As the tributary fishing season gets close to its end here in Northern Wisconsin the biggest of the salmon stealthily make their way up the rivers to spawn. While anglers have been chasing Coho's in the river for the last month their attention now turns to the big Kings. These fish are a true trophy to catch, big, powerful and smart.
The King salmon is the biggest of the salmon species found in Lake Superior and can grow in excess of 20 pounds. These salmon like all others visit the rivers in late fall for their annual spawning runs making them available to fly anglers who do not have a boat or trolling tackle. Fly fishing for King salmon is not easy but if you can find a section of river that has a good number of fish in it your chances of hooking up are great.
When prospecting for Kings, look for deep slow holes. These fish will be right on the bottom and more times than not it will take multiple casts to get fish to bite. Start from the back of the hole and work your way to the front. Get flies down deep in the water column and strip retrieve them along the bottom. When salmon enter the rivers they do not look to eat but will strike flies out of aggression. So getting flies into their strike zone and keeping them there is of the utmost importance. If you are fishing a hole and don't seem to be having any luck try changing when you are standing or the angle that you are retrieving the flies at. Before leaving any good looking spot on the river I will go to the very front of the hole and use an upstream presentation as a last effort. With this presentation cast from the front to the back of the hole and work the fly against the current.
The best flies to use for king salmon are either baitfish or wooly bugger patterns. As with all flies for salmon; large heavy gauge streamer hooks (Sizes 2 or 4) are you best bet. As far as the materials go, Krystal Flash, Polar Fiber and Rabbit Strips are all good choices. These materials move as if they are alive when stripped along in the water. Another consideration if you are going to be tying your own flies for Kings is to use epoxy for the flies head (to hold the flash and body materials in place). If flies are finished with epoxy they will be able to take punishment from fish and snags meaning you won't go through as many.
Fishing King salmon is a unique opportunity for the fly angler. There are not a lot of chances during the year that these fish can be targeted by fly anglers so making the most of the short window of opportunity in the fall is important. Get out and run flies deep and slow, you just might get hooked up with a true trophy King.