The pink salmon is a rather odd little fish. These fish, the smallest of the North American Pacific salmon have a two year life cycle and this has led distinctive odd and even year spawning runs. It is believed that these two distinct spawning runs are a relict of a long isolation between pink salmon populations at the northern and southern parts of their range during the last ice age. Today in the northern part of their range, i.e. Alaska and Northern British Columbia the even year run timing dominates, where as the odd year dominates in the Southern part of their range i.e. Southern British Columbia and Washington State. Being as this is the odd year of 2009 it is pink salmon time in Washington and not only that we are having one of the best returns since the 1960's. With around six million fish projected to be returning to the Puget Sound and close to one million fish to the Puyallup River alone.
Although pinks have a poor reputation with anglers due to their quality as a food fish, there are several things to like about them. First off is that just about all of those 6 million fish are wild and native fish instead of hatchery fish. That would be a very big plus in my book! Second is that they are probably the most fly friendly of the Pacific salmon and are a blast on a 6 weight rod.
With this many fish coming back the Sound naturally I have been trying to get as much fishing in for them I can while they are around. Yesterday Clint and I head out in his boat to see if we couldn't find a few of these fish. Lets just say they aren't to hard to find if you know where to look. We head out to a spot that had heard tell of good numbers of fish holding in and well there were extremely good numbers of fish holding there! In fact it took me all of three casts to catch my first fish, an average 4lb pink.
A bright pink taken on a baitfish pattern.
Overall pinks don't fight nearly as well as coho and while they seem to have perfected the underwater roll that coho love to use against me so much, they have a much more down, deep and dogged fighting style. In other words they aren't much for acrobatics, this doesn't mean that they aren't powerful fish through. Actually it is quite the contrary, and a few minutes after the first fish, I hooked into another very large and hot fish. This pink went straight into my backing, not once but three times. Each time I would bring him in at least within sight of the boat before he would go ballistic and take off again. However on the third run the fish gave me a big head shake and threw my fly. Not long after this I got another pink, followed by another one and then Clint finally got one too.
Clint hooked up with a decent fish
While we were truly on good numbers of fish, with twenty fish visible jumping or fining on the surface at any giving time, the number of hook ups was not quite up to parr. We both tried several different flies and a wide variety of stripping speeds but continued to only get sporadic hook ups. Then I finally landed on the hot fly of the day, something that should have been a natural choice. A cerise and pink marabou clouser. Talk about instant gratification, I tied this fly on cast it out made a couple of short erratic strips and bam I had a fish on. On the next cast the situation repeated itself. Then Clint who was also now using this fly got a fish as well.
Being that this is fishing through just when we figured things out the fish moved on and we had to go find another school. We spent about a half hour searching and getting a few hook ups before we really got into the fish again. Within two casts for me resulting two very nice male pinks at five and seven pounds. However just when we found the fish again we ran out of time to fish and had to reluctantly call it a day.