Today we’re starting up a series of posts on Alaska Guide Secrets. Various members of our guide crew at Alaska West will pass on some tricks of their trade, and you’ll be the ones the benefit.
Our first post comes from Adam Kryder. Take it all in!
Don’t guess the depth of the run – measure it.
When guiding I often have anglers ask me, “So, how deep is this run we’re fishing?” My response is always, “Let’s find out.”
For Chinook salmon we almost always are fishing sink tips. So, I ask my angler to face upstream at a 45 degree angle to the flow of the river, throw a cast and mend – usually this cast will catch the bottom. Then I ask my angler to cast at an angle downstream of their first and repeat until they no longer catch the bottom – that way my angler can feel how deep the run is and know exactly where their fly is swimming in the water column.
Using the reference point of their first cast that doesn’t catch the bottom, I explain that as they work downstream from that reference point they can effectively work the run and know exactly how deep their fly is swimming. Once the depth is known I usually ask them to fish the run from shallow to deep.
Never underestimate the ability of a fish to be holding right under your nose.
This is a great principle that I learned from Jeff Hickman and Kevin Price. They taught me to always fish a run from short to long. I can still remember Jeff saying, “Start swinging with just the head (usually around 30 to 40 feet) of your spey line out when you enter at the top of a run. Work gradually from a very short cast to your comfortable casting distance before you start step swinging.”
This will ensure that you won’t miss a fish holding in water close to the bank, or at the head of run.
Even if you prefer two-handed casting, don’t be averse to fishing holds that are better accessed with a single-hand rod.
When fishing the seams of sloughs use a single-hand rod to swing from the current into the slough and then slowly strip along the seam of the slough and the main current – this will enable you to fish more water than using a two-handed set-up. I always carry a single-hand and a double-handed rod to make sure that I have the best tool for the job no matter what water I encounter. Very effective!
“I ask my angler to face upstream at a 45 degree angle to the flow of the river, throw a cast and mend – usually this cast will catch the bottom” It will? Why is that? Doesn’t it depend on the river bottom, flows, the length of cast, etc? Also, I assume the length of line being cast remains constant throughout this test? Sorry, not sure I completely follow (but I could be the only one)…
Adam Kryder says
Hi Steve – I’m sure your not the only one, and I get plenty of weird looks sometimes while guiding as well – but usually this results in some cool learning experiences. I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can.
If you cast upstream the sink tip will sink uninhibitedly because there is no tension on the line. Usually 10 feet of t-14 will easily sink to the bottom on rivers that average around 10 feet or less in depth when cast upstream. Certainly, length of cast, the make up of the bottom, if the river is shelf like, etc… will vary, however this method will enable the angler to tangibly feel where they are swinging through the column. It also teaches an angler to fish the dead-drift part of a swing presentation as well.
Let me know if this helps!