Machete’s Guide Gear Talk – SAFARI Fly Rods (cont’d)
Last time we left off discussing what rod weights are preferred for Dolly fishing at our second camp, SAFARI. Now we will talk about what is in my mind the main attraction of our remote wilderness camp on the rugged coast of the Pacific side of the Alaska Peninsula: ocean-fresh salmon.
The triumvirate of chrome
Most of the fly fishing for salmon will occur within spitting distance of the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, these fish are equipped with all of their saltwater reserves of energy when we find them in the tidal flat just below our camp. Many will still be clad in their chrome plated ocean armor, and after having just returned from their trans Pacific voyage at sea they do not take kindly to having a fly dangled in their face. The culmination of these conditions can create some out of this world fishing.
Even more notable is the beach fishing where, when the conditions cooperate, we chase pods to schools of often chrome-bright salmon up and down a sandy shoreline casting directly in the salt water. Sometimes the action is fast paced – cast, strip, set, land, chase, repeat. Other times enormous schools of salmon, usually pinks, slowly creep along the coastline. Catch rates can verge on ridiculous. Your focus may eventually drift, forgetting that you’re actually fly fishing in Alaska; when the sun is bright and the seas are calm, the backdrop is more reminiscent of a pristine Polynesian coastline.
A good salmon rod
The most important consideration for selecting a good salmon rod is backbone. You will need to leverage an incredible amount of pressure on a hot salmon in order to turn and subdue the fish. The recommended rod weight for salmon at our SAFARI camp is an 8 wt. This is a great all around big fish stick. It brings enough muscle to handle the larger specimens of chum and silver salmon while not being too overkill for the smaller pinks.
Today most larger rod weights come with a fighting butt on the end of the reel seat. This is a must have. Even for 6 wt rod considerations I would always opt for this feature when considering a setup for a week of fly fishing in Alaska. You are going to jam the butt of your rod into your lower abdomen to apply maximum pressure on a runaway salmon during the course of the fight. That cushioned fighting butt will allow you to do so without causing too much physical discomfort.
One last critical consideration to make are the number of rod pieces. Today most rods are a standard 4 piece configuration. This is absolutely preferable to the alternative 2 or 3 piece rod configuration. This will not only make traveling to and from our camp much easier, but will also allow for your rod to be loaded into and out of the cargo compartment with much greater ease on the days that we go heli-fishing.
As was mentioned in the beginning of the rod review talk for SAFARI camp, the rod choices are much more simple when compared to our first camp. Basically it breaks down to an 8 wt and 6 wt. This represents the divergence between targeting larger species of salmon to hunting for trout-sized Dolly Varden. These recommendations are also reflected on the official gear list, which you can view here. So that covers the bases for someone with a standard 9 ft single hand rod, but what about a two handed rod?
Check back in for a continuing discussion for anyone interested in spey rod considerations for our SAFARI camp.