Thursday, November 12, 2015

Surf Fly Fishing For Chinook Salmon

Sounds like some whacked out hoax.....It was, but my wife Nikki and I were there to experience it. I can honestly admit that it was the most insane fly fishing moment ever in my life, and I can tell it was Nikki's too.
This fish was hooked about 10 feet away from the shoreline, and it took me way into the backing.
We were about to leave for the day from a rivermouth spot (don't ask where - this is social media time and too many people see these posts and can crowd up an already too crowded fishery), and a man came up to me and said he kept on seeing fish surfing in the waves way down the beach from the river mouth. I was inquisitive, and decided to go check it out, but it seemed far-fetched.
Fish were zooming around all over as you can see with the surface disturbance a few feet off the beach.
When I got there, there was not much happening, and I was feeling like he saw something that was probably a thing of the past. Just when I was about to give up, I saw a tail slash out in the froth of the surf, and then some bumpy nervous water with fish surging about. I gained interest again. I noticed the fish were trying to get up the river, but they were taking a path along where the surf met the sand because there was a trough of water that was up to two to three feet deep, while sandbars that were inches deep created barriers to get into the river. In essence the river was cutting along the shoreline before it went out to sea, but the rivermouth was too shallow for the fish to actually be able to enter the river. The fish were sitting off the rivermouth in the shallow channel down the beach eating the last baitfish before making the entry to their natal waters on the next high tide. All of this was going on with several seals nearby looking for easy pickings.
Not your typical looking place to be fishing for Chinook Salmon.....
 I positioned myself into several different angles to the spot and stripped and swung my Clouser Minnow into the nervous water as it would periodically come by me. Nothing was happening, and it was annoying seeing it all go down, and not being able to feel one of these fish on the end of my line. I was watching my baitfish fly come through perfectly, and there were no fish chomping it down. I then looked into my fly box and put on a heavy dressed Clouser that I would consider the higher water or cloudier water version. I assumed that maybe they were not seeing the smaller ones I was fishing with in the surf with all of the froth, chop, and suspended sand. It turns out that that theory seemed to be the case because the first cast resulted in a 43" beast of a salmon. It gave me a battle I have not felt before on any fish so far in my angling experience.
This mean Chinook Salmon just tore me up for a very long time in the surf zone.
After that, I hooked another one on the next cast in the next batch of nervous water swimming by me. That fish was any bit as large, but I broke it off landing it in the surf after a long battle, and that the fish totally beat me up. It starting turning into a totally insane fishing session, where you would see a bunch of fish moving by and displacing water, and you would cast across and in front of it, and we would hook up with a salmon at will more or less. Nikki hooked up many times after I called it quits for the day, and I was super stoked watching her fighting mean vigorous salmon all on her own with no other anglers around. Then Nikki got into a fish that more or less took her for a ride with the backing seen several times. She had it in close only to have it rip off 100 yards plus of line and backing again. After she finally got the fish to budge and she pulled it back all the way to landing mode. The fish was almost broken of its will, and Nikki was forcing it into the last few feet of water before the sand meets the ocean, and then she yelled in frustration as the the hook pulled free. I could have reached down and tailed it for a second or two, but I was holding our nicest camera, and it isn't waterproof. Too much multitasking trying to hold a camera above the water and tailing a huge Chinook. It's better for the fish that it got away without a closer look, but not for Nikki being able to check out her catch up close and personal.
Fighting Chinook Salmon in the surf is without a doubt the most intense way to experience their power.
After that we couldn't muster up any more physical energy to think of tussling with another Chinook; so we watched the most beautiful sunset on a November day that was calm and warm. Life is good......
This fish really whooped me hard with a long battle with several long runs into the backing.
Oh yeah, and one thing of advice for anyone ever getting to experience this sort of a thing. You should probably have a 12wt for this, and I say this because normal heavy Chinook Salmon fly fishing gear of 9wt or 10wt rods is not enough for what these fish did to us while we tried to fight them in the surf. It is too painful in a good way.


  1. Just plain silly. That might be as much fun as chasing roosters in the surf in Baja, but much closer to home! Spent my first season chasing chinook on the fly this year. Unreal.