Adam Jackson is a long-time guide at Rapids Camp Lodge, our fly-out operation on the Naknek River in Alaska. Want to know how Adam rigs up when he’s chasing the biggest and baddest of the salmon species? Read on!
Make sure you read through the Commentary section – there’s a lot of meat in there.
- Sage 8136-4 ONE
- RIO 575gr Skagit Spey Line
- Sage 8010 reel
- Sage 990-4 Xi2
- Ross Canyon Big Game
- RIO WF10F & TT-275
- 50 yards of high vis backing tied onto the spool with an arbor knot – “so you know when you need to run or get in the boat”.
- 150 yards of 65# Spectra Braid attached to the hi vis backing via Bimini Twists and a loop to loop connection.
- 115′ of 44 pound Rio Slick Shooter attached to the Spectra, via a Bimini Twist loop in the Spectra and a double Albright in the Slick Shooter. All knots dressed with Zap a Gap.
- Skagit head attached to the shooting line via a loop to loop connection, with loops made by triple nail knots over the loops, dressed with Zap a Gap.
- Skagit shooting head to T-14 sink tip of varying lengths.
- Leader made of 3′ 35 pound Maxima, 2′ 25 pound Maxima, 1′ 15 pound Fluoro flex, all tied together ‘Uni to Uni’ style.
- Fly tied on with a Non Slip mono loop.
- Just like with the spey rig, 50 yards of hi vis backing attached to 150 yards 65# braid, Bimini Twist loop to Bimini Twist Loop.
- Bimini twist loop to welded fly line loop for lessened friction through the guides.
- Floating line tippet attached via Albright knot, standard 3’, 2’, 1’, 3’ leader ending in 15# Fluorocarbon.
- Sinking line tippet attached via Albright to 3’ 25# Maxima, 3’15# Fluorocarbon, Uni to Uni.
- Non Slip mono loop to fly.
We all know Alaska is home to some of the largest Chinook runs in North America.
These large annual runs provide anglers with the unique opportunity to hook and land multiple King Salmon a day, on the fly in June and July. As with any fishing, being in the right place at the right time is key. The tides, recent rainfall, water clarity and pressure are determining factors when targeting these fish.
Using the right equipment during the hunt will exponentially increase your number of hook ups each day of your trip. The first thing you need to do is start thinking 3 dimensionally about the water you’re fishing – how you’re going to cover the run you’re about to step into. A lot of the water fished for Kings in Alaska is tide water, that lower 10-15 miles affected by the gnarly 20+- foot tides. This poses the challenge of ever-changing water depths and current speeds for any particular run or bucket. So to say that there is one right set up or rig for getting the job done with consistency would be foolish.
The brand or style of rod and reel is really up to the individual angler’s preference – as long as they fall somewhere along the lines of a 12 ½ ‘ to 15’ 8, 9, or 10 weight, in the two handed variety, or your standard 9’ 9 to 10 weight, in a single hander. The reel should be able to carry at least 200yds of 30# backing or 65# Spectra and have a solid drag.
Where it starts to get interesting is the idea of “thinking 3D about the water”. Start close, with short casts and a light, short tip, or none at all depending on the water. Though you may be able to bomb a 120’ cast and want to impress your buddies and guide, you could be blowing your chances on that first fish of the day that is only two-rod lengths away by spooking it with the line. Progress to a heavy tip after covering the near areas of the run and get into that lower area of the water column. Kings can be super aggressive, even taking flies right off the surface in the right conditions, so at the end of your swing always fish the fly back to you.
When you hook up, note exactly where that fish hit, what you where using or how you provoked the strike. 9 times out of 10 if you emulate it in the next hour, adjusting for any current or volume changes, there will be another King in that same exact spot willing to take the fly just like the last one did.
Lighting and water clarity have every thing to do with fly selection for Chinooks. I know, I know… It’s a Salmon, so pink, purple, chartreuse, and orange. What else do you need, right? Right, but knowing when to fish those particular colors and when to incorporate flash is the trick to triggering strikes throughout the day. On overcast days or in more turbid water use your darker flies with larger profiles and keep flash to a minimum. The brighter out or clearer the water, the lighter, more vibrant colors can be used. Even sparsely tied patterns will out fish your cerise, purples and oranges.
Persistence is the name of the game when hunting down Kings, so having equipment that you’re comfortable throwing all day is the way to go. The easier the better and more time you’ll spend with your fly in the water.