Ed Ward has been called many things. ‘Jedi knight’, ‘Zen master’, ‘Buddha’ and more all apply to Ed when speaking of anadromous fish, particularly when two-handed rods are involved.
Ed is one of the pioneers of Skagit-style spey casting. The techniques and tackle that we use widely today are largely a result of Ed and others’ many hours of experimentation on and off the water over the years. We are extremely fortunate to have Ed as our Head Guide at Alaska West.
Here’s Ed’s go-to rig for chasing kings on the Kanektok. Read and learn.
- 12 1/2′ 8/9 Loomis Stinger
- 550 grain Rio Skagit head
- Ross Canyon Big Game
175-200 yards of 50 pound Powerpro for backing that is attached to the reel spool by wrapping 7 times around the spool arbor, then tying a 6 wrap Uni-knot, then pulling it all SUPER tight. “Use gloves to do this.”
100 feet of 30 pound mono running line, attached to the backing and the Skagit head using loop-to-loop connections via triple surgeon’s loops
One of three sinktips attached to the Skagit head using loop-to-loop connections. More on Ed’s tips in the Commentary section below.
Straight shot of 15 pound fluorocarbon leader attached to the sinktip using a loop-to-loop connection and a non-slip mono loop in the sinktip end of the leader. “My belief is that 15 pound is plenty strong enough for King fishing, but is not so strong as to imperil one’s fly line if the rig happens to snag up on a midriver root wad!”
Lead-eyed string leech in fluorescent yellow, hot pink or purple, tied on with a non-slip mono loop
The Light Rig
“This rig is definitely on the ‘light’ side of King flyfishing rigs, aimed more at having the most fun with fish in the 8 to 18 pound range. It will handle larger Kings – up to around the high 20’s – but if I were targeting fish larger than that I would step up to a 9/10 weight rig. I have found this combination to be one of the most versatile for the earlier part of the Kanektok King run when 8 to 18 pound Kings comprise the major portion of the catch and also when high water conditions usually prevail.
The 12 1/2′ length of this rod is just short enough to make for comfortable casting and fishing from out of an anchored-up boat, a circumstance of fishing that is sometimes required during early season high water. In my experience, boat fishing with rods longer than this is cumbersome at best and can be downright fatal for a longer rod if a hooked King decides to make a run under the boat! When it comes to ‘bar fishing’, the 12 1/2′ length is capable of throwing out to 75, 80, 85 feet, which when combined with wading, works quite well for the majority of the bars. This is especially true during early season high water where the higher velocity and turbidity of the current coaxes the fish into running closer to the beach.
One other plus of the 12 1/2 footer is that during circumstances of wind the shorter length allows for ‘sliding the cast low’ – closer to the surface of the river – thus reducing the effects that the wind has on the flyline.
The one caveat about this King combo is that I would not recommend it for beginning speycasters – casting skills need to be of a fairly high degree to really realize the benefits of such a ‘compact’ rig.”
“The shortest tip, a 6 footer, is constructed of 6′ of T-14 spliced onto 3′ of 12 weight floater for a total length of 9′. The middle tip is a straight 9′ chunk of T-14. The longest tip, the 12 footer, is also just a straight 12′ chunk of T-14.
I use braided mono loops on both ends of the tips – 50 pound on the line-to-line end, and 30 pound on the leader end. The leader loop is colored black with a Sharpie so it doesn’t look like a white worm swimming in front of the fly.”
One Last Suggestion
“Regardless of what rod/line combo is selected for pursuing Kanektok Kings, a hook file should be an essential part of one’s tackle inventory. ‘Sticky sharp’ hooks are KEY to successful King fishing. I recommend a 6″ slim taper file that can be purchased at most any hardware store for 2 or 3 bucks. Stick the pointy end into a used wine cork to prevent accidental stabbing, then put it in your vest or tackle bag and make it a ‘don’t leave home without it’ item!”