Meet The Fish: Silver Salmon
The "fall prince" of salmon, cohos are often referred to as "Silvers" for their distinct chrome-plated appearance when fresh from the sea. These hard-fighting salmon are available from July to November with most runs peaking in September, but in some river systems coho adults may be present for 10 months out of the year! Cohos vary wildly in size, with adults ranging from 3-25 lbs and averaging 7-12lbs. From the tide rips of the open ocean to the smallest tributaries, the coho is a ready and willing dance partner for the fly angler. Coho are available in all regions of the state, with Southeast, Kodiak, Bristol Bay, and the Kenai Peninsula receiving the largest runs.
Gear and Flies:
Coho are aggressive biters and hard fighters that will provide an angler with hours of entertainment on a 7 or 8wt rod. Reels should be of the large arbor type to keep up with the blistering runs these fish can lay down, and should have a good drag system as well. Depending upon the method of presentation, fly line choices include sinking tip lines, full-float weight-forward lines, and multi-tip systems to deliver your offering to the proper depth. Coho are receptive to a vast array of flies, but some of the best (in our opinion) are Hareball Leeches, Clouser Minnows, Egg Sucking Leeches, Dolly Llamas and Coho Kryptonite.
Good single hand rods for silvers should be fast action 7 or 8 weights in the 9' -10' range. The default rod is a 9 foot 8 weight in a 4 piece configuration. If you are looking to play the Switch Rod game, once again a 7 or 8 weight is the go to size. Most anglers find full Spey Rods to be too long when chasing silvers, but it can be done. Here a 12'6 - 13' rod in 7 or 8 weight is ideal.
Just like their Chinook cousins, silvers are tough on reels. With drag screaming runs and a 10-15 lb. average, a cheap reel will not hold up to much more than a couple days of silver fishing. Look for a reel that is machined and anodized, has a proven solid drag and plenty of line capacity. Silvers will often run directly at the angler so a large arbor reel that can pick up line quickly is a definite advantage.
A large portion of fly angling for silvers is done with a weight forward floating line. Many of these floating lines are bulked up or over weighted to help load fast action rod more quickly. These same lines are also very helpful in casting and turning over the large, heavy flies that are the standar offerings for silvers. Having a spare spool with a short quick sink tip is a good idea, especially when fish are holding in deeper pools.
Flies for silvers come in a wide range of colors, sizes and weights. When found in the right conditions, silver can even be enticed into eating surface poppers know as pollywogs, which many anglers consider the ultimate salmon experience. Silvers tend to prefer larger, bight colored flies in pink, orange and chartreuse when they first enter the rivers from the oceans. Fish that have been in freshwater for awhile will often shy from bright colored flies. These "older" fish often chase after smaller patterns in darker colors like black and purple. Having a good selection of flies in a variety of colors and sizes is a wise idea for the angler pursuing the coho salmon.