Thursday, October 17, 2013

Swinging for Kings

There are very few moments in fly fishing that can compare to a migratory fish slamming a wet fly on a tight line swing. This moment is only amplified when a king salmon, fresh on his way upriver, decides to have a go and rip the cork out of your hand. Experiencing a big pull has been known to change fishermen's lives and make grown men shake in the knees.  This singular moment has changed our entire style to the point where we cannot experience the tributaries any other way. It literally became a game of swinging or going home.

When targeting kings on the swing there are a few characteristics that one needs to look for. In our experiences, it is always better to get as close to the lake as possible to target fresh fish. This often means fishing the DSR, but you can find spots outside of the DSR, provided you have the necessary room. Secondly, look for areas of holding water, where Kings will pause or stop before continuing their sojourn upstream. This can be in the gut of the run, in a deeper and slower pocket of a riffle, or at the head of a pool. In each pod of fish, there might be a fish or two that is willing to grab.

I prefer to cast down and across while swinging flies before manipulating my shooting head to get a slow swing. After the cast, I immediately mend upstream and raise my rod up high. This provides a few precious seconds of virtual dead drift to sink the fly and tip. As the line starts to exhibit tension, I lower my rod and begin following the fly downstream. Once, my rod is lowered and the current begins to create a belly in the shooting head, I move the rod tip slightly ahead of the belly to lead the fly through the pocket of water I am targeting. My main intention with the slight lead is to take pressure off of the fly, letting it swim. This is my preferred swing. However, I mix it up a lot to give fish a different look and induce a take.

For kings, I use a ten foot clear intermediate tip followed by a short tapered section of tippet down to 12 lbs. I stay away from anything heavier than a type III sink tip on the salmon because I have found that this can lead to unnecessary fouling. Over the past few years, my fly selection has gotten smaller and smaller. I used to have success fishing tandem tubes and other leech style bunny streamers, but I've since grown fond of smaller wet flies. They are far less intrusive to the kings that are already line/fly shy. In low clear water, the larger flies have a habit of spooking kings while a wet fly can swing with a much small profile. Small woolly buggers have also been successful.

A game changer this year for us has been the new intermediate shooting heads. Fishing a Rio iFlight or an Airflo Intermediate Compact allows one to decrease the amount of mending necessary to slow the swing down. Swinging gets even easier when fishing choppy water and riffles. The intermediate heads cut through a lot of surface tension allowing a consistent slow swing through likely holding lies. After fishing one of these heads for a day and then trying a floating head the next, I immediately went back to the intermediate head. I can't wait to fish one for steelhead.

Swinging flies for king salmon is by no means an easy task to accomplish. Hours will pass before getting a solid take by a fish and some days we experience zero hookups. For us, the time passes fast because we enjoy casting and working on our tactics. When the pull finally comes all the hard work and effort becomes worth it. Then its just matter of landing a log attached to a rocket.

Spey and Switch

Cya Later

An Olive Crush 

Cranking on one...

A grabby female from the tailout...

On the pank...

All you need...

An Orange Crush

Pure, Fresh, Dead Chrome

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