“Around and around and around she goes, and where she stops only the big king knows!”
Darryl Choronzey with his favorite "Meathead" Spin Doctor rotating flasher and one nice Chinook!
My fishing buddy for the morning, John McKessock’s favorite fishing phrase. He had just lowered the Shark 12-pound downrigger weight to the 80 foot level a few minutes earlier and now he was battling another Georgian bay king for the third time in just the last thirty minutes. Every time he lowered the lead and tackle, he got the same result, another silver Chinook and another battle royal.
It was an early May morning on the protected waters of Colpoy Bay, a few miles out from the town of Wiarton, Ontario. For an old boy of seventy years plus, the ancient angler was showing his stuff. With his rod tip up and his monofilament tight, it was just plain amusing for me to sit back on the seat and watch the over-aged “youngster” battle the mature salmon a long, long way down below my Mako. Actually, it was just as exciting to witness the antics and carrying-ons between the old boy and the fish. It could be described as a version of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. Just in this case it was happening on the Great Lakes and not the Bahamas.
The fish would just shake his head and scream out and away with forty yards of mono and my fishing partner would grunt, groan and sweat to try and retrieve it. It was more than just an amusing sight to witness. Gramps was showing his stuff... and winning.
Fifteen minutes after the line had popped loose from release, I had the mesh around the Chinook, lifted out of the water and over the side. John had the wood pacifier out and another big salmon was resting on ice.
Picking up the rod and reel he said one thing immediately, “Boy, has the tackle and fishing changed since we were kids!” Nothing he said was more true on that spring morning. Since Howard Tanner and Wayne Tody stocked those first coho smolt in the Platte River back in 1966, a whole lot has changed, especially the tackle we use today.
The Early Days
When those first adult coho returned to their release sites a year later, Great Lakes’ anglers actually had no real “salmon” tackle available in local tackle shops. Yes, we had Flatfish, Tadpollys, spoons more geared to walleye, bass and pike, but very little real tackle for targeting coho and the bigger cousins the Chinook.
The west coast salmon tackle manufacturers were well aware of the fast exploding Great Lakes’ salmon fishery. Almost overnight the transport trucks were headed east from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The over-sized crates they were carried were stamped with the names Luhr Jensen, Grizzly, Dave Davis, Tom Moss and his Tomics and the list goes on and on. Hell, old Luhr Jensen Jr. loaded up a van and made the trip across the Rockies to introduce J-Plugs himself.
Another Lake Ontario king headed for the cooler thanks to the rotating flasher and a Dreamweaver mylar fly.
Then came a transformation. First, as mostly cottage industries and then as big business, mid-west and Ontario tackle manufacturers began to blossom all around the Great Lakes. In fact, the boys from the east began to take over the Great Lakes’ tackle sales on the entire Great Lakes. Products like Walker, Big Jon and Cannon owned the downrigger trade. Spoon makers like Dreamweaver, Eppinger, Chuck’s, Moonshine, William’s, Northport, Northern King, Miller, Stinger and dozens more proved they could stamp out and paint spoons as good or better products than the boys in the west.
Then there were the attractors. In the late 1960’s and early 70’s, again for the most part we depended on the big boys from the west coast, first for dodgers for coho and flashers for kings. In the 70’s the Luhr Jensen dodger was the staple for coho and kings when it came to attracting the attention of salmon. When I mix the choices, like other anglers I might change to an Oki, Hot Spot or possibly and Ab&Al.
A Little History
Then in the early 1990’s I became acquainted with a fellow from California and he introduced me to an all-new type of flasher that he had invented. Jerry Bechhold was one of the first or possibly the originator of the “rotating” flasher with fins. Actually, it has a fin at the front and a baffle on the back. Three holes are located at the tail end of the flasher for leader and lure attachment. Each hole is designated for a different trolling speed… presto, one of the original, if not the original rotating flasher.
As is most always the case, if some-thing catches fish, others follow. Today, the tackle market has a vast assortment of rotating flashers out there on the tackle store shelves. There’s the popular Spin Doctor, Pro Troll, Opti Flasher and Shark to name a few.
Now, for more than 50 years, I was either writing for the press, owning a Canadian fishing publication or host of a cross-Canada fishing show and spending a heck of a lot of time fishing. I’ve also followed fishing and fish for half a century and love to investigate both above and below the water. I was fascinated by the original Walker Downrigger underwater Strike Vision camera system. I probably have a couple of thousand hours of footage packed away somewhere in the office.
I also became well acquainted with a fellow named Shane Ruboyianes the head honcho at Dreamweaver Lures, which just happens to be one of the Great Lakes largest and most popular manufacturer of spoons, cut plugs, diving devices, flashers, Mylar trolling flies and best of all the rotating flasher, the Dreamweaver.
Before sitting down to put this story together I took the time to contact ten of the largest tackle stores around the Great Lakes on both sides of the border. I asked a simple question. What is your most popular rotating salmon flasher? Of the ten replies, nine were the Dreamweaver Spin Doctor. Nine out of ten is pretty impressive and actually I expected a ten out of ten response.
The author’s son Josh with hungry a Bronte king courtesy of the Spin Doctor and Dreamweaver mylar Action Fly.
As noted, I love underwater snooping with the camera and I followed the actions of rotating flashers and especially the Spin Doctor for almost 20 years. It’s been obvious to me that whether fished in conjunction with Mylar flies, spoons, anchovies, or cut bait, the rotating flasher is hands down more lethal on salmon and trout than the old originals.
Now here are a couple of interesting experiences I’ve come across in the past. I lived for a time in a little British Columbia fishing village called Lund, British Columbia. I also have fished British Columbia or Oregon, Washington or Alaska every summer. For starters, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. The boys and girls on the other side of the Rockies seem to more inclined to stick with their Grandfather’s favorites than experiment. We Great Lakes’ anglers truly are the better inventors of new salmon gear, tricks and tactics.
I once gave one of British Columbia’s best guides a gift of a half dozen Dream-weaver Spin Doctors and Mylar Action Flys. On my next trip west, he asked if I happen to have any more. He was hot to trot on the dynamic duos. In fact, out of his box he pulled the remnants of what was left of an Action Fly that was battered and beaten with only a few strands of Mylar left on the fly. It looked more like a little frail needlefish, than the squid or herring it was originally made to imitate. He bragged that this Action Fly had led to the demise of more than thirty Chinook salmon!
Another time I presented a similar gift package to friend and well-known Columbia River guide. He looked the combo over and laughed, but promised to give them a test. A month later he gave me a phone call, begging for another package of Spin Doctors and the same colors of Action Flies. They can be difficult to find in the boonies of Hood River, Oregon and besides he didn’t want his competition to know what he was using. When you have a successful secret, these old pros, try keeping it to themselves.
Rigging a Spin Doctor
For starters, the Spin Doctor Flasher has what I refer to as two baffles at the back and rudder on the nose. The front rudder comes equipped with two holes. In the package, the snap swivel on the front rudder is already positioned for a trolling speed of 1.5-4.5 miles per hours. Putting the snap in the second hole is for a slow troll speed of between of .5-1.5 miles per hour. At the rear of the Spin Doctor’s two rudders there are two holes. For less action on the fly or bait, the holes closest to rudder will already have the snap swivel. For more action simply covert the snap swivel over to the opposite hole. I seldom ever change the snap locations and just love the attractor as it comes out of the packaging.
Spin Doctors are available in 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch sizes. Would you believe that some of these sizes including the most popular 8 inch Spin Doctor is available in as many as 122 color combinations. A few of the most popular combos are white/white crush, Black/ green dot, Kevin’s girlfriend, white/black crush, Chrome/Blue Bubble Crush, Chrome Frog and Mixed Veggie.
All flashers attract fish to the hook, but rotating flashers attract more fish to the hook.
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