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Chinook on the fly

11142 Views 29 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  speydoc
Anyone have any experience chasing Kings with a fly? Looking for a little guidance...

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I used to live within a few miles of Puget Sound tidewater and enjoyed many days where the big tidewater kings ripped the fly. Most of my luck was on a variation of my bunny rat fly or an estaz wiggler that they also liked. I think it was more a matter of whether they were in the mood or not, with a broad range of flies that would do the deed. I hit the spots every day starting August sometimes before and after work. Where on one visit the first or second swing would result in a fish making me late for work another would yield no takes despite visible hordes of new arrivals. Some days would yield nothing in the morning then voracious strikes in the evening. After years of "study" I concluded that the fish get in the mood or they don't so hit it early and often and play the odds. Could be the mix of fish at any given moment - new arrivals interacting with the previous tide's fish, etc. In any case my approach became "roll the dice often and take whatever mother nature gives me".

14' 9wt minimum, I liked a 10wt single hander. In retrospect I think a certain 11ft 11/12wt would be the perfect rod for my tidewater situations back then both in terms of maneuverability and power to move fish. You could take the same rod out to the beach if they were staging as well during off tides and throw flies almost as far as the buzz bombers.
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Nice fish Speydoc!
The nice thing about fish like that is you can fish until dark and don't need a flashlight to get home.
Vinnie in Juneau
Flies as requested - sorry about the delay, I was occupied with another mission.(watch the flytying section) All the flies posted are from my Chinook box - hence the bedragled appearance. The last photo is of the simplest fly with its workmates, I have caught the most Chinook with this simple chartreuse & blue marabou with a black rabbit tail. It is called a "Black Tail Moose's Ugley" and was originated on the Dean for Chinook by my friend Lloyd "Moose Nuts" Murray. The dressings for most of these flies have been posted before - just do a search for my previous posts on this forum.
I hope you find this post - in the first photo,the top two flies are my tying of Beau's "Strip Leach Intruder", the bottom two are "SLI's" on bottle tubes.


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Could not fit them all on - here are the rest.


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Thanks for sharing the pictures! Awesome...
"I have also heard they will take a dead drifted black nymph but I can't vouch for it."

On the upper Rogue, I can assure you the fall kings are all over these. Problem is the river is 'closed' for salmon fishing above Gold Ray dam, but the summer run's tend to stack up below the spawning areas.

Another place (the Chetco River) is the Morris Hole and Tide Water hole on the lower Chetco up from Brookings, Oregon. Fly fishing (black body/chart. hackle) is the system of choice for most folks after the fall kings.
I have found chinook to be moody when it comes to taking the fly.of course the water is key. i like to fish two types of water and will only fish to holding salmon.The first type of water would be long even runs. if you can find a variation in water depth along this run youre in. i prefer to fish from the middle of the run to the tail and am gunning for water that presents a dropoff that comes just after the deeper tailout. the fish that stage in the tailout will come out to complete the run but will often stop in this slot before continuing. their time spent in this peice of water is breif and usually insures that they are not sitting there being pounded by your fly. Also, these fish are "hot" to go and will can be more aggressive especially if they have been battling with the fish that have set up camp in the tailout.
The other type of water that i prefer to hunt for kings is the softer water that edges thetailout and someties the head of a run. This can be particularly effective grounds if it is located at any sort of bend, even slight. I like to set up so that i throw across the tailout into the deeper water, mend like hell and let that fly swing up onto the slower , shallower seam. I will fish some froggy water for kings(but am careful not to waste too much time on th the really slow stuff)
Depth of the fly: THe depth that you are fishing is very important but be careful not to get stuck in the mode of dredging the bottom. My most productive swings come when ithe fly is working at about12- 16 inches above the bottom and four to six in. especially in shallower spots best and i ussually get my grabs when that flyis beginning its quick ascent at the end of the swing, however, it doesn't hurt to let some line to that fly so that it drops at the end this can produce well at times. Slow to moderate swings are best and youll be amazed at what short jerking strips will entice a king to do.
The take: How you handle the take is a crucial element to success. You fish for hours and you get a grab you set the hook hard and come up with nothing. SUCKS :eek: . Remember that kings in a river are not on the feed and while some will simply inhale your offering, most require a little more patience on the set. These fish like to pound the fly, swirl on it, slap it around with their face and so forth. I've seen it over and over(with a birds eye veiw) even out of great lakes salmon that seem to suffer from lockjaw when compared to their native and wild cousins *** When the grab does finally arrive i like to "let them cheww on it" i pause , biting my lip and give just a little. I feed about an in inch or two to my taker and then BURY the hook. And Imean bury, strip down and come up again.
The fly:Any where from five inches to two. When fishing fresh fish in tidal waters i will fish large patterns in very brite colors and as well as dark. I fish smaller patterns also. Ariculated bunny leeches mostly with a good marabou body and head, i like a taper to my king flies and will spin bucktail in between wraps of marabou to keep the head from slimming in the water. large lead eyes to xl eyes. whatever it takes to fish my zone. When i am on darker fish or in upriver haunts where fish tend to be shyer and the water shallower I will mostly work darker patterns, purple/pink , black/red, and kelly green/ chartruese seem to be my killers :saevilw: . i stick to the same bunny deals but shorten them up and will rarely fish anything over three inches. And the primary colr of the fly is almost always the darker of the color combo.I tend to treat great lakes salmon like upriver fish across the board and of course have to vary the fly and line weights accordingly(lead eyes usually dont apply her, use wraps).
Lines: Whatever it takes. Floaters & long leaderswill work if the water suits, I typically use a tapered sink tip and will splice together long heavy tips to shorter lighter tips. Teeny lines work wee. 8ft' of 400 to 4 ft' 300 is a typical line for me on the alaskan river that i fish but water depth and speed governs this aspectof the game. I have one formula slow to moderate swings.
let them chew on it
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In regards to the above about THE TAKE;where I fish for them ,I treat Chinook like I treat fresh Steelhead.I hit them hard, as soon as I feel mouth.rivers where I treat fish differently are Deschutes,John Day,and Kharlovka.I carry a loop on these rivers[obviously the fish are not chinook] and let the fish turn,take the loop out and make my reel click engage before hitting them.Beau
I know you said the patterns are elsewhere but I couldn't find them. My biggest question is regarding the barred hackle. Is it all amherst pheasant or do you use something else ? The only other question is whether you tend to prefer rhea or ostrich for the feelers ?

The barred hackle is all Amherst centre tail. I prefer rhea as a hackle, but do sometimes use ostridge for a thicker look - I sometimes "bar" the rhea and ostridge with a Pantone pen. I keep the marabou sparse with only 2 to 3 wraps of a given colour and use Estaz or Polar bear underfur in a doubing loop to give a shoulder to keep the hackle in play in the current - the polar bear "cheneille" is an idea I got from Todd Scharf of "Upstream Adventures"
With respect to THE STRIKE - I let the fish eat the fly and turn with it before setting the hook solidly. In my experience, if you hit them on the initial contact all you get is a headshake.
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