I’ve fished the Vedder River for many years and have met and fished with some of the ‘Best Rods on The River’. I’ve never even come close to landing as many fish as some of these legends.
But I’ve got something they don’t have. It’s an extremely special skillset that I’m sure many of you fisherman reading this struggle with. I hook ALOT of fish, But, I struggle to get them to shore and into the net.
I primarily have this issue with COHO salmon as they are super finicky and love to go absolutely haywire and shake their head when they near the shore. If fishing was easy, then it wouldn’t be fun and the challenges and failures are what make me so addicted to the support.. However, my landing rate was absolutely atrocious.
For the last couple of years I committed to learning secrets from the best to improve my success on the river and man it paid off. By switching a few simple things in my fishing technique and tackle I can happily say that I’m landing way more Coho, Chinook and Steelhead than I ever have before.
I’m not you’re a-typical Vedder River fisherman who wants to keep every little detail a secret. I want to share the love and help you bag more fish so you can enjoy the sport you love even more.
Here are the 10 most important things I learnt that helped me catch more Chinook and Coho Salmon on the Vedder River.
Keep Your Rod Tip Up
You’ve probably heard this one hundreds of times from grandpa, friends and guides when you’re on the river. It’s simple to say you will keep your rod tip up, but it is even easier to forget to do it. A typical problem for me is that I find I will occasionally dip the rod tip down when a fish starts to run. When the rod is straight and the fish is running it has all the power and will take advantage of that slack line to immediately spit out the hook.
If you keep your tip up you will always have pressure on the fish. If your drag is set properly than you don’t have to worry about the hook popping out of the fish’s mouth or the line snapping because it will release from the reel as needed. If you need to turn the fish to one direction or another you can tip the rod to the left or the right. But remember to keep that rod bent the entire time and pressure on the fish. It’s such an easy thing to change so next time you link into a toad ‘KEEP THAT TIP UP’ and you may be tossing a heffer onto the BBQ that evening.
Setting The Hook
They call it Rippin’ Lips for a reason. A kind and gentle hookset will only result in poorly hooked and easy to lose fish. Us fishermen put in hours, sometimes days of work to lure a big bite, so you got to give it your 100% when setting the hook!
When setting the hook you want to find a happy medium between an unnoticeable hookset and a Sturgeon hookset (which is a whole body swing of the rod). A hookset should be a swift, fast and firm swing of the rod upwards to the sky. This movement should bury that hook in the fishes mouth and give you the most opportunity to win the battle that is about to ensue.
There are two important things I’ve learnt about setting the hook when float fishing. The first especially when fishing bait like roe is to wait just a little bit longer before setting the hook. Although it can be beneficial to set the hook if you see small taps on your float, sometimes, the fish won’t have completely committed to the bait and you might either pull the hook away from its mouth or scare the fish off altogether. Next time you see your float drop, hold on for another half a second and then WHAM release the hounds, set that hook, and bring in that glorious flopping chrome.
Use Quality Hooks
Believe it or not one of the biggest reasons you may be hooking less or losing more fish is because your hooks SUCK. Cheap hooks are prone to straightening during a fish fight and sometimes are so dull they can’t easily penetrate fish gums on a lighter bit. Switching to quality hooks is a complete game changer. When fishing coho & chinook in the Vedder river I always run size 2 Owner Hooks, No Escape Hooks or Gamakatsu. Remember to always pinch your barbs or make your life easy and purchase barbless hooks. I’ve run barbs in other legal areas in North America and honestly, you still lose fish when running barb. Being a bad Samaritan and running barb is not worth the damage you will inflict on the wild fish you release.
Net Your Fish
I remember when I first started fishing the Vedder as a kid nets were considered LAME. We swore by pulling the fish up on the rocks or keeping the wilds in the water. My friends and I believed that nets were only meant for boats and people who bring big nets down to the river are goofs and less skilled than those without nets.
Frankly, as most young boys are, we were wrong. The only real downside to a net is carrying it around. A majority of fish that get lost are right on the shoal close to shore as the water becomes shallower. A quality net will help you secure more fish and will also make the release of salmon way smoother. It is extremely hard to ID fish and keep wild fish submerged before releasing without a net. Personally I think a good rubber or cradle net overall will improve your fish handling skills.
If you are keeping a fish and want to net it, slowly start walking the fish in and get some momentum leading the head of the fish into the net. The person using the net should jab down as the fish gets close to get its head into the net. Netting itself takes a bit of practice, but it will almost completely reduce the frustration of losing a fish close to shore, and it makes it a team effort with whomever you’re fishing with which also is pretty RAD.
Try Soft Beads
If you haven’t tried soft beads yet, then you are way behing the ball my friend. SOFT BEADS SLAY. I’ve sworn by them for years, and last year they outpaced all my different fishing methods by an extremely wide margin. Softbeads look perfect in the water and Salmon in the Vedder river cannot resist them. Use a leader around 2 feet and keep that bead pegged three to four finger widths above the hook on the leader. Since I made the switch to softbeads I rarely mess around with stinky, sticky roe and have my float running down the river more throughout the day.
Let It Run & Don’t Horse It
Patience is the ultimate key to winning a fight against a Salmon, especially a Chinook. Salmon are extremely powerful fish and no one fish fight is going to be the same. Fish want to escape your hook as bad as you want to get them to shore. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and take things slow. I’ve lost hundreds of fish because I’ve tried to reel (horse) them in long before they were ready. If you don’t play a Salmon long enough, it won’t be exhausted enough when it nears shore and will have the energy to go for one last massive sprint down river which will snap your line or bend your hook especially if you are reeling in.
Walk It Down River
If a fish takes you down river and you can’t change it’s trajectory, join it. I’ve been known to sprint down the river after monster springs in an effort to not snap my 12lb monofilament leader. A big Salmon can weigh anywhere between 10-40lbs. You always have to take the river current into account and if a Salmon is speeding away from you down the river, you will not be able to drag it back up. Join forces with the salmon and walk and reel. Usually as you follow it downriver you can gain some ground on it bringing in more line and fighting it close to shore. If the fish escapes into fast moving water keep on walking until you find some softer/slower water that is more suitable for landing that bad boy. Who said fisherman don’t exercise, strap on those sneakers and get ready to jog the next time you’re on the Vedder.
Set Your Drag and Leave It
Having your drag close to the sweet spot before you fight a fish will save you many lost opportunities. If your drag is too loose you’ll miss hook sets, lose fish to slack line and birds-nest your line. If your drag is too tight, your line will snap like a banjo string when a fish takes its first substantial run. This one will take some trial and error. Know how to use your drag and make sure it’s at the sweet spot where you can pull out line with force but it does not come off the spool easily. While fighting a fish you only want to have to make micro adjustments.
I’ve got an old trusty Shimano Calcutta bait caster reel and by golly are the gears inside it messed up. I could never find that perfect amount of drag while battling fishing and often I would over adjust my drag in the middle of the fight and end up losing the fish. I ended up reverting to keeping my drag at the same level all the time while fighting fish and using my thumb to apply additional pressure when needed while fighting smaller fish. For the bigger boys ie.Chinook salmon leave that drag on one setting, reasonably tight and let them take as much line as they need.
Setting the drag properly is probably the hardest tip to perfect on this list because it does take some in-field fish fighting practice to get it right!
Check Your Hooks & Change Your Leader’s
ALWAYS CHECK YOUR GEAR. I often get lazy and don’t do this myself resulting in lost fish. After every fish fight, snag or big scrape on the bottom you should quickly check your leader, mainlined and hook. Ensure that your leader and line has no frays or breaks and ensure that your hook isn’t bent or dull. Nothing is worse than fishing for hours with a dull or straightened hook. Sadly, I’ve learnt the hard way and done this more times than I can count. I would also recommend changing your leader every few hours especially if you are catching a lot of fish or getting loads of bites. Overtime the sharp teeth on salmon will wear on your leaders greatly reducing their strength and increasing the probability of losing that trophy fish you’ve been hunting down all year.
Pay Attention To Your Float
When the fishing is slow it sometimes feels painful to focus on your float. However, keeping your eyes on your float and how it moves will make the difference between slaying fish and getting skunked. Sometimes salmon will quick bite the bait and spit it out without dunking your float in the river. These bites sometimes look like small movements of your float to one side or the other. The next time you see your float make an odd movement that isn’t the bottom set your hook, you’d be surprised how light springs and cohos will hit your presentation.
Oh Ya and Remember
Nice Guy’s Catch More Fish
The Vedder is notorious for Egotistical, Elitist and straight up A$%holes who think they run the river. Fishing is challenging, exhilarating and should be fun for all. Don’t let goofs on the river get away with being mean or making you feel uncomfortable on the river. Just because they are decked out in top of the line SIMMS waders using a John Milner or Islander centre-pin reel it doesn’t mean they have anymore right to the river than you!
There are loads of awesome people who fish the Vedder and having a conversation with someone new is often the best part of the day. Be respectful of other fishing and honestly, its pretty damn clear that NICE GUYS CATCH MORE FISH.
Hopefully this guide will help you find some more success on the water and reduce the amount of “One’s That Got Away” this season.
Have fun on the river, and remember, KEEP THAT TIP UP!!