Here are a few tips on flies and color selection that I have learned and what has worked for me. In addition to my own experiences I have been fortunate to soak up knowledge from many successful guides and friends who have spent countless hours chasing kings in Alaska.
When it comes to fly selection there are many flies that will work if presented in front of an aggressive and pissed off king. What I have found to be more important is the color of the fly you are fishing. I am a presentation guy! Meaning if you have a fly that is the right color and profile in front of a willing fish it is going to eat! The minute differences between flies at least in my opinion do not matter as much. From my experience the right color fly whether it’s a big heavy bunny, sleek intruder style, or big flashy prawn is going to be most important to your success. Here are my top flies and colors to go with them.
Hoh Bo Spey in Chartreuse and Blue
This is likely the first fly I will tie on in the morning as long as the water conditions are right. This is a great fly for a sunny day with clear water. For whatever reason kings are turned on by chartreuse colored flies especially fresh chrome fish that just came in on a tide. Don’t overlook this fly or color combination on dark cloudy days either, I have had luck on both. You can buy or tie this fly in a variety of colors and it is light and easy to cast as the materials don’t allow it to get water logged.
Bjorns Stinger Prawn in Pink or Orange and White
This is a great fly I transition to late morning when the sun is up overhead and hitting the water. I like the size and flash this fly offers. The pink or orange/white is a favorite color for a bright sunny day while fishing clear water. It seems the flash grabs their attention from far away and triggers the strike!
Dirty Hoh Black and Blue
This fly comes in a smaller version as well as the “Chinook” size that is 4 inches or so long. This is a hybrid of string leech and intruder fly making it easier to cast but not sacrificing the action of a string leech. The black and blue is a great color for kings that are upriver and already turned off to bright flashy flies. Since kings are striking out of aggression the large size of this fly can piss one off and induce a kill instinct in a big king. Don’t forget this fly comes in different colors too.
Loop Leech Black and Chartreuse or Purple and Pink
When all else fails and usually on a dark day I will tie on a large variation of a loop leech in black and chartreuse or purple and pink.
On dark days especially I like a fly that has two opposing color contrasts. Most king flies are tied with two distinctively different colors making it easier for the fish to see the fly. The loop leech is heavy and can be hard to cast. That said, it offers an unparalleled action in the water that can entice a strike on a tough day. This fly works especially well on fish farther up river that have been in the system a few days.
Big gaudy yarn flies
You might as well add beads in here as well. For me when I know there are fish in a run it is too tempting for me not to break out an indicator rod or even straight-line nymph with heavy weight to get down and bounce the bottom. Some days I just don’t have it in me to swing all day for kings, if I can’t get those lock jaw beasts to aggressively take one of the swung flies above I have no shame in fishing an indi-rig. For yarn flies try using cerise yarn for the blood dot in an all chartreuse egg. Anything big and bright can work though, oranges and pinks with some flash is another good option. For beads 10-14mm and brightly painted can do the trick. Try adding some glitter to your bead.
Fish with confidence
Most importantly when fishing for kings or any fish for that matter is having confidence in your fly choice. If you are confident in what fly you have tied on you will undoubtedly fish the runs better. Confidence in every cast that this “could be the one, this could be the time he decides to smash my fly” is key when fishing for kings. You may go all day or several days before you get that tug on the end of your line that shakes you out of your zone. So buckle your seatbelt and fish with confidence that the fly you’re fishing will entice that chrome freight train to hit your line, and you will (hopefully) do everything right to make your hook stick and land him!