Saltwater Fly Fishing Series
"The Tonquin Thorn"
Barry M. Thornton
The boat drifts tied to the kelp, the area where most baitfish congregated.
beautiful sheltered waters of Clayoquot Sound provide the ideal
location for saltwater fly fishing for salmon and other pacific
sports species. Starting in June, and continuing right through into
October, huge schools of baitfish congregate in the large areas
of shallow water within the Sound to feed. These baitfish act as
magnets for hungry
coho salmon and, for other Pacific marine sportsfish. Within
the Sound there are numerous sheltered islands and shallow reefs
that provide footholds for kelp forests, a primary habitat for these
baitfish. Massive Eel grass beds abound in the vast shallow waters
another primary habitat for baitfish and other saltwater morsels.
It is the classic culmination of conditions for the salt water fly
have been fortunate to fly fish these waters during the past few
years while there have been numerous salmon. But, it has only been
in the last two years that I have begun to solve the fly pattern
riddle of the Clayoquot waters. It is a long story but can be condensed
thanks to the tips I have received from other fly fishers and to
the numerous salmon fly fishing experiences I have enjoyed in Pacific
Northwest waters. Salmon will take a fly, this has been demonstrated
so many times in recent years that there is no longer doubt in the
active salt water fly fisher's mind. But, what fly? This is the
question that has plagued all those who pursue salmon in our coastal
Bob Weir holds a coho salmon taken with the 'Tonquin Thorn'
prior to release.
winter I prepared a new pattern to accommodate the shallow waters
in Clayoquot Sound and the sometimes dense mixture of algae which
clouds the normally clear salt waters of the coast. It uses the
principles of the Silver Thorn, that is, silver thread, a silver
stainless steel hook, and a silver chenille body. My pattern change
was the addition of chartreuse colored polar bear hair as a wing
and chartreuse colored Krystal Flash. It is this chartreuse color
that is the primary change from the Hakai Thorn, a pink winged salmon
fly that we have found to be so effective in clear salt water. But,
it was the two further additions to the new pattern which seem to
make it attractive to feeding ocean salmon in Clayoquot Sound; the
chartreuse color in the wing, and, the unraveled pearl metallic
braid that I added as a tail. The chartreuse color was a tip from
a southern saltwater fly fisher who was quite emphatic about this
color being able to cut through the dark algae cloud hence making
the fly much easier for salmon to see. He was right!
first experience with the attractability of the fly came while we
fly fished the eastern kelp beds at 'Tonquin Island'. We had been
chased into these waters by six foot Pacific Ocean swells and a
blasting western wind. Behind the island, in the lee of the wind
we found relative calm and, most important, schools of young herring
and needlefish. These were the baitfish that the salmon craved!
A released salmon dives for deep water.
up to a clump of kelp we soon swung with the tidal current and were
casting parallel with the kelp in waters about thirty feet deep.
A dark algae bloom clouded the water so I switched to the new pattern
hoping that the salmon would be able to see it in the dark water.
It was obvious as we tested the fly near the boat that it was much
more visible than any of our other patterns.
a few searching casts out from the kelp bed, I tried a cast right
beside the kelp. The salmon strike came in an instant. This was
not the slight stop-tug which I had become so familiar with when
hooking salmon, but, rather, a smash strike that almost tore the
rod from my hand. I hardly had time to look down to see if the recently
stripped line was clear when the salmon was on the reel. It was
an heroic fight by the salmon; long runs, thumping head shakes,
and exciting leaps before I finally brought the fish to the boat
to be released. The second fish took in a more traditional manner
but instead of turning away from the kelp it darted into the thickest
clump, tangled the leader and snapped off the fly. After this second
fish my partner quickly changed to this newest pattern and he too
was quickly into a water-walking salmon. Suffice to say that we
'had many a fish' that day. The next day was our last of this particular
trip and we were quickly into fish once again when we tied up to
the floating kelp heads in the early morning. The salmon feeding
bite lasted well into the early afternoon and I am sure we were
as exhausted as the salmon we released when we had finished.
Weigh West Resort marina. Note the open fly fishing boats
on the left.
recognition of 'Tonquin Island', and the rocks, 'Thorn Reef' immediately
west of 'Tonquin Island' where it was so effective, I have added
this newest fly, the 'Tonquin Thorn', to my active fly box of successful
saltwater salmon fly patterns
'Tonquin Thorn' Pattern Materials
Mustad 34011ss #2. thread Silver.
Silver metallic chenille; lead wire weighting.
Pearl metallic braid (unraveled).
4-6 strands chartreuse Krystal Flash; Chartreuse polar bear hair.
West Marine Resort, which was our base in
Tofino and is only minutes away from the many islands of Clayoquot
Sound (including 'Tonquin Island', about 10 min.), is a modern resort
with all facilities including moorage for guest's boats and fish
processing of sports fish. Meals are available in the beautiful
Blue Heron Restaurant or the Marine Pub. A gift shop is open daily
which also has a supply of successful fly patterns.
Weigh West Marine Resort . Call toll free: 1-800-665-8922.
special "Fly Fishing Package" includes: accommodation (based on
double occupancy in room and boat); all meals from the Blue Heron
Restaurant or Marine Pub; use of specially designed fly fishing
boats and support electronics (GPS, depth sounder, 2-way radio)
during all daylight hours, along with fuel; all weather cruiser
suits; services of the 'on the water' Fishmaster as to hot spots;
plus applicable taxes; fly fishing equipment and fly patterns are
not included, however, successful fly patterns are available for
purchase in the gift store.
information can be obtained from;
Weigh West Marine Resort
P.O. Box 69, 634 Campbell Street
Tofino B.C., Canada
Copyright Barry M. Thornton