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Swinging for Chums

Posted on July 17 2014

Fly Fishing for Chum Salmon
Thanks Chumley! Photo: Kyle Shea

With a current closure on king salmon at Alaska West, we’ve been targeting more species on the swing than ever this season. We love fishing with a two handed rod and the opportunities available are endless on our river. We have a hefty run of strong, chrome bright, sea-lice toting chum salmon throughout the majority of our season at Alaska West, and they’re a blast to target on a spey rod (even a bit of a handful at times). Ol’ Chumley will put your fish fighting skills to the test and leave you asking for more. Here’s why we think you should consider swinging for chums.

  1. They’re Aggressive. Chums are extremely aggressive towards a well presented fly. We’re not exactly sure why, but chums seem to have a deeper hate towards flies than most other species of salmon and we like it that way. Although pink flies tend to be the first choice out of the box, pretty much any variation of irritating colors will produce an eat.
  2. Fast Paced Action. Chums are not the ‘fish of a thousand casts.’ They’re far from it! Swinging for chums will keep the bend in the rod until your forearm is tired of fighting fish.
  3. Scrappy Fighters. Playing and landing fish well on a two handed rod takes practice. Need some work on your fish fighting skills? There’s no better species to target than chums. Unlike other species, there is no rhyme to reason how a chum will fight. No anticipated number of runs or jumps, and they don’t give up…ever. All too often our guests are amazed at how hard chums will fight all the way to the net.
  4. Great Practice for Steelheaders. This one is for the steelhead bums out there. Don’t wait for that one grab in two weeks to work on your steelheading skills, chums will give you all the practice you need. Practice everything from presentations to hook sets to fighting fish while targeting chums so that you’re dialed in for your next steelhead pursuit.
  5. They Look Super Cool. Chums are extremely photogenic. Fresh from the salt they are a beautiful chrome color, typically laden with sea-lice. In full spawning colors they are by far the most shocking of the pacific salmon. Tiger striped with hues of orange, green, and purple with a mouth full of big gnarly teeth, chums are often the subject of some great hero shots!
  6. They Taste Great Smoked. Although not spey specific, for those of you who like to keep fish, contrary to popular belief, chums salmon is extremely tasty when smoked. Chums have a higher fat content than other species of salmon which lends itself to smoked fillets that stay moist over longer periods of time. From the salt to the smoker, chums are hard to beat!
  7. Lighter Gear. Although chums can certainly be targeted on the same gear used for king salmon or winter steelhead (and often are), they are a great species to break out your summer steelhead spey or switch rod for. While there’s no glory in ‘undergunning’ your setup as it puts unnecessary strain on the fish, we’ve found a seven weight switch or spey rod to be a great match for Mr. Chum.. And a heck of a lot of fun.
  8. Short Casts. No hero casts needed. We understand, spey casting is fun. Chucking a big line is just plain fun to do from time to time. However, the pressure’s off as odds are you will catch just as many (if not more) fish in tight to the bank as you will in the middle of the river.
  9. Many Effective Presentations. One fun aspect to swinging for chums is that there are many ways to effectively target them on the swing. Casting downstream and across, making a nice mend, and letting ‘er swing all the way to the inside in traditional fashion can be effective on many of our long gradual gravel bars. Or, targeting chums in sloughs by casting from the river towards the bank while pulsing the rod to impart action on the fly (stay tuned for more on this in future posts) can be deadly as well.
  10. The Take. Like all things spey casting, the take is what we’re after. There are no subtle takes here. The instant Chumley smashes your fly, you know it. Chums hit extremely hard at times and its one of the things we like most about them. If the tug is drug, then we’re talking the good stuff here.

More Love for Mr. Chum

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