As the summer winds down and autumn becomes well established with the cooler nights and color changing leaves, the salmon move in to take over the coastal and Great Lake’s rivers. Here in Southern Ontario where we spent the summers casting dry flies for smaller resident trout, now it’s time to upgrade the gear to take on the mighty salmon which can achieve weights of 40lb+ even here in their landlocked home far away from their original Pacific coast habits.
While heading upstream these brutes have one thing in mind. Spawning! Feeding was all done out in the big waters, all in preparations for this time where they will be using every little bit of calories gained to fighting the current head on as they head up to their preferred spawning sites. Any fish that hits your fly will be purely out of reflex for the most part, as these determined battle worn fish won’t pass up a meal that happens to drift in front of them, so presentation is key!
The two best salmon presentations would be an salmon egg mimic tactic, as these fish won’t hesitate from eating spawn from their own species, also this time of year some trout are spawning upstream as well, so fish eggs at this time of year are a staple of any stream resident’s diet. Salmon eggs are choked full of nutrients, vitamins and fat, and often animals hunting salmon at this time of year will target females just to eat their eggs, leaving the actual fish behind. When it comes to spawning however, a pair will viciously defend their own egg and fry with every last ounce of life they have left in them.
The next successful presentation would be a streamer, egg sucking leech, wooly bugger, or any other fly fitting that streamer family when presented in a pool of resting salmon would be hard for them to resist. Anything bright and flashy especially with tinsel, mimicking a minnow holding in the current represents a calorie packed snack for a salmon to munch on as they head on their journey, and egg sucking leeches can be absolutely deadly as well.
Although not native, Pacific salmon offer a great albeit “created” fishery that we’re all welcome to take advantage of. Know your Salmonids though as it should be noted if you’re lucky enough to catch yourself the native “Atlantic salmon” it is a protected and endangered species, and must be released back as attempts to revive the species is underway.