Wicked Twitch – Drive Coho Crazy!
Terry J. Wiest
Oh September is a beautiful month for Coho. While most anglers are targeting them in the salt, I was up in Yakutat Alaska at Glacier Bear Lodge (www.glacierbearlodge.com) targeting them in the rivers along with good friends Mike Zavadlov and Steve Turner. Like other salmon species, they hit the rivers earlier than the lower 48 and we couldn’t wait. I haven’t twitched for Coho for several months and my “go to” method was itching to see how these Alaskan behemoths would respond. (Note to Editor: I know this is Alaska but it’s a preview for what to expect on the “West Side” in October).
Fortunately for us we had just missed a massive storm which knocked out the rivers for a solid week. Even though it rains pretty much every day from September through April, the rivers generally stay in shape. As we arrived it was sunshine and low, clear water conditions. Good news – Coho have been spotted in all the local rivers.
The Situk would be our main focus, but being a 14 mile float we had to opt for a secondary river the first day as we only had about 5 hours of daylight in the afternoon after unpacking and getting geared up. We all decided the Lost River would be our choice. This is a very small river with only 1.5 miles open to fishing. As we approached the river where the boundary begin we could see other rigs and even better, a few fish rolling against the bank. What a site – at least 20 fresh Coho were visible on the opposite bank which was only about 20ft wide. We approached the hole cautiously so as not to spook the fish and let a 3/8oz jig fly. First cast… nada. Second cast… the same. It appeared to be too much weight. As I retied a ¼ oz jig on Mike hooks up with his first cast, not with a jig but with a purple wicked spoon. What a gorgeous fish. The fish made several acrobatic leaps before we brought him close to shore and released him. A solid 10lb fish and chrome bright, hopefully we’ll get into more like this beauty.
The weight was the difference on my jig as the third cast into my lighter jig, a pure black ¼ oz Aero Twitching Jig produced a twin of the fish Mike had landed. Both Mike and I were able to hook a few more fish each and we decided to start walking down river. Steve decided his only gear on this day would be his camera, and what amazing shots he captured during the 4 days there. For those that aren’t sure of their footing the State of Alaska actually puts down plastic grates along the rivers for anglers to walk on. What a concept – the State actually making it easier for sports anglers to fish! Think that will catch on in Washington? Maybe with a new Commissioner huh?
The Lost turned out to be a great little river. We hooked 30 or so Coho to about 12lbs, either twitching jigs, throwing Wicked Spinners and yes, even fly fishing (at least Mike hooked several on the fly).
Day two was what we were after though. The Situk River was flowing below normal at 220CFS and ultra clear. It reminded me of why I loved this river so much for Steelhead. Hopefully Coho would be just as good. Turns out, it would be better… much better.
I mentioned a 14 mile float. Well we didn’t even fish for the first 7 miles. We did encounter one bad ass mother grizzly that was not in the least happy with us intruding into her space. Believe me, we didn’t want to be there either and luckily were able to scoot around her with the drift boat as she hissed, spit, moaned, and strutted back and forth trampling trees along the shoreline as we were able to pass.
During those 7 miles we also passed several large pods of fish that contained more fish than any of those we’d seen on the Lost. We were joined by Glacier Bears head guide Eddie, the Best Mexican Guide in Alaska who’d we’d met last April while there for Steelhead. Eddie told us to be patient, that we’d be fishing holes that contained 100 to 200 if not more Coho! Are you kidding me? He was not.
As we finally approached the first hole we’d be fishing you could see the surface boiling with fish – fresh Coho averaging 12lbs with several well over 15lbs. There had to be at least 200 fish in this first hole and they were super aggressive and supplied us with non-stop action. On most trips I would have been happy to fish just that hole the entire day, but we still had 7 miles of prime water left and with every bend it appeared to be a hole that was even more impressive. There were four other boats on the run that day, nothing for a float that long with Coho stacked in every hole.
Although the river was extremely low, I upped my Twitchin Jigs to 3/8 oz. since we’d be casting a little further than the previous day. I was using both Mack’s Lure Bucktail jigs and Aero Twitchin jigs. Mike started out with Wicked Lures which also proved to be killer. He and Steve also had their fly rods out and even hammered them with the bugs. Amazing thing – they got me my very first fly caught fish ever… and yes that was a blast!
Most other boats appeared to be throwing spinners or spoons with the most popular being #5 Vibrax spinners and Pixie Spoons! Oh, they worked, but none of them were comparing to the action that our Twitchin Jigs and Wicked Lures were providing. Doubles were common, and yes when Steve put his camera down we even managed a few triples. Was it every cast? Nope. There were times we’d hook 4 or 5 in consecutive casts, but there were also slow periods in which we may not hook a fish for 5 or 6 minutes, if you can call that slow.
My twitchin setup consisted of the new G. Loomis IMX 9000 Twitchin rod, Shimano Stella 3000 with 30lb Green PowerPro tied directly to the jig. The star jig – the Aero Creepy Nightmare (a standard nightmare pattern with white rubber legs).
Mikes setup was a FethaStyx 763 Twitchin rod, Shimano Stradic 2500 with 30lb Green PowerPro with a 8ft 15lb mono bumper tied to the jig.
For Wicked Lured we both used the same rods/reels we used for twitchin and they were super good for spinners as well. For the Wickeds however I went along with Mikes tactic of added a bumper (4ft) to a 3 way swivel. A small ¼ to ½ oz weight was attached to the swivel and then another 4ft to the spinner. The star spinner… Purple Blade / Black Hootchie Wicked Lure.
We primarily used Aero Twitchin Jigs as they tied specifically for this technique, but we also hammered them on Mack’s Lure Bucktail Jigs. Although we did use ¼ oz on the really small Lost River, 3/8 oz was preferred on the low clear days and ½ oz on day three was a must –when it rained 8 inched in 18 hours! Dark colors dominated in the clear water while a bubblegum pink squid jig is what they were looking for when the river colored up.
Wicked spinners in dark colors also were dialed in under the low clear conditions with either a purple or blue blade with a black or purple hootchie skirt. Once the river rose and got colored up we retired the Wickeds for this trip – they did however produce tons of hookups and are a must in your Western Washington or Oregon arsenal.
To twitch is simple – at least in theory. The hole should be slow to no moving. Coho love frog water and twitchin is the most effective way I’ve found to pound them in the slow water. Cast out and let the jig sink – preferably to the bottom. Then twitch the rod which will pull the jig up and to you – as the jig falls reel in the slack only, you want the jig to free fall. Repeat this process all the way through the hole. If you get hit you’ll know it as on the fish will hit on the fall, so the next twitch you will feel the fish – set the hook. Twitch too fast and the jig will rise to the surface, out of the strike zone. Too slow and it will dance on the bottom. Although it will be pulled up into the strike zone it’s preferred to “fall” in the strike zone – again they will hit it on the fall. Cadence is something that you have to experiment with each trip, each hole to find the most effective speed. Once found there’s nothing more effective.
For rising or off colored water, or both, switch to a squid jig (Silver Horde Bubblegum 4 inch hootchie). The bright colors and action of the tentacles will get their attention even with minimal visibility.
Wicked spinners are just like most other spinners, except the body of the spinner has no weight. The weight remember is tied to a three way swivel approx. 4ft from the spinner itself. As with all spinners you want the slowest retrieve while making sure the blade is spinning. In faster current you can cast out and just let the Wicked swing through the hole. In slower water cast out, let the weight hit the bottom and then start with a small twitch to get the spinner moving. Retrieve ultra-slow. When they hit you’ll know it. We had several Coho almost yank the rod from our hands during the most recent trip – they love em.
This most recent trip may have been Alaska but Coho are Coho – get your twitchin jigs and Wickeds ready for October, it’s going to be a blast!