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King Salmon: 3 Effective Fly Fishing Tips

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Fly Fishing for King Salmon: Unveiling Thrills & Techniques

Angler and fishing guide, Larry Ford with King Salmon

For four decades, my life has been intertwined with the exhilarating pursuit of wild steelhead, a species that embodies both power and elegance. However, as the years have gone by, a new chapter has unfolded in my angling journey – the art of swinging flies for King Salmon. The heart-stopping power and endurance of a recently arrived Chinook has left me awe-inspired and captivated. In this article, we'll dive into the world of King Salmon fly fishing, exploring the equipment, techniques, and strategies that make this pursuit so enthralling.


1. The Gear: Tools of the Trade

In the pursuit of King Salmon, the right gear can make all the difference. Here's a breakdown of the essential equipment for this exciting endeavor:

  • SPEY RODS: King Salmon demand robust tackle. Utilizing 8 to 10 weight Spey rods ranging from 12.5 to 15 feet provides the necessary strength to handle the impressive power of these fish.

    • Rod Brands: My Spey fishing journey started in 1994 with the iconic 9140 Brownie from Sage and continues to this day with their 8136 Igniter, 9140 & 10150 X Speys. Reddington and Echo have also become reliable companions in my guiding endeavors, boasting performance and durability.

  • LINES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE: The choice of lines is paramount in presenting your fly effectively and enticing the salmon. Over the past three decades, I've trusted Rio Spey lines to elevate my angling experience. Notable mentions include the Gamechanger series, designed to delve deep into the holding zones of these majestic fish. Additionally, the Skagit Max floating lines offer precise control in rocky terrains and when mending is essential for a convincing presentation.

    • Experimentation with Lines: I continue to try new fly lines and techniques. Scientific Angler’s Intermediate Skagit heads have earned a spot in my rotation. Guideline, a Swedish company, has impressed me with their full sinking Scandi lines. This willingness to explore new options showcases the adaptability inherent in successful fly fishing. A diverse range of lines, from full sinking to floating heads with sink tips, is crucial for optimizing presentations across varying water conditions.

  • FLIES: For King Salmon flies the color spectrum begins with black, which is hard to beat in both clear or cloudy water. Another great choice for clear water conditions is either blue or chartreuse, better yet a combination of the two. Purple, pink and orange play a larger roll as the rivers start to pick up more flow and color when as fall rains begin on all of our rivers. I fish these colors in both weighted and unweighted versions.

2. Techniques and Strategies: The Dance with King Salmon

Successfully fly fishing for King Salmon is more than casting; it's an intricate dance that requires finesse, understanding, and technique. Here's an overview of the methods that make a difference:

  • Varied Approach for Varied Waters: Tailoring your approach to the specific run you are fishing is key. In swift currents, opting for full sinking lines facilitates a deeper, more controlled swing, allowing the fly to slow down while maintaining its depth. The longer the fly stays in the fish's zone, the more probable a strike becomes.

  • Broadside Presentation: Much like grease lining for steelhead, presenting the fly broadside to the salmon's suspected lie is the goal. The difference being that we are sinking the fly. Casting straight across the river is the initial step, but care must be taken not to overcast. If you land the fly in slow water on the far side, it leads to unwanted drag. Leading the fly by mending downstream or extending the rod downstream keeps the fly even or ahead of the line until it comes tight and the belly in the lines pulls the fly towards the bank. The increased fly speed also triggers the salmon's predatory instincts, even though they aren't actively feeding in fresh water.

  • Weighted Flies for Depth: Incorporating flies with some added weight aids in achieving depth and allows me to use longer leaders keeping the fly line at a distance from the fish. This minimizes the risk of spooking the fish and maximizes the duration of the tantalizing swing, especially in the later stages of the presentation.

  • Adapting for Success: When a slow-moving fly fails to entice attention, it's time to switch gears. Experimenting with faster-moving flies can trigger strikes, capitalizing on the predatory nature of salmon. The ability to adapt and alter techniques in response to the fish's behavior is a hallmark of a skilled angler.

How River in Forks WA

3. Finding the Prime Spots on the River: Where & When

Discovering the optimal locations for King Salmon fly fishing is an art in itself. Here's where experience and an understanding of salmon behavior play a crucial role. Leave the 15 foot deep pools with the eddy on the inside corner to the gear fishermen:

  • Deeper Runs with Smooth Flows: Fly fishing for King Salmon thrives in deeper pools and runs with a smooth, even current being the key. The even currents make it possible for us to achieve the necessary depths in order to reach the fish with our flies. These areas provide the perfect canvas for presenting the fly effectively.

  • Intercepting their Upstream Movement: Strategic positioning in flats and travel lanes as salmon migrate upstream increases the chances of success. Intercepting their journey with a well-executed presentation is the essence of fly fishing's allure.

A Captivating New Journey Into the World of King Salmon

In the realm of King Salmon fly fishing, the pursuit transcends the mere act of angling. It's a journey that demands an understanding of the fish's behavior, a mastery of technique, and a connection with the natural world. As an angler who once centered my life around wild Steelhead, the allure of King Salmon has opened a new chapter in my angling career. From the choice of equipment to the finesse of presentation, each element harmonizes to create an experience that is as profound as it is thrilling. Given the raw power of a Chinook, the dance with King Salmon is a symphony that resonates deep within the soul, etching memories that endure for a lifetime.




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