The consensus among guides and experienced Chinook fly fishers is that rods should be short and stout. A guide-endorsed rig might consist of a 13 – 14 foot double-handed rod for a 9- or 10-weight line. A high quality reel capable of holding over 200 yards of 30-pound backing, 100 feet of 30-pound-test (minimum) running line, a 650- to 750-grain Skagit head, and a sinking tip made of 10 to 20 feet of T-14, T-17, or T-20, if you really want to get down and dirty.

High quality machined aluminum reels with a smooth drag and a rim control feature are highly recommended. You will want to make sure your reel’s drag system will operate well when wet and in cold conditions. Note: A proper Chinook fly reel should be able to stop a speeding truck. In Chinook fly fishing, more so than in any other fresh water fly fishing, your reel’s braking capability can play a huge role in whether or not you ever see the fish you’ve hooked.

The most common and useful line system for Chinook fly fishing with a double-handed rod is composed of a running line and Skagit-style shooting head. Skagit heads are designed to aid in casting sink tips and large (2–6 inches), weighted flies. RIO, Airflo and Scientific Angler are the most popular and established brands in North America, but several other brands have recently begun offering shooting heads with Skagit-style tapers.

Sinking tips of various lengths and densities can be attached to the front of the Skagit head. Popular and effective sink tips are Rio’s 10’ and 15’ tips (intermediate, type 3, type 6, type 8) or MOW tips in T-7 (Light), T-11 (Medium), T-14 (Heavy), T-17 (Extra Heavy). Note: When selecting a Skagit head and sink tip combination for best casting performance, the accepted rule of thumb is that the Skagit head length plus sink tip length should equal 3 to 3.5 times rod length.

The leader is the final connection between you and the fish. Therefore, it must be strong enough to land the fish in a reasonable amount of time but subtle enough to avoid alerting the fish that the fly is not natural. In general, sink tip leaders should be 2.5 to 5 feet long — longer in that range if your fly is heavily weighted and shorter in that range if your fly is unweighted or lightly weighted. Breaking strain for Chinook leaders should be 20–35 pounds. Going heavier than 35 pounds risks breaking your shooting head or running line on a snag. The reason for a short leader is to get the fly down with the sink tip as quickly as possible and keep it in the fish’s strike zone as long as possible. However, in very clear water conditions, if fish are unresponsive, it may be necessary to extend leaders to 10 feet or more and use significantly smaller flies.


Although your guide will have flies for you, it is a good idea to bring a selection of flies. Many of the patterns listed below are commercially tied and available at reputable fly shops. If you tie your own flies, please read on for information on characteristics that your hand-tied flies should incorporate. For the most part, Chinook flies should be of fairly good size, from 2.5 to 5 inches in length. Traditional style flies should be tied on top quality hooks in sizes from 4 to 2/0. Some of the key elements in Chinook wet flies (in order of importance) are motion, sink rate, size, color and flash.

Motion:A fly with wiggle and motion generally has much better fish attracting qualities since it looks “alive” in the water. This is a highly attractive quality for Chinooks. Materials that help impart motion are rabbit fur, marabou, soft webby hackles, dubbings and mohair.

Sink rate : The sink rate of a fly is important when covering different types of water. When fishing deep fast water it is best to fish heavier, streamlined flies that sink quickly. When fishing long even flowing runs filled with large boulders it is best to fish a fly with a slower sink rate that lets the sink tip contact the bottom before the fly. This will keep the fly just off the bottom and in the strike zone longer. Some ways to control sink rate are weight of the hook, the bulk of materials (the more water a fly displaces the slower it will sink), buoyancy of materials, and weighting the fly (beads, lead wraps, dumbbell eyes, etc.)

Size and color : In general, the lower and clearer the water, the smaller and more subdued the fly, and vice versa. Favorite colors for wet flies are chartreuse, pink (cerise and shrimp pink), purple, black, blue, orange. Don’t be afraid to mix and match colors; favorite color combinations for Chinooks are chartreuse/blue, chartreuse/black, chartreuse/green, cerise/shrimp pink, black/blue, blue/purple and cerise/orange.

Flash : Small amounts of flash included in standard patterns may help induce strikes from a following fish. And sometimes flies that are all flash are very effective in high, dirty water conditions. Many modern materials can help impart flash in your flies such as Flashabou, Crystal Flash, Cactus Chenille, Angel Hair, Edge Bright and many others..

Hooks : Hooks are critical in Chinook fly fishing. For tube and shank flies, sizes 1, 1/0, 2/0 and 3/0 are recommended and the Owner Super Needle Point SSW is a preferred brand and model. For smaller flies tied on traditional hooks, the tier may want to use strong saltwater hooks such as those designed for tarpon.

Commercially tied flies : Many effective Chinook flies are available from fly shops and online sources. Common patterns include a variety of Intruder variations, prawns and leeches. Flies from the distributor Aqua Flies are highly recommended and serve as an example of effective designs. When smaller flies are required, traditional Comets, shrimp flies (including saltwater flies) and small Atlantic salmon tube flies such as Snaelda, Red Francis or similar may be effective.

At Austral Lodge we adhere to a strict catch-and-release policy. All fishing is fly only, with single or double barbless hooks, and we request extreme care in handling all fish.

Well, few know better than Jeff Bright, who has been so kind to share his article from Fly Fisherman Magazine titled, The King’s New Crown. Please kick back and enjoy the ride.
Jeff will take care of all our North American bookings. Please don’t hesitate to contact him if you need further information. He can be reached by email at jeff@jeffbright.com or online at www.steelheadflyfisher.com

Click here to read the article by Jeff Bright – sharing his darkest secrets!
Jeff Bright is a writer, photographer, travel specialist, avid steelheader, conservationist, and a true Salmon Junkie. He hosts more than a dozen expeditions for anadromous fish annually, from the Skeena River to Tierra del Fuego to Norway to the Canadian Arctic. He is the author of numerous magazine articles and several books. His most recently published work is Written on Water: Musings on the Sea-run Angle and he is also now onboard with Chasing Silver Magazine as North American West Coast Field Editor.