beaches are certainly not what they were a week ago, probably just a small fraction. However, those that are left are definitely thinking more about sex than food, kind of like most of you young bucks. :)

    Anyway, I noticed that unlike previously where the pinks hit reasonably hard and just about set the hook themselves when you raised the rod, now they appear to be just picking the fly up, and then dropping it, likely just out of feeding habit. All you feel is a slight bump, you raise the rod to set and nothing is there.

    Anyone have experience/advice with milling/staging fish, whether pinks or other salmon, and how to better feel the light take, and how to set on them?
  2. chadk Be the guide...

    Posts: 5,057
    Snohomish, WA.
    Ratings: +41 / 0
    I don't know as much about the staging fish, but have found a lot of pinks upstream more to mouth the fly like you say (you will get some hard strikes, but most of the one's I've had bite just come up and mouth it. I've watched them swim up, bite, and sit there a second. If you don't set the hook, they spit it out and swim away. Silvers on the other hand, in the same circumstances, will swim up, grab and turn in the same motion, resulting in a solid take.

    Anyway, I prefer to target them in the slower water and fish above them - allowing them to rise to my fly. I use a floating line, 9-10 foot leader, and weighted fly. I cast and then do a slow deliberate strip process that allows the fly to move about a foot and rise up, then sink about 6-10 inches when I pause. They'll hit it on the drop 90% of the time. But like you said, many times they'll just mouth it and if you arern't paying close attention, you'll miss the light tapping and the fact that your fly stopped moving.

    I've been able to sit on top of clear pools and watch them respond to various retreives. The fish I was targeting would barely notice a fly on the swing or stripped in quickly past \ over them. They also didn't care too much for dead drifting. But if you could get the fly to gently rise (quick rises seemed to spook them - probably due to the snaggers they encoutered along the way), but if the fly dropped near them, it was like a reflex action and they instantly turned to grab it. (like seeing a glass fall in your peripheral and you just suddenly reach to catch it...).

    Anyway, I know other presentations work too, I just like this approach. Also, it is much harder to snag and floss the fish this way.
  3. troutpocket Active Member

    Posts: 1,775
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +326 / 0
    I don't have much experience with the exact situation you describe but in general a strip-set is a good tactic for light-biting fish. When you feel any hesitation in your retrieve, pull 12-18" of line without raising your rod. If the fish is there, you'll stick 'em. If not, you've only moved the fly a small distance and the fish still has the opportunity to take it. I use it for trout in lakes, carp, beach fishing for dollies in AK . . .anywhere that you benefit by not raising your rod and taking the fly away from the fish.

    Rod :thumb:
  4. salt dog card shark

    Posts: 2,306
    Edmonds WA / Mazama
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    Chad & Rod, thanks for the reply. Chad, I can see what you're saying would work well in a River, casting downstream; Rod, I agree, a strip strike ought to be used to keep the fly in the water in front of the fish, like I would for SRC and Coho.

    I was thinking more about the current situation with closed mouthed fish still in the salt water, where you're fishing from the beach.

    Fishing from an anchored boat in current would be pretty equivalent to the river fishing situation though if the fish were swimming against the current, and I will probably be in a boat next week; I'll try it then. Only problem will be if you cannot see the takes and they pick it up while swimming at you, you won't likely feel a bump unless you're stripping a little faster; maybe very short strips that would keep tension on the line, with short pauses to let it sink.

    Any other suggestions or experience?
  5. Steve Rohrbach Puget Sound Fly Fisher

    Posts: 606
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +43 / 0
    Jim, when fishing "Waiting Period" Salmon of any species, I use some of Les Johnson's suggestions from Fly Fishing for Pacific Salmon. Smaller flies like the Hurns Handlebar are more likely to draw a hit than larger traditional flies. I go to a slower strip to keep tension and then use the strip set to try and hook up. Using Gamakatsu Octopus hooks has also helped my hook-up ratio. If I miss the set, I will strip off a couple of feet of line and allow the fly to drift back. I believe that this appears to be an injured prey and it will often times result in a second take. Dylan Rose has used the feeding line technique very effectively bucktailing for Coho at Tofino. Give it a try and let me know how you do. I am looking forward to getting out and chasing some Coho.
    Steve
  6. Jim Kerr Active Member

    Posts: 693
    Forks Wa
    Ratings: +138 / 0
    Adjusting your retreive is a big part of it. Pinks, silvers and kings will all get in this mood. I either use the quick one inch hop retrive or the eratic 1 foot 6 inch 6 inch one foot retrive. Short as possible pause between pulls. The bites will be very subtle. Sometime its a push, you strip and the fly doesn't feel heavy enough, some times its just a weird , fuzzy kind of thing, othertimes its like picking up a piece of eel grass. In any case if you think the fish is there, hit him good, if you think he allready dropped it, speed up your retrive, he will come back on the same cast, if you think this is a really long sentence, well your right.
    If there is a little current try mending a belly into your line, this will keep your fly moving slightly forward between strips, making it eiser to tell when its stopped.
    Fish on
    Jim
  7. salt dog card shark

    Posts: 2,306
    Edmonds WA / Mazama
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    Steve and Uncle Jimmy: wow, a treasure chest of nuggets there. I will go back and re-read Les' section on milling fish, its been awhile since I read it. I had just picked up some Gamakatsu Octopus hooks to tie up some short shanked, smaller bodied flies on super sharp hooks, thinking it could only help. The bumps I was getting felt exactly like I was in eel grass, until the third bump when the eel grass gave me a quick shake back. A lot of small things, but combined should go to increase a hook up rate for more challenging fish. At least I will have a larger array of tactics to use. Thanks, I needed some help. I'll let you know how I do.
    Best fishes,
    jim
  8. kodiaksalmon Jeff B.

    Posts: 946
    Muskie country!
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I agree with the strip-set. Although their size belies it, they don't need to be set like bass, with the full rod in the motion. I'll always strip-set, if I set at all on salmon. I'll often realize I have a fish on, and then just tighten up on it as it's swimming away. If it's a silver and he knows he's hooked, I'll make sure he's on, and then give it two or three decent conventional sets to make sure the hook is where it needs to be.

    Now if I'm fishing circle hooks, I won't set it at all, other than letting the fish turn on it and set himself. But I've had limited success with circle hooks on salmon that are done feeding and are now striking out of aggression and territorial behavior.

    Jeff
  9. SilverFly Ancient Steelhead Sensei

    Posts: 374
    Camas, WA
    Ratings: +50 / 0
    I've had pretty good success with circle hooks using a slow strip retrieve in a still/freshwater fishery. I agree about not setting at all with circles and have missed a few solid takes simply by tightening too quickly.

    Generally the takes I'm used to are solid grabs so the information on the subtle takes has got me wondering if I'm missing a lot of fish. I'm very hesistant to do any hook setting to avoid fouling fish, but might have to rethink some of those "weed plucks" or "why can't I feel my fly".

    Good info.

    ---------------------------------
  10. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,795
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +650 / 0
    For the those fish the best advice are:
    1) The suggested strip set. Folks some times have a difficult time learning to do this. You need to develop the instinct to do this immediately without thought. I have good luck teaching folks this technique while trout fishing with streamers - need a situation where the strikes are numerous and predictable. Once learned it is easy to convert to the salmon situation.

    2) Vary your retrieve is great advice. I have good luck on following fish (need those polarized glasses) by making radical direction changes in the path direction of the fly retrieve - a sudden veer to the right/ left with floating lines or up with a sinking line.

    3) Vary size and/or colors frequently. This is especially true if the fish are heavily pressured or you have taken from a pod and their buddies have turned off. It is surprising how often a "goof-ball" change-up will produce a fish.

    4) Sticky sharp hooks and I'm a really big believer in fine wires. I'll often use some of my better freshwater hooks to get that fine wire. You can extend the life of your flies if you carry a small jug of freshwater in which to place your flies after each change - just remove and dry once you reach home.

    5) Once the fish aren't actively feeding using a "stinger" hook (small hook placed on a mono loop placed back near the tail) on your streamers (especially the larger size) can really improve the hook ups on those drive by takes. I like that better than long shank hooks - better action on wing material and better hooked to landed ratio (at least for me).

    6) If fishing with an experienced buddy covering any jumps of his hooked fish with a cast will often result in a double - more than double the fun. Those jumps (especially the first often seems to stir some of the rest of the fish in the pod and they quickly check out the splash to see what is up. A stranger may not uderstand this so use with caution.

    All the above work and have resulted in increased catches for me in both terminal salt areas as well as holding fish in the rivers.

    Welcome to the frustrating and challenging world of fly rodding salmon.

    Tight lines
    Curt
  11. Mingo the Menehune stole my beer

    Posts: 2,627
    Happy Hour, WA
    Ratings: +373 / 1
    That's probably one of my biggest weaknesses. I have a tendency to Bill Dance my ass off on hooksets, I'm sure I have yanked the bug out of many a mouth.......................it is so hard to be patient when you feel the non-commital hits! :eek: