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Swing for Kings!

by John Gouker
Schmidt Outfitters

I love to swing flies for steelhead through the fall, and always look forward to October when this becomes possible. Most anglers wait until then to break out the swing rods, not even considering earlier chances at kings. Salmon can be difficult at times, but with chances at 12 to 20 pound chrome fish ripping line off your reel, the effort is well worth it. They will test your skills and make you a better angler if you give them the chance.

The annual fall migration of our king salmon (chinook) are around in good numbers by the third week of August. The run tends to build from this time until the end of September, with the fish then moving to gravel runs to spawn. The fish are best pursued prior to the spawn when they are in peak condition. Their fighting power and stamina are second to none when it comes to freshwater fish.

The equipment can range from 8 to 10 weight single-hand rods to switch and full two-handed rods in 8 to 9 weights. Reels need to be solid with good drags to handle fish of this size and strength. The lines need to be versatile to be able to cover different levels of the water column. You can use VersiTip systems for the single-handers and Skagit systems for the switch and two-handers. The flies tend to be medium to large in black, purple, and various brighter colors. Leaders can and should be stout (12 to 15 pound Maxima) with lengths around four feet for most applications. When you think about equipment, make sure not to go too light. It can cost you fish and broken gear.

Chasing kings on the swing can be some of the most memorable fishing of the year. There are a growing number of anglers using traditional methods to pursue salmon--and for good reason. It is challenging and fun. The takes from the fish can be arm-jolting and will almost pull the rod from your hands. There is nothing else quite like it. If this sounds like your idea of fun, come and try your luck swinging for kings!