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Top Tips Fishing King Salmon

Top Tips Fishing King Salmon

It is not long now before the King Salmon season starts to kick in full swing on many of our King Salmon destinations around the world. With this in mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to share some of my tips swing flies for big Kings.

Casting

A big mistake made by many anglers fishing for King Salmon is they cast too far. King Salmon like to hold and run quite close to the bank and that’s not just the far bank. Consistently casting neat 40-foot casts will catch more fish than only getting the odd 80 foot casts right therefore longer casts are not always better.

Cast across and slightly downstream, make sure you read the water you are fishing and adjust the cast accordingly, If you’re fishing a broad, gradual gravel bar, the most effective presentation is directly opposite at 90 degrees and around 20 degrees downstream from perpendicular to the flow.

The second your cast lands put a big mend in, as you need the fly to get down quickly. A big upstream mend immediately after the fly lands will result in the best presentation. The best way to mend big is to use the whole fly rod, not just the tip.

Swinging Flies

More fly time in the water will equal more fish, this relates to the point above. Make sure you fish in a way that you are comfortable with so that your fly is swimming as much as possible.  Do not tie yourself up with a difficult cast that results in tangles every third swing. Do not keep changing flies or tips every 5 minutes because King Salmon will be swimming past you and you need to make sure your fly is in the water when they do. I have seen many anglers playing with flies and tippets to only to miss a fresh group of Kings swimming by.

Another tip is to only mend your slack line. If you shoot all your line that’s off the reel 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. Stop your cast by holding back on the last 4 or 5 feet of the line of your reel so that when you mend you can let go of it so you only mend the slack, therefore, positioning the line and the fly properly and not pulling the fly back towards you.

Maintain a straight line to the fly, as Kings prefer a long, slow, steady swing. Normally this is best achieved by keeping your line as straight to the fly as possible. Keep making some big mends to keep the line straight, and then just let it naturally swing in at a slow pace.

Setting the Hook

Do not strip strike to quick. I understand this is a hard one as you are so hyped up as you have been planning for months, but try to relax and wait for that long pull. Kings are well known to swipe at your fly a few times before taking a firm grip and the over-keen angler will strike, lifting the rod and only proceed to pull the fly out of attack range of an aggressive King.

Set low, hard, and towards the bank as a weak lift of the rod tip will not set the hook properly. After you get the long pull, give a hard, quick strip strike downstream and toward the bank with the butt of your rod. Do not worry if your knots are all tied correctly you can not bust off on a strike like this.

Fighting Chinook Salmon

Kings are animals so fight them hard, these are big, strong fish, and if you are not working hard, believe me, they will be just resting.  However, do not try to stop them particularly on the first couple of strong runs, let them run, but make them work for the line. If they’re headed downriver and you clamp down too hard too quick to try to halt the run you will break them off. You need to be consistently pulling hard and keep the fish moving by changing angles, this way you can be in control and get it over quickly for both yours and the fishes benefit. Playing them too light or not taking control has resulted in many King Salmon turning around and swimming downstream and once he has a good lead on you it will be game over. A simple rule of thumb, if you are not breathing hard and your arms feel like they are ready to fall off,  you have not fought them hard enough.

When the fight is nearly over and the fish is ready to be landed, the easiest way to end the fight and the safest way is often to keep a tight line to the fish and slowly walk backwards until the fish is in shallow water. If you are not in a spot where you can walk back due to bank vegetation bring the fish into shallow water on a longish line below you, so your guide can either net or tail the fish.

Taking Pictures

Lastly, if you want that picture of a lifetime, make sure you keep the fish in shallow water and you get in with the fish. After all trophy shots with an angler kneeling low in the water makes for great pictures, plus it’s easier to also get those amazing release shots.

Lastly, I am a great believer in all my fishing, regardless of species or fishing methods, to make sure you keep the PMA (Positive mental attitude). We have all been there at times, however, anglers who get upset because the wind is in the wrong direction, upset about their casting as they are trying to cast too far, or that someone else is catching more than them so they must be doing something wrong, catch less fish. It’s a hard fact but it is true, by losing your PMA and taking yourself out of the fishing zone, because you have got so wound up that you have stopped mentally fishing, reading the water, thinking things through. Anglers, who can keep PMA catch far more fish, learn more and have a lot more fun actually doing it.

If you are looking for some King action, or even your first experience of fishing and battling with Kings we have some great Salmon fishing destinations.

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or call me personally on 0044 (0)1603 407596

Tight lines

Peter Collingsworth

Blog Comments

  • Steve Selway

    Excellent points on fishing for kings. I am always giving my clients at Puma Fishing Ltda on the Yelcho River in the Chilean Patagonia the same pep talk and tips of fishing for the kings. Interestingly all the lodges mentioned are in Alaska yet I hold the IGFA length world records for both the kings and silvers from the Yelcho in Chile. We also have Atlantics in late March thru April. Our silver run has all but gone away but the king runs get larger and larger every year. Several were brought to net in the 115 -120 cm range and weights to the mid to high 80’s (lbs). Hopefully one will be landed that will top 100 lb – I have lost the battle to a few that I believe were close. I don’t have this past season’s photos on the website yet as I have been tied up this being the veterinarian advisor for the owner of the horse American Pharoah, who won the KY Derby and the Preakness Stakes and is trying to be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 — Hell, I haven’t even gotten to go tarpon fishing and the season is almost over. Again great tips for the kings.

    • Peter Collingsworth

      Steve

      Thanks for your kind comments. I would love to see some pictures of these big Kings. Please feel free to send me any information that you have.

      Regards Peter

  • Jim Teeny

    Enjoyed the information that you shared. I have been taking Kings on the fly since the early 70’s and truly love the challenge. I have a great trip coming up with friends in Alaska June 18th on the Nushagnak River for big fresh Kings!

    • Peter Collingsworth

      Jim

      Glad you enjoyed the info, but I am sure you do not need any advice at all 🙂 Have a great trip, keep me informed. What lodge are you going to? send me a full report with pictures and I will do a blog on it when you return.

      Regards Peter

  • John Watson

    Armed with your tips and a full set of Teeny lines looking forward to another crack at the Kalum River kings this summer!

    • Peter Collingsworth

      John, you are so lucky, I wish I was with you again but alas the only King Salmon fishing I will be getting in is in Argentina.

      I am sure you will do very very well, still remember that day when we had Ken with us on the Kalum river, what a crazy day and laugh was had by all.

      Get some great pictures buddy.

      Regards Peter

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