Salmon Bum: George Cook
George Cook lives and breathes salmon fishing on the fly. And hunting, too. But in the fishing industry, he’s best known for fishing for kings throughout Alaska, British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Cook, who splits his residency between Washington and Alaska, is a manufacturer’s rep for Sage, Rio, Redington, Tibor, Smith, and Sitka Gear. His territory is Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Throughout his 34 years in the industry Cook has developed fly patterns specifically for king salmon fishing. His patterns are universal for steelhead, too. When he’s not fishing, giving seminars at Spey claves, or tying flies he’s usually archery hunting in one of eight states. Talk about a good gig!
Residence: Lacey, Wash. (and Anchorage, Alaska).
Occupation: Manufacturer sales rep.
Why did you get involved in the fishing industry?
I got involved through my retail days working at Kaufmann’s Streamborn store in Bellevue, Wash. (1982-1987) and guiding in Bristol Bay, Alaska (1983-1985). I was director of Schools and Sport Shows at Sage from 1988-1990 before being awarded a rep job for Sage and several other companies.
How many days a year do you hunt big game?
I hunt quite a bit. I hunt six to eight states per year, mainly archery these days. I hunt mostly deer, some elk and antelope. In the U.S., I hunt Washington, Kansas and Texas. I hunt the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua and Coahuila. Big Deer have been a passion of mine for 30-plus years.
Years Salmon Fishing:
How many days a year do you fish?
I fish about 40 to 50 days per year. In 2016 that included 8 days of saltwater, 24 days in Alaska, and various days in lower 48 fisheries.
How many salmon fly patterns have you developed?
I think around 11 patterns.
What are the names of those patterns?
Popsicle, Blue Moon, Pixie’s Revenge, Showgirl, Candy Cane, Aleutian Queen, Blue Moon, Manhattan Beach, Dean River Tiger are the best known.
What are your most popular and effective fly patterns:
Popsicle and Dean River Tiger.
Greatest threat to salmon fishing:
The usual suspects along with some rarely mentioned ones: commercial fishing of the whole Pacific Rim; Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay set netting for kings; tribal harvest of wild fish; over reaching wild fish advocates; sea lion populations on the Columbia River that are completely out of whack.
Biggest Salmon landed:
48 Pounds on fly. Have lost two Kenai Mega Kings in the 55 to 65-pound range on Spey tackle. They’re a tough assignment.
Number of Salmon landed:
Too many to count.
Favorite Destination for Big Salmon:
Alaska Kings: Nushagak, Kanektok, Alagnak, Kenai and Gulkana rivers. B.C. kings and steelhead: Dean River.
Favorite Home State Destination:
Rogue River in Oregon and the Clearwater in Idaho.
Most Effective Method for Salmon:
I’m a Spey guy although I cut my teeth on kings with single handed 10-12 weights from an anchored boat in the ‘80s and 1990s.
Sage 10130-4 ONE; Sage 9119-4; Redington Chromer 8126; Sage Method 9119-4. RIO Skagit Max Lines, T-17 in 11’, 13’ and 15’. Sage and Tibor Reels. King flies in chartreuse hues in tidally influenced waters; orange-red hues when the sun is upon us; black-blue tones farther up river systems.
How to Fish It:
70 to 80 degree cast with solid, even aggressive initial mends, is simply critical. A slow-broadside fly presentation truly matters. Kings, like steelhead fly fishing, is a “cast and step” game.
What is one thing you see people do wrong while fishing?
Not Letting Kingy “Chew The Gum” and striking too soon. Like plug fishing the take down is the big pull-turn in the fly game. Secondly, folks still trying to catch kings in “gear water” versus understanding the edges and pillow water where the fly rodder can get stuff done.
My Fishing Idol Is:
In the 1980s Jim Teeny; the ‘90s Lani Waller; nowadays Mike McCune and Scott Howell.
What I Know About Salmon Fishing:
I know that I learn something new every season. In the early years I paid huge attention to gear anglers and methods (had to as an Alaskan guide); this has helped format fly fishing strategies and a thorough understanding of fishable water for the fly angler vs. water that the gear boys simply slay in. These are two distinctly different types of water both in tidal and traditional lies. Once the fly angler swallows the understanding of just what is “fly water” he is on his way to successful days.
Favorite Fishing Memory:
Days spent fishing with my Spey casting crazy wife Jennifer and my son Cole.
If You Had One Day Left To Fish, Where Would You Go:
Lower Dean River in British Columbia.