B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
Deep Running Giant Salmon
This angler is casting to the far side of the river where a deep slot has formed two seams; note the line animations. To fish it properly the angler casts upstream, beyond the slot, and then drifts through it as the leader makes its way downstream, this kind of presentation is the hallmark of “drift-fishing”. Note that the current of this river flows from the left to the right.

It’s true that fishing popular spots will produce more fish but those same reaches of water are usually devoid of giant salmon, but that’s not where I want to fish. Fantastic fishing stories are born from equally fantastic salmon and the best place to find them are in deep, fast, turbulent waters; this is where adventurous anglers want to be. There are several things that need discussing before heading out to fish for giant salmon. Anglers must embrace that conventional fishing is not a factor here and to hook into these fish they’ll have to do is gather all the gear and put it together, which includes using light line and heavy weights, read water, relearn to cast, and employ fighting techniques designed specifically for light-line fishing for monstrous salmon. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that fishermen will have to use really small test, just “smaller” than normal test for salmon fishing. All of these techniques and applications come together nicely and can be learned on a single fishing trip. Remember, the larger a fish is the older it tends to be and consequently more finicky, so the first thing to consider is fishing gear put together prior to heading out the door.
Light line, heavy weights, and longer leaders are key elements of fishing gear that get down to giant salmon. Leader line should never be heavier than twelve-pound test, limber, and invisible.
Really huge salmon are relatively old fish, for their species, and have learned to survive by avoiding large line that is easily seen. Heavier weights get down through fast water into the slow currents found beneath them. Weights almost never need to be more than two-ounces. If the water is so fast that even two ounces can’t get down simply cast further upstream to give it more time to get down. Longer leaders will keep the attention large salmon focused on the hook with drift presentations. Terminal gear close to the leader’s offering can sometimes be distracting and that means fewer solid hook-sets. Use these three basic elements of gear and giant salmon will stay on the bite; they keep the pressure off and the bite on. With all the gear gathered and put together it’s time to hit the river.

Being able to read water means anglers will be able to find the best holds before a single cast is made. Water surfaces that are slick, slow, and dark are indicative of deep holds known as pools and drop-offs; it’s a great place to start. At the head and tail of a pool is where you’ll find most huge salmon running deep. Pools often have gradient variation where one side is steeper than the other, this is known as a drop-off. Huge fish hold on the deep side near the bed of the river. It takes time to fish deep holds and depending on the depth and speed the current dictates weight sizes and how long leaders should be. Cover the water thoroughly before moving on.

There are three premises to successfully covering each seam of a drop-off: first, cast to the close seam first, cast to the far seam second; and cast beyond any drop-offs. Fishing seams of drop-offs requires some unconventional thinking when it comes to casting for giants. It’s important to cast to the closet seam first along the ledge of the drop-off. Giants holding near the ledge will either strike immediately or let it drift on by sot it’s very easy to figure out fast if fish are biting along the ledge before moving to the far seam. Make each far cast well beyond the seam so the offering has plenty of time to make a proper presentation as it moves downriver. So long as the offering gets down fast enough, lunkers will take a good look at it and strike in just a few passes through. After covering both seams it’s important to fish the seam that forms below the ledge of the drop-off, which almost always ends up near tail-outs and pools. In conjunction with the slot formed by the drop-off, cast upriver and let the offering sink without reeling in the slack. When the mainline has drifted to the twelve o’clock position, reel in all the slack while keeping the offering as close to the bed as possible. As the mainline begins to swing around the bend watch the line for any hesitations or stops, if it does set the hook hard! Fishing these holds properly gets results fast, so anglers can expect to effectively cover a lot of territory.

Purposefully fishing for giants means that every time the line stops anglers need to set the hook hard and hold on for those first vital seconds. When the first headshakes come they’ll feel like the fish is slowly pulling on the line like tug-of-war, but don’t be fooled, it’s not a snag and it will fight back&you just have to wait sometimes for as long as fifteen seconds before a good reaction; don’t try to reel in the slack and just hold on and prepare for the run. Under most circumstances, giant salmon will make a single long tear down river, and with light line that can be pretty easy.

Bolting giant salmon heading for whitewater can only be turned by doing the one thing that almost all fishermen have a problem with doing, even me. They have to rely on science and "flip" the bail open so the mainline pays off the spool. This technique is called "free-bailing" and it works for any kind of reel. Freeing up the line like that gets the leader in front of the fish forming a loop. The pressure from the line being pulled in front of the salmon will trick it into turning around tricking it into swimming back upriver. “This technique requires a lot of trust that it will work it will.”

As the huge fish bolts back upriver let it go past your position and you will have the advantage of keeping maximum tension on the line even if it’s no stronger than six-pound test.

All spools drag tension increases the farther a fish runs and the closer the line gets to the center of it. “Thumbing” the spool, also called “palming”, adds maximum tension by applying pressure to the side of the spool for a few seconds at a time so that the giant will have to fight using all its energy a hundred percent of the time. Repeat this process for as many times as needed. While using this technique it’s possible to land seventy-pound fish with six-pound monofilament! I’ve used this particular technique thousands of times over the last twenty-five years! It’s a fantastic way to stop them!

Remember, to find giant salmon it’s essential to take the path less traveled, and that means often times fishing alone as other fishermen cast at jumping fish. Fishing like that is fine for those satisfied to get a “good” fish&an “average” fish&a “fine” eating fish. To find that special fish&that dandy fish&that once-in-a-lifetime fish anglers will have to look for them in deep water and that means really thinking about the gear necessary to garner strikes and to get them on the hook, it means taking the time to really read water, and learn what fighting techniques it takes to land these lunkers on light line. These applications and techniques are different from mainstream fishing and they really work. When it comes down to it, the best an angler can hope for is to thoroughly understand what it takes to get these giant fish and then to have confidence in all the applications. If you want to hook into these behemoths then you have to fish where they swim and that almost always means fishing alone, at least until you hook that first monster, then of course the area will be crowded with fishermen asking you everything you can possibly tell them so they too can hit into those deep running giant salmon.
This absolutely perfect fish is one of my favorites. I had to beat the water of the hold he was hiding in from the head to the end of the reach. It had been hiding in the deepest recesses of a slot directly below a riffle where the bed of the river dropped to a very deep hold. Having no physical fish signs on the surface, I speculated that the largest fish in the area would be there and here it is for all to see! Seconds after deploying my “Seam-riding” technique this salmon was on the hook putting up a legendary battle I will never forget! This monster was so bright that it was hard for the camera lens to filter out the glare of this chrome-bright trophy fish, which was fought and landed on four-pound test!

© Timothy Kusherets, 2008/09

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