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A crash course in saltwater fly fishing from shore
Less than five minutes into my first and only saltwater fly fishing lesson a week ago, my fearless instructor shared a tale worth retelling.
Fishermen have a way with tales — this we know — so when instructor Troy Dettman launched into this one, I shifted in my chair with a raised brow and suddenly scratchy chin.
“I guided in Alaska for five years out in the middle of nowhere,” Troy began nonchalantly.
“I’m a reporter, buddy, and I get paid to sniff this stuff out,” I thought to myself.
We were talking about pink salmon, or “humpies,” because every other year beginning in August, the pinks run through Puget Sound in mass quantities. They are abundant during these times and, at least for the experienced fisherman, fairly easy to catch:
“I’m so sick of pinks, I’d run through them with my prop!” Troy chuckled about his good ol’ days in the 49th state. “By year two, I was like, ‘Oh, my god, not another pink!”
“Oh, my god, the day I plow through a school of salmon to keep them AWAY is the day I wear a crimson and gray sweatshirt. Go Dawgs!” I said to myself.
So it took me little time to realize with whom I was dealing — a well-versed, selective fisherman — and that I wouldn’t learn how to catch a pink salmon, at least not on this day.
As the lesson wore on, Troy intertwined fishing stories with insider information, explaining the migration patterns of salmon through Puget Sound, when and where to fish, particularly for coho salmon, what to use and what not to use.
He offered pointers on casting and discussed how the size of a fly rod and the weight of its line affect casts. He mentioned a few saltwater fly fishing hot spots in Kitsap and discussed which flies to use and where.
Troy offers guided trips around Puget Sound, and after my crash course in salt and flies, I recommend a trip.
Here’s what I learned:
They love to chase bait. Troy likened the coho’s chase for bait to that of a grizzly bear running its claws down the back of a human; once it gets that first touch — or taste — it wants more. So when a coho strikes your fly, continue to strip your line in with short, fast jerks to emulate a wounded bait fish. Don’t stop to “wait” for another strike. A real, live wounded fish would not do so!
August and September are the best months to catch coho around Kitsap. From shore with a fly rod, try Lions Park in Bremerton, the beaches near Lynwood Center on Bainbridge Island or the Chico area of Dyes Inlet.
Fish during outgoing, low tides. The lower the tide, the better the fishing. Fish the last three of hours of a low tide, before the tide starts coming in, because low tides pull baitfish off the “flats.” The time of day, Troy said, is not nearly as important as the tide.
For saltwater fly fishing on the beaches, try using a 10-foot, 7-weight rod with a System 2 Large Arbor anodized aluminum reel. The 10-foot rod, as opposed to shorter rods, will give you more torque on your backcast and consequently more distance on your cast. The System 2 Large Arbor is durable and holds enough backing and a big enough fly line to balance the outfit. Anodized aluminum also is somewhat resistant to saltwater.
Fly line also is important; use an outbound shooting head, which is thick and heavy, with a tapered running line.