Chinnok on the fly??? How to get it done

Discussion in 'Spey Clave' started by sandspanker, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Dec 12, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Marysville, Washington
    Chinook on the fly is certainly doable and in the right circumstances a lot of fun.

    A couple of qualifiers; first I am a single hand guy (do not spey fish at all) and secondly I consider fishing over the dark staging fish in the deep pools near the spawning grounds or the actively spawning fish as unethical and capturing such a fish is hardly much of an accomplish. They are inferior fish in every way and should left to completing their work for the next generation. I have not fished Alaska waters for Chinook with the fly, my observations are based here in the PNW on pressured fish (which like coho is a game changer).

    Rob -
    The tidal water example in last post is the classic Chinook situation and taking such fish on the fly is pretty straight forward and the fly can be surprising effect. If you can find room on the water to cast your fly among the gear guys (or on water with little effort) I have some recommendations that should send you well on the path to success with the Chinook. These recommendations are based on quite of a bit of experimentation over a number of years and several rivers and a pretty good numbers of fish landed.

    As with the float and egg crowd that period around low tide will be go time. Like those fishing with floats I found fishing above the fish very productive. Depending on the circumstances above the fish can be anywhere from mid-water column down to a couple feet off the bottom. Fishing above the fish will eliminate the snagging/flossing problem and you will be catching actively biting fish that will be chasing your fly down (can be exciting stuff!).

    Consistent success on Chinook in such situations is a much different than say chasing steelhead. Generally fishing on the swing is a poor options to fishing your fly with an active strip). It may be necessary to vary the length and frequency of the strip to match the mood much as with coho though rarely the super aggressive strip sometimes used for coho is necessary. I would say that fishing "streamer style" will out fish a passive swung fly 10 to 1. Generally found that full sinking or long sink tips (25 to 30 feet) the best. On most waters the ultra fast sinking rates are not needed (in fact may work against the angler). The idea is cast across and down, let the fly line sink to your target depth and then fish the fly back to the rod tip using 4 to 8 inch strips (a couple strips/second) as a starting point. You want to select your line (and/or strip rate) so that you can efficiently getting to the desired depth and being able to fish the fly back to the rod at that level.

    For flies I found that smaller than one would think is often much better than one would think. Most of my success has been with flies that were 1 1/2 to 2 inches long tied on 4s and 2s standard hooks (4s the common) though my largest fish came on a #8 black woolly worm (that inch long fly in the jaw of that beast looked out of place for sure!). Black can often be a very good color though the best color varies quite a bit river to river (and water conditions). Other good colors include flies that are burned orange, various shades of green (Kelly to dark olive to chartreuse) as well as some tans or grays. I usually do not use much for flash in my Chinook flies though having a few "flash" flies and other brighter patterns as back ups.

    In the situation you described once you work out the best pattern you should be able to achieve consistent success with the fly with multiple fish days not all that uncommon.

    Once one moves above tide water the fly angler still have consistent success with much the same game plan as in tide but it takes some scouting to find water where the Chinook are a reasonable game. I target periods when the fish are on the move and look for choke points where I can get my fly in front of the moving fish (the river pushes the traveling fish into shallower water that I can effectively fish). While such water can be hard to find the good news is that gear guys often avoid such spots though on larger rivers boat traffic can be an issue.

    Good luck
    Andrew Lawrence and McNasty like this.