Chum salmon are often regarded as the "Ugly Stepsister" of Alaskan salmon species. This stepsister, however, really packs a punch. Chum salmon are the second largest of the Alaskan salmonids. Adult chums average 8-13 lbs. with the occasional specimen topping 30lbs. Often called "Dog Salmon" due to their fierce canine teeth exhibited during spawning, the male's tendency to bite and nip at each other, and the fact they are used for sled dog food during winter. The chum is available from May-October with the best fishing in July near the mouths of their natal streams. Chums are abundant in all regions of the state except the Kenai peninsula and are most populous in Southeast Alaska. Some runs number in the millions!
The chum is the bulldog of the salmon world. Tenacious and strong, the chum salmon is best tamed with an 8 or 9wt 9-foot rod. Match the rod with a dependable, high-capacity reel with a good drag system. Depending upon the method of presentation, fly line choices include sinking tip lines, full-float weight-forward lines, and multi-tip systems to deliver your offering to the proper depth. Small, brightly colored flies are often the key what chum salmon are after. Make sure you have a collection of black and purple flies too, however. Popular patterns including the Pink Neon Shrimp, Purple Egg Sucking Leech, and S.T.S Leech.
Chum Salmon can vary in size and average 8-12 lbs. but can get upwards of 30lbs. We recommend having a spare rod along as more rods are broken on chums than any other salmon species in Alaska. This is due to their large size and hard fighting character. We recommend a sturdy fast action 9' 8-10wt fly rod. A good chum salmon rod will allow you to present flies fairly gently and then be able to muscle in an alligator. In the Switch world, rods rated for 450-570 grain lines are a must. These will generally be between 7wt and 9wt in size. In the Spey world 12'6-14" rods rated for 480-600 grain lines are ideal.
Chums are true dogs (pun intended) when it comes to the fight. They are not aerial fish like most of their cousins. Chum salmon pull like a pit bull and don't give up. Reels should have medium to high line capacity and a sturdy drag is a must. Not only do chums blow through rods, but they easily burn through a weak drag system as well. Don't skimp here, you will want some extra help with a big chum.
For single hand rods, we suggest having a floating line and a short-fast sink tip. Chums are found scooting along shallow gravel bars, which is where you will want to use a floating line. Chums also like to sit in deep fast water. When they can dart away from predators such as bears and eagles', chums often feel more comfortable and are more likely to strike. This is where a sink tip with be your go-to fly line. Same goes with switch and spey lines; a lighter Scandi head with a floating or intermediate sink tip is good for throwing smaller flies. A Skagit head with both medium and fast sink tips is great to have for runs in larger rivers. Skagit heads also allow an angler to fish a heavier fly more effectively.
Flies for chums vary depending upon conditions and how long they have been out of saltwater. With fresh chums, we suggest using pink, fuchsia and chartreuse flies in a variety of sizes. During this time of the run the more flash the better. For chums that have been out of saltwater for some time, try smaller, darker flies. Colors such as purple, black, and blue are ideal. In these late run situations minimal flash will often yield better results. If water levels are low try small, sparsely tied flies with moderate flash.