Sockeye Salmon on the Fly

speedbird49

Active Member
Sockeye is something else. People describe it as the best tasting salmon but the sockeye I have eaten tastes completely distinct to Pink Coho and Chinook. An almost shrimp taste. I have caught Cutthroat, Chinook, Coho, and Pink. 2021 I hope to add Steelhead and Chum to the list. I would very much also like to add Sockeye. I know on the Columbia and Skagit people plunk for them, but plunking has to be my least favorite form of fishing. Numb rods with heavy leads that don't let you feel the fish. I watched a video from a gentleman in BC spey casting for Reds and landing a couple on camera.


Is it possible to land Sockeye on the fly? I realize this is a fly fishing forum, but if anyone has suggestions for non plunking conventional gear methods that can be done from shore, I am more than open to hearing about it.
 

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
I put in a lot of hours/days and hooked exactly 2, landed 1. Patience is most definitely a virtue when Sockeye are targeted while using a fly rod (at least on the dry side it is) . . .
 

Steve Saville

WFF Supporter
I've never fished for sockeye here but have in Alaska. The are formidable on a fly rod. I usually use a 10 wt. and they are my favorite eating salmon by far.
 

dustinchromers

Active Member
For what it's worth I ran into a pod of them in a western washington river and had little luck until a fly switch to a lake sized black egg sucking leech. I caught the first one on accident stripping it in. I then caught several doing just that. They are hard fighting fish.
 

jasmillo

WFF Supporter
I have fished for them once in AK. For the most part, it’s a meat fishery there too, so guides push you to floss them which is a fairly easy to do. Getting them to actually eat was really tough. I got two to do so (we thought, hard to tell for sure) and I was fishing over a conveyor belt of them the whole time. This is based on one 4 hour session so take from it what you will. As others have said, really hard fighters though.

When I lived in CO, I would occasionally catch Kokanee targeting lake run browns in the fall. Red and orange nymphs (regardless of pattern) seemed to catch the most. Those gnarly fish on their way to be spawned out do not fight anywhere near like their fresh, ocean going cousins though.
 
Last edited:

Lance Magnuson

WFF Supporter
In my opinion, a king salmon beat sockeye hands down for consumption. They are fatter, more moist and better flavor. That opinion is based upon more than 30 years of selling frozen salmon internationally.

Unfortunately, sockeye will not strike flies while heading upstream. Most fish are foul hooked in the mouth during an act called “flossing”. If you cast across a pod of sockeye in a river, as the fish open and close their mouths, you’ll invariably run your line into the mouth and foul hook it.

I don’t consider this style of fishing particularly sporting.
 

landlocked

Active Member
I think sockeye are in general a better tasting fish, unless you are talking about spring chinook. Also depends on freshness of the fish and how they are cooked. Hands down I’ll take a fresh caught Springer over a sockeye, but that’s it for my tastebuds hierarchy when it comes to trumping the red salmon. They fight like junkyard dogs on a 7 wt or below. I’ve caught them on hopper dropper rigs (on dropper) while dead drifting cutbanks on some Bristol Bay rivers hoping for rainbows to take a chubby. But yeah, the floss game is alive and well if you just want good meat. Can’t speak to ever fishing them in the Columbia, which would be a challenge I’m sure.
 

dustinchromers

Active Member
In my opinion, a king salmon beat sockeye hands down for consumption. They are fatter, more moist and better flavor. That opinion is based upon more than 30 years of selling frozen salmon internationally.

Unfortunately, sockeye will not strike flies while heading upstream. Most fish are foul hooked in the mouth during an act called “flossing”. If you cast across a pod of sockeye in a river, as the fish open and close their mouths, you’ll invariably run your line into the mouth and foul hook it.

I don’t consider this style of fishing particularly sporting.

I'll knock neither off my plate but I have to concur. Spring Chinook is the finest of all table fare. Coho, summer steelhead, and sockeye are all tied for second. I don't really eat winter steelhead that much and regard them as above chum which is not in high regard.
 

Stonefish

Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
I'll knock neither off my plate but I have to concur. Spring Chinook is the finest of all table fare. Coho, summer steelhead, and sockeye are all tied for second. I don't really eat winter steelhead that much and regard them as above chum which is not in high regard.

Agreed. The lack of fat in winter steelhead compared to summerruns makes them a lot less desirable table fare.
I’ve kept the last one that I’ll ever eat.....
SF
 

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
There is one "S" river that gets a run of them. But the river is closed for those fish. I saw them in the late summer months when fishing that river.
 

Salmo_g

WFF Supporter
Taste is personal, and some people like sockeye above all other salmon and trout. A lot of salmon snobs, myself included, think that early run Chinook are even better than sockeye. These would be Columbia River spring Chinook, other spring Chinook, AK's famed Copper River Chinook, summer Chinook, and the early summer-fall Upriver Bright (URB) Columbia River Chinook, along with some others I probably haven't sampled.

Like Chinook, not all sockeye are created equal. The best ones are those with early timed migrations and or long migration distances before spawning, with the best of the best being Early Stuart sockeye from the Fraser River run. The summer Fraser sockeye are all excellent table fare because they have early river entry timing and make long migrations prior to spawning. This means they have the highest lipid content - Omerga 3 fatty acids that are as good for you as they taste.

Columbia River sockeye are good, but they run kind of small. Closer to home are Lake Washington and Baker River sockeye (same genetic population). They don't make long migrations, but they do have early fresh water entry timing and don't spawn until months later. They are excellent table fare. Unfortunately I don't know any place where it is productive to fly fish for sockeye from these populations.
 

Lance Magnuson

WFF Supporter
The length of the river traveled by salmon to spawn, genetically predisposes fish to store higher fat content.

Yukon River king salmon travel over miles to spawning habitat in Canada. They are so fat (~25% fat content) grilling them causes fires in your Weber.

The remnant run of upriver Chinook that hit the Columbia in February are also extremely fat. But sadly, they are becoming a fading memory.

Taste is personal and as my wife tells me, all my taste is in my mouth.
 

wetline dave

Active Member
I haver caught quite a few reds in the Sound using a Sockeye commercial flasher, gifted to me by a commercial troller, with a shrimp fly trailing 24 inches behind the flasher.

Dave
 

Kilchis

WFF Supporter
I've caught chinook, silvers, chum and humpies on flies. I would really like to catch at least one sockeye to complete the northwest salmon slam.
 

Support WFF | Remove the Ads

Support WFF by upgrading your account. Site supporters benefits include no ads and access to some additional features, few now, more in the works. Info

Latest posts

Top