Date with a King Salmon

Date with a King Salmon
See author Jeff Bright's story "The King's New Crown" in the Oct-Dec 2013 issue of Fly Fisherman.

The last "real" Chinook salmon I caught were on the Alagnak River in the late 1990s. They were chrome fish from tidewater, and they had sea licethe hallmark of strong, desirable gamefish that have not yet begun their descent toward spawning and eventual death. But we caught the fish from an anchored boatit was the only way we could get the right slow swing into the deep soft spots king salmon prefer. And we used single-handed rods, which was a lot of hard work with the Teeny lines and heavy flies of the day.

That was before the era of Skagit lines for two-handed rods which revolutionized the way people think about Chinooks, and the way we go after them with fly tackle. For me, Spey casting is my favorite way to fly fishpossibly because there's a constant opportunity for improvement (a nice way of saying I'm a duffer), and the time between fish is time occupied by casting, thinking about casting, and constantly analyzing what went wrong on the last cast (or what went right) and how to fix it (or repeat it).

And when that grab comes, the electric surprise of life at the end of your your line is the ultimate thrill in fly fishing. To me, it's better that the anticipated rise of a trout to a dry fly, or the chase of a sighted bonefish on the flatsthose things you can prepare for. When a steelhead or salmon grabs your fly at the culmination of a long swing, you are often stunned and unprepared for the pull, which draws you back from your reverie of the mountains, or of a soaring bald eagle, and makes you remember how amazing it is that a fish can roam the Pacific ocean for years, find its way back to its natal stream, and by some miracle of good planning and coincidence, find itself connected to you.

I've honed my Spey casting on steelhead for the last decade, but now I've got "a date with a king." The lower Dean River is just 3 miles of water between the salt water of the Dean Channel and a massive set of waterfalls separating the lower and the upper river. This lower section is perhaps the best place in the world to get a truly special Chinook salmon in peak physical conditionand there are early returning steelhead as well.

My guides will be April Vokey and Steve Morrowand by "guides" I don't just mean they've watched a lot of people catch a bunch of fish, and therefore know the right spots. They've done this themselves many timesthey don't just know the pools like Ross Island and Bill's Run, Cutbank, and Instant Backing. They've waded them, probed them, and caught their own salmon (see video below). Both are expert casters and can hopefully help me adapt to the heavier rods and lines needed for Chinooks that can run from 25 to 45 pounds. Fishing with them will be one of the highlights of my year.

Wish me luck, and if you've got the gumption to try it yourself, I believe there's one spot left at the lodge the week I'm there June 21-28, 2013. If interested, see the contact info at flygal.

Recommended for You


Fly Fisherman Magazine Documentary Recognized by Outdoor Writers Association of America

Fly Fisherman - June 24, 2019

Fly Fisherman's documentary "One Path" was recognized with two awards.


8 New Fly Lines for 2019


Here's a look at 8 new fly lines for 2019.


How to Catch Smallmouth Bass on Topwater Flies

Dave Karczynski and Tim Landwehr

Modern methods for catching smallmouths on topwater flies.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Breaking the Surface

Attack of the Bass continues as Breaking the Surface attacks bass with fly and lure 12:30pm ET Sunday, April 17th.

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


The 15 Best Carp Flies

Jay Zimmerman - September 27, 2016

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are are eating to select the best carp...


Picking the Perfect Fly-Fishing Leader

George Daniel - January 22, 2018

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most...


Top Drift Boats of 2019

John Fedorka - April 02, 2019

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top...

See More Stories

More Editor's Notebook

Editor's Notebook

Rio Grande Sea Run Brown Trout

Ross Purnell, Editor - September 30, 2016

Sea Run Brown Trout

Editor's Notebook

Remembering Umpqua Community College Victim Lawrence Levine

Ross Purnell, Editor - October 03, 2015

Mass Shotting Victim Lawrence Levine Remembered as FLY FISHERMAN writer and North Umpqua Guide

Editor's Notebook

Far Cry 5 The Best Fly-Fishing Simulator Yet

Ross Purnell, Editor - April 18, 2018

Far Cry 5 is The Best Fly-Fishing Simulator Yet!

See More Editor's Notebook

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.