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Originating high in the glacier-capped Andes, the river flows sparkling and clear with a touch of turquoise. It courses through a lush valley and offers a variety of fish-holding structure, including gravel bars, large boulders, deep runs and classic tail-outs. The upper reaches are steep and lively, while the lower section slows considerably, creating juicy holding water before emptying into the fjord in front of the lodge. With tides averaging 20 feet, there are wonderful opportunities for finding ultra-fresh kings on the moving tides.

The Austral River Lodge program includes roughly 40 kilometers of water accessed by jet boat. On a daily basis we will rotate with four rods from Austral Kings Camp located a few kilometers upstream from the lodge. Most fishing is swinging flies while wading or from the bank, but there are a number of productive runs that may be fished from the boat. Anglers will rotate through both upper-river and lower-river beats. For the upper beat you will be transferred by vehicle to begin the day’s fishing. For the lower beat, you will fish relatively close to the lodge. The distances are not great, but the roads are unimproved and transfers can take 20 to 30 minutes.

The first salmon enter the river in December and the Austral River Lodge season runs from early January well into March. We are focused on fishing for fresh, bright king salmon, so we end our season well before the fish start to show their spawning colors.

We will only be offering the prime weeks for four rods weekly. On every tide new, fresh salmon enter the river — in any given week of the season you will be fishing to a sizeable number of fish. What makes a great week is therefore not based on the number of fish in the river but instead on favorable weather and river conditions. Clear water and blue skies make for more challenging fishing than when rain or glacial melt add color to the water. Whatever the case, the river drops and clears quickly; days lost to high, dirty water are rare.

All this is to say: Join us any week in our season that fits your calendar. Chances are you’ll find yourself with a great chance to hook a fish of a lifetime!

The consensus among guides and experienced Chinook fly fishers is that rods should be short and stout. A guide-endorsed rig might consist of a 13 – 14 foot double-handed rod for a 9- or 10-weight line. A high quality reel capable of holding over 200 yards of 30-pound backing, 100 feet of 30-pound-test (minimum) running line, a 650- to 750-grain Skagit head, and a sinking tip made of 10 to 20 feet of T-14, T-17, or T-20, if you really want to get down and dirty.

High quality machined aluminum reels with a smooth drag and a rim control feature are highly recommended. You will want to make sure your reel’s drag system will operate well when wet and in cold conditions. Note: A proper Chinook fly reel should be able to stop a speeding truck. In Chinook fly fishing, more so than in any other fresh water fly fishing, your reel’s braking capability can play a huge role in whether or not you ever see the fish you’ve hooked.

The most common and useful line system for Chinook fly fishing with a double-handed rod is composed of a running line and Skagit-style shooting head. Skagit heads are designed to aid in casting sink tips and large (2–6 inches), weighted flies. RIO, Airflo and Scientific Angler are the most popular and established brands in North America, but several other brands have recently begun offering shooting heads with Skagit-style tapers.

Although your guide will have flies for you, it is a good idea to bring a selection of flies. Many of the patterns listed below are commercially tied and available at reputable fly shops. If you tie your own flies, please read on for information on characteristics that your hand-tied flies should incorporate. For the most part, Chinook flies should be of fairly good size, from 2.5 to 5 inches in length. Traditional style flies should be tied on top quality hooks in sizes from 4 to 2/0. Some of the key elements in Chinook wet flies (in order of importance) are motion, sink rate, size, color and flash.

Motion: A fly with wiggle and motion generally has much better fish attracting qualities since it looks “alive” in the water. This is a highly attractive quality for Chinooks. Materials that help impart motion are rabbit fur, marabou, soft webby hackles, dubbings and mohair.

Sink rate: The sink rate of a fly is important when covering different types of water. When fishing deep fast water it is best to fish heavier, streamlined flies that sink quickly. When fishing long even flowing runs filled with large boulders it is best to fish a fly with a slower sink rate that lets the sink tip contact the bottom before the fly. This will keep the fly just off the bottom and in the strike zone longer. Some ways to control sink rate are weight of the hook, the bulk of materials (the more water a fly displaces the slower it will sink), buoyancy of materials, and weighting the fly (beads, lead wraps, dumbbell eyes, etc.)

Size and color: In general, the lower and clearer the water, the smaller and more subdued the fly, and vice versa. Favorite colors for wet flies are chartreuse, pink (cerise and shrimp pink), purple, black, blue, orange. Don’t be afraid to mix and match colors; favorite color combinations for Chinooks are chartreuse/blue, chartreuse/black, chartreuse/green, cerise/shrimp pink, black/blue, blue/purple and cerise/orange.

Flash: Small amounts of flash included in standard patterns may help induce strikes from a following fish. And sometimes flies that are all flash are very effective in high, dirty water conditions. Many modern materials can help impart flash in your flies such as Flashabou, Crystal Flash, Cactus Chenille, Angel Hair, Edge Bright and many others..

Hooks: Hooks are critical in Chinook fly fishing. For tube and shank flies, sizes 1, 1/0, 2/0 and 3/0 are recommended and the Owner Super Needle Point SSW is a preferred brand and model. For smaller flies tied on traditional hooks, the tier may want to use strong saltwater hooks such as those designed for tarpon.

Commercially tied flies: Many effective Chinook flies are available from fly shops and online sources. Common patterns include a variety of Intruder variations, prawns and leeches. Flies from the distributor Aqua Flies are highly recommended and serve as an example of effective designs. When smaller flies are required, traditional Comets, shrimp flies (including saltwater flies) and small Atlantic salmon tube flies such as Snaelda, Red Francis or similar may be effective.

At Austral River Lodge we adhere to a strict catch-and-release policy. All fishing is fly only, with single or double barbless hooks, and we request extreme care in handling all fish.


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