The leaves are turning, the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, the air is getting colder and of course, the salmon are beginning to make their migration up the tributaries to spawn. I would say fall is almost here, in some areas it is more apparent then others. I will be chasing salmon as much as I can in the next couple of months. Below is some information relating to surf and river fishing for fall salmon.
Surf's up salmon:
Taking ito the the beach!
Right now it is by far the best time to tackle the surf for salmon. With fish coming near shore, you have the opportunity to cast to them as they cruise and stage outside the tributary mouths, pierheads and deeper shoreline ruks. As you know, this is my favorite way to chase salmon/steelhead in fall and spring. What you are looking for in particular are beach temps that are in confluence with river temps, or just a little cooler. When this happens, fish will stage near shore awaiting higher flows or lowlight to enter the tributaries. Early morning and dusk are the best time for the surf. You must also consider wind speed/direction. Depending on where you are fishing, this can be crucial. A few days with an East wind along Michigan's, Lk. Michigan shoreline will cause warm shoreline water to be replaced by a coldwater updwelling of offshore water, creating a thermal shelf that keeps fish closer to shore. When this happens, you should hit the surf...ASAP! Also, consider tributary outflow when surfin'. Any flow might attract fish, especially if the water is cooler then the lake water temps. Here is what I use and works best for me when chasing salmon on the beach...
9'-6" 8wt, fast action single hander or 12'-14' 8/9wt two handed rod
Ross BG 5 Large Arbor capable of holding 200yds of backing w/ flyline
Rio Aqualux or Airflo Clear Intermediate 8/9wt or 400-700 grain shooting heads for pierheads and deeper channels
2' of 25lb butt section of soft mono(shock absorber) and then to 3-4' of 10-12lb Maxima
Large streamer imitations. 2/0 and 1/0 work best for me. I tie all my own for the Great Lakes region to match smelt, alewives, herring and etc. Flash decievers, large clousers, half and half's and Cowen's baitfish are all good patterns to have.
Headlamp for early morning and AquaGlo to add to streamers/flyline for low light.
Well, surfs up!
Salmon are showing up in many tributaries already. Usually after a good rain if the lake temps and river temps are somewhat in confluence, you will get a push of fish. Several rivers in Michigan's northwestern region have had fish in the system for weeks. Across the region, rivers like the Salmon
in NY already have decent numbers of fish as well. I have been chasing kings since late July, and I have had my fair share of fish. Usually by mid september you can expect salmon to be in most rivers, but that all depends on the conditions. Salmon will gravel up eventually, and sight fishing to gravelling fish can be exciting, but it can also be unethical at times. Usually, the best bet is to fish to salmon in the deeper runs and holes throughout the system. Freshest fish will hold in deeper, faster pocketwater that is highly oxygenated. I prefer fishing to salmon here, as you get alot more "true" hookups then elsewhere. Every season you hear about salmon eating or not eating while they are in the rivers. When a salmon stages in a river, it has spawning on its mind and its stomach shrinks. It is true that salmon will take a fly whether it be out of aggression, instinct or pure curiosity.(I have done this with a marabou spey pattern!!) Believe what you want, but the idea will never be right/wrong. Here is what works best for me in the rivers when chasing salmon...
10' 8wt moderate action single hander or 12'-14' 8/9wt two handed rod
Harris Solitude III or Ross BG 4 for my single handers and Ross BG 7 for my two handers. Both need to hold 150+ yds of backing.
Rio Salmon/Steelhead taper in an 8wt or 9wt for my single handers and same for my spey rods. Usually, I will jump up 2 sizes for my spey line since true spey lines are higher in # of grains. I cut back 10'-15' so use with indicators is easier and for tips/heads as well.
Never go without EGGS. Have them in several colors and sizes. Also stonefly imitations(#8-10), green caddis(#8-10). hex nymphs(#4-8) and assorted nymphs. Streamer/spey patterns such as Green Butt Skunks, Marabou speys, Egg sucking leeches and sculpins are always good.
Well, hope this helps. Get out there, salmon are here!