Chinook on the Fly?

Hey all,
I see that saltwater salmon season is open in most areas now. Looks like guys are getting kings.

I had good luck last year during the coho migration, but have never targeted chinook. Is it possible to get 'em from shore with a fly rod? If so, are the techniques and good spots to go about the same as for coho?

Thanks for tips,

Just my $0.02:

Targeting Chinook from shore is usually a frustrating exercise in futility. There are, however, those very special moments when the planets are all in proper alignment and Poseiden graces the shorebound fly angler pursuing Coho with an incidental hookup. Chinook will get up into the shallows in search of food usually at locations around kelp beds located near sudden, steep drop-offs into deep water and during periods of low light. During the period some refer to as the holding period, the shorebound fly angler (and boating fly angler as well) has the best chance of targeting them in the various estuaries as they mill about prior to entering their respective natal rivers. They don't feed as aggressively then as they will now, however. FWIW, I've caught several when wading around the Puyallup River Estuary in the South Sound later in the year as well several while wading off the beach at Point Fosdick...but that has been over the past several years. From a boat, its an entirely different ballgame. Though I've been targeting them from my boat (locating them on the depth sounder, getting the line on down to them etc.) I haven't caught one yet this year. I did catch 4 last year, however.

In a previous thread on this board about sinking lines, Capt. Tom Wolf mentioned casting to sighted fish in the shallows and the adrenaline rush associated with the take. Maybe he can provide some better input/advice if he sees this topic. I'm still trying to break the code and learn how to effectively fly fish for them myself. Counting down while the line sinks is getting to be a real pain.

Sorry 'bout this, but I've got to ask to satisfy my curiosity: are you the same Craig Depaolo that somewhat recently worked for Orvis?

I don't targe them specifically because I haven't figured out any consistency to catching them yet but I usually pick up several chinook during the course of the season while targeting silvers or pinks. The one constant I've noticed is that I have only hooked (and occasionally landed!) them in areas with a steep gradient and almost always early in the morning.

If you have a boat, that's another story. My success rate for chinook has been much higher when given the ability to be mobile. In these cases, early seems to still be better but I have caught them in areas that are not adjacent to steep drop offs but are to far out to reach by casting from the shore.

I'll keep you posted if I find a magic "bullet" for them but I've been trying to figure them out for over 12 years and all I can give you is what I mentioned above. Now if you want to talk silvers or pinks, that's a different story!
Thanks for the info,
Early does seem to be the word on the King. I heard some old phrase that went something like "If you can see the bait, you're too late." I guess you up your odds if you get on the water by 'round 4:00 a.m or so.

Sounds like you've got the silvers dialed. Can you share any good insights on fishing for these guys? Last year I had luck from the beach using a chartreuse and white clouser and intermediate line. Found some hot fishing at the tide changes, pretty slow during the rest of the time.


I used to prescribe to the theory of early hours for Chinook and most of the time it holds true...but not always. The mention of locating kelp beds near drop-offs or even in small back bays that keep fish out of the main current flows is right on the mark. I've pulled two Kings out of a small kelp patch back to back at about 3:30 p.m. 40 ft. of water in brilliant sunshine. Every other boat around us hung out at the drop-off looking for Silvers while we went in-shore and worked the edge of the kelp. This area could be fished from shore and occasionally it is (by flyfishers) but I've not seen anyone move down the beach to work this kelp bed yet. I'll be out before long and guess where I'll be casting a clouser or a herring imitation to entice a King? You've got it. :THUMBSUP

In an enquiry i made to fisheries concerning cutts and coho chasing and digging needlefish out of the sand i was informed by the officer, to my surprise, that chinook will also do this in shallow water a few feet off the beach.
Like the cutts and the coho their snouts get buised up during this activity.

Schools of needlefish and surf smelt come close to shore toward sunset. Two nights ago my friend saw three chinook after a small school of surf smelt and last night a native fisherman using a buzz bomb commented that four chinnook had just cruised by him in two feet of water.

Patterns? Clousers.


Sounds like you are on the right track with the clousers. If the action slows down, you might try one of three things: 1) Try a different color clouser, 2) Try a different baitfish pattern (I've had days where you couldn't buy a strike on a clouser but a really good candlefish or herring pattern was a big hit - oh and size does matter!) 3) Slow down your retrieve and try a shrimp pattern (this seems to work when not much else does).

If you have more specific questions, e-mail me and I'll try to help out. Tight lines!
yeah spring time they breed and bury them selves in the sand, at least in my part of the sound here, used to be the best resident fishing around to the few people who fished the spots (sand pockets between eel grass) but the fish have been absent the last few years it seems but flourishing in other parts. used to get alot of silvers and juvinile chinook around 3 lbs when it was crackin. it seemed they would corner them on the shore. also lost the biggest cutthroat of my life a few years back in the 6 lb range from what me and my buddie thought. could not control him at the beach and he threw the hook.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
I have caught a ton of kings out of the sound. But mostly on conventional gear then the fly. Especially since I've found in my neck of the woods most decent sized kings will be about 150' down. Makes it hard with a fly (trust me, I've tried heavy fast sinking tips with a big reel hoping to get down to a fish to no avail). Every now and then you'll find them near the surface and near the beach, but that seems to be more the exception then the rule. As was stated above, I've had great success hitting the mouths of rivers as the fish are stacking up to run upriver to spawn. I've caught almost all of my saltwater kings on the fly in Commencement Bay near the mouth of the Puyallup. Usually just used a coho fly, or some sort of baitfish imitation.

Just give her a try. Look for spooling baitfish exploding near the surface near shore. Throw a line and see what happens. I've hooked many silvers this way on my lunchbreaks. Every now and then I'll hook into a king, but normally small ones. Never had a big king hit near the shore. But that's me.

"You haven't lived until you've run a cataraft. Friends don't let friends run Outcasts."