Fly fishing is a fun and productive way to catch your kokanee!
When I first heard about fly fishing for kokanee, my first thought was: Really? Is this actually a productive way to catch kokanee? The short answer is: Yes, it can be! Fly fishing for kokanee can not only be productive, but can be loads of fun with the kokanee's explosive runs!
Traditional fly fishing methods and kokanee feeding habits
Kokanee primarily feed on Zooplankton that are normally found residing in deep water. They feed on them by raking the Zooplankton through fine tooth combs on their gills, called gill rakers. It would be very hard to replicate Zooplankton on a fly and if you did, you would be forced to compete with millions of the real thing, which makes catching the kokanee very difficult.
When the ice first comes off, the fish can often be hungry due to low levels of food. This is a good time to try your hand at the fly rod. Kokanee are opportunists and will feed on what is available. When the water is still cold they can often be found in great numbers in the shallows feeding on hatches like chironomids, damsel fly nymphs and other aquatic invertebrates. They will tend to feed more like a rainbow trout, making them easier to target with the fly rod.
When the water starts to warm and the fish move back to deeper water, they will still make the best of a chironamid hatch that occurs in deeper water.
Untraditional fly fishing methods
For me, the most fun part of fly fishing is using a lightweight fly rod so I can feel everything from the smallest tap to the biggest run. I will often not use a fly at all, but rather a single hook with bait. Most often I will use pink gulp maggots- just one or two on a hook with a sinking line. Essentially, I will just jig with a fly rod. When you find an active school of kokanee and get your bait to the right depths you can be in for a very fun day!
If you are like me, and just want to use the fly rod for the feeling of the fight, and not so much for the casting, why not go one step further? Try an attractor fly in a bright colour or even a simple wedding band on your fly rod, and clip it to the downrigger. You can even clip a flasher like a dodger directly to the downrigger and not the line. This will attract the kokanee without having the heavy drag on your fly rod. See our "how to locate kokanee" page to help you get on the fish faster.