Flies for offshore king salmon
I've shared just a few of the glory shots from our fly fishing for offshore king salmon. With rare exceptions it's been a trolling affair, fly rods with heavy sink tip lines to run the flies 3'-6' under the surface in less than 20' of water around rocks, reefs and kelp beds. Every so often the stars lined up for casting, at which time casting flies came to the fore.
Following is an array of flies that have worked for us in taking over 30 kings in just two weeks, fishing about every other day as weather permitted. Pretty darned hot fishing by any measure, especially for kings running to well over 30#, and most over 20#! The bait concentrations have moved on and the fishing has slowed, so I set aside time for photos.
I'll try to include remarks with each photo, but I'm sure I'll leave some stuff out. Questions are welcome. We're still figuring this stuff out, but we've had plenty of encouragement at the ends of our lines! :bananadance:
This is the basic and most successful pattern, the color combo "borrowed" from successful offshore king anglers in British Columbia. I dinked around with a bunch of other color combos, but with one exception they got it right. Black over silver Krystal Flash. In this case I used Fish Hair or some such for the least tangling long hair, topped with black bucktail for a little more bulk up front. Major, major lesson: They're slender for a reason. Make them too bulky and they tend to flip over on their sides at the ideal 1.8-2.2mph trolling speed. Hooks are 3/0 Mustad 3407 up front, 3/0 Daiichi Cutting Point Octopus in back connected via a 20# mono loop.
Same fly tied strictly with black DNA Holo Fusion for the back. Dandy version with one hang-up. That Holo Fusion tangles and snarls badly in a king's mouth. When wet, you simply can't untangle it. You have to take it home and let it dry, then run a comb or something through it to unsnarl it. I'm happy to use it because it works so well, but I carry lots and change flies with each king.
This is a "bright day" variation. When the sun is bright and the kings are spooky, I switch to a slimmer version and sub white DNA Holo Fusion for most of the silver Krystal Flash. We watched kings run from the previous versions in bright sun, but stick around to hit this one. I've also dropped the size to 1/0.
Now we're wandering onto new ground, and I only got in a few days of testing before the fish scattered. They were already pushing deeper, and we simply couldn't get there trolling with sinking lines. I added the large size Fish Skulls and virtually doubled the depth the flies were running, and started picking up fish again. Then on a whim, I tried to duplicate a lesson from casting. All strikes while casting come as the fly sinks or jigs downward between strips. I tried pulling the rod slowly forward 3' or 4', then swept it sharply backward so the fly would pause and hopefully sink. Holy cow! I got a hit after the first drop back, and that's the king that hit so hard it broke my Sage 10WT. The "pull and drop" has proven so successful we do it almost all the time now. We're also using Fish Skulls almost exclusively, merely shortening the line when we want them to run closer to the surface. That drop is a killer whether shallow or deeper.
Now I'm into the exception to the black/silver rule. As the days passed the herring started to disappear, and the kings switched to needlefish, officially known as Pacific Sand Lance. Long skinny guys that can run up to 5" or 6" in length. They're light in color with olive backs, and have subtle flash that's really only visible when they turn or dodge. Turns out the pull and drop is killer with them too, hence the Fish Skull. Hooks are #1/0 Mustad 3400011 up front and a #1/0 trailer.
Lightweight version of the same pattern.
Light casting version of the herring fly, white DNA rather than silver. Silver is better on overcast days, and that version is a little further down.
Fish Skull casting version of the herring.
Light casting version (#1/0) of the silver/black.
Black/silver #3/0 Clouser. Looks small and short, but it was our best fly for casting to bait balls, merely letting it sink out through the bottom of the bait ball with no retrieve at all. Sounds odd to use a heavy Clouser (largest lead dumbbell eyes) and heavy sinking lines with no retrieve, but you do what the kings tell you to do.
Very cool, sounds like fun.
cool stuff, thanks for sharing.
Awesome flies. I've always liked sparse flies like these and is typically how I tie a smaller bait fish fly. I just got back from Deadhorse, so I haven't been out for over a week, but hope to get out this weekend if it's not too windy.
Let me know how it turns out! We've been off-island for a while, with a while more to go. I've been scheming on some new ideas, and I'm anxious to get back and try them. Offshore silvers should be lurking right now, and I'm going to focus on them. I'm figuring to drop from 3/0 to 1/0 or 1 for some of the same patterns, but also to plow new ground with some "silver" combos. Looking forward to any reports you can add between now and then!
Keep up the good work. I'm all ears. Been wanting to break out the flyrod on kings and silvers for awhile.