Swinging flies for spring chinook with king-sized intruders

King Size Intruders

Kingtruder2

The night before our historic trip we bellied up to the tying bench. Jason was in production mode, getting ready for a week of king fishing on the Kanektok. Lucky bastard. He’d already tied 30 flies, and was rounding out his collection. My situation was not so rosy. I was starting from zero and desperately needed a couple of flies to get me through a hard day on the local river. Since it takes me about two hours to tie a fly, it was time to get cracking. First I cracked a beer, then I got down to business.

My plan was to create a giant, flashy Intruder with large dumbbell eyes. I needed a fly that would get down early in the swing, so it had to be sparse. My prototypes from the week before looked okay, but when they hit the water, their failings became apparent. One was too bulky and couldn’t get down fast enough. Two had so much Flashabou they just collapsed into a giant strip of flash, with inadequate movement or contrast. I gave my best fly to Hickman, hoping he would test it out the next time he was surrounded by kings. So basically I had nothing that I could fish with confidence.

That night was one of those great tying sessions when you deliberately create the fly that you know will be the killer the next day. We drank a few beers, and by the last few steps of my second fly, my fingers were becoming thumbs. I ended up with two king-size pink and white Intruders. As long as I was careful, that would get me through the day.

Kingtruder1

The next morning we got an early start, figuring it would take a full day of swinging to get one shot at a spring chinook. A couple of hours later I stood thigh-deep in the river. It was a spot that we had been looking at for years, but had never fully explored. Today felt like the day. There were fish around, and no other people in sight. Jason and Jeff walked down to the next run. I stripped off a few feet of line and flopped the fly on the water. A short swing was interrupted by a jolt, then it came slowly to the bank. Had I just imagined that? I shrugged it off and made a couple more casts, letting out a few yards of line between casts. On my fourth cast, as the fly came close to the dangle, something grabbed hold and tore off into open water.

It was a savage grab, followed by a hard run to the other side of the river. There was no doubt it was a chinook. Now the only doubt was whether I could bring the fish to hand. We played tug-of-war for ten or fifteen minutes, but the bulldog finally showed his chrome sides, and I held him. My hands were trembling. It was a smaller fish, maybe sixteen or seventeen pounds. I pulled out my little point-and-shoot camera to prove the moment, then carefully released the salmon. I was alone, but I had the photo. My first king landed on the swing!

Kingtruder3

I took a few minutes to savor the moment, then stepped back into the riffle. I fished carefully through another full pass. Soon the water was nearing the top of my waders. I might only have another cast or two before having to back out and start again. I made another cast, and as the fly started its swing, my fly line tightened like piano wire and a big king broke the surface. It ran and jumped and ran and jumped again. I laughed out loud as the fish exploded all around the pool. On it’s final leap, it shook it’s head violently and the fly fell away. Rather than being disappointed, I felt triumphant. I had undeniable proof that my flashy Intruders were going to catch chinook.

Kingtruder4

That night I thought about the long circuitous path that had led me to that day. I realized that all of my best fishing experiences were gifts. Not imaginary, metaphysical gifts from the fish gods, but real, tangible gifts from my friends and mentors. Every single great moment in my fishing life could be traced back to the kindness of another. This day, my best fishing day, was a gift from several people. Ed and Monte gave me the Intruder, the greatest invention in the history of fly tying. Jeff and Jason put me on the fish. They knew I would appreciate it. And they were right.

-Rob Russell

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16 Responses to Swinging flies for spring chinook with king-sized intruders

  1. Jim says:

    Wow! I desperately want to catch a springer on the swing. How does presentation and holding water for springers differ from steelhead?

  2. Rob Lewis says:

    Thats awesome Rob!!!!

    Rob

  3. Matt Siegmund says:

    You da man!! Nice job

  4. Rob R says:

    Regarding presentation: swing like you do for steelies, but make sure you’re getting down within a foot of the bottom. I was using 12 feet of type 8 for a sink tip, 6 feet of leader, 4 feet of which was 12# tippet. Cast, big mend, 2 or 3 steps, then as the fly swings, slowly step into the swing to slow it down and swing deeper. That means you’re moving fast between casts. If you hit bottom anywhere on the swing, adjust your swing accordingly or back off on the sink tip.

    Regarding holding water: kings hold in prime steelhead water (2′ to 6′ walking speed) when water is up and off color. The lower and clearer the water gets, the more the travel lane moves toward the channel. What you need is a known travel lane that is slow and shallow enough to make an effective presentation.

  5. Billy McKnight says:

    Rob-

    You’ve got a gift for writing…I get pumped big time to hit the river after reading your entries! These Intruders are really intriguing for their functionality and artistic qualities. Teach a class on tying them and I will certainly take it!

  6. Tony Torrence says:

    I couldn’t agree more that our success is a direct reflection of our mentors and fishing friends. You tie a beautiful fly!!! Congrats on your Springer, Tony

  7. Rob – that’s a great story and your writing is awesome…but holy crap I love the look of those flies!

    I think the correct term in Kanektok-ese would be ‘super crittery’, but I’d have to check with the experts.

  8. FJ says:

    Well done Rob… you fish as well as you write – freakin awesome!
    GH

  9. Karl Mueller says:

    Definitely the man Rob!

  10. Mitch says:

    Ahhh…yes, the old gob of eggs Intruder. My k-tok favorite. Congrats bro.

  11. fryin' bacon says:

    nice work, mr. russell. maybe there’s something to a 2 hour fly after all?

  12. Hickman says:

    Rob, you cant be human. Thanks for the fly! I will take it with me to AK West on the Kanektok next month, where normal humans can actually catch these hot beautiful fish on a swung fly. We have a couple spots open in our group, but you Im afraid are not invited. You would pose to big of a threat on the fish population. jk. Nice work!

  13. Rob R says:

    okay, now i’m blushing.

  14. Peter says:

    Hey how heavy is the tip you are using? How are the new airflo skagit lines??

    Anyone?

  15. Rob R says:

    that morning it took 12′ of type 8 sink tip to get near the bottom, and it appeared as if getting down mattered.

    i was using a Vision Spey Ace, compact skagit-style head. the line, like the airflo and rio equivalents, came with a set of tips, but i had to get the type 8 separately. it came as a 15′ tip, but i cut it back by 3 feet.

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