I don’t know about everyone else, but sometimes I think living in a world full of zombies would be pretty neat. It would sure put a lot of things into perspective for people and I would be a total badass feeding everyone with my fishing skills. Of course those aren’t the zombies I am here to talk about, but I might come back to that idea at a later date. I am here to discuss spawning Kokanee. In my little corner of the world they are everywhere in the fall. Everyone of my favorite tributaries that fishes so well all summer gets jam packed with the red plague. Every pool we walk down onto is filled to the brim with the swimming dead. Now I understand that Kokanee play a vital role in the river ecosystem as well we the surrounding area, but it can be quite frustrating when you just want to catch some cutties. As with most my articles my brother and I had recent experience the river zombies and I’ll share what we did to turn our trip into a win.
It was the second week of September and we had decided to take some days off during the week and get out on the water. We knew very well that Kokanee would be everywhere, but we figured we could either get some cutthroat to the surface on dries or we could always nymph some eggs behind the swimming plague. We headed out the door and drove to one of our new spots on a local river. On the small hike to the water we both stopped and looked at each other. Both of us had caught the overwhelming scent of a bear. There was no immediate sign of one, but it couldn’t have been there all the long ago. A few moments later when we saw the water it was more than obvious that it would have been an easy meal, the Kokanee were everywhere. We decided to give the spot our best go, but in the end it only smelled bad.
Undeterred, and honestly ignoring the fact that it probably wasn’t going to be any better anywhere else we headed off to a spot that very rarely disappoints. Well, needless to say it wasn’t any better and it did disappoint. There were not rampant numbers of Kokanee at this spot, but there wasn’t anything else either. In a last ditch effort we came to the conclusion that all the good fish would be at the mouth of the confluence picking off eggs and chunks of zombie meat. So hiked to the mouth of the tributary and began our assault on the water. I was able to pick up one tiny cutty in the first couple casts so we figured our luck was about to change. Several hours later and no fish my brother found a spot higher in the flow than I would have guessed to fish. He started getting regular bumps, but not a ton of hook ups. Turns out we found the world’s largest pile of whitefish all picking off eggs. We caught a few just so we didn’t forget that the tug is the drug and my brother even hooked a zombie. He was not pleased having to handle that fish. The walk back to the car was a bitter one, but we discussed tomorrows plans hoping to have some better luck.
The next day was upon us and we had a plan. We decided that the most obvious solution was the best one so we hoped in the truck and drove up past a dam. The silly river zombies can’t climb dams so we will be safe for sure. We had never actually fished above the dam on this particular river, but I heard of a few spots from other people so we weren’t all that worried. It wasn’t long before we had arrived. We were out of the truck, geared up and hiking down the steep bank in a matter of only a few minutes. We had pretty high hopes for the day as we figured our plan was pretty solid. When we arrived on the water it looked pretty unremarkable in that particular location, but we were okay with a little hiking. We started working every little run, pool and riffle we could see. We drifted nymphs in the seams, floated dries in the riffles and tugged streamers through the deep pools, but no fish were found. At this point I think we were both questioning our hobby choice and if we had any idea what we were doing. With nothing else to try we hiked back to the truck to go explore some more.
We were driving slowly along the road and my brother was on lookout with his head out the window trying to identify any piece of water that was going to have fish. It actually wasn’t all that long before my brother told me to pull over and so I did. It was another steep bank to climb down, but it did look fishy and much different than where we just were. The color of the water here was totally different as well oddly. I imagine whatever rocks the river traveled over in this section had a lot to do with that. I don’t recall who hooked the first fish, but it was a cutty and we were pumped. We caught a few under an indicator and then I had one come up and destroy my indicator on the surface, time to switch to dries. We were not getting the numbers on the surface, but it’s so hard to resist the chance for a surface take. None of the fish were monsters, but we were finally on some fish and it felt great. We had hammered this spot pretty hard to be honest and the fish were slowing down quite a bit. There was still some time left, but we had to make another move. We scrambled back up the steep bank and back into the truck we went.
We really hadn’t planned on going very far up this river so we didn’t take a very good look at Google maps beforehand. So when we weren’t near the water we just drove really fast until we could see it again. We ended up around the 50km marker before we saw something that was fishable. The water was still a ways away from the road, but we found a side road that headed in the right direction. It had taken us pretty close to the spot we were aiming for and it was only a 10 minute hike from there. As we broke through the last few branches from the forest and saw the water there was a very fishy looking spot just downstream. My brother started to make his way down there so I decided to try the riffles right where we had stumbled out of the forest. As I was getting ready to make my first cast I saw a fish rise almost right in front of me. I kept this piece of information to myself for the time being. I don’t think I had even taken my first cast before my brother was hooked up. I hurried down to where he was and helped him land his fish and snapped a few photos.
Back to my spot I headed fairly excited to get a fly in the water. There were several seams to choose from due to how the rocks broke up the river, but the first one I selected was the correct one for the moment. The indicator was down only seconds after it hit the water. I quickly landed the fish and sent him on his way. My brother was still working on fish number two. I took my second cast and this time the indicator had a little more time on the water, but the result was the same. Down she went and up came another cutty. At this point I was two casts, two fish. I began to make cast number three and at this point I could see my brother making his way over. My drift was getting long in the run and I was actually disappointed I wasn’t going to go three for three. I started to walk with my drift a bit just to see if I could get everything out of it and right near the end the indicator had once again disappeared. My brother helped me land this one and a few pictures were taken. I decided to take a seat and just watch.
The fish in this run had started jumping more and more and so my brother decided to do what any sane fly fisherman would do, he switched to a dry. Now, unlike the spot from earlier nothing slowed down at all when going to surface flies. My brother started landing them one after another; it was honestly getting a little silly. I snuck back in there myself with a dry fly. We were fishing no more than 10 feet apart and were both pulling them out one after the other. Without a doubt I don’t think I have ever caught so many fish in such a small area of water in my entire life. It was just one of those right place at the right time kind of moments. It’s a moment in my fishing career that I will never forget and will always hope to recreate one day. Eventually we had to call it and made our way back to the truck and back down the long dirt road. I even managed to miss a turn at one point and we ended up even further from home than we had planned.
Not sure there is any great lessons here, but just keep exploring and don’t let crappy days get you down. There is always the next day and another spot just down the road.