Cloudy, rainy days filled with chrome

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by Jason Bowers

After a long stormy day on the water a pod of chrome coho finally showed up at the Gnarlies – just as the dinner bell rang.  The cold, wet afternoon was redeemed by a few hot coho at the 11th hour.  We headed back to the lodge with our heads held high – no longer minding that we were being pounded by marble sized raindrops.  Back at the dock as my fishing partners headed in for supper I couldn’t bring myself to take my gear off and head for shelter.  I needed more!

 
After a quick turn around I headed back out solo.  Dropping the anchor in the exact spot we had just left, the surface of the water in all directions came alive with fast and fierce swirling coho.  They were aggressive – tossing water in all directions with each swirl.  If you looked closely enough you could catch flashes of chrome as the coho devoured juvenile herring on the surface and quickly disappeared into the darkness of the depths below.  Tossing a gurgler from the bow, the coho were so aggressive that you could see their white mouths open as they rocketed toward the surface devouring the fly.  Cast after cast the increasingly tattered fly would disappear inside the mouth of a bright 8-11 pound coho as the fish turned, peeling off line well into my backing.
 
The current was unsettled and waffled from one direction to another.  With every change in direction the surface action would settle.  I would dash down to the stern where my wet line lay idle.  Casting in all directions with no hits I wondered, “where had they all gone?”.  Within minutes came an arm-pulling jerk from well below the surface and a frenzied coho cartwheeled into the raindrops trying to dislodge the hook.  It was time to run back to the bow and continue throwing the dry line, again hooking fish after fish.  After two hours of this routine and 20 plus coho to the boat, the tide swung and the current changed direction.  The pods of chrome bullets disappeared back into the depths.  Reeling up both fly lines I headed for home.  
 
The stomachs of the 2 fish I harvested were completely empty – they were new arrivals to Dundas, showing up with empty bellies and voracious appetites.  Back at the lodge taking off my gear I felt more than satisfied and almost in disbelief at what I had just experienced!  
 
These moments can happen to anglers frequently this time of the season and we all hope to be one of the lucky ones – in the right place at the right time.

What to expect in August?

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As the summer winds gently blow warm air off the Pacific so comes with it one of our finest fisheries of the season.  It’s NORTHERN time:  when large, hooked nosed coho begin their journey past Dundas Island.  These large coho can grow in excess of 18 pounds and boy do they fight!  Cartwheeling through the air and making long screaming runs they are a true testament to what is still wild and pure.  Plentiful and very aggressive, they are significantly different in appearance to the early run fish.  Shiny blue backs are replaced by olive greens with noses hooked in preparation for their upcoming spawning battle.  After a long 3 or 4 year journey into the open Pacific these perfect specimens are destined to northern rivers like the Skeena, Nass, Kitwanga or the Kwinamass, just to name a few of the local watersheds.  This is exciting fishing which tests light tackle to the max!  Many guests prefer to put down the mooching rods and jig buzz bombs or Stingsildas with even lighter tackle while others enjoy bucktailing or casting a fly.  Whichever method you choose they can all be very successful and produce some heart-stopping excitement.  As table fare, coho salmon is one of the finest.  Lean, bright red meat lends itself nicely to the smoker or on the BBQ. 

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Combine this coho action with the fabulous bottom fishing and it makes August a great time of year to come enjoy Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge.  Remote by nature, Dundas Island has very few local anglers or charter boats making the long trek to our waters in August and early September.  It is remote, quiet and exciting, everything that you expect out of a fly-in fishing trip.  When the day is done you can look forward to our fabulous hostess preparing you a specialty cocktail and après-fishing treats on the back deck.  A great way to wind down after a long hard day on the water, after all catching big coho and halibut and be very stressful!  

2015 Year in Review – Coho Fishing

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Coho Fishing
 
What a fantastic year for coho!  Large numbers of coho arrived in early June holding strong through early August, and they were big!  Many of these bright, blue-sided early coho were tipping the scales at well over 10 pounds.  These fish were not likely returning to our northern rivers but rather were headed to the south or central coast – hence their early arrival.  The strong early presence of these fish was a great indication of what was about to come in August.
 
August fly-fishing was outstanding!  In the history of our fly-fishing program at HNNL it ranked among our top three seasons.  Double-digit days were normal and not the exception in 2015.  Some of our anglers were even lucky enough to tackle a Chinook on the cast fly!  Although rare, such events do happen and when they do, watch out!  Not nearly as abundant as previous years, our late season local coho seemed to follow a different pattern than usual.  These fish weren’t found offshore chasing deep schools of herring but instead we found them regularly driving jack herring in amongst the kelp forests into very shallow water.  While looking down you could often watch pods of coho cruising for feed.  These fish seemed to really focus on surface presented flies.  There were many days throughout August where anglers didn’t have to throw a wet line and could watch coho voraciously attack gurglers on the surface cast after cast.

Saltwater Freight Trains

Things picked up right where we left off for the next group of eager guests. On the weekend trip, long-time friends and guests, the M.A.P group, from Alberta joined us for some great fishing.

The large saltwater freight trains continued to roll through the waters surrounding Dundas Island and another massive Chinook salmon was reeled in! A big Congratulations goes out to Joerg, who reeled in a 52lb. hog! This was Joerg’s first time out to Haa-Nee-Naa and his largest salmon to date!

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That same morning 3 other tyees were brought to the dock – including a solid 40lb chromer caught by the “Candyman” Mel! It is mornings like these that really make us appreciate this spectacular fishery and beautiful area we have to chase these fish of a lifetime! Both Coho and Chinook fishing stayed very consistent for the following two days with plenty of action to be had. Periods of frantic, aggressive Coho action kept anglers very busy during certain times of the day. It was vital to jig at least 75 herring to make it through the day! The M.A.P boys all left with sore arms, smiles on their faces … and like everyone else, wishing they could stay for just one more day!

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Salmon fishing stayed very consistent for the weekday trip with plenty of action to keep everyone smiling. The largest Chinook caught was a hard fighting 41lber, reeled in by long time guest, and no stranger to big fish, Gary Lewis. There seemed to be an abundance of Chinook between the 25-29lb mark … oh so close to that shot of Goldschalger and a HNNL tyee pin! Beautiful fish.

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The Coho are continuing to gain weight, averaging 8-13lbs, making them a blast to catch on mooching gear! Chef Paul was out fly-fishing at Holliday Island and hooked the first Coho of the season on a clouser. Conditions are setting up nicely for productive fly-fishing in August.

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Halibut fishing has remained excellent and all of our hot spots are producing the usual 10-20lb chickens with the occasional 100cm+ one caught.

This last weekend another guest joined the Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge 50+ club! Congratulations goes out to first time guest Jon who fought the 54lb slab, guided by local expert Clint. That marks the 3rd 50+ Chinook caught this year at the lodge. Another personal best was set last trip by newcomer Chris who landed a pretty 43lb Spring salmon with rookie guide Clayton Vanier.IMG_1810

Knowing that your next bite could turn into one of these monsters really gets the adrenaline going when you are out on the water! Big fish continued to roll in throughout the trip with a couple 30+ pounders caught each day.

On a side note, Monday morning we received more rain in two hours than we have in the past two months! But not to worry, we are back to Northwest winds and sunny skies. Time to get some shuteye as 4:30am comes quickly and I wouldn’t want to miss the morning freshies!

Tight lines,

Nugget