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Swinging for Kings – The Broadside Presentation

Posted on February 05 2016

Spey Fishing for King Salmon.
Stu’s fly swung broadside. Photo: Ben West.

We love swinging flies for anadramous fish, and we do a lot of it at our lodges in Alaska and British Columbia.

However, swinging flies effectively often takes more than simply casting across the river and letting your line swing on through.. After all, it’s how your fly swims, not your line, that matters most.

With that in mind, today we present you with a great write up from Stuart Foxall on effectively presenting a fly to one of the baddest fish of all time, the king salmon. Stu’s been swinging flies for kings with us at Alaska West for a long time, he really knows his stuff, and if you’re thinking of doing the same, you’re going to want to keep on reading.

Swinging For Kings – The Broadside Presentation

We’re really looking forward to the new season at Alaska West, chasing those super heavy weight champions of the salmon world; The King Salmon.

There are a few things that you can do to increase your chance of success with these super explosive fish. One of them is fishing your fly “broadside.” Let me explain.

King salmon usually sit in the deeper, faster currents of the river. So, most of the time we need heavy sink tips and large flies to give the fish as good a chance as possible to see our offerings. The best way of doing that is to show our flies “broadside” throughout the swing – meaning the fly is presented with a side on view to the fish, as opposed to the fish looking at the butt of the fly. A King has far more chance of seeing a 4 or 5 inch fly if it is swung perpendicular to the fish, than if you showed the same fly to the fish from a butt-first view – which, let’s be honest, in a fast water current would look about as big as the tip of your little finger (see photos below for an example).

Broadside view for king salmon.
Broadside view, big profile. Photo: Stuart Foxall.
Butt-First view when swinging flies.
Butt-first view, small profile. Photo: Stuart Foxall.

Luckily for me, I learnt this important lesson completely by chance. I was following my mate down a run who was casting a long line at a 45 degree angle to give the perfect “down and across” swing, offering the fish a nice slow presentation of his fly. I watched in awe as his line sailed out in a perfect loop while I struggled away behind him. I just couldn’t cast far enough to cover the very noticeable deep trench on the opposite bank to cover the fish. So, I just reeled in a little line and cast square to the bank – basically a 90 degree angle. That way, I was nearly reaching the other bank and getting into that all important trench comfortably.

Within an hour of fishing, I’d landed three mighty kings behind my pal who I don’t mind saying was fishing far better than I was. What was I doing differently? Just showing the fly across the fishes nose in a broadside manner – length wise instead of just the butt of the fly.

This simple angle change of leading the fly across a salmon’s nose, allowing the profile of the fly to appear much larger to the fish, can be far more effective than the usual down and across swing.

Of course, each run may need to be fished in a slightly different manner, but my usual technique for fishing for kings goes something like this:

Cast to the far bank into the deep trench at a 90% (or with a slight downstream angle), and immediately throw an upstream mend in WITHOUT moving your sink tip. As soon as I’ve made the mend, I take two or three steps downstream and lead my rod tip down to my line. As soon as I feel the line go heavy, the fly is under tension and is beginning to swing. This action has let the fly get down to a deeper depth than a normal 45 degree angle cast. Once my swing has been “set up” deeply, I will lead my rod tip into the downstream bank to help the fly “swim across” the fishes nose.

If the swing begins to lose a little pace as it comes out of the main current, I will even throw a downstream “mini mend” into my line to help speed the fly up a little. This can provoke a following fish into snapping at your fly.

Just remember to hold on tight to that rod, and watch for that big grab. Then starts the fun bit.. But that’s another story!

More on Swinging Flies for King Salmon

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