Coming soon to a river near us, Silver Salmon! It is just about that time of year when the acrobatic Silver Salmon fill the rivers outside both Alaska West and Rapids Camp Lodge. We are already anticipating the first top water explosion from a Coho on a bright pink Pollywog. In honor of this event, we figured it out be an appropriate time for a Round Up of some of our most popular posts regarding flies and techniques for catching the high flying Silver Salmon.
Want to experience the best Silver Salmon fishing on the planet? We have 2 spots open during prime Silver Season at Alaska West, August 4-11th. Come with us to chase this ultra aggressive, hard fighting fish. Silvers, aka Coho Salmon, are known to eat a wide variety of flies and for the acrobatics they display after they are hooked. We don’t like to brag about our fisheries or anything but do think it is safe to say that the Kanektok River offers the best Silver Salmon fishing in the world. During the month of August, any slight break from the current in the river will be stuffed filled with Silvers. And by the way, we have lots of current breaks…
Want to claim the last 2 spots from August 4-11th? Shoot us a note here.
Here are 4 reasons you should book the last spots.
- They Eat Aggressively on the Surface (some of the time competing over your fly with other silvers from the same school.)
- Chrome Fish that still have Sea Lice. The fish we target are fresh, usually just a few miles from the salt.
- They Jump. Well actually more than just jump. They tailwalk across the river’s surface before performing double cartwheels or other acrobatic moves we would need an olympic gymnast to accurately describe.
- Fun Regardless of Skill Level. Want to boost your confidence hooking fish on a fly rod? This is the time and place for you. Already a savvy vet? Target the fish using advanced techniques like top water Pollywogs.
More on Silver Salmon Madness:
Here is your 2019 Alaska West Salmon Calendar! Alaska West typically has an incredibly consistent run of the various Pacific Salmon. Veteran guides up there can almost tell you what day of the year it is based on what fish are arriving into the river system. If you have a specific species of fish that you want to chase, we can help you predict when the best time to catch them will be. At Alaska West (and Rapids Camp for that matter) our time of year is based on what fish are in the river as opposed to a typical monthly calendar.
Our calendar year stars around the second week of June when the largest of the Pacific Salmon, the Chinook, make their first appearance. The King Salmon start our salmon migration calendar and offer us some of our favorite swing fishing on the planet. This goes on until the middle of July. Between June and July, we target the King’s with two handed rods, but can also chase them with single handed rods on smaller rivers, or even with conventional gear.
July is when the fisheries in Bristol Bay really get going. Sockeye Salmon swim in by the millions which is one of the greatest animal migrations on the planet. Chum and Pink Salmon are next on the list to enter our rivers and we must say, are both pretty under appreciated targets on the fly. Chum Salmon especially, I know quite a few guides who would say the Chum are pound for pound the hardest fighting salmon. The chums and pink salmon always make sure to arrive to the party just before the first few Silver Salmon make their appearance.
Late July silver salmon are the target species..Well actually, you can target ALL the species of Pacific salmon. The last week of July starts a brief period where our guest can pursue the Salmon Grand Slam — all five species of Pacific salmon, all on flies, all on the same day. We are pretty spoiled up here, we know 😉
August is when we are in full blow Silver Salmon mania. We love the fast paced fishing that comes along with silvers. We should also mention, these fish jump and will eat topwater flies!With all the salmon fishing, it is important not to forget that throughout the month of August, the Rainbows continue to get fatter before fall settles in. Then the Alaska West Lodge officially finishes it’s year at the end of the month. The calendar at Alaska West may not be 365 days but it is filled with fish!!
So what is your choice? When are you coming to visit? Or a better question, what fish do you want to target and we will tell you when to plan your trip!
More from Alaska West:
Our summer seasons in Alaska and British Columbia might be winding down but that doesn’t mean our massive run of silver salmon has!
In fact, our silvers actually continue to push long after the end of our season. We have a feeling that might the case in your neck of the woods too, so whether you’re still chasing coho on your local waters or plan on joining us for some silver mayhem next season, we thought we’d give you a leg up by sharing a few of our favorite flies.
Alaska Silver Salmon Flies – Our Favorites
1. Starlight Leech, Pink. The standard by which all other Alaska silver flies are measured, the Starlight Leech has arguably caught more silver salmon throughout Alaska in recent years than any other. A great combination of flash, action, and weight, the Starlight has been a go-to for our guides for years. What color? Pink.. Always start with pink.
2. Starlight Leech, Purple. Although pink is by far the most productive color for silvers in our neck of the woods, when a pod of fish starts to turn snobby, we find purple to be a great alternative to find a few more aggressive fish in the mix before changing spots. Heck, believe it or not, sometimes purple even out-performs pink, and a purple Starlight Leech is a good one to have in your box.
3. Clouser Minnow, Pink/White. A guide favorite at Alaska West, a standard pink (ahem, we like fuchsia) and white Clouser Minnow tied on a size 2 salmon hook is hard to beat. Easy and inexpensive to tie and sparse enough for maximum action when stripped, a Clouser Minnow just might be the most productive fly pattern for silvers we’ve ever used.
4. Popper Wog, Pink. Our favorite way to target silvers, chugging poppers or wogs across the surface is about as fun as it gets. After all, who doesn’t love chrome bright salmon smashing flies on top? When it comes to surface flies, we prefer hard bodied poppers to the deer-hair ‘pollywogs’ of old and Solitude’s Popper Wog is one of our favorites.
5. Deuce Wigalo, Pink. Over the last few years, the Deuce Wigalo has become a guide favorite, particularly in shallower/slower sloughs where heavier flies tend to hang up. Sparsely dressed, and flashier than most patterns (which we find works well on sunny days), the Deuce Wigalo works well both stripped and swung.
6. Loop Leech, Pink. The Loop Leech is a great pattern when conditions warrant a largish profile with minimal weight. Extremely easy to cast, the Loop Leech is a great pattern for folks interested in swinging for silvers as well.
7. Egg Sucking Hareball Leech, Black. No silver box (or any salmon box for that matter) is complete without a black leech. When the going gets tough, we find black to be the best bet, and the Egg Sucking Hareball Leech is an old standby.
More on Silver Salmon
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.
More on Fly Fishing for Silver Salmon
Our run of silver salmon have just began their annual return to our home river at Alaska West. What does that mean, exactly? It means it won’t be long until our river is teeming with hyper-aggressive, hard-fighting, chrome bright, acrobatic coho that readily take flies. Sound good? It should.
Those who have experienced silver madness in our neck of the woods know that targeting silvers is not overly technical. A simple cast-out-and-strip-back is going to hook fish, a lot of fish. Bringing them to hand, however, is another story.
If you’re planning on chasing silvers this summer, consider the tips below to not only hook more silvers, but put more in the net.
- Strip Set. Raising the rod in traditional ‘trout-setting’ fashion does a great job to provide quick tension while also acting a shock absorber to protect fine tippet. However, we tend to fish really heavy ‘tippet’ when we fish for silvers (15-20 lb. Maxima Ultragreen, please), and odds are you’re not going to break it off on a hook-set alone. Therefore, we find a strip set (much like you would use for bonefish) to work best when setting the hook on silvers. Simply strip until you feel resistance, make one more long strip to bury the hook home, then raise the rod to the downstream side and you’ve found the best hook hold possible.
- Keep ’em in the Soft Water. Silvers in our neck of the woods like to hold up in soft sloughs, inside bends, and broken water behind obstructions off of the main current. That being said, once hooked its not uncommon for them to leave their lie in an attempt to run towards the faster main current where they’re much, much more difficult to land. Using the angle of your rod to encourage them to stay in the soft water throughout the fight will make easier work of bringing them to hand, which brings us to our next tip..
- Pull Hard! As mentioned above, we tend to use really heavy leader/tippet by most angler’s standards. You’re probably not going to break it by pulling on the rod (assuming your drag is set accordingly), and if you’re not putting pressure on the fish, he’s resting. Bend that butt section!
- Fish a Heavy Drag. Many of our guests are surprised to learn how tight we like our drag when fishing for silvers. Remember, the setting on your drag should reflect the strength of the leader and/or tippet you’re able to get away with. Thus, your drag should be set as tight as possible while still allowing the fish to turn the reel at any unexpected moment during the fight. We find that’s often much tighter than most anglers realize.. Tighten up!
- Take a Bow. One of our favorite things about fly fishing for silvers is their acrobatic nature. Upon setting the hook, its not uncommon for a silver to leap several feet out of the water four, five, or even six times in a row. Unfortunately, that’s often the point at which they come unbuttoned as well. To counter that, take a page out of the seasoned tarpon angler’s playbook and take a bow! As the fish begins to jump, quickly drop your rod tip towards the surface of the water. That will help to briefly remove tension on the fly line that can put leverage on the hook as the fish thrashes in mid air.
More on Silver Salmon
We’re really lucky in that most of the fish we target at our locations are not overly picky about specific fly patterns. Our lodges are located (intentionally, we might add) in areas where lots of different flies work, so long as they share a few characteristics. It’s a creative fly tyer’s dream!
For example, the fly above is not a secret fly. It’s called the Starlite Leech, and it’s easily one of the most popular salmon flies throughout Alaska. It works really well on our river for a number of reasons.. Those reasons being the following.
- It’s Pink. Both chum and silvers love the color pink. Sure, they eat other colors too, but pink is first out of the box almost every time.
- It Has a Bunny Tail. Bunny really comes alive in the water and creates a lot of action when stripped. Chums and silvers like action. Therefore, most chum/silver flies start with a bunny strip. They just like it!
- It Has Lead Eyes. When it comes to chums and silvers, the more erratic retrieve the better. When fished on a floating line, lead eyes create a ‘jigging’ action to the fly that drives salmon crazy. The heavier the eyes, the more action on the strip, and that’s a good thing.
- It’s Flashy. While at certain times we do think there is such a thing as ‘too much flash,’ most of the time a bit of flash is a good thing. Making them mad is the name of the game, and a flashy fly seems to do just that.
- It Has a Stout Hook. Our chums and silvers range from around 8 to 15 pounds and fight extremely hard. They’re also fresh from the ocean, and often times as hot as possible. A good stout hook is crucial to keeping him pinned.
- It’s Pink. Seriously, they really, really like pink.
More on Salmon/Steelhead Flies
When asked about our favorite flies for silver salmon, many of our guests are surprised to hear that one of the most popular patterns amongst our guide staff at Alaska West is not a ‘typical’ Alaska-born coho pattern such as a hareball leech or dolly llama, but rather a plain ol’ pink and white Clouser minnow.
Why? For starters, the Clouser minnow’s strategically placed lead eyes coupled with its sparse profile produces a more aggressive jigging action than similar flies tied with fluffy materials like bunny or marabou. Plus, with only a few materials required to tie and very little time to complete, it checks all the boxes for a fly worthy of a species you might actually hook hundreds of over the course of a week (not an exaggeration).
However, in an attempt to improve landing rates, reduce mortality rates of released fish, as well as extend the overall lifetime of a single fly (from the ability to replace dull hooks), several of our guides have adapted the use of stinger hooks into their Clousers minnows. We’ve dubbed the modification the Coho Clouser, it works really well on our river, so we thought we’d show you how to tie it.
The Coho Clouser – Tying Instructions
- Thread: UTC Ultra thread, 140 denier, fluorescent pink and white.
- Shank: Daiichi 2546, size 1, hook bend cut-off.
- Stinger Loop: Senyo’s Intruder Wire.
- Stinger Hook: Owner ssw, size 2.
- Eyes: Painted lead eyes, size large.
- Body/tail: Bucktail, white.
- Wing: Bucktail, fluorescent fuchsia.
- Flash: Mirror Krinkle Flash, pearl.