I've had a lot of people ask me questions on when and how to properly use flashers and flies when targeting Lake Michigan trout and salmon. All of the Great Lakes salmonids (even Brown Trout) are susceptible to the hypnotizing allure of a properly presented flasher and fly. I'll specifically gear this article towards fishing for Chinook Salmon though.
First off there are very few occasions when you should not have a flasher in your spread. If you're not catching fish on flashers, then it's safe to assume there is something wrong with your presentation. Flasher and flies are not as easy to run correctly as spoons or plugs, but more often then not they catch more fish then spoons when presented properly.
If you are currently not running flashers and flies in your spread you can bet you are missing out on 2 to 3 fish plus per trip. Not to mention the largest fish often choose to take a flasher and fly over a spoon. Flashers are at their absolute best when the Kings drop below 70ft in the water column. When Kings drop below 100ft, I often put away all my spoons and only run flashers and flies. Down deep the thump of the flasher brings fish flying in like a dinner bell. So why are fish attracted to flashers and flies?
Most believe that the salmon thinks the flasher is another salmon attacking a school of baitfish. The fly serves as the wounded baitfish trailing behind, and that is something few salmon can resist.
Below is a list of tips that should help both seasoned and rookie flasher-fly anglers.
1. Flasher Brand: What works best for me are Pro-troll ProChip flashers (these have a fin, versus the HotChips which do not.) Whats so important about the fin? The fin comes into play when you slow down to catch a fish by allowing the flasher to still rotate at slow speeds. Quite frankly I'm not sure why any flashers are made without the fin! This is a critical point: take a look at a flasher with the fin versus one without when you're trolling at 1.75mph. Notice how the finned version is still rotating in a large circle versus simply flopping from side to side like the un-finned version. What about Spin Doctors? Lots of anglers use them with great success, but day in and day out nothing beats an Pro-troll ProChip on my boat. If I do run Spin Doctors I prefer the larger 10" size.
2. Flasher Color: There are so many colors available these days that trying to select a flasher can be quite confusing. You really only need a few flasher colors and they are: White Double Glow, Chartreuse/Glow, White/Double Pearl, Chromes. White Double Glow and White Double Pearl are hands down the most consistent and should be ran every day. Chartreuse/Glow flashers work best above 60feet and are killer for summer Cohos. Chrome like our favorite Salmon Flute can be killer when it's sunny.
3. Flasher Size: Start targeting Kings using the 8" size flasher and you can grow the flasher to an 11" paddle when the fish drop deeper then 80ft. Often times less is more and you do not want more then one 11" paddle in the spread even down deep.
4. Fly color: Fly color is far more important then the color of the flasher itself. Kings do not eat the flasher, they eat the fly! Just like a stream trout is picky about what he eats so is a King. That's why I limit the variables and pretty much only use a few different color themes on flashers and instead play around with the fly color. Aqua and green colored flies are dynamite behind any color flasher. Aqua shades work from the surface all the way down to 150ft. Greens seem to work best in the upper 60 feet. Shades of white, pearl, glow, and pearl blue work better down 60 feet and beyond. Frog flies are unbeatable once the water warms up, there is something about the rubber that pisses a mean old King off. As with anything this requires some experimentation on a day to day basis. Keep trying different flies until you find what the fish want. I've seen days where a Milwaukee Minnow with a chart/glow flasher catches fish left and right while a Naughty Leprechaun and chart/glow flasher catch zilch. I've also seen the reverse. Take a look at those two flies and to the untrained eye they look fairly similar, however, to a fish they look completely different. Think of it like a pizza with pepperoni versus a pizza with sausage. Now they're both pizzas and look similar but we know they taste completely different. Which one we eat depends on our mood and it goes the same with Kings.
5. Fly Leader Length: I would say this is the number one trip up most anglers run into when fishing with flashers. When fishing 8" flashers run your fly leaders anywhere from 22"-28" tied from the back hook on the fly to the end of the mono loop that attaches to the flasher. In cold water the Kings like it faster so a shorter leader works best. In warm water run a longer lead for lazy bites.
6. Added Benefit: A flasher's benefit is twofold, even on the few occasions that flashers are not catching fish you still need to have one in your spread. Often fish will be attracted to the thump of the flasher, come rushing in only to shy away and attack a nearby spoon. Take the flasher out of the water and you'll notice how your spoon productivity goes down.
Try the above tips and I guarantee you'll get flashers and flies working for you! Want learn more about Fishing with Flashers and Flies?