At Alaska West, we have the pleasure of closing out our season with truly prolific runs of silver salmon. Silvers get under the skin of many of our guests due to their strength, acrobatics, and willingness to grab a fly. However, contrary to popular belief, there are times when silver salmon are reluctant to eat on every cast.
If you have spent any time with us during silver season at Alaska West, you would most likely agree that these times are rare. Nonetheless, whether it be a low water year or a bright midday sun, silvers can become fussy at times. Not to worry – if you find yourself in front of some timid Coho, try some of these tips to help fool a few more.
More so than pattern, color seems to be the predominant factor in fly selection (as with most species of salmon). It is no secret that silvers love pink. Often times on a good silver day, there is no reason to tie anything else on. However, should a pod of silvers suddenly turn their nose up at your offering, try switching it up for a cast or two. First, try switching to a different shade of pink. Not all pinks are created equal and a fish might respond differently at a light pink fly than it would at a cerise pattern. If that doesn’t work, try something different like purple or chartreuse. Silvers will eat much more than pink, trust us.
Change Up Your Flash
On days of varying light levels, especially bright sunny days, try switching to a pattern with a lot of flash in it. For some reason, a gaudy offering in bright sun seems to turn on that aggressive response in otherwise shy silvers. On the other hand, if your flashy fly is being refused, try switching to a duller pattern for a cast or two.
Vary Your Retrieve
Silvers most often key into an erratic retrieve. However, the length of strip as well as the pause between strips differs from angler to angler. Varying up your retrieve for a few casts can often turn on a pod of shy silvers.
Change Up the Weight of Your Flies
Like varying your retrieve, changing the weight of your fly can help as well. Under the same retrieve, a fly with heavier lead eyes will result in more action when stripped than a fly with lighter eyes. If you tie your own flies, try tying flies with varying weight for eyes to adapt to different situations.
Lighten Your Leader
We’re not talking about tapering down to 4x tippet here, but switching from 15 pound Maxima to 12 pound Maxima can help fool a timid silver or two. Better yet, try switching to a similar strength of fluorocarbon to increase your stealth.
Notice that of the tips mentioned above, several recommend trying them for a few casts. If you are sitting on a massive pod of slivers, and none will eat, after trying a few techniques mentioned above, your best bet might be to move. Odds are there are plenty more in the river, and the key may be finding a pod of more aggressive fish. However, if you are able to sting a few fish and the pod suddenly becomes inactive, before abandoning the spot completely, try moving just a short ways down the run and trying again. Often times the fish at the back of the run (downstream) are more aggressive and may be good for a couple more eats. On the other hand, if every pod seems uninterested in your offerings, then it is time to change it up using the tips above until you find what they want.