2013 Salmon

Well I got out today with Matt for what will perhaps be my final go for 2013 silvers in the salt. What a season it has been! I feel that I have learned more this year than any year prior, and I have many people on this forum to thank for that. Many thanks go to Stonefish, Dimebrite, MtSkibum, Josh Smestad, Sciguy,KcKahill, Irafly, DryFlyLarry and everyone else who I have fished with, shared reports, offered techniques and suggestions, shared fly patterns etc. This forum is truly a wealth of information for those that choose to use it.

One advantage to being active on this forum, and sharing reports and such, is that the search tool can more or less be used as a fishing journal. Several times this year I've found myself going back through old reports and posts of mine to compare dates and times, as well as to learn what was working for me at various points of the season, observations I made, success I had etc. It seems each and every time I go through one of these old threads I pick up some tidbit of info that someone posted that maybe I missed the first go around. I also noticed that with more experience under my belt I am able to re read older threads and get more out of them than the first time I read them. Probably just about as much as any piece of gear, or any fly a new saltwater fly fisherman can tie on, this forum and the search tool is probably the single greatest resource available! I urge everyone to use it! Send a PM now and then. You'd be surprised how far that will get you. Meet new people! Creating a network of fishy friends who all share reports and techniques and such has been an invaluable tool for me the past couple years. I've already learned the lesson of sharing too many details on the open internet, but much can be shared via PM and text message. I also made friends with quite a few gear fisherman again this year, and as Dime and others have pointed out, a great deal can be learned from them. Some of these guys have been fishing the beach for a LONG, LONG time, and watching and talking to them can pay off great dividends. There are so damned good herring fisherman on our local beaches.

This year I feel that my understanding of the tides, and how they affect fishing, has really grown. I branched out alot this year, staying clear for the most part of my usual haunts, and instead learned some new beaches. I spent time in my boat, exploring new areas, as well as on foot. I put many, many miles on my Korkers this year. So much so that I'm going to have to send them in for warranty work this winter. I spent much time at one particular beach, and I really feel like I learned that beach well. It's been suggested to many newer beach fisherman to pick a beach, and spend as much time as possible on it at all times. Well I did that this year, on a few different beaches, but one in particular. I learned a lot. I learned just how important the tides are. I learned what sort of things to look for when reading a tide chart. I learned that this particular beach does not fish well at low tide, except for a few particular spots. I learned the absolute best time to fish this beach is times with a morning high tide that allows me to fish either side of the tide exchange just after first light. I learned at another beach, that if I anchored my boat just off an eel grass bed on a drop off, during a big outgoing, that there were several rip tides that would push from three directions right up within casting distance. I feel that I learned to maximize my time spent on the water by avoiding fishing during less than optimal conditions when I could help it. I also learned that fish can be caught at less than optimal conditions, so if thats the only window you have to fish, then FISH!. On one beach I noticed several small channels during extreme low tides that would provide slots of deeper water at high tide. I also noticed on one beach that when the tide was high, there was a nice sloped ledge that fished great, but later noticed during a big low tide that past the ledge it really flatted out and did not fish well at all so I pretty much avoided it at lower tides. None of these are world changing details, but its stuff I didn't notice as easily in the past.

I made many observations regarding flies and techniques this year. When it came to flies, the big surprise was that I caught probably 70% of my fish this year on pink/white clousers. The other 30% came to pink/chartreuse clousers. Last year I didn't catch a single fish on anything but chatreuse/white. This spring I made a strong effort to sit down and tie salmon flies so that I didn't have to cram at the vise in the evenings before heading out. I tied many different colors, but the bulk of my flies were chatreuse/white. I also, at the suggestion of Stonefish, tied quite a few pink/chatreuse. Well early on pink/chartreuse was the clear winner. That fly was absolutely lights out for me for about the first month of the season. A month or so into the season, I was out in the boat and had done well on chartreuse/pink all morning, but when the sun came up in the afternoon things slowed drastically. I finally switched over to pink/white, and immediately had follow. Shortly after that I hooked up with our last fish to make a boat limit, and we called it a day. The next day, when the morning slowed, I remembered the day before and I again switched to pink/white and again did well. Well after three days in a row of this I made the switch to pink/white for a full day and basically never looked back. Every fish after that was caught on that color.

I also experimented a bunch with materials and proportions this season, and have settled on a particular combo for my use. I settled upon tying my clousers using Mustad 34007DT hooks for the hook that I clipped, 20 lb firewire for attaching the trailer, size 1 Gami barbless octopuss hook, Spirit River eyes in 7/32 size, a base of bucktail for the top and bottom colors, then DNA flash on the top, and Krystal Flash on the bottom, with both the flash tied longer than the bucktail. I also, (Again a Stonefish suggestion), started tying my clousers with a flat diamond braid body wrapped over the top layer of bucktail behind the eyes. This added some pazaz to the fly, but seriously increased the durability as well. I found this combination worked well for me for a few reasons: I like the 20 lb fireline more than everything else I tried, though I plan to play around with it in the off season. I found it didn't foul much, was easy to work with, and kept the hook where I wanted it. I like the bucktail for keeping a good profile, and I just think it looks better than anything else out there. And the combination of the long DNA and Krystal Flash really flared out and undulated, especially on the drop where I seemed to get most of my takes. I'm still undecided in how much of a role I believe the fly plays, but to some degree I've become to believe that color/movement/profile is a bit more important than I once thought.




One of my fly boxes at the beginning of the season...Nice and neat.

Same box at the end of the season. Looks like a tornado touched down.


As far as "technique" goes, I didn't change up a whole lot from what I've used in the past, but I did settle into my own a bit I think.One thing that I did play around with some is something that stemmed from time spent fishing from my boat. While anchored up in the boat I was able to see my fly from a much greater distance, as well as see it all the way to the boat. As such I was able to see many, many fish following my fly. I was surprised at the number of fish I saw follow my fly right to the boat, but never take. It made me wonder how many times this happens on the beach when I've never noticed. THere are plenty of times when I've seen fish following my fly right to the beach, but nowhere near the frequency that I noticed it out in the boat. With that thought in mind, later in the season I began to play with my casting. I would sometimes alternate casting between a long, normal cast followed by a short cast maybe just a third or so of the originally distance. My thought process was maybe I more fish were following my fly than I was aware of, and by throwing out short casts I may be able to intercept this fish as they head back out. I didn't stick to this experiment all the time, but I did hook 4 fish on short casts that followed long ones.
I've experimented with a ton of different retrieves over the years I've been learning this, and I settled into something that seems to work for me. Its a fairly quick retrieve, and extremely erratic. I like to mix it up between 1-3 foot or so long quick pulls, followed by quick and abrupt stops. I try to visualize maximizing the jigginess of the fly, and the pulsating nature of the flashy tail as the fly drops. I would say a good 60% of the fish I hooked this year hit on the drop in one way or another, and I think the pulsating and undulating flashy tail had a lot to do with that. I also noticed that I hooked quite a few fish on the swing, especially in stronger current. Multiple times I saw fish come flying in and hammer my fly as it swung around to a tight line on the downstream side of the current. The transition from the swing to the hang especially seemed to be a hot spot. They would hit it just as the line was straightening out. These fish were almost always landed, as the takes were seldom subtle.

Speaking of takes, there was an interesting progression of the style of takes throughout the season. Something I've never really focused much on in the past. Early on in the season it seemed like the takes were either really aggressive slams, or the dead weight at the start of the next strip type of hit, both of which made for easy hook ups. I noticed a period of time in August, and into early September, when they were really aggressive and really attacking the fly. I didn't lose many fish during this period. Then came early to mid September, and I started losing fish. A lot fish. Not coincidentally, the takes were becoming lighter and lighter. No more were they slamming the fly, but rather they would nipping at it, inhaling it gently, and picking it up on the drop. It seemed the average hit during this time came right between strips... Generally right when I was letting go of the line to reach up and grab it again, I would feel a light grab and it was difficult to find the line and get a good hook set. I went through a period of time when I felt like I just couldn't keep them on the line. I think this was largely due to poor strip setting technique. Luckily I was able to rectify that by reading advice from other board members, and really focusing on the strip set. The other thing that helped me is the light takes... That is, when the grab wasn't as quick and jolting, I wasn't so quick to react. I felt like I had that split second time to remind myself to strip set, and I lost very few fish late in the season. These grabs were all extremely trouty to me, including the fish I picked up today. All the grabs came on the drop, where they would pick it up and I'd feel a light tug, tug, tug on the loose line between strips. A good strip set and it was game on.

Something Matt pointed out to me today, that I feel is extremely interesting, is that several fish he had caught were hooked from the outside of the mouth in, rather than the other way around. We were discussing this, and it occured to me that I had had several fish hooked in the same manner. We were thinking that this must mean the fish were either hitting it broadside, or perhaps hitting it head first. I then landed a fish a short time later that was indeed hooked from the outside of the mouth. Very interesting observation, Matt. I wonder if they attack it differently as the season progresses.

I lost many hooked fish this year. Most I feel were lost due to poor hook sets, but operator error played a factor in other ways as well. Pay attention to your hook/leader! A sharp hook is soooo important. I experimented with many hooks this year, and settled on the Gami Octopus size 1. This hook seems to stay sharp the longest, even when dinged up, and it sharpens up well when dull. Watch the condition of your leader! I didn't have a single fish bust me off this year, something I'm very proud of. I was ultra careful watching my leader for wind knots, abrasions, knicks, cuts etc. and it paid off. I used 15lb Maxima Ultra Green exclusively once again this year.
Speaking of gear, I spent the bulk of this season fishing a 9' 8 wt equipped with a Rio Outbound Short intermediate line. I feel this line is perfectly suited to fishing our beaches, and can cover about 90% of of the beach fishing scenarios I encounter. I will be adding a quicker sinking line to my arsenal before next year so that I'm able to fish some of the deeper water from my boat.

I feel that my fish fighting abilities grew in leaps and bounds this season, and I feel the most important part of fighting a silver hooked in the salt, especially from the beach, is getting it on the reel as soon as possible. Looking back over the season it is obvious that the bulk of the fish I lost were lost before I got them on the reel. I honestly feel that as careful as I try to be, I'm just not able to smoothly feed a fish line when it takes off on the herky jerky style runs silvers are great at. I think I can count on one hand the number of fish I lost that I actually had on the reel. A technique that really helps to get them on the reel is something that Dimebrite has suggested many times, and I just this year really made use of it. Back up the beach! By backing far up the beach, while feeding line to a fish while it runs, I am able to get the fish on the reel ultra quick.

I also spent more time gear fishing from a boat than I have in at least a dozen years. I ended up buying two boats this summer. A 15' Smokercraft, followed by a 19' Arima. I found that I enjoyed this type of fishing immensely, and plan to do more of it over the winter and into the spring. My son also got out and caught his first salmon this year. He's not too into the beach yet, but he loves fishing from the boat.

Overall 2013 was by far my best salmon season to date, both in terms of numbers of fish caught, as well as overall fun and satisfaction. Its a great feeling to finally feel some confidence on the beach. I have many, many people to thank for a great season. I'm hoping to sneak out once or twice this week, but if it doesn't happen I'll know that it ended on a great note. Matt and I fished a MA9 beach for the incoming tide this morning with very little action seen. Later on we both fished a different beach for the high tide exchange, and I was rewarded with what could probably be the final silver of the season. It was a gorgeous, crisp October day. We could not have picked a better final day.

Bring on the chums!



Saw this guy playing in the shallows, but couldn't get him to take. Any suggestions for next time, Boot??


I bought this at the beginning of the season because my local fly shop was sold out of the little finger sock things I normally use. It worked great once I got used to it, but after a HARD season of fishing this is thing is a biohazard. It may be the most disgusting piece of fishing equipment I own, even worse than my lucky hat! Gotta love it.


Who needs silvers? Flounder are just as fun!


Ira working over a beach in the fog. Never would have known he wasn't a long time salt vet.


Dryflylarry in deep focus working his popper


Ethan's first salmon. Think he was thrilled?


First father/son Sekiu trip. I have many, many fond memories growing up out here. This was a very special day for me to bring my son to experience it.


Yep, Ethan just loves getting up early to go salmon fishing with Dad!


First boat purchase. This 15' Smokercraft turned out to be a fantastic boat. A perfect fly fishing platform for dumping in at lousy launches and fishing off beaches. I also fished this boat at Sekiu a dozen or so times, Blake Island for Lings, the Canal for cutties, Gig Harbor/Point Defiance for Kings... Great boat! (Notice Ira doing something he doesn't have to do in a stillwater... fill out a punch card!)




Ethan much prefers the big boat


The fruits of my labor.


Last silver of 2013? You can tell by the grin, it's been a fun season.



Friggin sweet man! Maybe one day I'll be able to get into Coho like you do. I at least caught one by accident this year. :). I'd like to be able to catch them more intentionally. I caught mine on an olive wooly bugger with a gold bead at the end of a rip. it was nice though. :)


Waters haunt me....
Awesome report and recap! You actually made me feel like I was the one going through the progression stages of salt fishing. I didn't get the chance to do a whole lot of salt fishing this year due to military commitments but sharing your experiences made me feel like I was there. Thanks for living the dream but most especially making sure that it gets passed on. I know I will get my time eventually. Maybe even get the chance to meet you and the other guys (SF, DimeB et al.. Had the chance to speak with Ira in 2011 about West Palm snook fishing but never met him either) out there and not through the computer screen.

Tight lines,

Great post brother! Great freaking info, and well written. I really wanted to meet you guys out there, but I made a couple of other trips that kept me away from the beaches. Luckily in early season I landed a couple of beach coho, my first after several years of chasing them. I'm ready for chum, another fish that has eluded me! I'm sure I'll bump into you this fall.


MA-9 Beach Stalker
Congratulations on a great season Nick, your skills are complete. That Arima is a nice looking boat, and should give you years of good memories. Let's hope that the strong silver runs continue in 2014.


Active Member
Great report and recap Nick! I think you captured the season well. I'm ready for some chum too! Then like SF said, the long wait until next year when we finally land some kings! ;)
A fantastic recap, Nick. Thanks for taking the time.

It was an odd season for me, and it's been a bit of a bummer. I did great early on in August--plenty of pinks, a handful of smaller silvers, and one good-sized silver. And then suddenly it just turned off. I haven't caught a decent fish since September 11th! I don't know what happened. Just a poor run of luck, or maybe I just kept missing the fish. It seemed like every time I went out I would see nothing caught, then I would talk with people the next day and they would say, "oh, man, it really picked up after you left." Ugh.

Anyway, I'm holding out hope for one more silver before I call it quits. I'm hoping to get out of Seattle and try to make that happen this weekend. We'll see.

Either way, great reportage. I'm glad you had such a fantastic season Nick. I look forward to seeing you on the beach.



Active Member
It was a good season for sure and glad you got out there one more time. Unfortunately it looks like I may have to work through October into November and miss the chum season (again) but maybe we can get together for some steelhead in December!


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