We get asked quite a bit about the various rigs we use on our Michigan rivers for salmon and steelhead. One of the most notorious and mystifying rigs here in Michigan is known as the chuck-n-duck rig.
This name is unfortunate because in other parts of the country “chuck-n-duck” refers to throwing heavily weighted streamers on a fly line. In Michigan, “chuck-n-duck” means something entirely different. A Michigan style chuck-n-duck rig is a true abomination of fly fishing. But it is deadly, deadly effective.
Chuck-n-duck rigs are for bottom bouncing flies. They allow you to get your flies to the bottom quickly and to keep them there no matter how fast the water is moving and no matter how deep it is. This is because with a chuck-n-duck rig you can use as much weight as you want. In high water we routinely throw up to 2 ounces of lead. That is a lot of lead.
The problem with using that much weight on a traditional fly rig, or even one quarter of that weight to be honest, is that you can’t cast it. The only way you’re going to come close to casting that much weight is with a big two-hander and a 700gr skagit head. And even then it probably wouldn’t work out very well. This is because with a traditional fly rig, you throw the line. The fly and weight etc. just go along for the ride. But getting a line heavy enough to carry 2oz of lead for a ride is almost impossible.
With most other forms of casting such as spin and bait casting and center pinning, you are throwing the weight and the line goes along for the ride. Therefore you can typically throw a lot more weight using these techniques as you’re only limited by the stiffness of your rod. Here in Michigan, and I would very much like to learn the history of the technique if anyone knows it, instead of using spinning rods to throw a lot of weight, people started spooling up their fly reels with a flat, untapered running line and throwing heavy weights with their fly rods.
A chuck-n-duck rig uses a no-taper running line such as Amnesia, Climax, Powerflex or Slickshooter that is light enough so that the weight can carry it along on the cast. So chuck-n-duck fishing requires the angler to strip all the line one would need for the cast onto the water or deck of the boat or the ground, to strip in most of the slack line until the weight is close enough to the rod tip so that it can be thrown like you were casting a spinning rod.
Kevin’s typical chuck-n-duck rig is shown below. A lot of folks don’t use the sliding clip-swivel rig that he does. A lot of folks just tie directly to the swivel with both leader and tippet. We usually fish egg and nymph patterns on this kind of rig, but as Kevin so ably illustrates below, you can also use streamers with a chuck-n-duck rig. We all cut our own weights using spools of lead and Leadmaster pliers, but you can use any kind of weight at all, we just like the flexibilitythat cutting you own offers.