Chinook Salmon Tackle Selection – October 2013

The 2013 Fall chinook salmon season on the Oregon coast is shaping up to be one of the best we have seen in at least a decade.  No bull.  More early fish, and the prospect of a steady push of fresh salmon entering through the end of December, with the South Coast closing strong for the season.

I’ve offered opinions previously – recommendations to help anglers who are trying to gear up for this specialized fly fishing niche.  the first was in November 2011 and the second was was in November 2012.

It’s difficult to convey just how excited I am about this season.  Honestly, I wasn’t at all sure I would ever live to see a run of Chinook hit the coast like this one has, is, and hopefully, will continue for the next three months.

But this post is going to be bare bones and help any of you who decide to go fishing for Kings with the fly rod, perhaps for the first time this season.

First admonition: leave the gear rods home. The only way to catch Kings on the fly is to cast the fly.  I promise that Chinook eat flies and they eat ’em good.  I still – sadly – run into people who think that fly anglers only snag or floss Chinook; but they are misinformed and I’m not going to waste anyone’s time debating or analyzing the wrongness of their views.  Last time I fished, I was blessed to have a 42″ Chinook eat a fly minutes after first being offered eggs suspended under a bobber and then a spinner.

Now to the topic of tackle selection.  After reviewing the previous advice I’ve offered, my ideas haven’t changed by much, so I’m going to mention the tackle I’ve been fishing this season because it is currently being beat around in my Super Pram and these rods, reels and lines have already proven themselves under serious load from Chinook.

Please note: as you read this material, keep in mind that I do not mean to exclude other brands or models of rods, reels and lines from the list of great tackle  to use fly fishing for Chinook.   There are plenty of excellent tackle choices and the staff at the Caddis Fly will be able to make interpretations and additional recommendations to guide you into appropriate gear for salmon fishing.

Oregon Salmon Fly Rods:

I’ve been fishing 8 wt, 9 wt and 10 wt rods for Kings this season.  I’m reaching for the 8 and 9 wt rods more often then the 10 wts.  A 9 wt Sage ONE is always in the boat, as are a pair of 8 wt Echo PRIMEs,  an 8 wt SAGE Motive, and a Burkheimer 995-4 and 7115-4.

The SAGE MOTIVE  is a new rod and has been a surprise to me.  I have pressured  a lot of Kings on the 8 wt – daring it to explode – and it took all the punishment in stride.  I love my SAGE ONE and am especially fond of my odd, one piece ECHO PRIME rods.  Honestly, I love all these rods, and they are my constant companions outfitted with different fly lines to fish in different water depths.

A very economical stand-in for these rods would be a 9 and 10 wt Echo ION or  Echo 3 Saltwater fly rod – my IONs and E3SW rods now, after proving themselves equal to the test, get loaned to friends only because at some point the number of rods in my boat becomes completely unmanageable.

Salmon fly reels:

I’ve been fishing a SAGE 8000 Pro series reel, a Hatch 9, three  Nautilus reels, and a SAGE EVOKE reel this season.  Every one of these reels has survived serious stress applied by salmon.  I will note that every fly reel I have ever owned is subject to the problem of occasionally finding my mono shooting line lodged somewhere it isn’t supposed to be.  This has been true with hundred buck reels and nine hundred buck reels.  I’ve concluded that this is partly due to my line handling ineptitude and I am resigned to just taking the spool out, clearing the foul, and re-inserting the spool.  Last week I accomplished this with a fish on, and got lucky.  Just don’t feel like you’re the only one because you ain’t.

The SAGE EVOKE is new in my boat this year and I’m very impressed with the drag and the reel’s overall toughness.  My Echo Ion reels are now my loaners and are in their second full year of fresh and saltwater overuse.  For the cost, they will get the job done and get you into the game immediately.

I fish two types of fly lines: shooting heads and full lines.  Currently, RIO is the principal provider of quality shooting heads.  I fish every head density from full floating, Intermediate, Type 3, and Type 6 – all on Rio Slickshooter, Gripshooter, or Airflo Intermediate Running Line 30 Lb.

The Rio Outbound, RIO Striper,the Airflo 40+, SA Streamer Express, and Airflo SNIPER fly lines are all examples of full fly lines that are available with slow to fast sinking head sections and integrated running lines. All of these lines are relatively easy to cast, and they also eliminate the  loop-to-loop connection that goes “bangity-clack” through the guides. If   a person must choose one of these fly lines, it would be the type 3 sink tip which is roughly a sink rate of 3-4 inches per second. Your second two fly lines will be Intermediate and Type 6 sinking heads, the former will be your go-to under low water conditions, but the latter will be absolutely essential in high water.  Yes, fly lines are crazy, and I often carry five rods with five different lines ready to fish in my boat.

Salmon leaders: recommendation. Try a 9 ft Rio Steelhead & Salmon Tapered Leader somewhere in the 10 Lb -16 Lb zone.   If you make your own, give Maxima Ultragreen a go, and keep your tippets in the sub 20 Lb class.

If all you have is a 15 ft sink tip single hand rod or a spey rod with a 12 – 15 ft tip and you long to go salmon fishing, then ignore the advice and just get on the water

Salmon flies –

Comet , Boss , and Clouser type flies all fish well and catch the “beasties”.  You can fish Intruders and bunny leaches and MOAL style flies too.  Again, the most important thing to do is tie on  a fly and cast it on the waters where Chinook live.

I know this is repetitive “gobbeldygook”.  Can’t help it.  Advice is constantly requested at the shop and in emails and phone calls.  We all started here at some point.  I remember calling Kaufmann’s decades ago and getting obfuscated with disinformation from some shop guy (ha ha, I fish with him now, yes I do Mr. so-and-so) and then buying my shooting heads from a barely-past-puberty Chris Daughters at the Caddis Fly in Eugene on my way South to fish the Rogue for Kings.  Seems like a lifetime ago.

I got my boat loaded, fresh loops on new and old shooting heads, flies tied and I’m going salmon fishing. Join me?  Just not too close please.  Got myself a brand new hernia and i M hoping to make is through the rest of the season.  Wish me luck please – and best of luck to all of you fellow salmon angler guys and gals.

Jay Nicholas – October 20 2013

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3 Responses to Chinook Salmon Tackle Selection – October 2013

  1. Two dogs says:

    Jay, great write up! Always look forward to your seasonal summaries. Thanks for sharing!! Take care and feel better.

  2. Stevie says:

    Oh, sure…chinook. No big deal.

    I need coho help! 🙂

  3. Lance says:

    sorry to hear about the hernia, Jay. gotta think that beautiful fish is helping with the pain…as will anti-inflammatories washed down with beverage of choice 🙂

    And thanks for the help with that fish a couple of weeks ago. You are a class act.



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