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We Couldn’t stop at just flies. now carrying everything but the fish!



Several species of fish are known by the name Salmon, they are closely related to the cult fly fishing favorite trout but deserve an obsessive following themselves. Native species exist along the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific, lake runs exits in the North East and Upper Mid-West Great Lakes. One of the largest differences between trout and salmon is the latters general temperment to migrate where as trout are a bit more like homebodies. 

Subspeicies of Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

Pink  Salmon

Coho Salmon

Chinook Salmon

Atlantic Salmon

Quick Tips For Fishing

Despite the commonalities, salmon and trout fly fishing have some very large ways in which they are seperate. A lot of guys and ladies out there "in the know" will tell you that salmon are tougher  to get to eat those flies.  We don't really agree, its just most people don't use the right patterns and methods because they are use to trout.   The key is figuring out all the righ conditions and match what your doing to what the salmon are looking for.....just like with every other fishery.  A quick explination might be for some of the behavior is that when you get on hatched salmon they are just a bit shy and less likely to bite than wild fish that have been chasing bugs eating up nutrients to get fat.

You are also dealing with larger fish on average meaning really considering what type of terminal capacity the fisher can hold.  Pools and ripples may only hold one fish where trout would squeeze in 3 or 4 this means your chances of catching a fish are 75% less right off the bat.  Be patient, you can catch these fish just like you can catch those trout, a lot of people try to catch river salmon on downstream swings, this just simply is not going to work often.  Here are some addition tips.


Rigging Your Line

Chuck-n-duck is probably the most common, and easiest, way to use a fly rod to fish for salmon. (To learn about different methods, check out the Other Resources.)

Here are a four line formulas for chuck-n-duck that are fairly popular:

The River Guide
100+ yards of 30 lb. backing
100 feet of shooting line
20 feet of Amnesia line (15 lb. test)
20 feet of Maxima monofilament (12 lb. test)
Swivels & weight
3-6 feet of Maxima monofilament (6-8 lb. test)

The Simple Set-Up
100+ yards of 30 lb. backing
100 feet of shooting line
10 feet of Maxima monofilament (12 lb. test)
Swivels & weight
3-4 feet of Maxima monofilament (6-8 lb. test)

The Simple and Cheap Set-Up
100+ yards of 30 lb. backing
100 feet of Amnesia line (15 lb. test)
20 feet of Maxima monofilament (12 lb. test)
Swivels & weight
3-6 feet of Maxima monofilament (6-8 lb. test)

The Combo
100+ yards of 30 lb. backing
100 feet of shooting line or Amnesia line
3-12 feet of Maxima monofilament (10-20 lb. test)
Swivels & weight
4-10 feet of Maxima monofilament (2-12 lb. test)

As you can see the big theme here is stepping down your rig, just like most other fly fishing. Alwaysmaintaining the  higher test line tied on before a lower test linto step down 2helps insure that when you lose a part of your line to a snag or salmon, you will hopefully only lose your tippet. Anglers like to step down in close number 25-22-20 ect so to prevent lots of shock.

>>Note on shooting line. It is sometimes called running line, and looks very much like typical fly line. Shooting line is flat (not tapered), will float on the surface (not sink tip), and has a small diameter (about .029 or .o32 or 2X) to easily cut through the water. Air-Flo is an increasingly popular brand. Some anglers prefer the brightly colored line, while others prefer an "invisible" line. When using shooting line, very little of it should touch the water. What does touch the water is often used as an indicator. Also unlike typical fly line, you do not use the weight of shooting line to cast. A slinky or split shots provide the weight for casting.


This image illustrates very well how to rig your line for chuck-n-duck. The weight, whether it's a slinky or split shots, is usually made up of 2-4 pea-sized lead split shots. The blood knot can be replaced with a double Duncan loop or nail knot. The knots to the swivels and fly are usually improved clinch knots.

Whether you use shooting line or amnesia line, the bright color of the line can be both good and bad. It can act as a very good strike indicator during your drift. But it can also spook the salmon. The best solution is to keep as little colored line in the water as possible.


How to Cast

In chuck-n-duck, you make one cast to the fish, not several false casts. The first thing to do is to put out about five feet of line between your rod tip and the weight. The second thing is to pull enough line off your reel to reach where you want to cast. This slack line floats in the water next to you and will be pulled through the rod guides as you "chuck" your weight at your target.

The cast should be as soft as possible, with the weight leading the fly into the water. A high, arching cast helps get the weight and fly into the water deeper and faster.

As the weight sinks to the bottom, pull in any slack line, to keep a small amount of tension on the line. Be sure to always run the line through the hand that is holding the rod. You will need to set the hook in an instant.

You should follow your drift with your rod tip to keep the fly as drag-free as possible. You may want to raise or lower your rod tip, or pull in or let out line, as your fly drifts through the hole. It all depends on where you cast, where the fish are, the river's structure, and the water currents.

As the fly finishes its drift you may want to give the fly a small upwards jerk or gently pull up on the line. Sometimes a salmon takes your fly at the end of the drift and it is difficult to detect.

There are two general approaches to casting. The first is to stand basically next to the fish and cast 10 to 20 feet upstream. Strip in the line as it comes past you, keeping as little shooting line out as possible. You should try to keep your rod tip parallel to the drift. The second approach is to stand downstream of the fish and cast 10 to 20 feet above the fish. You will want to be a few feet off center so that your line doesn't go across the back of the fish and spook it. Pull in your line just like in the first approach, always trying to get a drag free drift.


Rods and Reels

Perhaps the most commonly used rod is a 9' 6", 8-weight rod. Some 8-weight rods will be as small as 9' or as long as 10', and they are also acceptable. Rods smaller than 7-weight don't have the fighting backbone to horse in a 25-pound salmon. Rods larger than 9-weight are probably overkill. Some people use very long, two-handed spey rods to fish for salmon. These rods are becoming more popular in Michigan since they provide greater reach for a better drift, a more flexible tip for less line breakage, and a stronger butt to better fight salmon.

Your reel may be even more important than your rod. It should match the weight of your rod, be capable of holding 150-200 yards of line, and have a disk drag. When a salmon takes a run, your reel should let line away instantly and smoothly. Any hitches in the reel mechanism will snap your tippet. Expect to spend more than $100 for a quality reel. Large arbor reels are a popular choice for several reasons. They are less likely to create memory loops in your line, they can hold lots of line, and they usually have very good disk drags.


Fly Selection

Before Spawning

  • Spey flies or marabou streamers with krystal flash (blue, black, chartruse)
  • Wooly buggers (blue, black, red)
  • Hex flies
  • PM Wiggler
  • Soft Hackle Green Caddis
  • Black Stonefly
  • Green or Red Butted Black Spey
  • Glo-Bugs (green, yellow, chartruse, milky white) with red eyes

During Spawning

  • All of the above flies
  • Glo-Bugs (red, pink, orange) with red eyes

>>Note on egg colors. Salmon eggs are generally bright orange, steelhead eggs are generally yellow. Use whatever color that would naturally be kicked out of the gravel.

>>Note on fly sizes. Smaller sizes (6-8) are generally better.


Where to Fish

Salmon will gather in deep, dark pools where the water is "black." At the outside of many bends, just where the water gets deep, is a common spot for salmon to congregate. Here, the fast water is on top, and the slow water is down low. The salmon will often sit just six inches off the bottom in the slow water. During the day they may move up or down in the slow water column, so you may have to adjust the depth at which you fish throughout the day.

In these deep holes, it is helpful to find the snags before loosing too many flies. If you can get above the hole from either bank, you may be able to spot downed timber if you're wearing polarized glasses. This can also help you spot where in the hole the fish are sitting. Another trick is to drift a fly you don't mind loosing through the hole a few times. You can also drift a few times with just split shot to help find the bottom.


When to Fish

The salmon run, for streams on the western side of the lower peninsula of Michigan, begin in mid-August. The northernmost streams begin to have salmon first. As the season progresses, the salmon generally enter streams further and further south.

Pere Marquette River -- Salmon enter the river by mid- August. By September 15, they will be up to M-37, above the "flies-only" area. The peak is usually the end of September. Fishing is good through October. Spawning takes places September through October.

Betsie and Big Manistee Rivers -- The run begins a week or two before the Pere Marquette.

Muskegon River -- Salmon will be in the Bridgeton area (near Salmon Run Campground) in the middle of September. Salmon will be up to the Carmichael Flats area in the beginning of October.

Rogue River -- More unpredictable, but generally begins by October 1.


General Tips

-When salmon get charged up and are ready to take and eat, they are beasts and will bite.  When they aren't bitting it get tough in a hurry.  Move on.

-On days of when visibility gets poor cloud and overcast you should hit the water.  Early mornings and evenings are great low light opportunites to catch fish.  That isn't to say you cant fish when the sun comes out it just means you have to start looking in the deeper pockets.

-When salmon are in the big water bodies, lakes, and oceans, they are feeding strong.  They are hyper aggressive, preditory, almost menicing, because they are storeing up fat and energy for the trip to spawning.  When they get to the rivers they are mostly going to be striking as a learned behavior responce to prey.  They should mostly have finished there general munching down.

-The hook set on salmon need to be a bit more genuine and sincere than many species.  Setting downstream with a 2 or three strong sets is the best way to get those guys hook especially on barbless fisheries.  Getting the rod tip up straight may help you avoid snags and tangles but it will many times cause you to lose a fish.,When setting the hook, do so by yanking downstream with the rod three times, like tugging on a snag. You can even pull on the line with your free hand to get a better set. Lifting the rod straight up will sometimes pull the fly out of the salmon's mouth. However, by lifting straight up when initially feeling a "hit" you are less likely to get hung up on a snag.

-A sharp hook is a good hook, especially with these tough fish.

-Polarized glasses are almost a must have these days, protecting your eyes from glare and sun damage put also highly helpful in landing fish.  Use a partner to assist you of you as a spotter the other as the fisher.

-A good hole with many salmon in it can be fished all day long.

-Adjust your weight and the length of your tippet to match both the depth of the hole and the depth of the fish. Your weight should touch the bottom once in a while. It should not drag on the bottom. A tippet that is three feet long will put the fly six inches to two feet off the bottom. A tippet that is six feet long will put the fly two feet to four feet off the bottom.

-If you need to get your fly higher in the water column, you can add a foam indicator above your fly.