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Chum Salmon – Fly Fishing Techniques

Posted on January 18 2011

An average chum caught on king gear and a Mikey Prawn.
An average chum caught on king gear and a Mikey Prawn.

Last week, Brian Niska told us a bit about chum salmon and the Kanektok River.  Today, he continues with some tactics and gear advice.

Who’s Brian?  He’s a much better spey caster than you are.  He loves teaching people how to cast and fish flies for anadromous fish.  He runs a fly shop and guide service in Whistler, BC.  He teaches people how to spey cast at our lodges in Alaska and BC.  He’s a great dude.

Thanks, Brian, for more great info on super-chrome salmon that love crushing swung flies.

Chum Salmon – Techniques from Brian Niska

As chum salmon migrate up the Kanektok River, they can be found holding in the softer water off of the river’s plentiful gravel bars.  If someone concentrates their efforts in this softer water,  they can catch chums in huge numbers.

Though perhaps less productive numbers-wise, I find it more interesting to swing the bars of the lower river right down to tidewater where fresh fish can be targeted. This is the great chum fishing – it’s essentially the same as king salmon fishing.  Same water, same fly. Down here the chums are riding a tidal push and many will travel the middle of the river in the ‘king water’. These mid-river chum salmon will hit the fly hard like a king, often fooling anglers into thinking they have a king on. While not always the target species, a 15 pound Kanektok chum hooked at tidewater is still a good workout for your king setup.

Al and Kanektok Chrome.
Al and Kanektok Chrome.

The fact that chums are fine on king salmon gear really is a measure of the impressive strength of these fish.  When approached with tackle more suitable to their size, chums are truly a handful.  The perfect rod to target chums is probably the same stick you would use for steelhead fishing in BC or Washington – something in the neighborhood of a 12 foot to 13 foot rod for a 7 or 8 weight.

The best chum flies are pretty similar to what you would fish for winter steelhead – bright coloured bugs featuring lots of movement and flash. Those chums we catch while targeting king salmon are taking 4″ – 5” long king flies, which is also pretty unique.  Any colour will work for chums, but cerise, pink and chartreuse seem to be the most popular with “Mr. Chumley.

An added benefit of chum fishing at Alaska West is that they are specatacular smoked.  Ben Beatty and the Alaska West bar crew will do a fantastic job of smoking up your fresh caught chum, providing a tasty reminder of your time spent fishing the lower Kanektok.

More Techniques for Alaska

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