It’s coming up on King Salmon Season here in Alaska. The might King Salmon is a challenge for any angler, regardless your level of experience. So here are 10 tips that to help you hook and land one of the most sought after game fish.
Planning on swinging flies for king salmon this summer, maybe on the Kanektok or the Dean? Here are some tips that may help.
- Cast across and slightly downstream. You certainly need to read the water you’re fishing and adjust accordingly. Still, in general, if you’re fishing a broad, gradual gravel bar, the most effective presentation is across and maybe 20 degrees downstream from perpendicular to the flow.
- Mend big. No delicate mends here. In your typical king swinging water, big, upstream mend immediately after the fly lands results in the best presentation. Mend big – use the whole rod. Move the whole fly line.
- Mend slack. If you shoot all your line on the cast and then make that big mend, you’ll be pulling the fly back towards you, rather than taking advantage of the beautiful long cast you just made (right?). Hang on to that last 5 feet or so of running line when you make your cast so that when you mend, you can let go and mend slack– positioning the line and the fly properly, not pulling the fly back towards you.
- Maintain a straight line to the fly. Kings want a long, slow, steady swing. In most water, this is best achieved by keeping your line as straight to the fly as possible. Don’t worry about perfection – make a few big mends to keep the line straight, and then just let ‘er swing.
- Don’t set until you’ve got a steady pull. The classic king take goes like this – Yank…yank…pause…deep pull. Wait for the deep pull to set the hook. We’re not always sure what is going on underwater during a take, but we know you need to wait for the deep pull. Of course, if the line suddenly starts screaming off your reel, you don’t need to wait for much of anything.
- Set low, hard, and towards the bank. A lazy rise of the rod tip will not get the job done here. After you get the deep pull, give a hard, quick jab downstream and toward the bank with the butt of your rod. If your knots are tied well, you’re not going to break him off. Set hard!
- Don’t try to stop them. Particularly on the first couple of strong runs, let them run. If they’re headed downriver, and you clamp down to try to halt the run– here’s where you are going to break them off. Unless you’re staring at your arbor knot and you’ve got no choice, let them run and work hard to retrieve the line once they stop. Besides, this is the fun part!
- Put the heat to ’em. Once you’ve got the hook set, and after the mayhem of the first couple of runs, fight them hard. These are big, strong fish, and if you’re not working hard, they’re resting. The longer the fight lasts, the longer the hook has to work itself free, and the more time the fish has to become dangerously exhausted. Fight them hard! You should be breathing hard after landing a hot king – really.
- Walk backward to land them. When the fight is nearly over, and the fish is ready to be landed, the easiest way to end the fight is often to keep a tight line to the fish and slowly walk backward until the fish is in shallow water. If you’re not in a spot where you can walk backward (like up against a brushy bank), you may have to get creative.
- If you’re going to take a picture, leave the fish close to the water. If not in the water, that is. It’s much easier on the fish, and it just looks better!
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