Pink techniques for rivers


Active Member
Hey all,

I'm wondering what your preferred methods of targeting pinks in the rivers are. Two pink seasons ago, I had one day on the Sky that was pretty epic. Being that I didn't really know what to use, I went to Kaufmanns and they were all but sold out of everything pink. The fellow working at the time sold me a couple of red and white clousers and said they were effective in the rivers too. They worked like a charm on that one outing. Then the last go around with pinks I only got out a couple of times, but I was completely shut out. So, now I'm just wondering what your flies and tactics of preference are. I've since gotten much more into fishing my switch and spey rods. Will pinks take a swung fly or does it have to be stripped? Any input would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance!



Active Member
People will probably fish the rivers different, but after trying a lot of methods, I only fish one setup now. I only hit pinks on the Skagit and Sky, using floating lines on a 9' 6w single hand. I tie up a bunch of Humpy Chasers. I have used a ton of flies in the rivers, but those consistently slay. They kill in the salt too. People have been complaining about the pink numbers, but I have limited out in a couple hours on every trip out to salt and rivers this year with this setup. I am also wade fishing.
I don't spey fish so I can't offer any info there, but while most pinks I take are with a moderate strip in current breaks, I have taken quite a few this year on a no-strip swing. In the water I target, the pinks tend to stack up in current seams toward the edges of the river, so long casts are not needed.
Don't know if that helps you at with most things...there are many ways to skin a cat.
I had an opportunity last pink season to stand on a high river bank and cast to schools of fish that I could actually see. I thought I'd experiment to see if I could figure a few things out.

I used a variety of the standard pink flies, but for the most part, the fish ignored my offerings. Some seem annoyed and/or startled by by fly swinging by. Size did seem to matter - larger/flashier flies or quick movements were more likely to spook them. Rarely a fish would deviate from its course to check out the fly. I didn't see any that would rise or aggressively chase something that that was above their heads or being stripped rapidly.

I did learn that if you can see a pink, you're not likely going to catch it as none were caught sight fishing.

What did work was using a sink tip line, quartering the cast upstream, throwing a big mend in to get the line upstream and behind the fly, and then letting it sink and swing down. All fish were hooked at the end of the swing or hang down while very slowly flutter stripping back. My preferred spot was at a river bend so I could get a better angle making the hang down more mid current.

Pretty limited experience, but hope this helps.


Active Member
Cool. Thanks so much for the response, guys. Darryl, what you are describing was more or less how I was able to have a single great day on the Sky.
Here's whats working for me. Crazy Charlie fly. 5/32 tungsten eyes, tied sparse with a pearl flash body, counter wrapped with silver wire for durability.

I'm fishing walking speed water with a clear intermediate shooting head line with 7-9 ft of leader. Tie a non slip loop to the fly and strip it in with quick 6-12 strips pausing in between to let it drop.

My arms are getting tired.:)


Active Member
I don't think there is magic with the pinks, and would suggest doing what you have the most experience doing. I target specific water structure because I am not experienced at blind fishing bigger water. I know where they will stack up and I know how to target them that one way.
I also usually take people with me for pinks who are new to fishing and would get bored not catching, so I can generally guarantee they will be on fish.
Here is proof you don't need to cast far. My son just started fly fishing with me a couple weeks ago, and his cast is about 25' tops. We hit a seam with my father on a bend in the lower Skagit at 3:30 in the afternoon last week and were out by 5:00 with three limits. My son landed these 4 and lost 4 more. I just tell him to cast up at a 45 degree angle into the bubbly part of the current seam (foam is home he loves to say now)....let it sink for a couple seconds and then start small strips. He had a ball, though the pinks really wore him out. Action is pretty constant when you are in the right spot. It actually is better casting just bast the break and stripping into the get the occasional Coho that will chase it....and the pinks seem to like this better. You inevitably floss one occasionally doing this as well since you are stripping through densely stacked up fish.
Here is the rest of the catch from that afternoon last week minus two that were still being cleaned. Much darker than the ones I am getting in the salt and mouth of the river, but they still taste about the same out of my smoker.
View attachment 3215
On the Sky and Skagit, you can generally see a grayish blue band in the current break that is the pinks stacked up, and most people initially get too close and don't realize they are standing in the water they can fish. Its easy to do when you see fish jumping and finning farther out and start casting farther than needed.
Anyhow....that's how we do it. If you want to give the humpy chasers a try, I'd be happy to drop a few in the mail to you.
As posted above you dont need to be able to cast to the other side of the river. Fish the seams and let your fly sink. Think Sparse and i like my pink flies tied on a gamakatsu SC15. The smaller hook shank and big bend in the hook allows for a good clean hookup when they take the fly. Also like posted above small strips will get the job done. Brian if you want a fishing partner let me know i would be willing to do some pink chasing.

Evan Burck

Fudge Dragon
I find the 'players' to be on/near the bottom in the river. I've also taken to using colors other than pink. Pink is in a distant, distant, third place for most effective colors for me this year.


Active Member
I find the 'players' to be on/near the bottom in the river. I've also taken to using colors other than pink. Pink is in a distant, distant, third place for most effective colors for me this year.
A little bit of pale orange (shrimpy looking orange?) has done me right this year for coho and pinks.


Active Member
I got out on the Sky the other morning. There were tons of fish, and the gear folks were doing pretty well from what I could tell. That said, they wanted nothing to do with the flies I was tossing at them. I swung and stripped and stripped and swung. I probably could have stood to mix up the colors a bit more, but otherwise I was mixing things up with fly choice and depth. It makes one feel pretty lousy when there are literally hundreds of fish moving through in periodic waves. Thanks for all the input.



Active Member
I have caught almost all of my salt and freshwater pinks on PINK, with a few exceptions caught on shrimpy orange and peach or white. When in doubt, fish pink and as Evan said, fish deep.

Did you try heavy and/or larger flies with lots of movement, flash, and jiggy action? Emulate the gear guys when they are catching and perhaps they want to emulate you when the pinks only want small flies.
I Hooked up on the Sky on Sunday on pink 9' leader and floating line on my spey. I was stripping. I lost the fish but man "FISH ON" is exciting as all hell! I have no clue what I am doing so I just keep trying different stuff. I hope the flows don't go nuts with the rain so I can try again this weekend!

Thomas Williams

Habitual Line Stepper
I've been tying on size 8 jig nymph hooks and 5.3 mm slotted tungsten beads. 12 foot flouro leader off a dry line jigging and stripping. Works well hooked about 13 last weekend. That tungsten plummets to the bottom. You can get them tossing a sinking line and stripping through pools as well but I've found they like the dead slack water about 5-8ft deep.
I just fished the nisqually again today i caught 4 and lost 5. I was using an intermideate line with 12lb leader. A crazy charlie tied with marabu and tungsten eyes. Sorry for the spelling errors.
Right now I have been doing good with a pink (cerise) looking nymph, tied on a 6 wide gap, pink rubber legs with a chartreuse back, floating line and an 8 foot leader. This thing I can not tell you has been keeping my arm in perfect connection with love. Went out today with my brother and had the greatest day of my life.

Feel like I am Czech nymphing, but I do not care, it is fun and got fish in the freezer! What is better than slow cooked ribs and fish side! Oh ya that's dinner for tonight!

But on a serious note, I am fishing these things just like trout, short casts, on bottom. Cast perpendicular to seam of fast and slow, quick mend upstream, follow line till it goes tight. Guess what???? a fish! It has been fun and rewarding! My technique is not new or old, but it works for me. Not saying that some are fowl hooked, but in the dirty water were I am fishing, it is difficult to try and site these darn things.

For me, today was a 4 fish fair hooked to same fowl. Had one that was close to fair but I call him fowl and he was released. Haven't been to a "S" river yet to mine all have been up on a "P" river. Today, I think me and my brother did better than most of the corkie guys!


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