Friday, December 3, 2010

King Salmon Kill Shot - A Fly to Tame the Beast of Lake Michigan

Hook(s): Trailer -Diiachi 2461 2/0, TMC 600 SP 2/0
Thread: White GSP
Joint: Malin wire and 3 beads
Tail: Schlappan
Body: Both built up buck tail - see previous post of the GL Deceiver
Eyes: 3D
Flash Options: Flashabou over the schlappan tail and angel hair sparsely incorporated into the body

Epoxy head comes standard.

The Story

As Lake Michigan king salmon enter the tributaries to spawn in the late summer and fall, I imagine they are not unlike the Omega Fraternity from Animal House; self-centered, arrogant, with a chip on their shoulder.  The kings travel in groups, gang up in deep holes, river bends and log jams and take kill shots at any "inferior" river dwellers.

Honestly, I'm still figuring out the king salmon streamer bite.   But my few successful outings in northern Michigan have taught me a few things - most notably that King's Are Mean!  

For instance, in the fall of 2010, I finally timed the run correctly.  The area I was fishing received some rain, overcast skies, cooling temperatures, and water temperatures in the mid 50s, plus a fresh push of fish.  Loaded with a long and gaudy streamer, I secured a position at the top of some good holding water and started chucking.  I proceeded to watch king after king shoot out of the whole and swat at my fly without hooking up.  Some of the swats were close to the surface and I could see that the fish were hitting the streamer in the middle of the fly.  However, because of my fly design the hook point was located in the front third of the fly.

That night I went back to the drawing board and decided to add a trailing hook.  I'd seen flies like this on the internet and figured it was worth a shot.  Essentially it is an articulated GL Deceiver.  Once fully constructed the trailing hook point was in the middle or back third of the fly - perfect.

The next morning I returned to the same spot but this time at the tail-out of the hole.  First cast with the new fly brought a lazy chase from a king.  On the second cast the fly got blasted.  After a solid fight I tailed the fish with the trailing hook sitting securely in its jaw.

After releasing the fish, I moved back to the top of the hole.  A handful of casts later I had the coolest king strike to date.  As the fly passed over the hole, seemingly unnoticed, and into the shallow water near me a king bolted out of the hole and inhaled the fly.  Mind you, this fly was 7 inches long maybe 8 when wet and I watched the entire fly disappear.  Unfortunately, the fish bolted downstream and went air born dislodging itself. How I didn't get a hook in him is beyond me.  It was a great eat an even better jump but no fish.  I guess that's fishing.

Anyway, there are two things to draw from this story: first, stripping streamers for kings is one of the most exciting methods of fly fishing in North America; and second, most of the hits I got were what I call kill shots, which were missed absent a trailing hook.  By kill shots I mean the kings were angry; saw something small entering their space and they wanted to attack the intruder.  So, they aimed for the middle of the thing and blasted away.  The other strike in this story could have been an eat.  The fish was very bright and I was in the lower river so the fish could have come into the river a few hours before and maintained its feeding instinct.  It also could have been a massive kill shot.

Bottom line, when tying streamers for king salmon in the great lakes it behooves you to construct the fly so the  hook point is towards the back or add a trailing hook if your stream allows for it.  It should be noted that the west coast guys have known about this for years hence the intruder fly pattern with a single trailing hook way in the back.  I believe such a fly will increase your hooking average in the end.

The Fly

As I mentioned above, this fly is nothing more than a double GL Deceiver. The KSKS has an outstanding swimming action in the water.  My preferred patterns are: fire tiger, blue over white, green over white, chartreuse over white, brown/olive over yellow, and brown/olive over white.  Although this fly is a lot of fun to tie, it takes some time and a lot of material.  I like to add some glue at the base of each buck tail tie in point and epoxy the head so your efforts aren't wasted on one fish.  Also, I love this fly in smaller sizes when targeting early season browns and smallmouth bass.  Kings also like the smaller sizes when the water conditions are low and clear.  Enjoy experimenting with this fly.

Tight Lines. 

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