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Fly Fishing for Salmon and Steelhead of the Great Lakes Paperback – February, 1997
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SAULT STE. MARIE -- Pay attention, everybody. Class is in session. No talking, pushing or name-calling. And, yes, there will be a test on this material later. Out on the St. Marys River, professor Kenn Filkins beams as student Tim Porter sets the hook on a big male pink salmon that puts a deep bend in his 9-foot, 8-weight fly rod. The fish has a No. 8 orange and black nymph in the corner of its mouth, a fly that Porter tied himself for trips out West "and never caught anything on it out there. This is the first fish I've taken on one." It is the first of perhaps 25 pinks that Porter, a visitor from Larchmont, N.Y., hooks in less than four hours, landing about a third of them. And with Filkins' tutelage, his ratio increases dramatically as the afternoon passes, ending with about two fish landed and released for each lost.
Filkins literally wrote the book about this kind of fishing, a big paperback called "Fly FIshing for Salmon and Steelhead of the Great Lakes." It covers everything from tackle to flies, from which rivers to fish to how and when to fish them. The book is especially relevant now as Michigan's stream salmon fishing swings into high gear from the Indian summer streams along the Indiana border to the icy waters of Lake Superior.
Filkins, a Sault Ste. Marie minister, jumped at a chance to get out on the Canadian side of the St. Marys rapids to demonstrate some of the techniques he writes about.
He says: "I try to get out here two, three times a week when the salmon are running," a time that begins with pink salmon in September, sees the powerful chinooks arrive in fishable numbers by Oct. 1, and closes with a run of high-jumping cohos in November (usually during the firearms deer season, which results in this run being largely ignored by Michigan outdoors types).
Unlike some fly snobs, Filkins won't hesitate to modify his fishing techniques if it means a chance to get a hookup. He and Porter found a dozen huge chinooks, several of them larger than 25 pounds, in the clear green waters of a 15-foot-deep pool 100 yards below the spillway.
The water was still very fast, so Filkins added another slinky to get the woolly bugger lure down to the fish. But he also added a tiny Colorado spinner blade and a red plastic bead above the fly to increase the odds of provoking a strike.
On this day, it didn't work. The big fish lay like logs in the cool, dim waters near the riverbed, moving just enough to hold their positions in the current. "They aren't in a mood to strike anything yet," Filkins said. "It's pretty rare they'll take a fly when they're holding in deep water like that, but sometimes adding a spinner and a bead that makes the lure look like an egg-sucking fly will get them going. Give them another week or so and they'll be up in the rapids, and they'll really be aggressive."
The majority of Michigan stream anglers fish salmon with spinning rods and spawn bags or spoons such as Cleos. They work, but my experience has been that a double wet fly rig will draw far more strikes over the course of the season -- and it's more fun to use, especially on shallow-water fish you can see and stalk.
Mentioning stalking brought to mind the need for caution not just in the way a fisherman moves but in how he or she dresses. Like many experienced anglers, Filkins believes bright clothing - orange hats, white T-shirts, so on -- can spook fish, especially those that have been cast at a lot. European anglers, who probably face the most line-shy fish in the world, often wear camouflaged clothing when they fish. While he doesn't espouse that extreme, Filkins believes drab clothing that blends into the background is an important part of any stream angler's bag of tricks.
One of the keys to the effectiveness of the double wet fly rig is the fly rod, which lets anglers cast the weighted outfit effectively, if a bit crudely. The second key is using flies that mimic the natural food that fish see in the river -- stonefly, mayfly and caddis larvae in sizes 6-10 and colors ranging from tan to black, and small salmon egg imitations about the size of a pea.
Finally, the double-fly rig also depends on a small tube of split shots called a slinky that keeps the fly at the fish's eye level. When the angler feels the slinky "tick, tick, tick" on the bottom as the flies drift through the run, he has the right amount of weight. If he has too much weight, the rig hangs up in the rocks constantly. Too little and the flies don't get down to the fish-eye level when they are most effective.
Doing an unscientific test, I tried drifting a double wet fly setup on a spinning rod, using split shots pinched directly on the line as weight. Over three hours I got three or four strikes but caught no fish, while the three anglers I was with hooked about 20 each.
When I borrowed Filkins' fly rod, I hooked eight pinks in 30 minutes and landed four. And while it wasn't a scientific test, it was as dramatic a demonstration of the effectiveness of the fly technique as I've seen. -- Detroit Free Press 9/24/98; BY ERIC SHARP, Free Press Outdoors Writer
About the Author
A native of Michigan, Kenn Filkins has fished all over the Great Lakes region, and has caught steelhead in every month of the year. He has spent the past six years researching the most productive fly fishing techniques of successful guides throught the Great Lakes rivers. Filkins has written extensively about fly fishing in regional and national magazines, including American Angler, Flyfishing, Sports Afield, and Michigan Out-of-Doors.
Top customer reviews
It covers Great Lakes steelhead and salmon fishing and not the NW. There's a big difference between the two mindsets and techniques.
I would definately buy it again.
The chuck-and-duck method is a fancy way to SNAG fish, and kid ones self that they drifted a nymph.....that (in his explanation), drops down in front of a fish near its face, and scares the fish into a reflexive bite.....in essence, (and in his own justification) comes out of nowwhere and yells "BOO" once it hits bottom and tightens under pressure. Hogwash.
This gives me the same ill feeling as when we watched Jim "if I spot em I got em" Teeny teach methods all based on sight-fishing and placing a swung fly constantly and repeatedly in front of fish at close range............WANKER! The steelhead doesnt get aggravated into striking by repetition like a largemouth on the beds does.
That method is abused and not properly fished by 95% of the people doing it. Michigan anglers have been taught this method, and just don't get it when hooks are piercing into the outside of the mouth or face.
Dragging and scraping bottom with a slinky and a long leader lines fish. Period. shorten your leaders, and learn how to properly bottom bounce. It takes YEARS to perfect.