King salmon on the fly
When fishing our variety of rivers you want to have an arsenal of rods and lines to help fit the need for each individual situation. Although their are no hard and fast rules to any run, I would say the most common sink tip we use is 10 feet of T17. Some of our rivers may be fairly small compared to traditional chinook rivers but distance casting can still really come into play. We like the 9weight TCX for situations where you need to cast heavy lines and flies far. The reality is that any beefy stick at 13 foot or so will do the trick.
You can't always rely on super heavy tips. Some runs will have shallow tailouts that can actually be quite productive. For this we will rig up a type 3 (or equivilant tip). Whats great about king salmon on the fly is that it's the perfect time to pick up those heavy old spey rods you used to use for steelhead and make some use of them. They make perfect weapons for the task at hand.
An 8 wt. or 9 wt. spey is generally adequate for kings, but just barely and a lot depends on the fish and the water. We prefer 9 or 10 weight spey rods. We always use good quality reels suitable for large fish. Drags will explode if you don't go high quality sealed drags systems.
Line selection depends on the water we are fishing. There are so many variables to consider, but the one constant is you have to get the fly down deep in front of the holding fish. This means you really can't beat a skagit line for King fishing. Kings lay on the bottom, and can be coaxed to strike but often times won't move much to do it. You have to be knowledgeable about the river depth and speed when selecting tips. In general it is best to have all your sink tips with you to allow quick switching.
The combination we found that works best in most situations is a 12 foot sink tip (T11 - T17) and a weighted fly.
Once you get the fly down "in the Zone" how do you present it? As much as fly fishers and tiers in particular like to think a certain fly is the ticket, its actually more about presentation. Sometimes they absolutley crush it, and others it's amazing how delicate a forty pound fish can be.
Typically we fish down and across, letting the fly drift and sink, then swing through holding fish at the appropriate depth. This often times triggers a more aggressive strike as it swings into their space.
#1 - Scott Howells Squidro sea food series is hard to beat for hot fresh kings rolling off a tide. It is sparse enough that it sinks like a rock, and has enough bells and whistles on it that is gets the attention of fish quickly. If you are buying these from the store you will want to switch the hooks out to a 1/0. We have the most luck on the pink/ orange one.
#2 - Derek Fergus’ strung-out rockstar. The strung-out flies are always a great choice for any anadromous fish. Kings are no exception. I have always been a big fan of Fergus’ patterns. The rockstar on a 1/0 hook is deadly for kings. The cerise/pink works the best for us.
#4 - Brian Silveys tail light. Long fly on a short tube gives this fly excellent motion in the water. Although many complain of getting the loop just right. Too long and it pipes the fish too deep, and too short it turns into an inchworm. It does take some getting used to if you want to get it right every time but this fly is worth the effort. Our best luck has come on the black one with either pink or chartreuse tipped tail. - See more at:
#5 - Brian Silveys tandem tube, black and chartreuse
#6 - UV2 versi tube by Spirit river, this is an excellent fly and very diverse. Get in Chartreuse, Black, Pink, and Blue.