On the Kanektok River where we operate Alaska West, and on other rivers like it in Western Alaska, the classic method for catching silver salmon on flies involves targeting them in slow-moving water, casting a floating line, and stripping back a weighted fly.
Here are 6 ways to make the most of this technique. Keep in mind that silver fishing can get pretty nutty at times, and there are many days on which technique honestly doesn’t matter much at all. That being said, more often than not fishing well is better than not fishing well, so read up – the silvers arrive in just over 7 weeks.
- Point your rod at the fly. When stripping back the fly, keep your rod tip in the water, and pointed right at your fly. Silvers often like a jerky retrieve, and if you rod tip is raised or pointed to one side, the tip of the rod will absorb some of the force of the strip and the fly will move more smoothly. That’s bad in this case!
- Vary your retrieve. If you’re not catching fish, experiment with different stripping speeds and patterns. Try “strip, strip, pause.” Try long, steady strips. Try jerky, erratic strips. The ‘hot’ retrieve can vary day-to-day, so play around and see what works.
- Use lead eye flies. Stripping back a lead eye fly on a floating line creates a jigging action during the pause that drives silvers crazy. It’s amazing how often a silver eats during the ‘pause’ part of the retrieve– right when that lead eye fly is jigging away.
- Bring different colors. Different colors seem to matter more than different patterns. If you’ve got pink, purple and black versions of some sort of lead-eyed Wooly Bugger, you should have your bases covered. Start with pink and change it up if things slow down.
- Fish when the sun is low. Fish for silvers early and late in the day – especially early. Although you can catch them all day long, the most productive fishing tends to come when the sun is low. If your foggy, grey August morning turns into a bluebird afternoon, why not take advantage of the possible lull in the silver fishing and chase some giant rainbows?
- Strip set. When you see the mouth of that silver open up right on top of your fly, it’s awfully hard to resist the temptation to jerk your rod back and set the hook trout-style. Be strong! If you’re able to strip the line tight to the fish before you raise your rod, your hookup rate is going to be much, much higher.