Swing for King Salmon – Flylords Mag


There’s nothing like having your fly destroyed by a King salmon still loaded with sea lice. The intake often begins with a few hard pulls followed by a long slow pull. Other times, fish grab a fly with such gusto that your running line goes down faster than you can say “there’s one!”. King Salmon are a very entertaining sport fish, but their population has been in steep decline throughout most of their historic range. Most rivers in Alaska have gear limits, some are limited to holding only Kings, and some are even closed entirely if the run is too poor to support sport fishing. If the regulations allow you to pursue these fish, I urge you to fish ethically and responsibly.

Skagit Rods and Heads:

For smaller rivers, a 9′ 8-10wt fly rod paired with a 250-350 grain Skagit shorthead like the AirFlo Scout will work well. For medium rivers, an 11′ 8-10wt breaker rod paired with a 350-500 grain Skagit head like the AirFlo FIST will allow you to get some distance when casting without using the long rod. For larger rivers, a full 7-10wt rod loaded with a 500-750 grain head will allow you to cover the maximum amount of water with minimum effort. Any of these combinations can be a useful weapon in the Fisherman’s serious Salmon arsenal.

Photo: Oliver Ancans

Running lines:

It can be difficult to choose a lead line as there are many options on the market today. Running mono lines tend to shoot better, but can get tangled and knotted if not properly cared for and stretched before each use. Mono running lines can also be more difficult to adjust since they don’t have as much mass as a coated running line. Coated running lines tend to coil and knot less, but you may sacrifice some casting distance. During the warmer months, I fish 40-50lb running mono lines, stiff and brightly colored like Frog Hair or Berkely Big Game. In cold weather, coated lines have the advantage of being thicker and easier to handle when your dexterity is compromised by freezing temperatures.

Airflo Superdri Ridge Floating Running Line

Sink top and driver:

At the dangerous end of your Skagit head, it will be the top of the sink. I bring a tip wallet that contains everything from full sail to T-20 sink tips. This is not an area to skimp on as having the right sink top can make or break your day. When I first approach a run or hole, I’ll often make a cast or two with the tip I already have and then adjust accordingly. While swinging flies for kings, I prefer a suspended swing about 6-12″ off the bottom of the river. You don’t want your fly to bounce across the surface or dig up the bottom of the river. Controlling your swing is very important and Kings tend to like a long straight presentation rather than a quick presentation that crosses the stream.

Photo: Oliver Ancans

From the top of the sink, I run an 18″-30″ section of 15-20 pound clear fluorocarbon. Kings can make long runs, spin on the bottom of the river, and spin on your line once hooked. The abrasion resistance and strength of the fluorocarbon is a key factor in landing and releasing the fish as quickly as possible.

Flies:

The choice of flies, while generally based on faith, depends on the water clarity, depth and speed of the run or hole to be fished. I lean toward the smaller sleeker flies for their casting ability, but I tie them in different weights to achieve my desired depth. Some popular color combinations for king flies include Chartreuse and Blue, Black and Pink, Olive and Orange, and purple and black. If the fish are fresh off the salt, a brightly colored fly usually works best. If the fish have been in a freshwater system for a while, darker flies tend to work better. Some flies to consider and that I always have in my King box are the Prom Dress, the Polar Shrimp, a bunch of Intruder style flies in various sizes and color combinations.

A few words about storage:

When fishing for any species, please fish responsibly. Use a rubber landing net and keep the fish in the water if you intend to release them. Use barbless hooks and don’t overfish. While fishing for kings, don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques, butterfly patterns and sink tips. It might surprise you how predatory the mighty King can be.

Photo: Gabrielle Mordini



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