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Fly Fishing for King Salmon (Chinook Salmon.) PDF Print E-mail
Justin Tenzler Photo

Meet the Fish: Chinook Salmon

The reigning heavyweight champ of Alaskan salmon, the chinook has earned the nickname "king" for its size, fight, and table-worthiness. Chinooks are available from May to September, with most runs peaking in late June and July. Although Chinook are available in all regions of the state, the biggest runs occur in Bristol Bay, the Kenai Peninsula, and the Anchorage-MatSu area. Chinooks can be fished in both fresh and salt water, with the best fishing occurring in the large, long rivers that they spawn in. Averaging 18-30 lbs, the chinook can reach 80 lbs or more in some river systems and represents the pinnacle of the North American freshwater fly fishing experience.  To see some photos of fly caught kings, click here. For more on how to fly fish for kings check out Mike Cole's Swinging for Kings article. 

Gear and Flies
The king is a large, hard-fighting fish that requires stout tackle to subdue. Rods in the 9-11wt range are recommended for kings, as are high-capacity reels with good drag systems. King salmon prefer to hold in deep holes and runs. Good fly line choices include sinking tip lines and multi-tip systems that deliver your fly to these deep lies. Mid- to large-profile flies, often tied in two contrasting colors, are the ticket for kings. When possible, most anglers prefer to strip and or swing flies for kings.  There are times however where a dead drifted Egg Sucking Leech or giant egg patterns is the way to go.
For single hand rods, we look for a rod that is a stout with fast action that can handle the big heavy sinking lines and the monstrous flies that tend to really entice kings into striking.  Look to these rods to get the job done.

Sage One 9-10 wt
Sage Response 9-10 wt
Beulah Bluewater 8/9 wt

A good king reel should be smooth and it needs to have a good drag with stopping power.  It hurts to lose that whopper when the drag blows up.  These are some tried and true reels that can with stand the abuse.

Abel Super 11 
Nautilus NV 10/11 
Hatch Finatic 9+ 
Lamson LItespeed 4 
Lamson Guru 4 
Sage 4210

Lines and Leaders 

In Alaska, most fly fishing for kings is done in medium to large rivers.  Kings tend to hug the bottom and sit in deep holes.  Often, an aggressive sink tip is needed to get into the zone.  Try the Rio Streamer Line on big water. Try the SA Wet Tip on medium to small water.  The Super Versitip is a great way to go to cover most situations.

Rio Power FLy
Rio Streamer Tip 300-400 Grain (Sink Tip)
Scientific Anglers Wet Tip Type V (Sink Tip)
Rio Versitp II  (Super Version)
Rio Salmon/Steelhead Leader in 16Lb or 20lb (Use with a floating line)
Rio 6' Salmon/Steelhead Leader in 16lb or 20lb (Use with a sink tip line)


Some king flies are best when swung across the current, while other are better when stripped .  Some work well for both. Big egg patterns should be dead drifted and bounced along the bottem. Check out some of our favorites:

King Salmon Fly Selection
Fat Freddie  (Dead Drifting)
Signature Intruder (Swinging)
Articulated Hareball Leech (Swing or Strip)
Rock Star  (Swinging)

Click here to see all of our King Flies




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