Big Kings and the Oricle 13'


Shakespeare Oracle 13 foot.

Most of our fishing for salmon is done either in the Scottish Borders, or, on

Vancouver Island,
British Columbia,

Scotland we mainly fish the river Teviot, a tributary of the river
Tweed. The Teviot is not a big river, so a 13 foot rod is ideal. We run corporate fishing weeks and casting/coaching days so we need a rod that will stand an inevitable hard life of a ‘training rod’. The Oracle 13 foot is great because firstly it looks good with a standard of finish as good as many more expensive alternatives. Being a #10/12 weight means that it is a very powerful rod and benefits from having a #12 weight line on it. This enables easy loading of the rod for novice casters. We have used four of these rods for over 5 years without any breakages, no mean feat considering the dozens of new salmon fishermen (and women) who have not only learnt to cast, but also caught their first Atlantic salmon on them.

Too often rods are developed for casting, not necessarily for playing the fish. Having tested them first in

we knew they were good. To date we will have caught in excess of one thousand salmon on the rods, a pretty tough test for any rod. Some of these fish have been over 30 pounds, and the rods happily bend from the butt upwards to help subdue these Kings of salmon.

On Vancouver Island we live on the edge of

Campbell River
, both the name of the city and the river. Fifteen years ago when we started going there, the runs of King Salmon were just starting. In those days we had about 500 fish returning each year. This meant they had to be conserved, so you were limited to using 10lb line. If you were lucky enough to hook a King salmon you were allowed to play it until it jumped, so you had at least seen your fish. Once this happened you dropped your rod tip and allowed the single barbless hook to come out. There were never any questions, you just did it. Four years ago the numbers had risen to over 6,000 returning fish, so the rules were relaxed. Local anglers had used single handed trout rods for years to catch all their fish, either salmon or trout, an example followed by visiting anglers alike. Predominantly the salmon are Pinks and Coho. The Pink Salmon run is usually more than 250,000 fish and they average about 5 lbs in weight so a  #6/7 9ft 6in was fair sport. The Coho are bigger and fight much harder, but they are much less in numbers, so occasional fish could give you an epic battle!

Now that the big Kings were being hooked more frequently it was found that a fish over 20lbs, plus a large fast flowing river were no match for a 9ft 6in trout rod. If an angler persisted then if he did get the fish in, then both he and the fish were nearly dead!

Clearly it was time for change, enter the Shakespeare Oracle 13 ft rods! Double handed salmon fly rods are still referred to as ‘Spey Rods’. Straight away it was possible to play one of these big King Salmon with a good chance of getting it in, and more importantly getting it in without exhausting you and the fish. Once unhooked, they swim powerfully off still with plenty of energy. It took quite a while for the rods to be accepted but the Oracles played a major role in the use of bigger rods on the river, so in turn they have played a major role in conservation because the runs of King salmon get bigger and better year on year.

It is an amazing experience to play one of these big powerful fish, they will take 100 yards of line off a reel that has a powerful drag system wound fully on, afterwards you check to see if its still working, only to find you can barely turn it! We have used the Shakespeare Trion 10/11 reels for years as they are strong and reliable, and, you can get replacement drag discs too. (A useful tip: Always wind off the drag on your reel after playing a fish. If you don’t then the discs get compressed and the drag loses its progressiveness, it is either on or off which is no good. The rule applies for trout reels with disc drag systems too.) We use stronger leader these days, 18 or 20lbs, so you can really lean into these fish and the rod bends and bends while the line starts to sing! (Another tip: 20lb leader usually breaks with about a 23lb weight. The breaking strain of a flyline is around 25lbs, so don’t use leader heavier than 20 lbs or you can lose half your flyline instead of just the leader!) The tension is so high that the line makes twanging noises like a guitar string. If the line breaks or the hook comes out you literally end up flat on your back because of the sudden release. When the hook stays in you have a real battle on your hands, the powerful fish make run after run across into the fast current, then they either let the current carry them downstream or, just as you think you are winning they make a powerful upstream run and you have to battle against them again trying to bring them back into the quieter water. Once you can do this you have a good chance of bringing the fish to the edge using the absolute power of the Oracle rod coupled with the drag of the Trion reel. The fish are so big you don’t lift them out of the water because you can damage their internal organs due to their sheer bulk, so you unhook them easily (single barbless hooks!) and kneel in the water then rest them on your lap for a quick photo before carefully releasing them back into the river, job done!

Ian Davis

MD of BC Fishing Ltd

BC Fishing organises trips to

Vancouver Island,
British Columbia,
, every September. Prices start from £1,600 per person, including return flights, accommodation and freshwater licences. For more information check out their website at www .

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