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Early Kings and Salmon Snake Tube Flies

by Gary Melzer
Schmidt Outfitters

Be sure to read to the end of the article for the step-by-step instructions for tying the Salmon Snake Tube Fly and the instructions for building the rig.

Typically when we think of salmon fishing, we're looking into September, but some of the best and most exciting times can be in mid to late August. If you do fish for salmon on the river this time of year, you have to realize it is very unpredictable, that is to say that they may or may not be there. One day you may see a large pod of fish and the next, very few.

Another factor in August salmon fishing is time. Very early morning or late evening is generally the best, 5:30 am till around 9:00 or 10:00 or 7:00 pm till dark. The fish are most active and are moving upstream towards their spawning areas. During the day they tend to hid in deep pools and near banks to avoid the light and they become less aggressive.

Streamer fishing for these big fish on the Manistee has always been frustrating. You use a 10 weight rod with a 350 to 400 grain sink tip and a large fly, such as the Salmon Snake. Most people cannot cast that type of rod for a period of time without tiring, but to have just one of these fish take the fly is exhilarating.

Last year, Nick Homan and I came up with a way to go after these early salmon that combines two techniques. It uses a combination of chuck and duck and stripping streamer method. You still use a 10 weight rod, but instead of the heavy sink tip lines, you are using a shooting line, such as RIO's Slick Shooter with a leader that has a four inch piece of hollow core lead tied inline. The fly is a custom tied tube fly similar to a Salmon Snake with 1/8" copper for the tube to get depth in the water.

The technique is to throw the fly upstream about one o'clock, let it settle as it makes its sweep, and then start stripping back. You don't have your arms tiring as quickly and the fly gets down more quickly to where the fish are with more chances of hooking up. If and when it does happen, hang on because these early salmon will take you into your backing.

Setting up the fly and the rigging takes a few minutes so we usually have two or three extra rigs ready to go in the boat as replacements. With these early fish, you never know what the outcome is going to be.

Whether you want to try this on your own or book a trip with us, please stop in and we'll help you get your equipment set up.

You might also want to bring along a 6 weight rod for the rest of the day to fish for river smallmouth bass. Whichever way you prefer, it is definitely worth going after these fish in August.


1/8" Copper Tubing

100 Denier GSP Thread

Zap-a-Gap and Zap Gel

Red or Fire Orange Ice Dub or Micro Ice Chenille

Chartreuse Rabbit Zonker Strips

Pearl Lateral Scale

Fire Tiger Flashabou

Chartreuse and Red Master Bright

10mm Doll Eyes


 Step One

Place 1-1/2" to 1-3/4" of the copper tubing in the tube vise holder. Lay down a layer of GSP thread on the tube.

Step Two

 Use a drop of Zap-a-Gap to adhere the thread to the tube. Wrap the ice dub (or micro ice chenille) around the tube 7-8 times.

Step Three

Tie off the chenille into a ball.


 Step Four

Secure two 3-1/2"-4" segments of chartreuse rabbit zonkers.

Step Five

Tie in 6 strands of pearl lateral scale. 

 Step Six

Tie in 6 strands of fire tiger flashabou.

 Step Seven

This is how the flashabou should lay between the zonker strips.

 Step Eight

Stack chartreuse master bright on the bottom of the fly in front of the chenille ball and wrap with thread twice.

Step Nine

Stack chartreuse master bright on the top of the fly in the front of the chenille ball and wrap with thread twice to hold it in place. 

Step Ten

Tease and fluff the master bright on both sides. 

 Step Eleven

Stack red master bright in front of the chartreuse master bright on the top of the fly.

 Step Twelve

Stack red master bright in front of the chartreuse master bright on the bottom of the fly.

Step Thirteen

Tease and fluff the red master bright on both the top and bottom of the fly.

Step Fourteen

Trim the master bright on both the top and the bottom to form the head.

Step Fifteen

Spin the fly sideways and trim the master bright on the side of the head.

Step Sixteen

Add two strands of lateral scale doubled on both sides in front of the head. Whip finish the fly.


Step Seventeen

Use Zap Gel to adhere a 10mm doll eye to both sides of the fly, making sure that the lateral scale is glued under the eyes.


  Building the Rig

Please note that this rig was tied using a high visibility line and high visibility action disk for this demonstration.

Step One

Take approximately 6" of 15-20lb monofilament. Tie a swivel to one end (this forms the top of the rig), then slide on a bead. Under the bead, slide a 3-4" piece of hollow core lead, another bead behind the lead, and tie a swivel on the other end.

Step Two

Attach 24-30" of 15-20lb mono to the bottom swivel. Slide the action disk up several inches from the end of the mono. Tie an inline nail knot using 10 lb mono. This will make it easier to adjust the placement of the action disk.

 Step Three

Slide the tube fly on to the mono with a bead after, then tie a swivel on the end of the mono. Attach the hook of your choice with 10-15 lb mono for the breakaway.

Completed Rig