Story last updated at 7/15/2009 - 11:33 am
Among sporting circles there are often many analogies. One analogy that quickly comes to my mind is prize fighting and Alaska sport fishing. On one end of the spectrum we have the heavy-weights, the heavy hitters that are much like our king salmon and our barn door size halibut. And on the other end of the boxing spectrum, we have flyweights where the action is highly spirited and usually fast and furious. During the month of July in Southeast Alaska our coastal rivers and creeks will be an angling arena for fast and furious action - not with robust thunderous king salmon, but instead with small, aggressive and highly spirited pink salmon.
Pink salmon, or humpies, or simply pinks, are the smallest of our five species of North American Pacific salmon. They are also one of our most abundant, and that's great for fly-fishers. Like locusts, during the months of July and early August, they invade our coastal streams and on good return years their sheer numbers not only clog watersheds, but also cast a continuous amoeboid shadow along river bottoms.
Fresh, chrome bright pinks are built like little tuna. During this stage, saltwater pinks lack the characteristic "humped back" of their fresh water - sexually mature - counterparts and are aggressive little demons that will readily pounce on a passing fly offering. While in the salt, or fresh from the salt, pink salmon are wonderful quarry for lightweight fly gear. They are particularly strong for their size - 3 to 7 pounds - and usually good for several solid runs. In addition, their extreme abundance offers numerous opportunities for anglers to refine fundamental angling skills, explore various techniques, try new fly patterns or practice presentations all with immediate feedback in the form of "grabs" from aggressive fish.
Pink salmon are very aggressive and no other salmon species in our area will accept a fly as readily as pinks will. Because of this innate affinity for grabbing flies, proper fly line selection is not as important when fishing for pinks as it is when targeting other salmon species. In contrast to other salmon, the line one chooses for pinks can instead be associated with a specific fishing condition or a particular approach in presentation. For example, when pinks are holding in moderate flowing runs at depths of two to three feet, I enjoy fishing a full dry line and many times will exclusively fish skated poppers. The excitement of watching a gaping jaw following a skating popper will electrify any fly anger - beginner or advanced - and will quickly addict them to top water popper fishing. On the other hand, when pinks are schooled up in deep holding pools, sinking lines of appropriate sink rates (are the rule) fished in a traditional quarter-down and across approach. Once again, it is their willingness to grab flies that makes them ideal quarry for the fly rodder.
It's been repeatedly stated that pink salmon are gluttons for intercepting fly offerings, and for the most part this is true. However, they do tend to show a strong preference in the color of the fly being offered. Generally speaking, the fly color most associated with pink salmon in Southeast is the color pink. In fact, all of my flies that I tie for pink salmon - whether they are poppers on top or sub-surface flies for swinging - are tied exclusively to the theme of pink.
Pink salmon are a small and abundant salmon that inundate our local watersheds of Southeast Alaska like clockwork each July. They are extremely fly fisher friendly which makes them an idea target for recreational sport fishers of all skill levels. The next several weeks in Southeast should be an exciting time as sport anglers enthusiastically await the fresh arrival of these wonderful featherweights of the salmon family that a good friend of mine calls "the fighting Gorbushas."
Good luck and tight lines!
Rich Culver is a fly-fishing freelance writer and photographer and member of the Scott Fly Rod Company's Pro Staff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.