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Glacier King: 5 Most effective fly patterns

Glacier King: 5 Most effective fly patterns

One of the most frequently asked question we get: "What type of flies should I tie for Glacier King"... well, here you'll find all the answers!

There are certainly a number of patterns and color combinations for Chinook salmon all over the world, and most of them are good enough for the Rio Caterina, in Glacier King, but of course there are always things that we learn after the many hours in the water. Follow this blog post where you’ll find all the tips and tricks to catch a King, in Glacier King.

Photo: Renowned salmon and steelhead angler Ken Morrish discusses the fly strategy with Glacier King’s guide Cristian Mammi (morning session in Rio Caterina next to Boulders run).

The five patterns shown above are the best representation of whats needed for this river. Lets break it into size, color, materials, weight and hook position and type.

1. Size

Even thou we’re targeting fish that can be pretty big even up to 90+ pound (current record for our lodge is 90.3lb from 2019) the size of the flies is not necessarily huge… flies in between 3-4 inches are the ones we use the most.

2. Color:

If you’ve had a chance of fishing for chinook salmon, you’ll notice right away that we’re not going that far away from the usual colors. In fact black, blue, purple, chartreuse, etc are usually the ones we all choose.

Theoretically, the further up in the system you target these fish, the more effective darker colors are… we think that may the case here, and the reason why, besides chartreuse, we lean mainly on black, blue, purple, and not so much into white, pink, etc…

The color combinations in between theses one are always an option -and even a must- and adding a fluo head like an egg sucking patter is a popular, effective choice.

3. Materials:

It will be about making your own patterns or follow any of the well-known recipes: bunny leach, intruder, you name it… In those cases, ostrich, marabou, rhea, guinea hen, arctic fox tail, and all the flashing ones are welcomed!

By following next point (4), you’ll know weight is very important, hence the fly must sink fairly quick. For that purpose, bulky flies, more wraps than necessary (of marabou, of rabbit strip, etc…) or just too much of any materials won’t help. 

Thinner silhouettes are the key. Good profiles without much material, a concept well achieved by Scandinavian / Atlantic salmon anglers, the Temple Dog. A wing that provides the profile without risking its sinking ability (and thats another one for the box indeed, meaning the one and only “temple dog”).

4. Weight:

This is what your guide will check first. He’ll filter the ones weighted and will leave aside all the other pretty ones that he’ll consider useless… 

Jokes aside, Caterina is mainly not a deep river (even thou there are a couple of deep spots that ALWAYS hols fish) but even in the shallower runs, having your fly sinking right away WILL make a difference and will be presented correctly in front of the salmon.

Dumbbell eyes like tungsten cone-heads are the go-to choice for having your fly following the sink tip as it should, and honestly, I’ver never heard our guides say “nah, thats too heavy”, just to keep in mind…

5. Hook size, type and position:

Off-set, bait-type hooks are the ones we all prefer: Owner Ssw, Gamakatsu Octopus, Ahrex PR382, as well as many others.

The size will vary between 1/0 and 3/0. Again, salmon in this system are BIG, and have hard mouth so point and strength can’t be jeopardized. 

This said, the last of these tips and tricks goes around hook position. The size of the fish doesn’t make them any less shy and they will many times take very gently nibbling the very end of the tail of the fly. For that, keeping it a bit out behind the end of the wing is a safe choice, as shown in the photos above.

12 years have passed since our first scouting trips to Glacier King, and we're willing to share all the information and findings as well as show anglers this amazing place
Claudio Martin
Tres Amigos Outfitters
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