Swingin’ for Kings: The Idiots gear guide for Spey fishing for Chinook Salmon
The mighty Chinook salmon or “King” as many refer to them, might be one of the most prized anadromous fish an angler can hook in fresh water. They also might be the most difficult. Diminishing runs and more angler pressure have made King Salmon all the more difficult to catch throughout the world. Destinations such as Alaska, BC, and Chile are now where anglers typically find larger populations of Kings willing to eat a swung fly. That’s not to say that it’s easy though. Countless hours can be spent fishing empty runs and then one stumbling upon a place where rolling fish are everywhere but will not grab your fly. There are also times when they are everywhere and crushing a large swung fly with abandon. Either way, it’s King fishing and nothing beats that adrenaline rush of a hard grab and line ripping off the reel!
The most common method of chasing kings is with the swung fly. What can make this challenging at times is that once Kings enter the river they seem to prefer deeper holding lies and will sometime sit in some pretty heavy current making it difficult to get a large profiled fly down to their depths and keeping there throughout the swing. Conditions play the biggest factor in equipment and line selection than anything else. The sweet thing these days is that we have equipment better designed to fish for Kings than ever before and a huge variety of fly lines to cover any and all conditions an angler might be presented with.
When chasing Kings in places such as Alaska, BC, or Chile, these fish are typically coming in on the higher flows caused by runoff in the spring and early summer months. This is where the challenge begins , casting a large fly on a sink tip or shooting head, tying to keep the fly down where the kings are holding.
When chasing kings in the spring or early summer, spey rods offer a big advantage in the higher flows during runoff. They allow anglers to cast rather large profiled flies on heavy sinktips to keep the fly down here these fish are holding. Rods in the 12-14’ range rated for #8-10 are the most common. These heavier sticks will not only help to cast Skagit lines, heavy sink tips and large flies with ease. They will also help to fight and hopefully land fish in the 10-50 plus lb range
Reels, backing, and running lines
Lines, heads, and sink tips….the x factor:
When I am out guiding or chasing Kings on my own, be it in California, BC, or Alaska here is typically what I like to carry….
– A few spey rods varying in length from 11’9” to 14’ in #8-10
– A few high quality reels with a good drag
– 30 lb backing
– Rio’s GripShooter in 35 and 44 lb test
– Rio’s Skagit max and max short heads
– A couple of Rio’s iShort and iFlight heads for deeper, slower presentations
– Rio T-14, 17, 20 in 10’, 13’, and 15’ lengths
– Rio Skagit iMow T-14
– Rio Mow T-14, T-17
– Spools of 15, 20, and 25 lb mono for leader material
– Boxes for my favorite King flies
This might seem like a lot of gear and it is, but when your chasing Kings you want to make sure you are prepared for any condition presented as conditions change by the day. While these fish might not always be easy to hook, it’s well worth the time and effort. Plus, all your friends are going to be jealous when you bring home pictures and stories of massive chrome bright, sea-liced slabs that took you way into your backing or even sometimes back to the ocean.