Fly fishers are often event oriented, setting their calendars to capitalize on some fleeting occurance in nature that makes the fish go bonkers. We have the Salmonfly hatch on western rivers, the egg or mouse “hatch” in Alaska, the tarpon that drunkenly annihilate palolo worms during a relatively small window in the Southeast. Here in Puget Sound, where trout are about as educated in entomology as your average steelhead fisherman, there aren’t a lot of annual events that get everything stirred up for a few weeks to a few months and that savvy fly fishers try to take advantage of when they come around. About the closest thing we have is the yearly outmigration of salmon fry that swarm downstream in our rivers towards the saltwater just hoping to get big enough to swing the balance from prey to at least equal parts prey and predator. Chum fry are one of the most important and prolific food sources for resident trout and char in our relatively infertile Northwest rivers. Though the fry outmigration may only last 2-3 months in total, everything seems to know how to get while the getting is good. There are lots of popular chum fry patterns that have been around locally for years. Doug Rose’s Keta Rose and Bob Triggs’ Chum Baby are old staples.
Fry tend to travel in the upper water column and when they’re getting relentlessly attacked, end up very near the surface. Oftentimes the crippled or injured will plow a wake as they struggle to right themselves or get their bearings. Nothing says “eat me” more poignantly than a bunch of helpless splashing and darting in the surface film.
The Chum Fry Skater, essentially a Gurgler pattern, captures this injured behavior perfectly and rings the dinner bell for any predators in the area. You can play around with different sizes and color schemes to your liking but the version I tie here seems to get the job done day in and day out.
By all means, have a variety of patterns in your box. You’ll want some with bead or cone heads and some without, but you’ll absolutely want at least a few floating or skating patterns for those magical times when the fish are hunting on top. Brace yourself for some memorable takes on the Chum Fry Skater!
Chum Fry Skater
Hook: #4 Gamakatsu SC15
Thread: White 140 Denier Ultra Thread
Tail: Olive Farrar Blend
Flash: Pearl Krystal Flash
Back: White 2mm Foam
Body: UV Pearl Ice Dub
Confluence Beer Pairing: This month’s beer is Wander Brewing’s Smoked Helles Lager. I grabbed one (OK a few) of these at our North Sound Trout Unlimited Iron Fly Competition at Goods last month. It began as an attempt to settle a debate between two patrons who had differing opinions about the actual smokiness of the lager. One claimed it wasn’t smokey at all, the other asserted that it was like drinking a campfire.
I landed somewhere in between as I so often do on such matters and enjoyed it enough that I ordered several. It’s got the classic refreshing quality of a medium bodied German style lager with just a subtle hint of smoke. I’ll come right out and admit that it’s probably not for everyone but if you’ve got an adventurous palette you ought to give it a go. Kind of like skating a fry pattern for at least part of the day before reaching for the old standbys.