Around here, fly fishing for Chinook was very uncommon 20 years ago. Anglers would often approach me and ask me what I was fishing for. When I told them I was fishing for Chinook they would often respond with: “I didn’t know you could catch those on the fly”. All that has changed and, especially over the last 10 years or so, fly fishing for Chinook has become increasingly popular. Many of the technical advances in rods and lines have made it easier to target Chinook. Fly patterns for Chinook however have evolved very little. Often they are just big plumes of marabou, big intruders, or big rabbit strip leeches. Basically they are “super-sized” steelhead patterns. Chinook are 100% piscivorous; that is, they eat bait fish only. About 15 years ago I started to experiment with saltwater baitfish patterns for Chinook, like Lefty’s Deceivers and Clouser Minnows. Not surprisingly, since Chinook eat baitfish all their lives, they produced very well. Over the years I have found that baitfish patterns will out-produce other types of patterns, particularly for fresh fish.
In Nicaragua where we fish for giant tarpon, we use very big bait fish patterns. In order to be able to cast those on a single hand rod I had to come up with a fly that was big in the water but aerodynamic and easy to cast. The result were the Snow Runner Brush Bait fish patterns. I have fine-tuned them for Chinook and added more of a keel weight to them. Snow Runner is the perfect material for bait fish patterns. It is nearly indestructible and creates a big volume with little material, especially when used in a brush. After experimenting with a variety of eyes I have opted for tab eyes. They will never come off. My series of flies incorporates a large amount of flash; Chinook like flash.
The pattern is available in four colours: “chartreuse” for fresh fish, “herring” for fresh fish, “black” for low light conditions, and “pink” for pooled-up fish. For me this covers all the possible scenarios for Chinook fishing.
The flies are tied on a tube. I use 3/0 Tiemco 600SP hooks; they don’t bend out (hook not included). I prefer to have the hook free dangling behind the tube with a short piece of Junction Tubing attached to the hook eye in order to keep the hook nicely in line.
These patterns are very big. There may be circumstances where you would like the fly to be a bit smaller. If this is the case simply grab the Snow Runner between your fingers and with your other hand pull the hair to trim it to the size you like.
Like all of our flies these flies have been tested and developed over time, both here in our local area and on Chilean Austral Kings and I am convinced that they are a solid series of flies for Chinook.
For more background information on “King’s Candy” flies you can read this article.