If you are shopping for a Spey rod for Chinooks, or Alaska King salmon, start here.

Top Spey Rods for Kings

Two fly anglers with a huge King salmon from the Kanektok River in Alaska.

Ocean bright kings are the toughest, brawliest of the Pacific Rim salmonids. You might not have to have special tackle to fish for them, but it can be very handy if you do. Your average seven weight steelhead Spey rod will prove to be wimpy for the job. Some of these brutes will go fifty or more pounds and will have no respect for you or your gear. Even local springers can exceed thirty pounds and kick your a--!

As you move north, the news just gets worse for your steelhead gear. At a minimum, you need a shorter nine-weight. For throwing three to six-inch long Intruders, you need a heavy Skagit head with a heavy sinking tip. When casting big flies long distances, nothing beats cubic grains. A handy rod to have at your disposal is one that lobs a 720-grain Skagit, with 11-feet of T-20 connected. You will also appreciate this cannon when launching average size 4-inch flies. As the flies get smaller, you might use lighter tips: T-17 for 4-inch, T-14 for 3-inch.

Few casters can go three long days in a row with a traditional 15-foot 10-weight Atlantic salmon rod and said Skagit rig. It is better to use a shorter rod that has less leverage against you. The same goes for handling really large fish. Jeff Hickman of Kimsquit Bay Lodge implores his clients to use straight 20-pound Maxima for tippet for fishing the Dean River. His kings are so ferocious that even with this heavy gear, experienced anglers often have less than a 10-percent landing ratio.

Mark Bachmann contemplates the attributes of a G. Loomis NRX Spey rod whil fishing the Sandy river in Oregon.

As you go further north to the Skeena, and even further north to the Kanektok and other famous king salmon rivers of Alaska, the fish remain very large. Many best stretches of these rivers are tidal, and some are fairly low gradient with moderate current speeds, but with lots of woody debris buried in the river bed. Having a short, stiff rod can be pretty handy for turning heavy fish away from snags that might destroy your tippet or fly line. The purchase of a rod made specifically for kings bears deep consideration. You should also consider a second rod for a back-up.

Time is getting short. Alaskan and B.C. kings peak in June. Timing for Oregon Spring Chinooks (first run of Kings) is May/June.

G. Loomis NRX 1509/10-4 FLY
G. Loomis NRX 1509/10-4 FLY Rod.
Length: 12' 6"
Line Weight: #9/10
Number of Pieces: 4
Line Recommendations: Skagit heads from 650-720 grains, T-11, T-14, T-17 tips
Use: Where the largest Chinooks and Atlantic salmon are common.

This rod was designed for fishing large Atlantic salmon in Scandinavia. The Scandi technique uses a much shorter, faster stroke during the cast, with more emphasis on the lower hand. It is sometimes referred to as the "underhand" style. Scandinavian style casting was developed in the 1960's where anglers schooled on the famous salmon and sea trout rivers of Norway and Sweden cast shooting tapers, floating or intermediate shooting heads with mono running line. Instead of holding a fixed length of line as in traditional casting, anglers shoot the entire line in one stroke.

The NRX Scandi action is extra fast with medium-stiff power to help casters create narrow, aerodynamic loops. They’ve converted their traditional line-size system to grains and grams for a more universal rating convention. NRX Scandi-style fly rods feature Recoil guides, a positive locking, handsome reel seat and the best species-cork available. The handle shape is a slim, full-wells profile with a comfortable rear grip that has a small composite cork butt-cap, giving it a nice finished look. Whether you fish in the old country or North America, this can be an extremely efficient way to cover water and catch fish. Anglers demand it, Steve Rajeff designed it, and G.Loomis stands behind it. Regarded as best of the best for big Atlantic salmon!

I got one of these rods and have adapted it to fishing for kings. I have fished both a 660-grain and 720-grain Airflo F.I.S.T. Skagit head and 11-feet of T-14. Both heads were easy to cast. The rod is very tip action and likes the under-hand pull. Predictably, the lighter head produces more line speed, but the heavier head turns over larger flies easier. Good fishing ranges are attainable with both heads. At first, the lower three-quarters of the rod felt really stiff for casting. Then I eased up on the power that was applied to the forward stroke and everything about casting became easy. Just let the top quarter of the rod do the bending. It has plenty of resistance to launch heavy heads, and thus very large flies. The Airflo Skagit F.S.I.T. will turn over monster tips. Where I have fished for kings with this rod, the heaviest tip that was needed was T-14. 11' of T-20 has been tried, but sinks too quickly for all but the deepest runs. This rod has some real muscle built into the bottom end for taking the juice out of large fish. You can fish 20-pound test tippets with confidence.

G. Loomis NRX 1509/10-4 FLY A FREE CUSTOM FLY LINE IS INCLUDED! $1,130.00

Sage 9120-4 X
Sage 9120-4 X Spey rod.
Length: 12'
Line Weight: #9
Number of Pieces: 4
Line Recommendations: Skagit heads from 600-650 grains, T-11, T-14, T-17 tips
Use: Where 12-25 pound Chinooks are most common.

In our crowd, Frank Day has put in the most time in on the water with the Sage 9120-4 X. He likes a 660-grain Airflow F.I.S.T. the best. Frank did a lot of fishing on the Oregon coat last fall for both Chinooks and chums. The rod handled both kinds of fish, no problem. Unfortunately, Frank found out that ocean bright kings and clicker reels aren't the perfect mix, and most of the big ones got away. He thought the rod did a great job. This year he is going back with a Hatch 9+ reel.

Sage 9120-4 X $1,095.00

Echo King 9130
Echo King 9130 Spey rod.

Length: 13'
Line Weight: #9
Number of Pieces: 4
Line Recommendations: Skagit heads from 600-650 grains, T-11, T-14, T-17 tips
Use: Where 12-25 pound Chinooks are most common.

When Tim Rajeff developed this series of rods, he made it easy for anglers to fish for king (Chinook) salmon. The King Series is designed around an action that is so easy to cast that steelhead-sized models are reported to be in the design stage. This will be a great rod where large flies, large steelhead or chum salmon are common.


Echo King 10130
Echo King 10130 Spey rod.

Length: 13'
Line Weight: #10
Number of Pieces: 4
Recommendations: Skagit heads from 700-750 grains, T-14, T-17, T-20 tips
Use: Where 20-50 pound Chinooks are most common.

This is really a lot of rod for the money, and it is easy to cast with a 700-750-grain head. If you are headed to B.C. or Alaska consider taking one of these with you. This rod is half the price of some rods, but lacks nothing in the performance or workmanship departments.