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Thread: BIG Kings on a Flyrod?

  1. #1
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Default BIG Kings on a Flyrod?

    Just wondering if many of you have caught, say, a 60+ pound Kenai king, or a big late season king from the salt, on a flyrod? For those of you that have, what kind of gear do you run? I happened to see an ad for what was said to be a "big fish" fly real that said it had a 20 pound drag. I don't know how you rate fly reel drags, so was wondering if something like that would be sufficient?

    I only ask because many years ago I remember a friend of mine telling me about talking to a guy on the Kenai that hooked into a monster that just tore his whole setup apart. Couldn't even begin to hold it, and this was from a boat!

    Just curious is all....

    Thanks.
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    Never caught one that big on the fly, but people catch tarpon and marlin on fly rods.

    As you probably know the rod strength is normally the key issue and the reel is then specified to match the rod. The heaviest I use is a 9 wt which has a line breaking strength of about 30 lbs. 12 wt is about 50 lbs, but fish weight and line weight do not exactly match.

    You can step all the way up to a 16 wt which has a line breaking strength of closer to 60 - 80 lbs. Drag on those reels is set to only about 5-6 lbs but they tend to be only used in salt water and are overkill for salmon. I think you only need enough drag to slow them down and keep the pressure on while they wear themselves out.

    If the reel breaks I suspect it has more to do with the quality of the reel.

  3. #3

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    I've caught some fairly large kings on my 12 wt G-loomis with a big game canyon reel that were 40-45 pounds. Nothing ever 50 or 60 pounds, but I'm sure my rod could handle it, but I would just have to fight the fish a lot longer.

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    My brother used to catch Kings on the Kasilof on his fly rod. We fished right at the mouth of Crooked Creek. Had many days of us each hooking and releasing 20 plus Kings each. Those were the days. I know he caught some on the Kenai on his fly rod also, but I don't know the weights of those. Plenty over 40 on the Kasilof.
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  5. #5

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    My biggest king on a flyrod is a 35 pounder. However, I do a lot of big game fishing on the flyrod for marlin, sailfish, tarpon, tuna, and dorado. The biggest fish I've landed on a flyrod is a 140 pound striped marlin, and I regularly get fish over 100 pounds on the fly in the salt. Very rarely, do you run very heavy drags of 20 pounds on a flyrod, even in the salt. My typical reel drag setting is usually around 5 pounds, even for big game in the salt. Most fly reels can't even run 20 pounds of drag, they don't have drag surfaces large enough to put that kind of pressure on. Besides the fact that most fly rods would break with 20 pounds of pressure. In addition, most flylines break at about 30 pounds, although there are a few specialty tropical saltwater flylines that test out at 50, so with a typical 30 pound line you couldn't run 20 pounds of drag even if you wanted to (typical drag settings are 15-25% of line breaking strength). IMNSHO, a reel with about 5 pounds of drag should work out for big kings. Just make sure you have plenty of backing, at least 200 yards and preferably 300 yards or more so you can chase them down. For king fishing I use 10/11 weight rods with one of my saltwater reels loaded with about 300 yards of backing (Orvis Mirage reel) and I have no problem handling big kings on that rig. Admittedly, I've never even hooked a king over 50 and probably never will, but I'm pretty sure my rig will handle it.

  6. #6
    Member kwackkillncrew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorcalBob View Post
    Just make sure you have plenty of backing, at least 200 yards and preferably 300 yards or more so you can chase them down.
    on some rivers that fish could be down and around 3 bends if they have 200 yards of spool!
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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by kwackkillncrew View Post
    on some rivers that fish could be down and around 3 bends if they have 200 yards of spool!
    Yep!!!! One of my most memorable fish was from Deep Creek many moons ago when I got smoked by a big 'un who was trying to go back to the ocean! My young fishing buddy sprinted off full speed in full waders and boots to hold the fly line backing off of the bridge supports so it wouldn't fray while the fish boogied towards the sea. I eventually caught up to him, and landed him after almost all of my backing had left the reel. Very few fish fights I remember that well! I was shocked that I actually landed that fish, but that explains why I have at least 200 yds of backing on my big fish reels! And truthfully, even though I big game fish a lot, I rarely use 200 yds of backing, even in the open ocean. But when you need it, it's good to know it's there!

  8. #8

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    Using fly rods in saltwater we've caught a whole bunch over 30, some in the 40's and a handful in the 50's. My biggest to date from saltwater (63.2#) came on a 10WT. No problems, though I wouldn't have wanted a lighter rod. The big deal in open saltwater is a large arbor reel for the times kings make blazing runs straight back at you. That and a clear snag-free deck where you can strip line without snags when reeling isn't fast enough. Along with a boat jockey tuned to working a boat to help keep the line tight or follow the fish on long runs.

    In rivers the bigger deal is the size and velocity of the river compared to the size of the fish. Biggest for me in a river was 67.9# (California's Smith River in 1970). That was on a 9WT, but I was fishing from a pram in the Railroad Bridge Hole down in tidewater and could follow the fish around. In fast big water I'd say a 10WT would be minimum for fish to somewhere in the high 30's and low 40's. Haven't connected with a big one in the Kenai, but I'd want a skilled boat handler if I did so on a 10WT. Even a 12WT might not be enough with standard leaders from shore with a big fish.

    In my 50+ years of kings on fly rods in fresh and saltwater, an all around big king rod would a 10WT or maybe an 11WT with big rivers in the mix. A large arbor reel with plenty of backing and a good drag would be mandatory, no matter the rod weight.
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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Large drag surface that can handle heating well is important. Kings can make a drag scream! I have caught some very large fish in skinny water on a 7wt fly rod with a high quality reel and 15# leader. It can be done! There are quite a few top shelf options for kings. Galvan, Ross, and Lamson to name just a few. They will typically have a one piece machined body, and top notch drag components. Very low startup inertia, small drag increments, and consistency- butter smooth without skipping or loading up and releasing.

  10. #10
    Member JR2's Avatar
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    I have caught quite a few de ent sized kings in smaller rivers with a 9wt and fin nor y reel. That reel has an amazing drag.

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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by willphish4food View Post
    Large drag surface that can handle heating well is important. Kings can make a drag scream! I have caught some very large fish in skinny water on a 7wt fly rod with a high quality reel and 15# leader. It can be done! There are quite a few top shelf options for kings. Galvan, Ross, and Lamson to name just a few. They will typically have a one piece machined body, and top notch drag components. Very low startup inertia, small drag increments, and consistency- butter smooth without skipping or loading up and releasing.
    Good points and good list. I'll add a great "new" reel to your list: TFO Power reel I picked up the II and the III last fall, the II for a 10WT rod and the III for a 12WT to use down in Florida for giant tarpon. Funny thing- Never got a big tarpon on the 12WT III, but got several over 100# on the 10WT II. It worked so well on those big screamers, I don't see hardly any reason for the bigger version! That's a test no king salmon in the world will ever put a reel through, so I'm greatly looking forward to the II's first encounter with big kings this spring.
    "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
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    20 pound drag is more than enough. If you can fight a 100+ pound Tarpon on a fly rod, you can do a King. Here's how...

    ETA: I thought this was a different video, but can't find the other (from one of his DVD's). He also weaves the line through his ring, middle and index finger. This allows him to clamp down on the line, against the cork, to put more pressure on. He doesn't really used the drag on the reel much. If he needs more he just puts pressure on the line.

    https://youtu.be/M_U_hqPmmDY


  13. #13

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    Don't get fooled by measuring the drag resistance directly off the reel. Line drag through the guides adds a whole lot of resistance. Thread your line through the guides and attach it to the scales, then measure the amount of drag. And be real ready for a real surprise. Drag settings to keep from breaking leaders are going to be waaaaay lower than the numbers I'm reading here. A 20# drag is over the moon more than you need for 20# tippets.
    "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
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    Largest king I have caught on a fly rod was shy of 30lbs but in the mid twenties on an 8wt single hand rod, I wouldn't have minded a 10wt one bit. The most important aspect of the reel in my opinion is that it can hold enough line and backing and you can retrieve it quickly. A steady reliable drag is nice too but don't get caught up on numbers, as Brown Bear said, 20lbs is ridiculous for king salmon. With that reel (sage 3280) has settings 1-10 and at 10 i think its around 8lbs. I set it at 2 so I can strip line but it wont overspool, at most I'll turn it up to 4 on a hot fish to tire it on long runs and mostly apply pressure with rod angle and my palm.

  15. #15

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    The whole topic of drag setting confuses folks until they add a scale for actually measuring their own. Here is about the best write-up I've found on it. The facts of drag life will just about scare you once you dig into it. Here's a notable quote from the article:

    Dependent on the breaking strength of the line, your drag will be set at a 1/4 to a 1/3 of that number.
    That means the 20# max drag on the "big game" fly reel is about right for 60# or 80# leaders. Heck, I use a 15# drag setting for 80# line on the conventional reel I use for tuna and marlin, and sometimes that feels like too much. And you can barely pull the line off the reel by hand at 15#. My favorite king fly reel is set at 3# right now and that's a lot.
    "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SmokeRoss View Post
    My brother used to catch Kings on the Kasilof on his fly rod. We fished right at the mouth of Crooked Creek. Had many days of us each hooking and releasing 20 plus Kings each. Those were the days. I know he caught some on the Kenai on his fly rod also, but I don't know the weights of those. Plenty over 40 on the Kasilof.
    Those WERE the days. I used to catch 15-30 lbs kings at the "Peoples' Hole" on an old Eagle Claw fly rod with mono. Haven't done it in several years though. I sure miss that fishing.

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