It has been a club tradition for a number of years to head to the Oregon coast for our November Fish-A-Long where we go after Chum Salmon. It is hoped that by our November 9th outing we will have received enough rain (but hopefully not too much!) to draw these fish into our coastal rivers. The Kilchis River is our normal destination although the Miami River also has a run of chums. If you have some extra time this fall, there are many more opportunities to catch chum salmon in Washington waters. In fact, the WDFW website has a note indicating that Chum salmon are the most abundant wild salmon species in Washington state. Be sure to check out the Washington regulations if you are planning to head up there.
Chum salmon are sometimes regarded as the “ugly stepsister” of all of the species of Pacific salmon. They can be chrome bright while still in the ocean but soon begin to develop characteristic markings as they prepare to enter freshwater. After entering rivers chums are readily identifiable by their characteristic olive green coloration with purplish vertical striping and blotches along their sides.
Chum Salmon– Ocean Phase Chum Salmon– Spawning Male
Chum salmon are sometimes referred to as dog salmon, with research showing two possible origins for that name. One explanation is that name comes from the impressive mouthful of sharp teeth seen in the males as they approach spawning time. A second explanation is that the reference to dog salmon comes from the habit of Native Americans feeding the flesh of the chum salmon to their dogs. Chums are not known for their aerial acrobatics but they fight like bulldogs and are not brought in easily, so don’t go light in selecting your gear.
Impressive Teeth! Be sure to bring a good set of pliers.
This month we will be tying up a fly called The Comet. Don Conway of Seattle is credited with coming up with the design for this fly back in 1934 and It was later popularized by Grant King in the salmon and steelhead rivers of northern California in the 1940’s. While we will be targeting Chum salmon there is no reason to think that it would not be effective for any of the species of Pacific salmon, as well as steelhead. I have also read reports that the Comet is also an effective smallmouth bass pattern. For Chums the fly is normally tied in chartreuse. There is an old saying in regard to chum salmon… “it’s no use if it ain’t chartreuse”, regardless of the specific fly pattern. However, many anglers report that if the chums aren’t responding to chartreuse flies it is time to switch to something that is hot pink. So hopefully, we will have both the time and materials to tie up both chartreuse and pink Comets. And if something happens with the weather and it messes with the Kilchis Fish-A-Long, all is not lost, as these flies can also be used as dandy steelhead patterns.
Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, October 23. Even if you are not planning to attend the Kilchis River fish-a-long the Comet would be a fly to have in various colors in your steelhead, salmon or smallmouth bass fly box. The Comet is not a difficult fly to tie and would be suitable for tyers of all abilities or experience.
We’ll see you at 6 pm !
Gil Henderson (left) and Lane Hoffman (right) with Kilchis River chum salmon.