It’s day five of a week long salmon bender on the Kanektok River in Alaska. I fished the river yesterday with Alaska West’s legendary head guide, Ed Ward. Fishing with Ed was killer… He has a way of thinking about salmon that kind of changed the game for me. Every year I fish this place, I end up learning something that totally blows my mind. However, I usually figure it out after the fact. It was awesome having Ed give me my “Ah Haaa” moment before I go home.
Ed explained how fish near the ocean, especially on a dark rainy day, travel up river in the top third of the water column. In this scenario, he fishes his fly broadside and lets it swing with speed. He wants the fish to have to make a quick decision. –Elicit the predator! I do the same thing when guiding the Deschutes when the fish are fresh and moving. I was blown away how many fish he hooked on a short sink-tip and a lightly weighted fly. When it comes to king salmon, everyone thinks massive sink-tips and heavy flies. Of course, Ed doesn’t think like everyone else.
There is a time for big sink-tips and heavy flies though. As the fish move up river, especially in bright sun conditions, they transition into the deeper slots. The one thing I do know about this game… If you’re not hooking fish, you need to change something. Maybe it’s your tip, maybe it’s your fly, or maybe you just need to fish like Ed.