As spey fisherman and steelheaders most of us understand that catching fish is the icing on the cake with regards to the overall experience. The excitement of a day on the water starts with lacing up the boots at the crack of dawn, looking over the slick shine of a steelhead run as the last of the fog burns off. Opening up your favourite fly box and selecting the perfect mix of feathers to swing. The lead up, the anticipation, the scenery, and that first swing already makes it a successful day long before any fish are hooked.
With this in mind, many people are catching on to the opportunities of swinging spey rods for king salmon.
Although we all dream of swinging grease lines, or skating dries the reality of the game is if we plan on fishing often throughout a calendar year one has to come to terms with a sink tip. Once you get used to that idea an entire world of spey fishing opens up, one that we have been fully immersed in for the past 5 years.
Swinging for kings is technically similar to winter steelhead. Depth and speed of the swing are very important to be successful. Similar to winter steelhead, under the right circumstances King salmon are extremely aggressive to a swung fly. They often hold right in steelhead water, but also enjoy runs with a little less current and a little more depth. They are extremely aggressive making them an incredible fish to swing flies for. They hold in the right kind of water for spey fisherman, and hit your fly with reckless abandon.
However there are still rivers in far off places, where humans haven’t touched, that have strong runs of wild king salmon, and little angling pressure. The first area I saw like this that opened my eyes to the opportunity was on the Alaskan Peninsula on the Ilnik River where the lodge I was working at had an outpost camp. The kings pushed in hard off the tides and were extremely aggressive to our swung flies. Big strong silver dollar fish beating our gear into submission with exhausting runs, and undying grit.
Long after I left Alaska that image was still burned into my brain. Moving from Alaska to northern BC was an easy transition and I picked up right where I left off with the king fishing. However, different from the peninsula the king rivers on the coast up north offer some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Swinging for these mighty fish under the backdrop of enormous glaciers, and granite rock faces creates a true wilderness experience that will stay with you for years. There are very few other anglers on the rivers due to access subject to several hour boat rides, or helicopter and floatplanes. These are trophy wild fish in pristine mountainous terrains that leave you speechless each and every time they bite your fly.
I love fishing smaller coastal rivers for kings because not only do you catch them in tidal water, you are in sight of the ocean the entire time. This means with proper planning, during the high sun part of the day when the fish tend not to bite, you have time to go check the crab and prawn traps, or catch some halibut for dinner. Living off the land and spey fishing close to the ocean is always a huge bonus on any trip targeting anadromous fish.
The experience of targeting wild kings in remote coastal BC is an adventure for those that crave an experience that takes them far away from the concrete confines of the city. One where no one truly knows what each tide, twice a day will bring. Wild anadromous fish, in a wild river, surrounded by pristine mountains under the longest days of the year armed only with your spey rod in hand. Its no wonder I fell in love with this fishery, and I'm sure everyone else who tries it will as well.